Learning Spanish might be one of the best decisions you ever make. Your ability to speak Spanish won't just allow you to communicate with an estimated 440 million native speakers worldwide, it will also make you a lot more employable in the eyes of a wide range of different companies and organisations.
It is widely accepted that language skills are great for business. In a globalised world where businesses rely on all four corners of the globe to function, language learning is becoming more and more essential.
The Spanish language that is spoken in 20 different independent countries. Subsequently, its appeal it enormous in a professional context. Your pronunciation doesn't even need to be perfect to gain a competitive advantage; even just knowing a few key Spanish words so that you have a conversational level will set you apart from the crowd.
The benefits of taking Spanish lessons in order to develop your Spanish vocabulary are not really in any doubt. However, a key question that crops up time and time again is 'how long does it take to learn Spanish?'.
It's all well and good deciding to learn the language of Cervantes, but you naturally want to know how much time it is going to take.
There are a lot of things that you need to know to become fluent in Spanish quickly, but when it comes to how long it will take, there is no quick answer. It will depend on a multitude of different factors. In this article we will run through some of them to give you an idea of the task that lies ahead.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Fluent Spanish?
As we have already mentioned, if you want to learn Spanish, there is no exact period of time that can unequivocally be said that it will take you.
The time will depend on factors such as your ability to learn languages, and the amount of time that you want to dedicate to the process.
However, we can discuss the difficulty of learning Spanish for an English speaker.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has put together a guide to put the learning of each new language into a group based on its perceived level of difficulty. The good news is that the FSI says that Spanish is a Group 1 language alongside languages such as:
This is because these languages, including Spanish, are thought to be the closest languages to English. That means you will see some overlap when it comes to verbs, vocabulary, and grammar.
We must be clear here. This does not mean that learning Spanish will be a walk in the park. Spanish grammar and the verb conjugation are still significantly difficult to English and can therefore throw up some unexpected problems for any beginner.
But as a yardstick, the FSI estimates that learning Spanish should take somewhere between 575-600 hours of tuition, or 23-24 weeks, to reach general proficiency. You can learn Spanish quickly, just as you can learn Spanish slowly. The estimates given here are offered as a very broad baseline to give you an idea of the task that lies ahead.
To Become Fluent in Spanish, Your Attitude and Motivation are Extremely Important
Spanish speaking for any new learner will not come overnight. You will need to apply yourself and work hard. This is where your attitude and motivation will be of the utmost importance to you. You can learn Spanish online, sign up for a Spanish course or Spanish classes, and buy the most expensive Spanish book on the market, but without a good attitude and motivation, it will all be in vain.
There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, with a good attitude and motivation, you will be more focused on speaking Spanish, and as such, you will find success more easy to come by.
It will also help to keep you going when the going gets tough. And there are always moments when the going gets tough when you are learning a foreign language. If you learn to speak Spanish with a Spanish teacher then they will help you in this process, but at the end of the day it will be your own desire which keeps you going.
But crucially, when you learn Spanish with a positive attitude, you learn not only faster, but the process will be a lot more enjoyable. This is why it is an important part of saying how long it will take you to learn this second language. As with anything, if you enjoy it, you will dedicate more time to it, and you will constantly strive to improve. Learning Spanish is no different in this respect.
At the heart of having a good attitude and being motivated are the goals that you set yourself, and what you want to achieve from learning Spanish. So let's move on to have a look at this aspect.
What are you Goals?
What you want to achieve from learning Spanish is one of the sure-fire ways to keep yourself motivated. This means that if you are learning Spanish with the aim of becoming bilingual in order to live and work abroad, then you can keep this at the front of your thinking when you are finding it difficult. If you want to learn conversational Spanish for a once in a life time trip to Chile, Costa Rica, or Cuba, then this can act as your motivation.
If you don't define your goals from the start, you risk aimlessly learning different aspects of Spanish without being able to see tangible progress.
This is because your goals will shed light on what you need to learn, and how you should do it. Learning a new language can sometime seem like a daunting task so if you can narrow the parameters down to something more specific and manageable, the task will seem easier, and you will be able to monitor your progress more effectively.
This will also see you learn Spanish more effectively and more quickly. You will waste less time on things that will ultimately be of little use to you with regard to what you want to do with the Spanish that you learn, and you can concentrate on reinforcing the more useful aspects of the language a lot more.
Remember that there are loads of reasons to learn Spanish. These could be personal, professional, cultural, or just out of curiosity. These reasons will differ for each individual person, so your goals might be different to other people in your language lessons, for example.
But if you keep your goals clear, then the motivation to achieve them will keep you on track, and it will allow you to learn the language at a quicker pace than if you feel like you are aimlessly moving along without making much progress.
Do you Speak Any Other Languages?
Naturally, if you speak any other languages, they can help you when it comes to learning Spanish. Take French for example. There are similarities between French and Spanish, and therefore someone who has already learnt French will pick up certain aspects of Spanish a lot quicker as they function the same in both languages. This can apply to:
- Sentence structure
Languages whose roots are similar to those of Spanish are more likely to be of help to you. Luckily for all English speakers, both Spanish and English share Latin roots. This means that you actually know a lot more Spanish words before you even start your Spanish courses.
Due to the evolution of European languages, many words have crossed over between different languages. This means that Spanish speakers can benefit when it comes to learning English, and English speakers can benefit when it comes to learning Spanish.
The similarities between English and Spanish, as well as any other languages that you make speak and Spanish, mean that it could take you less time to learn the language of Pablo Picasso because some of the things that you learn won't be new to you.
One of the most difficult and time consuming tasks about learning Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, or Russian, is getting to terms with the new alphabet and the different way of writing. This is not the case with Spanish, which subsequently facilitates the learning process.
How to Learn Spanish Fast: Immersion
We started this article by saying that there are 20 different Spanish speaking countries. There are only 3 other languages that are spoken in more countries than Spanish; English, French, and Arabic.
The widespread use of Spanish, including countries such as Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, means that you aren't short of places where you can go to for an immersive experience.
The best way to study Spanish is by immersing yourself in the language. By doing so, you will be surrounding yourself with the sounds and sights of Spanish, you will learn how to speak Spanish like a local native speaker, as well as picking up a whole bunch of useful phrases and expressions that you won't learn in your Spanish class at home.
Every experience will be like a Spanish lesson for you; going to the supermarket, meeting friends for a coffee, or even travelling around the city or country where you choose to go. You will quickly pick up the Spanish verbs that are actually used in reality, and if you are worried about only having basic Spanish, this will soon develop into an intermediate level due to all of the exposure to the language that you will be getting.
There is no doubt that learning a language efficiently requires some time living in a country where it is spoken. This is also the quickest way to learn a language, and therefore you won't need to worry about how long it takes to learn Spanish as you will be constantly developing, progressing, and improving.
But you should still take Spanish lessons before you relocate, if only to be able to converse on a basic level...