10 Blunders NOT to Make While Learning Spanish
Learning Spanish is easy, if you know how to study.
Living in Mexico, I met many expats who didn’t speak Spanish although they had lived there for years. And they’d been trying to learn and had lots of immersion opportunities.
So, why do some people learn Spanish easily and quickly while others struggle?
Because of these blunders!
Blunders are typical mistakes that make learning ineffective. Keep reading to learn 10 common blunders that befall Spanish students—and how to avoid them!
10 Big Mistakes for Spanish Learners to Avoid
Let me show you 10 errors new students often make while learning Spanish. I’ll explain why these strategies are ineffective and share what to do instead.
1. Learning Spanish with Travel Phrasebooks
Learning Spanish with travel phrasebooks is not a great idea. Why is it ineffective?
First, you’re simply memorizing sentences without understanding all the elements and how they’re connected. Second, life is too unpredictable to cover all you can say and hear in one book.
Learning Spanish is like playing with building blocks. You should know the elements first, learn how to connect them, and be prepared to make your own creations.
2. Memorizing Grammar Rules
Grammar is important, but memorizing grammar rules is pointless. Yes, you need to know grammar rules, but instead of learning them by heart, you must understand and apply them. You need to practice to feel it.
Instead of repeating yo fui / tú fuiste / él, ella, usted fue, nosotros fuimos, ustedes fueron, ellos fueron (I was / you were, he, she, it was / we were / you were / they were) 20 times , use the conjugation of the verb ser (to be) in sentences. Say them out loud, read a text, or create a short dialogue.
3. Memorizing Vocabulary Lists
Learning long Spanish word lists is not an effective technique. I remember having to memorize more than 300 Spanish words in college to pass a weekly test. I did so and quickly forgot them. (I learned some of these words later on traveling in Spain, listening to songs by Sabina and watching movies by Almodóvar.)
Like with a travel phrasebook, by memorizing vocabulary lists, you’re learning Spanish words “just in case,” before you need them. This method is ineffective.
To retain words in your long-term memory, the content must be relevant.
4. Not Speaking Enough
Speaking is vital to learning Spanish. If you don’t speak, you’re not using what you know.
And what about writing, you might ask? Writing is also a key productive skill, but it’s less spontaneous than speaking. You have time to think, erase, look up words, and edit. You’re still swimming with a lifejacket.
Speaking is like jumping into the deep end. You have to recall words and grammar structures at will. In a real conversation, there’s little time to ponder over each word.
So, speak as much as you can. Find a language partner or sign up for one-to-one classes to converse at ease.
5. Lacking Motivation
Why are you learning Spanish? Is it a life-changing skill for you? If it is, you’ll be successful.
Learning Spanish with intrinsic motivation is key. Do you know who learns Spanish fastest? People who emigrate to Spanish-speaking countries and need to learn it to live a normal life. There’s simply no other option; it’s essential for survival. They’re called circumstantial students.
That’s why it’s great to cultivate a feeling that learning Spanish is crucial. Imagine that the life you want depends on it.
6. Using Google Translate To Write Texts
My students do it. My friends do it. Everybody does it. And they shouldn’t! Students of Spanish are often insecure about their writing skills and rely on Google Translate to construct their pieces.
However, you’re not learning Spanish if you’re not using it. You need to be able to produce words yourself, from memory, and to use correct grammar and spelling.
What to do instead? Write the text first, and use dictionaries to look up words you don’t know. If you don’t know a word, maybe you know a synonym. Try to be as independent as possible. When using a spell checker, make mental note of each mistake it spots.
7. Not Studying with Authentic Materials
Learning Spanish as a beginner is like living in a bubble. You get special texts prepared according to the vocabulary and grammar you know. The recordings you listen to have a slower pace.
All these modifications are necessary at the beginning but can be a constraint if you stick to them. Real people speak faster than most textbook recordings.
The language used in movies and conversations is different from what you learn in class. Authentic materials are more interesting. And that’s fundamental for motivation.
Even though you won’t understand everything on your favorite Netflix Spanish series, focus on recognizing what you know. Install the Language Learning with Netflix Chrome Extension, to make your learning in Spanish more effective and fun.
8. Using Children’s Books
People learning Spanish and other languages tend to think that reading children’s books is a great idea to improve vocabulary and boost reading comprehension skills. It’s actually not.
One good thing about children’s books for beginner Spanish learners is that they are short. However, the vocabulary tends to be outdated and not high frequency.
The content is not highly relevant to a modern language learner. For example, here’s a sentence from Cinderella by the brothers Grimm:
Sucedió que el Rey organizó unas fiestas, que debían durar tres días, y a las que fueron invitadas todas las doncellas bonitas del país, para que el príncipe heredero eligiese entre ellas una esposa.
Now it happened that the king proclaimed a festival that was to last three days. All the beautiful young girls in the land were invited, so that his son could select a bride for himself.
You’ll rarely use the word doncella in conversation, and the imperfect subjunctive form eligiese is an advanced verb conjugation.
9. Choosing Too Many Resources
Some learners research and gather all possible resources before they start learning Spanish. They download the best apps, sign up for any Spanish podcast they hear about, subscribe to every Spanish YouTube channel they come across, and buy the best Spanish textbooks on the market.
Why is this a blunder? Too many resources distract instead of helping. You’re not following a method if you’re always learning different things from an excess of sources.
Minimize and simplify. Choose one textbook, one learning app, one Spanish podcast, and subscribe to just a few channels. Make sure, there’s a method in your learning and set clear goals.
10. Not Signing Up For Classes
I highly respect people who learn a language totally by themselves. But why not take the highway if you can?
Learning Spanish with a teacher is beneficial. It’s difficult to spot your own mistakes, even if you record yourself. You need an experienced teacher who will correct and model pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary use. The ideal teacher challenges you to study more effectively.
Learn Spanish the Right Way
If learning Spanish is a high-priority skill for you, be sure not to make any of the mistakes I mentioned in this article. Remember, the first step is to find your motivation! Do you want to earn more money by knowing Spanish? Do you want to invest in your mind and improve your cognition and decision-making abilities skills? Or do you simply want to travel to all the Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America?
In any case, language classes are essential! To see for yourself how a teacher can boost your Spanish learning, sign up for a free 1-to-1 class with one of our professional, native-speaking teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy.
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