Is learning Spanish challenging for you? Do you have a hard time thinking about verb conjugations and remembering all the vocabulary? Do you forget everything you learn as soon as you leave the classroom? There can be several reasons why your experience learning Spanish may be challenging for you.
I have a dear friend that I met while learning Spanish in Oaxaca, Mexico at Roca Blanca Spanish School more than a decade ago. In fact, she and I are still close friends to this day. She and I started in the immersive Spanish program at the same time. As two young ladies in a foreign country going through the same wild (but exciting) experience, we became instant friends and stuck with each other through the different adventures that our 8 months of Spanish school brought.
But, although we were similar in so many ways, we had one major difference: our knack for language learning. I picked up Spanish quite easily; for me, I felt confident going into every test day. Yes, I had to study some; but if I had to be honest, I did not feel challenged at all going through the program. However, my friend had a very different journey; there were some grammar concepts that she just did not get. Even after studying hard and going through the homework for hours, she would still struggle on test days and come out not knowing how well she did. In fact, because of her scores in the first level of the program, she was given the option to take level one again. She chose to move on and just try harder. She did graduate from the program, which was quite an accomplishment for her, because there were several times when she contemplated giving up. However, in comparison to others in the class, her Spanish was still lacking quite a bit by the time we finished all four levels.
Watching my friend struggle through her Spanish learning journey opened my eyes to the fact that Spanish does not come as easily to some as it did for me. Over my 8+ years of teaching languages, I have come to find that learning another language can be the hardest thing for some. If this is you, I would like to encourage you that just because it is very challenging for you to learn Spanish, do not give up! There are several things that you can try to make the path a little easier or even remove the mental barrier altogether. I want to take the time to share 5 tips to help you have a more fruitful experience learning Spanish. Please note, although these tips are mainly for those who really struggle through learning Spanish, they can be useful to anyone.
Tip 1: Repetition is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very good thing! Many times it can feel embarrassing to ask a teacher to explain something again or to have to listen to something again to soak it all in. The feeling of embarrassment can cause you to get frazzled and then the block is not just that you didn’t understand the first time. But, the block begins to be that you feel embarrassed and are dealing with thoughts like, “what does the teacher and/or other students think of me? They probably think I’m dumb and don’t know anything. Oh gosh, this is horrible. I’m such a horrible student.” Does this train of thought sound familiar? If so, can I challenge you to not go down that rabbit trail next time you have to ask for something to be explained again? Instead of thinking about how you may look to others, fully focus on understanding what is being explained. I guarantee that with a clearer mind, you will begin to understand a lot more quickly.
Tip 2: Try a different learning source. Have you been going through the same classes, workbooks, exercises, etc.? Well, try something else. Sometimes, reading something explained differently or listening to another person explain it can make the biggest difference. This is where finding your match matters. The first Spanish program/book/class that you start may not the right one for you. You have to find who and what works best for you.
Tip 3: Start PRACTICING. No matter where you are in your Spanish learning journey, you need to begin practicing immediately. This is the number one thing that my friend wished she would have done. It can be easy to think that you don’t know enough to start practicing, but this is simply not true. Even if you just know the bare basics like “hola,” “me llama…,” and “cómo estás?” you CAN practice using what you know. Practicing instills what you know and helps you learn new vocabulary on the fly. This tip is a game-changer for anyone learning Spanish.
Tip 4: Be consistent. If you are someone that only tries to learn Spanish when you get the inspiration to do so, it will be important for you to develop a routine that encourages you to stay consistent with learning. Plan ahead and follow through even when you don’t feel like it. Because Spanish is already challenging for you, consistency will be key in your Spanish learning journey. On days when you don’t feel like studying, switch up your routine and try something different. Listen to a Spanish podcast, go on YouTube and watch a few short videos in Spanish with English subtitles, find a fun song in Spanish and listen to it while reading the Spanish lyrics.
Tip 5: Get a language coach. Just like a life or career coach, a language coach will coach you through your Spanish journey. A coach will help you do all of the tips that I’ve mentioned above and more. He or she will truly help you get results. A coach has been exposed to all kinds of learning situations, meaning that he or she can appropriately advise you in deciding what might work best for your learning journey. A coach will also help you stay consistent by holding you accountable to your learning goals.
These are just a few tips that I hope you’ll find helpful as you continue in your language learning journey. Please comment below with the tip that you are going to try first!
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