Español, world’s second-most spoken native language¡ First is obviously Mandarin Chinese which is extremely difficult to learn. But learning Spanish is definitely doable! The only question you need to ask is, “how long does it take to learn Spanish?”
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Why You Should Learn Spanish
If you are thinking, is Spanish worth learning? Here are some facts that’ll make you realise it is worth your time to learn Spanish.
- It’s a global language with nearly 500 million native speakers.
- It is the world’s second-most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese.
- Spanish is the world’s fourth-most spoken language overall (after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi).
The following graph shows the top 10 most spoken languages all over the world (2021). The numbers mentioned in the graphs are in millions.
Data source: Ethnologue
- Spanish is the official language in 20 sovereign states and one dependent territory (either by law or de facto).
- It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
- Spanish is also used as an official language by the European Union and many other international organisations.
- It is identified as one of the ten languages by the British Council, which will be crucial for the UK’s prosperity, security, and influence in the world in the years ahead.
The above picture shows a list of the ten most important languages (in order) for the UK’s future, published by the British Council.
A survey commissioned by the British Council suggests that three-quarters of the UK public are unable to speak any of these languages well enough to hold a conversation.
It is a widely held view that the people of the United Kingdom lack the necessary language skills for the future. It can partly be attributed to the status of English as the language of international communications.
If the above-mentioned facts don’t seem enough, consider these benefits of learning Spanish.
- Have better job prospects and increased employability
- Travel to a Spanish-speaking country without worrying about the language barrier
- Improve focus and keep your brain sharp by being bilingual
- Expand your entertainment options
- Explore the enriched Hispanic culture
- Lastly, you can make more friends!
Is Spanish Hard to Learn?
Spanish is a go-to language for English speakers to learn due to its practicality and wide reach. Not only that, but it’s also one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Correcto means “correct.”
Delicioso is “delicious.”
Pizza is “pizza.”
See how easy this is? Even though learning a new language might seem daunting at first, it’s totally worth it!
As a beginner, understanding native speakers can be a challenge. But nothing is impossible. Imagine a day when you’re speaking in Spanish, and no one can detect that it’s not your first language.
Fun Fact: Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin
What Things to Keep in Mind When Learning Spanish?
Every person is different, and we all have unique abilities. Attributes such as your mother tongue, your age, your culture, and your background play a role in learning a new language. The closer your mother tongue is to Spanish, the faster you will learn the language.
Here are some other things that you should keep in mind before you start learning Spanish.
1. Make Realistic, Specific Goals
It’ll help you stay on course and focused on the end result. Smaller, specific, short-term goals can be more motivating than saying, “I will be fluent in Spanish by the end of this month.” Set a realistic goal that you can actually achieve, such as learning to read a newspaper article without looking up the dictionary.
2. Remind Yourself Why You are Learning Spanish
Write down five reasons why you want to learn the Spanish language and stick it in a noticeable place. You’ll find these helpful in times of self-doubt. Before you start learning, ask yourself, why do you want to learn Spanish.
- Is it because you like the language?
- To talk to your neighbour or a loved one?
- Want to survive a trip abroad without using English?
- Do you want to nail a job interview in Spanish?
- Do you want to deliver a speech at a conference without making any mistakes?
Most importantly, what do you want to achieve by learning Spanish? Knowing the answer to this question will help you stay on the path.
3. Read for Pleasure
Reading can be one of the most rewarding aspects of your learning experience. So don’t limit yourself to traditional textbooks; expand your to-read list. You might be pleasantly surprised.
4. Learn Vocabulary in Context
Memorising an impressive list of vocabs is not as easy. For some, it is pretty challenging, while some find it dull. If the words you are learning are relevant to you and connect to your background experience, it will be easier to memorise them and use them in context.
5. Embrace Immersion – Go to a Spanish Country
Immersion plays a vital role in learning a language. There are 21 countries where Spanish is the official language, and they all have diverse and rich cultures. If you’re really serious about learning Spanish, this might be your chance to travel overseas. You could take a job or study abroad. If not, just take an extended vacation and live in the moment!
