How to Learn Spanish (and Become Fluent) as an Adult
If you’ve ever heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” you may think it’s too late for you to learn Spanish and become fluent as an adult.
Language learning is supposed to be so much easier at a young age, right?
Don’t believe it!
Don’t get me wrong; it takes hard work and dedication to become fluent in a new language. You may get frustrated and feel like giving up. (Or you may love every second of it!)
With these simple strategies, you can learn Spanish (or any foreign language) and even become fluent at any age.
Immerse Yourself in Spanish
Once you’ve decided to make the commitment to becoming fluent in Spanish, one of the best ways to start learning it quickly is to immerse yourself in it.
How can you immerse yourself in Spanish if you live in an English-speaking area? Let’s explore the ways.
Change Your Devices to Spanish
Start with your technology—your phone, computer, iPad, TV, etc. Find language settings of your devices and change them to Spanish.
It may feel strange at first to see all of your notifications in Spanish, but you’ll be amazed at how fast you start picking up Spanish vocabulary when your devices “talk” to you in Spanish.
Since you already mostly know what to expect from your notifications, you will pick up those Spanish words so quickly without having to look up many of them on Google Translate (We’ll get more into Google Translate later).
Listen to Spanish Podcasts
Another way to immerse yourself in Spanish at home is to listen to Spanish language podcasts.
There are many, many Spanish podcasts out there, but here are some of my favorites for Spanish learners.
Notes in Spanish is one of my favorite podcasts. It’s produced by Marina Diez and Ben Curtis, an intercultural couple living in Madrid.
They have different podcasts for every Spanish level, from beginners to advanced.
They speak in both English and Spanish, and I just love their chemistry. They are very fun and authentic.
The Duolingo Spanish Podcast is another great Spanish language podcast created by the popular language learning app, Duolingo.
It does a great job of incorporating both English and Spanish into the podcasts. Often, the narrator speaks English while the subject of the podcast speaks Spanish.
The narrator often translates some of the Spanish vocabulary into English, without helping too much.
The transcript for each episode is available on their website, so you can read along if that helps. Listening has always been the most difficult Spanish skill for me, so I always appreciate it when I can read along.
Radio Ambulante is the most advanced Spanish podcast on this list, but it’s a great one.
It’s distributed by National Public Radio (NPR), and tells really interesting stories from around Latin America.
They also include a Spanish and English transcript for every episode on their website, which is really helpful.
Consume Spanish Newspapers, TV, and Movies
Another way to immerse yourself in Spanish is to watch Spanish news, TV, and movies.
Online Newspapers is an online directory of worldwide newspapers that you can read from home.
Here is a list of Central and South American countries that have online newspapers. Click on one that interests you, and check out what’s going on in that country.
You will learn a lot of Spanish and current events at the same time.
There are tons of choices, so there’s something for everyone.
If you’d rather practice your Spanish listening skills, you can watch Spanish TV, either online or on your television.
Online streaming services such as Netflix offer many TV shows and movies in Spanish as well. You can even change your language settings there to Spanish, and hear the Spanish versions of all your favorite shows and movies.
Befriend Technology: Apps and Online Courses
There are many Spanish online courses and apps to help you learn Spanish as an adult.
EdX offers a popular free series of Spanish courses taught by university professors from the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia in Spain.
All of the courses are self-paced, and thousands upon thousands of students have enrolled in them.
What a great way to get your feet wet with Spanish in your spare time along with many other learners from around the world!
There are also lots of apps that you can download to your phone or tablet to practice Spanish in your free time.
Duolingo is one of the more popular Spanish learning apps.
It makes learning Spanish a game, and you’ll get rewards for various accomplishments, such as completing levels and using the app every day.
They have a free option, and also a paid option which removes the ads.
Memrise is another language learning app, but it emphasizes conversational Spanish from native speakers.
Some Memrise courses are not created by Memrise but by the members themselves, so be aware that quality may vary.
Homeschool Spanish Academy
Lastly, did you know that Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) isn’t just for kids? They offer Spanish lessons for adults as well. If you’d love to practice and improve your Spanish with native speakers live via Google Hangouts, you should definitely check it out.
Get first-person perspectives from HSA’s adult students:
- How Do HSA’s Native Spanish Teachers Teach Me Spanish?
