There are three individual (and often overlapping) “best” ways to learn Spanish:
1. Concentrate on conversational skills and learn as much as you need to get by in situations.
2. Go the scholarly route and build your skills from the ground up.
3. Immerse yourself in the language until you begin thinking in Spanish.
Strategy 1: Work on Conversational skills
A good approach to building conversational skills is to go the situational route. Compile a list of handy vocabulary, phrases, and questions you need to get by in airports, public transportation, hotels, and restaurants while traveling:
¿Dónde puedo encontrar transporte a mi hotel? (Where can I find transportation to my hotel?)
¿Mi habitación tiene ducha? (Does my room have a shower?)
Me gustaría mantequilla con mis panecillos. (I would like butter with my rolls.)
You can make a list of your favorites and jot them down in a notebook or on your smartphone. Google Translate is a handy resource for doing that.
Strategy 2: Learn Spanish the way you learned English: from the beginning.
You learned English by listening and you picked up on grammar and syntax by imitating what you heard from your parents, peers, the media, and teachers. You then learned the mechanics of English — how to spell, pronounce words, and write a grammatically correct sentence.
It’s the same in developing fluency in Spanish. Start small. Learn the easy things first and accumulate knowledge and skills through practice. Begin Spanish studies methodically and learn the easy, consistent rules of vocabulary and grammar. When you have conquered a piece of the language, practice it, revue it, and revue it again.
Build your vocabulary and learn a new word every day. Spanish has lots of so-called “cognates” where words mean the same in both languages. Examples: hospital and horrible. For a complete list of words you already know, see this article on Real Fast Spanish.
Beware, however, of so-called “false cognates.” Those are Spanish words spelled similar to or the same as English. For example, in Spanish, embarazada does not mean “embarrassed.” It means “pregnant.” There is an extensive list of Spanish false cognates on the SpanishDict.com website.
Next, practice and concentrate on verb tenses and use. When you learn how to conjugate one verb in its simple tense, you are actually increasing your vocabulary by 42 words. (There are seven simple tenses with six forms for each verb.)
Strategy 3 – Sign up for a Spanish immersion program.
You learned English so well because it was all around you. You were immersed in it. There are Spanish Immersion Programs worldwide where you can use and study Spanish abroad. The programs require various levels of Spanish skills and many provide student accommodations with local families. You’ll need to check out visa and immigration requirements, as well as COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements.
An all-encompassing strategy—Master Spanish pronunciation
Finally, there is one strategy for learning Spanish that applies to any path you wish to take to master it: learn the rules of Spanish pronunciation. Good pronunciation skills will get you through most situations as well as help you to master syntax, spelling, and verb conjugation.
If you’re ready to learn Spanish, the best way to get started is with a face-to-face session with a native Spanish speaker. Schedule a quick 15-minute “taster” session with me, and I’ll help you decide your best path to learning Spanish.