Living in a country that has a limited foreign language culture can be difficult. Finding people or communities who are interested in conversing in a foreign tongue is almost impossible.
But I did not let it stop me when I wanted to learn Spanish.
I have always found the language fascinating from listening to music and watching telenovelas. But learning how to speak it fluently was another matter. Luckily, I stumbled on the right methods and managed to teach myself Spanish in six months. Here is how I did it.
Understanding the Basics of the Language
I wanted to do things differently from everyone else. Instead of using Rosetta Stone, as I was repeatedly told to do, I took another path. I did my own research using the internet, a few free tutorials and language-learning forums.
I started by trying to understand what words, phrases, tenses and aspects of the language I needed to master before I could hold my own in a basic conversation.
For Spanish, I realized that learning ser/estar (equivalent of “to be” verb in English), the present tense, past tense and the imperative were the most important starting points. The two prepositions I also learned were por/para, as these are the Spanish equivalent of for, or through. I knew that I would not be able to have many conversations without these tools at my disposal.
During the first month, I focused on these areas. I also made a list of the top 1500 words that I needed to memorize. These were high frequency words that I felt would be used in most sentences. Without knowing these words, what they meant and how to use them in different tenses, I would be a hopeless Spanish speaker!
Lang-8 and Italki
The issue when learning a language by yourself is the lack of anyone to bounce off what you are learning. It is the issue that I experienced during the first two months. I was learning these tenses and verbs, memorizing words and trying to form sentences. But I had no idea if I was doing it right.
Lang-8 and italki are two tools that can be very useful. They were great for me, as I was able to form my own sentences in Spanish and then have them reviewed by people who have real experience with the language.
During the third month of my learning journey, I would focus a lot on constructing different sentences about varying topics so they could be reviewed on these sites. I would try to get at least 15 to 25 sentences done each day, about everything under the sun.
I also began to read news sources and other information in Spanish. Thanks to tools such as Google Translate, it is easy to get a rough translation after reading it through in the native language. I was misunderstanding some phrases and passages, but reading the translation helped me see where the mistakes were.
Another tool that helped me during the final couple of months of my Spanish learning journey was online Skype conversations. Sites like Lang-8 have massive lists of skype partners, people who are willing to have conversations in a language to help others learn.
The initial conversations were awkward. But before I knew it, I was able to have basic conversations in a language I had just started learning five or six months ago!