It’s also an excellent way to cross off an item from your bucket list. Look at this picture below and think about how many amazing things you could experience.
If you are truly serious about learning the Spanish language and getting direct pleasure from what you have learned, you need to go to where that language is spoken.
6. Be Patient
Because learning a language takes time. You will make progress, but be realistic in your expectation to learn. Learn things step by step.
Lastly, we agree that Spanish grammar can be quite intimidating, especially if you do not speak any other Romance language such as Portuguese, Italian or French. But you will get there. And once you get to the top, do your best to stay there. Even fluent non-native Spanish speakers have to practice and use the language almost every day.
Fun fact: Did you know that Spanish is called not only Español, but also Castellano (Castilian)?
How Many Hours Does it Take to Be Fluent in Spanish?
If you start out as a beginner and manage to spend an average of 1 hour per day working on your Spanish, you should be able to reach conversational fluency within 8 – 12 months. That translates to about 250 – 350 hours spent. But remember that consistency is key here.
Can I learn Spanish in 6 months? Can I learn Spanish in 3 months?
Yes, you can!
Provided you do the required work and stay consistent throughout the process of learning Spanish. How long will it take you to learn Spanish actually depends on what method you choose. For instance, the time will vary if you follow the traditional lecture, textbook route, or immersion.
Fun Fact: Did you know that only 8% of the UK population can speak or understand Spanish?
How Long Does It Take to Master Speaking Spanish from Scratch?
How fast can the average person learn Spanish from scratch? To get to a very basic conversational level it can take you 3 months to 1 year depending on what methods you use.
Under favourable circumstances, it should be within most people’s capabilities to learn Spanish to a good basic conversational level within a year. But, it might take you less time if you already know a similar language.
Here is a well-structured course for you if you are just starting out – Spanish Language for Beginners
How Long Does it Take for an English Speaker to be Fluent in Spanish?
To be honest, this is extremely difficult to calculate. Because everyone learns at a different pace, and some use more effective methods than others. However, there are some statistics to give you an idea of how long it takes for English speakers to learn Spanish.
With 70 years of experience in teaching languages, Foreign Service Institute shared the time usually required for a student to reach “professional working proficiency” in a language.
They shared that category I languages take about 24-30 weeks, which is about 600-750 class hours. This category consists of languages that are considered more similar to English, like Spanish, Italian.
So, to answer “how long does it take to learn Spanish” – it should take you about 24 weeks to learn Spanish, according to Foreign Service Institute.
Source: Foreign Service Institute
To explain it a bit more, if you spend 3 hours every day learning Spanish, you’ll achieve fluency in around six months. On the other hand, if you reduce your Spanish time to one hour a day, it will take about 1.5 years to learn, according to FSI.
In any case, the hours are based on classroom instruction. But we all know that people don’t just learn languages in the classroom. Most often, factors outside the classroom are more influential in our learning process.
Spanish is one of the most accessible languages for English speakers. But remember that these numbers are just guidelines and largely depend on the amount of time you plan on dedicating to the language, the type of resources you use, your approach, and other factors.
What Factors Can Influence How Long it Takes You to Learn Spanish?
Do you live in a Spanish-speaking community? How often do you listen, read and breathe Spanish in your daily life? The more exposed you are to Spanish, the better. If you only speak Spanish in class, your progress will be slow. So, you better find someone to speak with regularly in Spanish.
There are some factors that can influence how long it takes to learn Spanish, regardless of whether you study in a classroom or not. But some of these are within your control.
- What level of fluency do you want to reach?
- How motivated are you to learn Spanish?
- How effective are your study habits?
- Do you speak a language that is similar to Spanish?
- Do you have the opportunity to live surrounded by Spanish?
- What Spanish skills do you want to focus on?
These are described below –
1. What Level of Fluency do You Want to Reach?
When you say ‘learn,’ what level do you aim to reach – native speaker or conversational fluency? Most people want to become “fluent” in Spanish, but the meaning of fluency can vary significantly from person to person. So what exactly is meant by fluency?
There are many varying degrees of fluency in language proficiency levels, but we are only focusing on two.
