Spanish is one of those languages, along with Chinese, that everyone seems to express a desire to learn. Learning to speak Spanish at a basic level is a dream for many people and speaking fluently is the ultimate goal for others. But how hard is it to learn to speak Spanish fluently? We’ve put together a guide on how (as a native English speaker) to learn Spanish to fluency quickly.
What Does It Mean To Speak Spanish Fluently?
First of all, let’s define fluency. Being fluent in Spanish means that you can speak or write in the language easily and accurately. Obviously, this is open to interpretation. Some people overestimate their Spanish level while others obviously take a more humble stance. If you can express yourself easily and make yourself understood when speaking Spanish, you could consider yourself fluent in Spanish.
How long does it take to learn Spanish?
That old question. The answer, as always, is that it depends. Spanish is a living language, with native speakers in many countries and millions of people around the world learning the language. Learning to speak Spanish is never a “done” thing. You will always be learning.
The longer answer to “how long does it take to become fluent in Spanish?” is it depends on a number of factors.
- How you define the term “learn” – A student and a master of a language have very different abilities.
- The time you have available to study and practise – Can you practise for an hour a day or all day, every day?
- Your ability to retrain information and absorb the rules of a language – How good are you with absorbing the mechanics of a new language.
- Your ability to concentrate – Can you process all of the information you receive? Maybe you can study efficiently for only one hour a day. Others might be able to study or practise speaking for many hours.
- Your interest level – How important is learning Spanish to you? Motivation is a huge factor in how fast you can learn a language.
Your Goals Will Shape How You Learn
Why are you learning Spanish? For people that plan to travel to a Spanish speaking country for a week, the bare minimum level of comprehension and speaking ability will suffice. A few phrases for your travels? It shouldn’t take even the slowest learners longer than a few days or a week to do that. It’s a pure memory game at this stage and cognitive tricks such as mnemonics will really help hear. Why go to all the trouble of learning to speak Spanish fluently when it won’t have a big impact on your experience.
On the other hand, if you plan on moving to a Spanish speaking country, you love the language, or you need to learn for work purposes, attaining a level of fluency is a goal worth pursuing.
The Most Important Factor is Time Spent Practising
It doesn’t matter if you started learning Spanish ten years ago or a week ago. The amount of time you spend actually doing the work is what’s important. People might say, “Oh, I’ve been studying the Spanish language for ten years, I should be fluent by now”. But spending a half-hour a week studying will probably not move the needle in terms of progress as much as a few weeks intensive study with a native speaker, for example.
Let’s say you have an hour a day to practise. Only the very best language hackers and people with incredible abilities to absorb information will be able to attain fluency in less than a year.
Beginner Approach to learning a new language
Try an omnichannel approach
- Start with listening to Pimsleur beginner recordings on your phone. This is one of the best ways to teach yourself Spanish vocabulary and sounds.
- Always watch movies with subtitles and try to read as much as you can as you watch. A neat hack for Netflix is the Language Learning with Netflix plugin for Chrome, which lets you do all kinds of subtitle, language, and
- Hire a language teacher right away so they can begin fixing any problems before they turn into habits.
- Write out sentences in English that help you learn a lot of grammar in concise phrases “I gave the money to him. She returned it to me”, and “I would have liked to have seen the movie, but I knew I would be busy that night”. Then try to translate the phrases. When you’ve checked off the translation. Change a few words and try again. I found this to be super effective. A great trick is to imagine talking with your friends or family and using real-life situations that you frequently encounter to build these phrases. This is one of the most efficient ways to learn Spanish.
As you progress start adding additional channels:
- Change everything on your computer to your target language. When your operating system and apps are all in Spanish, you have no choice but to see the words. Context-based learning is the best way to build vocabulary.
The best way to learn conversational Spanish
At the risk of sounding obvious, the best way is to well, converse with Spanish speakers. There is no better way to learn fast than to immerse yourself in a culture that speaks your target language. If you landed in Buenos Aires or Madrid tomorrow and had to find food and accommodation, you could use the internet (at least for directions), but you could also start asking people.
And I’m not suggesting that you run out and have an affair with someone that speaks your target language (especially if you’re married), but relationship building is one of the best ways to really improve a language. Having a boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner to converse with, learn from, and even argue with, is the fast lane to fluency.
Practise Your Passion
Most people can talk all day about the things they are passionate about. So why not use this superpower to boost your Spanish. Find an online forum or group of people that meet to discuss the topic that you’re interested in. It might be difficult at first to keep up a conversation, but in time you’ll get to know the lingo. The great thing is that you’ll be less likely to get bored as you’re discussing your favourite topic.
Check Reddit for ideas. Reddit is a community of communities. There are plenty of communities of people conversing in their native languages on every conceivable niche. Check out
Tips on How To Learn Spanish
- Find a teacher on iTalki who knows something about your interests and passions. This is a great way to not only speak about the things you are interested in but have someone correct your grammar and pronunciation. There are almost 2000 teachers who speak Spanish on the platform the last time I checked.
- Use one of the many apps for phones that have helped accelerate learning in the last few years. I have to admit that these tools are great for using downtime (flights, queues, commutes) for learning. Duolingo is a very popular language learning app and it’s easy to see why. Created by an ex-Googler, Duolingo is colourful, easy to use, and hits all the right emotions with rewards and gamification built into the platform. Babbel, Mondly, and Busuu are other options.
- Listen to Michel Thomas Spanish – I used this for a while and while I’ll admit that it’s effective, I do think that it’s limited in scope and should not be used as the only method. Thomas had particular methods for teaching languages that you won’t find anywhere else. It won’t work for everyone but it’s another channel worth exploring. It might work well for you.
- Listen to Music – This is my favourite “language hack” of all. It helps to be a fan of music, of course, but anyone can use it to practise memorising long phrases. Depending on the song, it’s unlikely you will improve your accent from listening to music, but it will help you remember words and phrases in context (love song, protest song, sad song).
- Figure out the type of Spanish you want to learn. If speed is important you don’t want to start confusing yourself with different accents and ways of speaking. The Spanish from Spain is quite different from that of Latin America. And even within Latin America, there are many differences. Argentine Spanish sounds nothing like Chilean Spanish, for example.