Many of the people who read this site are from the US/Canada, or are here learning Spanish in Colombia. Beyond that, I have an entire segment who are reading to improve their Spanish and learn an outsider perspective. If that is your situation, then THIS is for YOU too!
Techniques for Learning Spanish
Recently, we wrote an article giving our readers some basic Spanish phraseology to help them find their way. Having taught English for more than 7 years now (and studying Spanish for 10+ years), I have learned a few helpful tips!
#1 | Use a LOT of visualization
People are always saying that you need to try to “think” in Spanish. But no one ever explains how. It’s actually quite easy. Try to create “peliculas,” or movies in your mind. On the bus, in a taxi or any time you have to sit and wait for something – start creating your own scenarios. Imagine yourself, or “hacer peliculas” of you greeting people, carrying on conversations and asking for things.
Through visualization you program your mind to function in the moment when you need to speak. Over time it will become easy to flip the switch and begin speaking/responding appropriately.
#2 | Learn the Alphabet – and the Corresponding Sounds
In Spanish, we spell and pronounce words just like the names of the letters. English has several pronunciations for each letter, especially the vowel sounds. When we are using Spanish, the sound of the letter is also the name of the letter.
What this means, is that if you can memorize and internalize the name/sound of each letter, you will be able to spell and pronounce better.
#3 | Practice Constantly
When we are children we form vocal muscles which enable our pronunciation. For this reason it is very difficult to lose your accent later in life when you learn a second language. Over time, and with a constant practice, you can actually learn to pronounce sounds which will diminish your native accent and increase communication.
There is no easy way, it is a question of listen and practice, listen and practice. Eventually, you will form muscles in your mouth, cheeks, lips and tongue which will allow you to pronounce Spanish more fluidly.
#4 | Sing
We aren’t asking you to become Mary Poppins, but singing can help form pronunciation which is much more difficult to form when speaking. But, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
The wrong way: You sing along at the top of your lungs and try to repeat the sounds as you hear it. Eventually it will come to you…
The right way: You look at the letters, listen carefully and try to pronounce accurately – while singing.
Later, when you have memorized the words AND the pronunciation of each word, you can belt it out and impress your neighbors, friends and passing by-standers with your ability. The most important result from this Learning Spanish concept, is that certain sounds which can be difficult to say when speaking normally – will become easier.
#5 | Watch Videos or Movies
Whether you prefer YouTube or cinema productions, this will help you to get a more complete visual including gestures, cultural codes and context. In the beginning you will need subtitles, over time you will wean yourself off the subtitles as your listening skills begin to take over.
Some well-produced movies in recent years have come from Colombian Cinema. Here are a few suggestions:
En Los Brazos del Serpiente
El Sendero del Anaconda
La Cara Occulta
If you have cinematic productions, and/or documentaries to suggest, from other Latin countries please leave a comment below. We will add your advice to this list both to help broaden our own horizons as well as those of our readers as they learn Spanish.
Basic Phrases in Spanish
Now that you have your technique down, here is an article we wrote recently to learn the basic phrases! Enjoy!
These Five Techniques for Learning Spanish are more than sufficient for the self-motivated and driven learner to begin their journey.
We offer a special Beginners Spanish program which features two elements:
Culture: Where we will actually discuss cultural norms, gestures, common sayings and wisdom which will help you integrate and adapt.
Language: We are not advertising this as a replacement for a native speaker. We can give you a unique introduction to speaking Spanish from the perspective of a foreign resident who has 10+ years of language study experience and exceptional pronunciation.
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If you still aren’t quite there, we also recommend a great school in Pereira, Colombia for learning Spanish!