Many people have the goal of learning a second language at some point in their life. The desire could be driven from curiosity or a school requirement. Growing up in Texas, Spanglish or a combo of Spanish and English is common. It seemed like everyone I grew up with had a basic elementary school understanding of Spanish by the time we reached middle school. In high school, I decided to continue learning Spanish through the various classes taught there. I even tried to get a minor in Spanish at University. I have basically studied the language for over 5 years. The more I studied Spanish, other cultures that I didn’t grow around opened up to me. However, picking up Spanish or any second language is not easy. There are the differences in grammar, spelling, and syntax. This isn’t including the differences in dialect that depend on the variety of speech for a particular language. So how does one master a language when there are so many complexities and barriers? Here are my 4 steps to help master a language that I learned through school.
1. Workbooks and Language Apps
You have to realize when learning a language you become a student in culture, and history too. However, new vocabulary and grammar rules are the most important things to start your learning process with. If you aren’t in a classroom with a professor/teacher, you have to rely on workbooks and apps to help guide your learning process. There are a million and one options to choose from in terms of workbooks and apps that are mediocre compared to others. These are my top favorites when it comes to workbooks and apps:
- The Everything Spanish Practice Book: Hands-on Techniques to Improve Your Speaking And Writing Skills
- Mastering Spanish Grammar (Barron’s Grammar Series)
- Easy Spanish Step-By-Step
- Doulingo (found in the App Store)
2. Entertainment con Español
Once you have a reasonable level of understanding of the language, I would turn to my entertainment into a Spanish learning time. This is super easy to do. Just turn on the Spanish audio for your favorite movie or program then add english subtitles so if you stumble across an unfamiliar term or phrase then the subtitles can help clue you into what they mean. Another way to incorporate a language into your entertainment is to discover artist, musicians, and programs that compose in your area of study. I used a ton of David Bisbal ‘s music to pick up unfamiliar phrases and expand my understanding of the language. (My favorite song by David Bisbal is Ave María).
3. Read A Book en Español
This may seem like a no brainer but many do not practice with native language text for their learning. They try to force the language to flow from English to Spanish without considering cultural differences that affect language. These differences can be seen especially in the type of dictation a person will use or other language artistic elements such as metaphors or imagery. Hence the need to read books originally produce in Spanish to learn these important differences. For example, I recently bought a cookbook in Spanish while studying in Spain to help practice my language skills in regards to cooking, food, and shopping. When I bought the cookbook, my thoughts were what more delicious way to learn than through a cookbook. Pick any topic that intrigues you and work through it. It may take longer but your efforts will be rewarded.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
It is important to practice consistently. Why? Because, if you don’t use it then you lose it. You can make little tests for yourself doing everyday activities. For example, writing your shopping list in Spanish and shopping at a mercado instead of a normal grocery store. You can do this with your chore lists or start a conversation with a native speaker in Spanish. My favorite way is to travel to a country that speaks the language I am studying. Diving both feet in and soaking up every learning opportunity presented to me while having fun keeps learning pressure free and fun. I am more engaged while exploring than listening to a lecture in a classroom.
Learning a language shouldn’t be painful or difficult as long as you stick to the 4 steps to achieve fluency. What are your helpful tips for learning a language? Why do you want to learn a new language?