1.1 Conversational Fluency
Conversational fluency is achieved when you can understand almost 95% of what you hear or read. It also means you can comfortably hold a 1-on-1 conversation at a normal speaking pace without having to repeat yourself or stop to think too much.
Your pronunciation is clear and accurate when you reach conversational fluency. And you’re easily understood by native Spanish speakers.
Conversational fluency will allow you to enjoy most of the benefits of knowing how to speak Spanish. For instance, being able to travel to a Spanish-speaking country with confidence, communicating clearly, or using Spanish in a work setting.
1.2 Native / Bilingual Proficiency
Someone at this proficiency level was either raised speaking the language as their native tongue or has been speaking it so long that they are completely fluent. They have little or no accent. It is usually phrased as “Native Spanish” or “Bilingual English & Spanish”
You can understand about 99-100% of what you hear or read after you reach this level, regardless of the subject. This includes all jokes, phrases, and cultural expressions.
Your pronunciation is so well that you can hold a 2-hour conversation with a native speaker without them knowing it’s not your first language.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to become fluent at a native level. But as a beginner, it’s better to aim for a more achievable goal. It will put less pressure on you and save you a lot of frustration.
However, if you want to understand complex sentences, academic reports or industry specific contents, you will need to aim for more than conversational fluency. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to say hello in Spanish or order a cup of coffee than to clarify a complex question.
Here’s a great course for you to learn Spanish from home and be fluent in no time – Learn Spanish Language: Spanish Course – Intermediate Level.
2. How Motivated Are You to Learn Spanish?
You’ve got to be willing to humble yourself and learn. You are stepping into a new culture and, in some ways, a whole new world. Your motivation is essential because learning a language requires consistency and patience.
The required time to be able to speak Spanish fluently goes hand in hand with your motivation to learn. So, it will take you longer to get there if your motivation is quite low.
Before you start learning Spanish, ask yourself:
Why do I want to learn Spanish, and why now?
It can be for a job, to quest your curiosity, interest, or simply your love for the language and the sheer pleasure of learning.
Following are some ways to make you more accountable and keep your motivation up at the same time.
- Announce your goal to learn Spanish on social media
- Create a language progress journal
- Start a blog dedicated to your Spanish learning journey
These small things can help you be successful and stay motivated. If you do get bored, it’s likely because you’re sticking to a method that doesn’t work for you or are lacking resource variety. Try to get out of your comfort zone and diversify your learning process.
Motivation is important because you’ll see faster progress when you’re not constantly battling yourself.
3. How Effective are Your Study Habits?
How many hours of study can you put in each week? Also, how are you going to learn? By attending classes, through a private tutor, self-study, or any other method? What aspects of learning you focus on – can be a determining factor too. For instance, just focusing on grammar instead of learning vocabulary will not be very effective. Evaluate your study habits to get the most out of your time and effort to learn Spanish.
Another important factor to consider is your resource quality. Utilizing proper resources can go a long way to help you learn Spanish fast.
Have a look at what NTL Institute research says on effective study habits and how people learn.
4. Do You Speak a Language That is Similar to Spanish?
Similarity might be seen in vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation etc. For instance, Portuguese is considered similar to Spanish in terms of vocabulary and grammar, but a bit different in terms of the sounds. According to Foreign Service Institute, Spanish is similar to English. Spanish and English share a good number of vocabulary, as most words are of Latin origin. So it is considered easy for English speakers to learn Spanish.
5. Do You Have the Opportunity to Live Surrounded by Spanish?
Can you visit a Spanish-speaking country for a few months? Or do you have any Spanish-speaking friends with whom you can practise Spanish? Because immersion is one of the fastest ways to learn any language. So you should definitely consider this if you want to learn Spanish or any other language very quickly.
There is nothing as effective as being thrust into an environment or real-life situations where you need to use Spanish. The sheltered environment of a classroom is not as ideal as a real-life Spanish-speaking experience. Real-life exposure will let you know where your learning gaps are and teach you new vocabulary and how to use them in everyday contexts.
However, the amount of time you dedicate to usage is more important than exposure.
