Hey, it’s Rocky…
One of the biggest, most common questions I get is, “how can I learn Spanish fast?”
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For the past few weeks, I’ve been traveling throughout Europe.
I was in Spain for a few days and then I went to Italy for almost two weeks.
It was actually my first trip to Italy, and it reinforced a few things about teaching you Spanish.
Yes, I know you’re wondering…
“How did being in Italy help me discover ways to help you learn Spanish faster?”
Well, let me explain.
Italy was great but it was also a very humbling experience.
In fact, it put me in your shoes.
You see, before the trip, I never really studied or practiced Italian…
So I knew very little Italian when I arrived.
But within just a few days, I was able to order food, greet people, introduce myself, and understand some of what was being said to me.
As a Spanish teacher this process helped me understand how I could help my students wanting to learn Spanish faster.
So today I’m going to reveal to you what I did to pretty much learn Italian faster and how you can implement it into your Spanish learning so that you can start speaking Spanish faster.
Without further ado, let’s jump straight into the six tips to learn Spanish faster in 2020.
My first tip for you today is to try and find similar Spanish words and phrases that are being used in your primary language.
There are many words in English that are very similar to their Spanish translations.
Let me give you an example of how I did this…
One day, I was getting coffee in Italy.
When I was trying to pay, I gave the cashier my credit card, and he said, “Oh, no solo effettivo.” Ironically, “effettivo” is “efectivo in Spanish.
Which means “cash.”
In fact, before the trip, I didn’t know Italian and Spanish were so similar.
There were many words that were exactly the same and many other ones that were very similar.
By focusing on picking out these words, it allowed me to put together sentences.
So, the guy could have said something like, “Sorry, sir. We only take cash,” and by being able to pick out a few words, I was able to understand what was being said to me.
This really helps you learn phrases fast and easy.
For example, the word café means the same thing in English and Spanish.
There are many more examples like this.
For example, chocolate, doctor, error, menu…
All these words are the same in English and Spanish.
Of course, when read in Spanish they sound a little different but still.
So I want you to find words that are very similar or the same and become familiar with those words.
By being aware of these similar words, it allows you to be able to understand what people are saying to you without having to know every word.
If you go to a Spanish-speaking country, go out on your own and force yourself to speak Spanish.
If you’re in America, try to find Spanish-speaking areas in your city and force yourself to speak.
This could be as easy as going to Chipotle and ordering only in Spanish.
Now, check this out…
There were a lot of American foreign exchange students in Italy.
I’m sure some of them will leave speaking Italian fluently, but many won’t.
I remember the same thing happening when I was living and teaching in the Dominican Republic.
The problem is that these students come to these foreign countries to learn a language, but they only interact with their fellow English-speaking peers.
This paralyzes their learning ability.
When I first got to Italy, I spent the first few days with my Italian friend.
And I’ll be honest, I didn’t learn much those first few days…
That’s because I relied on him to translate everything for me.
I didn’t even try.
But when I was without him, I found myself more in survival mode.
I forced myself to try to speak the language, and I learned that, by having to learn and speak the phrases, it was much easier to remember them.
The more I put myself out there and forced myself to learn the language, the more I found myself retaining the words.
So go out and explore on your own.
Force yourself to learn.
Interact with the natives.
Ask for directions.
Go to the grocery store.
Things like that can help you pick up the language very quickly.
Far too often, students want to sit in a room on their phone, learning from an app, or they want to sit on their computer, rather than going out there and actually learning the language.
Tip number three to learn Spanish faster in 2020 is to not be afraid ask a native.
Not only should you not be afraid to ask the natives…
But I strongly encourage it.
I see it all the time…
Beginner speakers are afraid to ask natives for help, because they don’t want to look stupid or they don’t want the natives to make fun of them.
But in reality, the natives appreciate the fact that you are taking the time to learn their language.
For example, one word or phrase I had been wanting to know how to say was take out.
If you go to a restaurant, they ask you, “Do you want to eat here, or do you want to carry out or take out?”
In Spanish, they’ll say, “¿Quieres comer aquí o para llevar?”
But I couldn’t figure out how to say that in Italian.
So, I asked in Italian “Posso avere un pezzo di Tiramisu?”
