Are You an Autodidact? Here’s How to Teach Yourself Spanish

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In the U.S. there are more Spanish speakers than there are in Spain. The number is growing too!

The growth in Spanish speakers in the U.S. is not only about demographic changes. Many English speakers are learning the language too.

Learning Spanish can improve your employment prospects and give you greater travel opportunities. 

Best of all, you don’t need to go to a language class or pay for private tuition.

You can teach yourself Spanish! If you want to know more about how to teach yourself Spanish, here’s how:

1. Start with Spanish Grammar

Start with the grammar – the foundation of any language. Yes, it’s the technical part which everyone hates.

You don’t need anyone to help you learn grammar. You just need discipline and patience to get your head around it.

Thankfully, the Spanish grammar is quite simple compared with other languages. If you’ve done Latin or German in high school, then this is going to be a breeze.

You can use grammar books, YouTube videos, and this helpful Spanish learning site to learn grammar.

2. Always Carry a Notebook 

Now build up your vocabulary of the language. Set a goal for the number of words you want to pick up each day. Maybe 10 or 15?

Don’t force the words inside your head! Spend time translating the words from Spanish into English (or your mother tongue) in your notebook when you’ve got time in the day.

Download a translator app on your smartphone. Then, when you encounter a new word add it to your notebook.

Got a visual memory? You can draw sketches to remind you too.

3. Enjoy Spanish Radio or Podcasts

If you’re going to teach yourself Spanish, you need to listen to native Spanish speakers on the radio and podcasts. 

There are numerous podcasts for Spanish language learning, many of which include slow and clear pronunciation so you can keep up.

Before you know it you’ll be tuning in to listen to the morning headlines on Spanish-language radio. 

4. Learn to Sing Spanish Songs

Listening to Spanish music is a really fun way to learn the language. 

Spanish language music is really popular already. There have been three Spanish No.1 hits already in American music history!

There are a bunch of genres and styles of music in the Spanish language. You’ve got salsa, reggaeton, rap, and tango. There’s something for every Spanish learner.

5. Watch Your Favorite Television Shows in Spanish

Rewatch your favorite television shows or movies with dubbed Spanish.

For example, check out “The Simpsons” or “Friends” to enjoy nostalgia for your youth while also picking up new words and phrases.

You probably know these kinds of shows inside and out. Even when you don’t get exactly what was being said between Ross and Rachel, you know they were “on a break.”

On Netflix or Amazon Prime (or most other online streaming services), you can select the Spanish language rather than English.

6. Get a Tandem Partner

There are nearly 500 million Spanish speakers in the world. I’m sure you can find one to speak to you!

You can exchange languages. Speak for 30 minutes in Spanish before switching to English for 30 minutes. It’s win-win!

Connect with tandem partners via social media. If you can’t find any Spanish speakers near you, then you don’t need to meet in person, you can develop a tandem exchange online.

Plus, you get to learn about Spanish or Latin American culture. If you’re lucky you can pick up some of the naughty words from your language partner too.

7. Get Your News in Spanish

You need to get your news in Spanish if you’re going to learn quickly.

Drop the New York Times for Madrid’s ABC Newspaper. Click off the CNN website, CNN has a Spanish service also.

The news is usually delivered in a simple and clear language style. This makes it easy to pick up. 

Also, you’ll learn a bunch of new words relevant to the present day. While we have the #metoo movement, you’ll discover the #cuéntalo movement.

Reading the news in Spanish each morning as part of your routine is a key part of the self-taught Spanish learner.

 8. Enjoy Spanish Movies 

After a while, you’ll be ready to watch Spanish movies without English subtitles. You can leave on the subtitles in Spanish for extra support though.

You may need to pause and go back a few times during the movie. You can also jot down new words in your notebook along the way too.

Netflix’s Roma is the talk of the Oscars and Pedro Almodovar’s Volver is a classic drama. There’s so many to choose from you’ll be busy for years.

You’ll also pick up the subtle differences between the cultures and dialects of the language. You’ll know when you’re watching a Mexican movie rather than a Spanish one. 

9. Switch the Language on Your Devices

Change your settings to select Spanish as the default language on your laptop, smartphone, and game consoles.

You’ll immediately learn lots of new words. You’ll be interacting with these terms on a daily basis. 

This is a really effective way to subconsciously absorb the language. 

10. Travel to a Spanish Speaking Country

Now you’re ready for the big time!

Book a flight to a Spanish speaking country so you can practice the language every day. Barcelona or Buenos Aires? 

You can order your morning coffee and buy your groceries en español. Every interaction becomes an opportunity to learn.

This could be a shock to your system at first! But, don’t let your confidence drop, learning a language by yourself requires determination. 

When you’re back from the vacation you’ll be filled with new words and a sense of achievement. 

Even then, it’s not over. There is always more to learn before you book your next trip to a Spanish speaking country.

How to Teach Yourself Spanish

You can sign up to language classes or you can teach yourself Spanish. The sense of achievement when you’ve done it all yourself is much greater.

Learning a new language is an important part of self-development. You’ll learn as much about yourself as you will about another language and culture.

It’s never too late to learn something new. Check out why you should go back to school to earn a college degree on our blog here.

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