My Struggle to Spanish Fluency
After coming back from a six week trip in Argentina I had one goal. It was to speak Spanish fluently and converse with natives like I could with English natives.
I was tired of everyone talking to me in English and also not being able to understand what others were saying or let alone keep up in conversations in Spanish.
Maybe you are like this too. I set a goal to get conversationally fluent within a year in the most simple and effective method possible.
It was both more difficult and longer than I thought, but also more enjoyable and thrilling than I thought.
Conversing in your target language is one of the most fulfilling experiences that I have created for myself. Here’s how I did it and how you can too.
Most Important Steps to Speaking Spanish Fluently
If you get nothing more out of this post, understand this, the two most important steps to conversing in another language is speaking that other language and hearing that other language.
Sorry that is very simple, but yes, I am a very simple person.
All in all, I believe that you can get conversationally fluent simply by putting in 3-5 focused hours a week. That’s what I did. You can too and probably in much less time with a little more focus.
I learned through talking to native speakers and listening to native speakers.
To be honest, I have used other methods like reading articles and books in Spanish or using a language app or even taking dedicated classroom learning in your target language (all these things can help by the way).
80/20 of Spanish Language Learning
If you want to learn to speak and understand Spanish you have to speak.
By the way, I have found this method to be the most enjoyable so not only is it most effective, but also the most fun.
However, often times it can be difficult to put yourself out there. In an 80/20 analysis this is the 20% of work that will get you the 80% of the results.
3 Ways To Learn To Speak Spanish Fluently
Let me preface with this, if you are more concerned with the other methods of learning Spanish like reading or writing than focus on doing those things.
To me, conversing with a native Spanish speaker in incredibly fulfilling and I am so glad I have taken the time to do it.
Ok, so how do you actually use your 3-5 hours of focused study time? All you need is a computer or laptop preferably with a video camera.
I focused on these three things below. Do these every week and you will be able to converse with a native in a shorter amount of time than you would otherwise.
1) Find Native Speakers To Speak With in Conversation Exchanges
This can be done very simply on a few different websites.
My two favorite are Conversation Exchange or Italki (affiliate link).
If you book a lesson with the above affiliate link you can get $10 put in your account after booking your first lesson.
Coincidentally, I unintendedly met my future wife on Conversation Exchange. I promise my intentions were legitimate!
All you need to do is sign up for an account, fill out a simple profile and then connect with and reach out to different native speakers in your target language.
Shoot them a message on the website and build a friendship from someone in a different country. From there you can schedule Skype sessions with that other person and speak 50% in your target language and 50% in English.
There are so many people all over the world dying to learn English and so you already have a valuable skill!
Also, Conversation Exchange also allows you the opportunity to meet up with the people in person for the native speakers in your area.
2) Find an Online Tutor for as Little as $5-10/hour
Italki.com has the option to find Native Speaking Tutors in your Target Language. It took some testing around to find the right teacher, but when I did it was awesome.
The things that I liked in my top Spanish teachers is when they spoke virtually all Spanish to me (that’s what I am paying them for), and corrected my errors (again, in Spanish where possible.
Finally, they have to have a good internet connection.
There is a review system on the site where you can sort out the best tutors, but to be honest, the easiest method I found was trial and error.
All you need to do is buy credits and schedule individual lessons or lesson packages with the teacher.
Italki also has the cool feature of being able to pay a lower price for a Trial Lesson to see if it’s something you want to do. I usually did 2 lessons or so a week for an hour each.
3) Listen to Podcasts, CD’s, or Audiobooks of Speakers in Your Target Language
This can be done a little more passively and you really don’t have to put in a ton of focus like you would in a direct conversation.
For instance, I often would listen to Spanish Podcasts like Coffee Break Spanish when I was walking around my neighborhood or I would listen to Pimsleur Spanish CD’s in my car when I was driving as opposed to listening to the radio.
They have some nice Intermediate to Advanced CD’s by the way.
One of the reasons why we created Españolistos was because we were tired of not finding good Spanish Podcasts for Intermediate to Advanced Learners purely in Spanish. I hope you are finding it useful!
What Will You Do To Start Speaking Spanish Fluently? (like a native)
Do these three things consistently over time and I guarantee that you will get to your fluency goals.