Which is “Can I have a piece of tiramisu?”
Then I said, “to take out,” while pointing out.
The lady knew what I meant, and then I said in Italian, “Come se dice?” In Spanish, “¿Cómo se dice? ( you can see the similarities) “Take out.”
She smiled and she seemed happy to help.
She then said, “Ah da portare vía, means take out.”
Had I been shy, I would have never learned the phrase…
But now it became an entire experience that led to me learning that phrase and I’ll never forget it.
So long story short…
When you don’t know how to say something, ask a native.
Don’t worry so much about conjugating every verb correctly.
When getting started you should focus more on increasing your vocabulary and understanding of phrases.
I think in Italian there’s like 21 different conjugations.
In Spanish there are 14.
I still have no idea how to conjugate all the verbs in Italian, nor do I know the proper articles to use.
Don’t get me wrong…
That stuff is important!
But I wouldn’t focus on that in the very beginning, especially if you’re just trying to pick up a language to get around for travel.
Instead, focus on phrases that you need, like “¿Dónde está el baño?” “Where’s the bathroom?”
Things like that are much more important for getting around and interacting in the beginning.
One problem I see beginner students make is that they try to perfect every word and conjugation…
And they end up paralyzing themselves from speaking.
It affects your ability to converse because if you’re always thinking about what to say, then you won’t hear or understand what’s being said to you.
The trick is to put as little thought as possible into what you’re going to say and focus on what’s being said to you.
When people are talking to you, because you don’t fully know the language, you have to really have your radar on…
Being aware of every sound that you hear so that you can try to recognize a few of the words.
Nearly ten days into my trip, I went to Rome.
I went to a gelato place.
Most gelato places had gelato out so you could see it, similar to like Cold Stone where you can see what ice cream looks like, and you can see the name tag.
So, it makes it very easy to ask for what you want.
But one place I went to, there was no gelato out to see.
There were just items on the menu and I could barely even read the menu.
Definitely not good enough to pick what flavor of gelato that I wanted.
I sat there for nearly 20 minutes, trying to translate every flavor, until one of the English-speaking employees came up to me and said, “Sir, do you need the English menu?”
Safe to say, that moment was super embarrassing for me, and my confidence was shot for the rest of the day…
But it happens.
The next day, I regathered myself, and got back to speaking Italian to the best of my ability.
Here’s the thing…
You’re not going to be perfect when speaking Spanish.
Hell, I’ve been speaking Spanish and English since a child, and I still make mistakes in both of those languages.
So, if you’re new to a language or even if you’ve been studying for a few years, know that you’re probably going to make mistakes.
You’re not going to know every word.
Up until that moment, I had only been studying words for quick interactions.
Usually at gelato places, like I said, they have the name tag by the gelato, so it was easy to figure out what I wanted.
But this time I was taken completely off guard but I took the English menu back to the Airbnb so I could study.
You have to learn from every single situation you’re in.
So, if you go to any Spanish-speaking country and for some reason you have a day where you just feel off with your Spanish, it’s okay.
Regroup and come back strong the next day.
Realize that it’s not the end of the world.
You’re still alive.
You’re still breathing.
Every day is an opportunity to get better.
My friend in Italy speaks Italian, Croatian, English and Spanish.
His family is from Croatia and Serbia, and he grew up in Italy, so it makes sense that he would speak those languages.
But the first time he ever came to the United States was last year.
So, how did he learn English fluently without having that many people to talk to in English?
Sure, he learned a little in school, but he told me about how he learned from music and watching TV.
His sister told me a story about how people in Italy learn Spanish from telenovelas, but recently were learning Turkish because Turkish novelas were getting popular.
I know not all of us have the means or the ability to travel the world to Spanish-speaking countries…
But what we can do is try to immerse ourselves as much as possible by listening to nothing but Spanish music, watching nothing but Spanish TV.
Now I’m serious about learning Italian, when I’m in the car, instead of listening to my normal Spanish or English music, I’ve been listening to Italian music or, even better, Italian podcasts.
I turn my volume up all the way and it’s like I’ve been transported back to Italy. Do the same for Spanish.
Transport yourself to any Spanish-speaking country in the world by surrounding yourself by as much Spanish as possible.