- Why You Should Learn Spanish Online With Native Speakers at HSA
Tara Faires, a student at HSA, says, “I travel to Central America every week from the comfort of my home. How do I do that? Because I learn Spanish online with native speakers in Antigua, Guatemala. It is as amazing as it sounds—a linguistic, educational, and cultural immersion right from my PC.”
Learn more about their programs for adults here!
Find a Spanish Language Partner
Once you’ve immersed yourself in Spanish at home, it’s time to expand your horizons and actually start speaking it with others.
This can be a scary step for some, but it’s so important.
No matter how much you read, write, and listen to Spanish, nothing quite prepares you for your first real Spanish conversation with a native speaker.
Pro Tip: Check out The Secret to Finding Your Ideal Spanish Language Partner to ensure you find the best fit for you!
With a Spanish-speaking language partner, you’ll learn so much new vocabulary, as well as greatly improve both your speaking and listening skills.
Meetup is a website that lists many different interest groups all over the world, with a focus on in-person activities.
Some are free and some are paid, but once you join a group, you will be able to see all of their past and upcoming get-togethers, as well as RSVP for any that interest you.
If you RSVP yes, make sure to show up! It’s much easier to click “Yes” than to actually get out of the house and do it, but trust me, you will thank yourself later when you start to gain fluency in Spanish and make new friends in the process.
Lexody is another website that matches language partners for in-person language exchanges. Founded in Brooklyn, New York, it’s a startup that’s relatively new on the scene.
With Lexody, you meet your language partner for one hour, spending 30 minutes in Spanish and 30 minutes in English.
You can try it out for free with 5 free “connects,” and there is a monthly or yearly fee after that for unlimited connects.
Just make sure to always meet in a safe public place, and remember that you’ll most likely have greater luck if you live in a larger metropolitan area.
If you don’t feel comfortable meeting in-person, there are many online options for language partners as well.
You can find online language partners from around the world on italki.
Simply sign up, and then you will be able to search for language partners by language, location, and gender.
Then you and your language partner can work out the details of how, when, and how often to virtually meet and practice languages together.
Most people are participating in the program to improve their English as well, so be prepared to spend about half of the time chatting in English and half of the time in Spanish.
No Matter What, Don’t Give Up!
There may come a time in your Spanish learning journey when you feel like throwing in the towel and giving up.
Maybe you just listened to a podcast and barely understood any of it.
Maybe you just had a meeting with a Spanish language partner, and it didn’t go so well.
Maybe you’re tired of stopping your reading to look up what feels like every other word.
Just remember, this is totally normal.
Don’t give up.
If you start to feel burnt out with learning Spanish, it’s OK to take a breather.
Take a break for a few days. Set your phone back to English, take a break from your Spanish books, news, podcasts, and language partners, and focus on something else you love.
Just remember why you started this journey and made this commitment in the first place, and get back to it in a couple days.
Don’t let a temporary setback stop you in your tracks.
Language learning can be difficult, but there is so much support out there, you will always have someone to talk to about it.
Small World Spanish
If you would like more ideas for learning Spanish and becoming fluent as an adult, check out my posts at Small World Spanish:
- How to Learn Spanish Online for Free
- How to Teach Your Kids Spanish (Even If You Don’t Speak It Yourself)
Language learning isn’t just for kids. It’s important for everyone to speak a new language.
No matter what your age, you can do it!
Want more Spanish-learning tips, tricks, and free lessons? Check out these posts!
- Help in Spanish: How to Memorize Conjugations
- Slow or Fast in Spanish: How to Talk About Speed
- 50 Irregular Preterite Spanish Verbs You Want to Use Often
- Cleaning Spree! Vocabulary for You to Keep It Clean in Spanish
- The Ultimate Guide to ‘Even Though’ in Spanish
- How to Say ‘Sometimes’ in Spanish and Use Adverbs of Frequency
- What’s the Deal With the Upside-Down Question Mark in Spanish?
- The Best Way to Learn Spanish Grammar On Your Own
- How to Learn Spanish (and Become Fluent) as an Adult - September 14, 2020
- 10 Amazing Activities to Teach Your Toddler Spanish - August 10, 2020