The only thing that kept me focused and pushed me forward week to week is the fact that these methods were all FUN to me.
Since they were fun it inspired me want to want to keep scheduling Skype sessions each week and keep pushing forward to push myself to learn new things in Spanish.
I seeked out different people, with different backgrounds, and talked about different topics to make sure that I was always learning new things.
Not just have the usual “where you from" and "what do you do” type of questions.
As I said earlier, it is such a fulfilling process to be able to communicate with a completely different people group and you can understand people in a whole new way when you speak their language.
Not to mention, you avoid paying the unwritten tourist tax (for speaking English) in most places.
So what’s stopping you, go for it and get to conversational fluency!
What have you done to improve your Spanish speaking?
Are you hungering for more? We actually created an in-depth article on how to become fluent in Spanish in less time. Check it our HERE.
The best method you used, Nate, is to find a Hispanic girlfriend! 🙂
Kidding aside, I agree that speaking is the most important way. I had 1 hour lesson a week for 2-3 years, plus some reading here and there, but I really started making progress when I added one meetup group a week for more conversation.
I like your podcasts, just what I need trying to get from intermediate to advanced level. Keep it up!
The only thing you need to work on is pronunciation, if I may add. It’s difficult for Americans, it’s a bit easier for me since I’m Serbian and my native language sounds and vocals are a lot more similar to Spanish ones.
Thanks for the comment. haha you are right it certainly helps to have a Hispanic girlfriend. However, I would contest, I didn’t have a Hispanic GF during the time I was learning and reached a conversational level.
Awesome to hear your story of how you got to fluency. I agree, meetups can be super helpful and glad that got you over the plateau. As with anything, finding a way to enjoy the process will go a long way.
I’m glad you are enjoying the Podcast and you are absolutely right about my pronunciation. When I first heard myself speak on the audio I was thinking, “Holy crap, I sound awful.” I told my wife I wanted to have her speak more on the Podcast and me a lot less haha. She insisted it was okay so I persisted. Hopefully it comes across as she is the teacher and I am the student. One of the downsides of self-learning is lazy habits and issues like pronunciation mistakes seep in. You are lucky you are Serbian! 🙂
Lastly, keep on the lookout for new material that we are going to be coming out with in the coming months. Without giving too much info, we are going to be really putting out a lot more content, podcasts, and video focused on Andrea as the teacher training on various topics. Should be some really high-quality stuff.
Thanks again for following our work.
For what it is worth, as I am closer to a beginner, I get benefit from your pronounciation as well as hers. I do have a question for her or you though. IMO, these sites make a mistake in converting Spanish to English. For instance, if I told someone, "Hay mi gato". And the other perosn in the room said "No lo veo". They might convert that to "I do not see it" but that isnt what she said. She said, "No, it I see". So we never get used to how spanish speakers arrange sentences. Do you think it would be beneficial to write a book in english about whatever, but phrase in order of spanish lines? I would think after reading and speaking it a few times it would feel normal to say things that way.
Hola Michael, not 100% following your question, but I think the best way is to hear it and read it then to reinforce it speak it, and write it. Ideally, you would have someone to correct your speaking mistakes and/or someone to correct your writing mistakes. Never go off of a computer translation as that is often not completely correct. Hope that helps!
Utterly indited written content, Really enjoyed reading through.
Thank you Damien!
I am not rattling great with English but I line up this really easygoing to read .
Since you already understand most of the book it will make more sense when you are reading it in Spanish and don’t understand every word that is on the page.
100% right on that! 🙂
Gracias. Yo soy brasileño y estoy estudiando español porque yo quiero viajar. Pienso que para brasileños, español es más fácil. Oigo todos los podcasts.
Estoy de acuerdo. Creo que es mucho mas facil por los Brasilenos de aprender espanol porque el idioma es muy parecido. Me gusta mucho que disfrutes los podcasts.
Soy de Inglaterra y he estado aprendiendo español desde enero y es gracias a sus brillantes métodos que puedo reconstruir este mensaje. No puedo esperar a visitar España en abril del próximo año para poner realmente a prueba mi nueva habilidad. Muchas gracias.
Que chevere, Adam. 🙂