6. What Spanish Skills do You Want to Focus on?
Learning Spanish doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing for everyone. Maybe you want to learn Spanish to be able to speak to your loved ones, move to a Spanish-speaking country or enrich your linguistic abilities. So decide what skills to work on- listening, speaking, reading or writing skills?
Imagine roaming around the busy streets in Spain on a hot day, and you want ice cream. You say “Quiero un helado,” which translates to “I want an ice cream.”
In this scenario, you are using your speaking skills. But if you want to read your favourite book in Spanish, you will need to work on your reading ability. However, focusing too much on specific skills might not be such a good idea for the long term.
What is the Fastest Way to Learn Spanish?
The fastest way to learn Spanish is to combine all the ways – listening, speaking, reading. In other words, the quickest way to learn Spanish is through language immersion.
This way, you hear, speak and learn the language in authentic everyday contexts and experience it in their familiar surroundings. Thus, you can learn the new language as naturally as your mother tongue – without any pressure or stress about vocabulary.
It is not only the fastest way to learn, but it also helps in the following –
- You can learn and remember vocabulary easily.
- It helps your brain function like that of a native speaker.
- Also, it develops your intercultural awareness.
How to Learn Spanish by Immersion?
Immersing yourself in Spanish doesn’t have to cost a fortune. While it is a great way to learn and travel at the same time, you can immerse yourself in Spanish from your home. By making some small changes, you can create an immersive environment. Here’s how you can easily do it.
- Start referring to all objects in Spanish.
- Include Spanish in your daily tasks and conversations.
- Keep a journal or meditate in Spanish.
- Find a Spanish language exchange partner.
- Jam out to Spanish music.
It is one of the fastest and most effective ways to become fluent. However, if you have the opportunity to learn Spanish while living or travelling to a Spanish-speaking country, we highly recommend you take it.
You can build up your confidence by starting with some basic words to start building your Spanish word bank. Here are some basic Spanish words to start your learning process –
- Hola = Hello.
- Adiós = Goodbye.
- Por favor = Please.
- Gracias = Thank you.
- Lo siento = Sorry.
- Sí = Yes.
- No = No.
- Te quiero/Te amo = I love you.
- Mucho gusto = Nice to meet you
- Buenos días = Good morning.
- Buenas tardes = Good afternoon.
- Buenas noches = Good evening.
- Salud = Bless you.
Seems pretty easy, right? You can use them daily when you’re talking to someone or practise yourself.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Spanish Through Immersion?
In the immersion technique, if you spend three or more hours every day, you’ll be able to learn Spanish in three months.
That means if you move to a Spanish-speaking country, you can expect to be relatively fluent within only three months. Given that, you continue to practice a lot and listen to and speak with native Spanish speakers.
What is the Best Way to Learn Spanish Fluently?
If you’re wondering, what is the best method to learn Spanish? The best way to learn Spanish is to practise it constantly. Using your listening skills and speaking Spanish (no matter how broken it sounds) can help you a lot in your journey to master Spanish.
No matter what method you use, there is no alternative to speaking to become fluent in a language. The more time you spend talking, the less time it’ll take for you to be fluent in it.
Remember that learning Spanish words and phrases is important. Because grammar alone won’t teach you how the language is used by more than 500 million Spanish speakers worldwide.
Here are some bonus Spanish words for you if you love music. So the next time you sing along with any of these songs, you’ll understand them a little better.
- Despacito = Slowly.
- Mi Gente = My people.
- Bailando = Dancing.
- Gasolina = Gasoline.
- La Bicicleta = The bicycle.
- Sin Pijama = Without pyjamas.
- Bella = Beautiful.
- Clandestino = Clandestine or secret.
- No Me Acuerdo = I don’t remember.
The secret to learning Spanish is to commit to it and learn Spanish every chance you get. Study smart, if not harder!
Take a course or two, make some friends, move somewhere new and speak only Spanish. Listen to Spanish music, work and study hard, have a lot of fun. Reinvent yourself. It can be life-changing, and you may be forever grateful for taking advantage of the opportunity.
Mucha suerte. Que nada te detenga. (Good luck. Do not let anything stop you.)