For North American English speakers who are considering learning a second language, Spanish is the obvious choice. Not only is Spanish the language with the most native speakers in the Western Hemisphere, but 41 million people in the U.S. are of Hispanic origin. Of these some 17 million either don’t speak English or don’t speak it very well. So you need Spanish to be able to speak to your neighbors!
Spanish is an easy language to learn. You can communicate pretty well in Spanish with a vocabulary of only 4-6,000 words. And there are 3,000 words in Spanish that are either just like English or easily derived from English once you know how to change the form. (For example, many English words ending in “ty” just convert the “ty” to “dad” in Spanish. Thus municipality becomes municipalidad, hospitality becomes hospitalidad, etc.)
So if you would like to learn Spanish, great! Here are 5 tips to help you along the way:
1. Get yourself a good interactive audio Spanish learning course. There are many available for download on the Internet. (Follow the link below to 7 different good courses ranging from $20 to $100) With this type of course you will be able to learn the pronunciation and the spoken rhythm of the language by listening to native speakers. Also you can download the course to your computer and then offload the lessons to your iPod or burn them to CD’s and learn/practice anywhere, any time.
2. Learn spoken conversational Spanish first. Just as you learned English by starting with a few words and phrases and expanding from there, learn Spanish the same way. Try to understand and to express your thoughts. Go from thoughts directly to words and back. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in grammar and rules; concentrate on HOW you say something, not why.
3. Don’t translate in your head. Try to visualize the action, go directly from the thought to the words in Spanish. Get some flashcards with pictures and the name in Spanish on the other side. See the thing and name it in Spanish. Flip the card to verify that you got it right. This will help you to go directly from seeing the thing to naming the thing and will help break the translation habit.
4. Practice every chance you get. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just try to communicate. If you can’t think of the correct form of the verb, use the infinitive and ask the Spanish-speaking person you are speaking with to tell you how you should have said that. Most people, when they see you are trying to learn, will go out of their way to help you.
5. Don’t expect too much and get discouraged. You did not learn English in one week and you won’t learn Spanish in a week either. You can have a good start in 2-4 weeks and be able to handle basic free-form conversation in 2-3 months. Remember that your immediate objective is to be able to converse, to understand and make yourself understood in conversational Spanish.
You can become conversational in Spanish in 3 months. Do that first. Afterwards you can expand and improve your command of Spanish as much as you need.