How long does it take to learn Spanish? I studied for three years in high school and was far from fluent, or even competent as a speaker. This was of little consequence in my life until I decided to move to Madrid. It wasn’t until I landed at Barajas that I had really contemplated how long it would actually take to learn the language. I imagined that after a few months of studying and living in Spain that I would wake up one morning sounding like Antonio Banderas. It turns out, it doesn’t really work like that for most people and the answer isn’t very clear as to how long it takes.
Being a native English speaker can actually be a bit of a disadvantage. English is so widely spoken that culturally, English speaking countries don’t prioritize learning other languages as much as their counterparts. Mandarin Chinese, the most commonly spoken native language in the world, happens to be one of the most difficult languages to learn so that isn’t a very popular choice.
Spanish on the other hand, is a bit more of an attainable goal for anglophones and also one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It isn’t the easiest language to learn as many complain about the verb conjugations, pronunciation, and the speed it is spoken by native speakers. Fortunately, there are some similarities that can make it easier: similar vocabulary (usually shared with Latin), a common alphabet with only a few variations, and a cultural familiarity from food, movies, TV shows and music.
Above all, it really comes down to the individual and their background. For example, someone who was exposed to native speakers at an early age is much more likely to pick it up quickly later in life. It can be a lot more difficult if you are starting from scratch hear a language for the first time. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to improve quickly no matter who you are.
- First, start out slow with some basic vocab and phrasebooks. This is where apps like Duolingo, I believe, are most useful.
- Next, you need to have a reasonable goal. This goes for complete beginners, intermediate or more experienced learners. Something like 2 months is very unreasonable if you are a complete beginner trying to become fluent and will just lead to frustration.
- Having a goal in mind will help you determine how much time you need to invest in your improvement. My personal recommendation is at least 30 mins a day of immersion.
- No matter what your goal is, you will need to surround yourself with native speakers if you want to improve quickly. If you have already relocated to a Spanish speaking country, you are on the right track.
- Finally, have language expert check and correct your mistakes. This is vital to improving your pronunciation, building confidence, and really learning how to sound like a native Spanish speaker.