Why Conversational Spanish is Your Ticket to Fluency
There are so many methods of learning a new language like Spanish. Some curriculum books focus on grammar, while others explore the variety of Spanish vocabulary. Most language classes follow similar teaching patterns, but unfortunately, many students don’t come out fluent after four years.
A new form of language learning that is gaining popularity is focusing on conversational Spanish. If you want to take the fast track to Spanish fluency, try the conversation-driven method!
If you aren’t yet convinced of learning conversational Spanish, keep reading! We’ll go over what exactly it is and why it leads to fluency faster.
Learning Methods: Traditional vs. Conversational Spanish
When we refer to conversational Spanish as a way to fluency, we are comparing it to the traditional way of learning a language. Most people are first exposed to Spanish in middle school or high school, and the classes are often mandatory.
What is Traditional Spanish Learning?
In these settings, several things happen that define our term “traditional Spanish classes.”
- Large classes
- Teachers are not always native speakers
- Focus on book learning
- Limited spoken Spanish
- Set goals for the whole class
- Concentration on grammar (not necessarily how to implement it)
Of course, Spanish classes at larger schools have more limitations and expectations on how to teach. However, meeting all these goals can actually create a massive barrier for students to reach fluency.
Most public and many private schools have larger classes with well over 10 students. In this learning environment, the teacher faces the incredible challenge of monitoring each of her students’ progress in Spanish reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension.
In classes with more than 30 students, this expectation is completely unrealistic. Since fluency is a complex goal, it requires plenty of communication and attention between the teacher and students. Unfortunately, traditional learning with large classes doesn’t provide opportunities for that.
Teachers are Not Always Native Speakers
While numerous students have the privilege to study a language with a native speaker, many traditional Spanish classrooms have native English-speaking teachers. This inhibits the students’ path to fluency for multiple reasons.
For one, the teachers may not be used to continually speaking in Spanish. With all of the children speaking in English, it can be easy—even natural—to switch back to English. Also, anyone who is not a native Spanish speaker can be prone to make grammatical or pronunciation mistakes, which leads the students to copy their mistakes.
Focus on Book Learning
Standard Spanish classes usually base their curriculum on the chapters in a book, making the majority of classwork reading and writing.
Of course, being literate in Spanish is essential, but that’s not the only part of language learning. Full fluency requires mastering all areas of the language. To survive in a Spanish-speaking country, though, speaking the language is an absolute must. Unfortunately, traditional Spanish classes don’t prepare students for that.
Limited Spoken Spanish
Think back on your high school Spanish classes. How much time was spent speaking the language? Probably not a lot. Traditional classes usually have limited Spanish instruction and encourage the students to speak Spanish between themselves.
While pair work can be an effective learning method, practicing a foreign language with another person who doesn’t speak it well can hinder the students’ progress. These exercises are counterproductive because the kids are used to speaking in English with each other. Instead of trying to create a Spanish sentence, they may just switch to Spanglish or English.
Class planning is crucial to any language class. However, when teachers plan the same goals for all of their students, this can prevent some students from reaching fluency.
Each student has unique needs and learning styles, especially when it comes to learning an entirely new language. Traditional Spanish classes don’t provide an appropriate environment for every student to reach the goals, especially those focused on verbal fluency.
Focus on Grammar
With the extra focus on bookwork, most of the classes revolve around new grammar topics. Grammar is incredibly crucial to fluency, but focusing exclusively on grammatical rules does not help the students put the rules into practice.
The ability to follow directions and fill out workbook exercises does not equal fluency. While the students may get good grades on tests and homework, they won’t reach verbal fluency without conversational practice.
How Is Conversational Spanish Different?
While there are many types of fluency, most Spanish learners’ main goal is to be able to speak the language. A Spanish class that focuses on conversation leads the student directly to their goal.
While there still is a focus on grammar and vocabulary, they take a backseat. The goal is for the students to be able to communicate in a foreign language. Many conversational Spanish classes are smaller in size, and most of the class is spent speaking the language.
Why Does Conversational Spanish Lead to Fluency Faster?
Classes that concentrate on conversational Spanish aren’t trying to meet specific goals about which grammar topics to cover but are instead more concerned with the general progression of conversational skills.
Before we look at some specifics of why conversational Spanish leads to fluency faster, let’s talk about how you can experience this type of language learning.
Finding Spanish classes that focus specifically on the conversation is challenging. Many in-person courses are organized in the traditional method to meet curriculum goals. However, you can explore the following options to find your perfect conversational Spanish class.
- Find a private tutor who will adapt their teaching to what you need.
- Use a program like iTalki, where you can talk with native Spanish speakers online.
- Take classes online with Homeschool Spanish Academy for the perfect combination of conversation and grammar.
- Travel to a Spanish-speaking country and dive right into conversations!
- Don’t worry about formal classes and spend time with your Spanish-speaking friends.
- Join local Spanish-speaking activity groups, like sports, a Bible study, or an art class.
As you can see, practicing conversational Spanish doesn’t always occur in a regular classroom setting. However, any of the above options will get you to Spanish fluency quickly.
When you learn conversational Spanish, it will most likely be with a native speaker. All of the above options (except possibly the private tutor) are with native speakers. Whether you are with friends or learning from a skilled teacher, these conversation sessions will be filled with real-life Spanish.
Also, since you are focusing on conversation, you will be learning full phrases as you would say them in authentic situations. Instead of learning each of the parts separately and then stumbling to put them together when faced with a Spanish conversation, you will be more than equipped for any situation by focusing on Spanish conversation from the start.
If you don’t already know a native Spanish speaker to practice Spanish in a realistic setting, seek one out! This can be one of your friends from school or with one of the teachers here at Homeschool Spanish Academy.
Ask them to speak to you in Spanish (slowly!) and give you time to respond. While it may be hard for you to start, most people are more than happy to share their mother tongue.
The idea with conversational Spanish is that you learn the natural phrases in Spanish. This technique is similar to Spanish immersion in that you are learning experiential Spanish instead of each separate grammar aspect.
This takes you to fluency faster because you will know phrases for every situation. You may not know precisely why the expressions are organized in a certain way or what each word means, but you’ll understand the whole idea.
This helps tremendously with your fluency. When you learn each word separately, like a list of vocabulary or numerous verb conjugations, it can be confusing to know how to put them together in a sentence. Plus, you’ll probably base the sentence structure off of what you’re used to – English. As a result, you will bounce between English and Spanish excessively, hindering you from fully thinking in Spanish.
When you focus on conversational Spanish, you don’t need to understand each individual part, and you won’t be bogged down in translation.
Listen closely to what native speakers say (this can be in your Spanish class, a TV show, or daily podcast). Try copying phrases that you hear. If you have a native Spanish-speaking friend or tutor, you can ask them what certain things mean and how to use them.
No Overwhelming Grammar
One of the most dreaded parts of traditional Spanish classes is the endless verb conjugation. Once you study list after list of tenses and verb forms, you can start to feel your brain numb. How will you possibly remember all of this and be able to use it in a real conversation?
Focusing on conversational Spanish takes a lot of the pressure off of intense verb memorization. When you learn phrases like ven conmigo or siéntate, you won’t necessarily know that those are forms of the imperative for the informal pronoun tú. However, by using context clues you can understand what these phrases mean.
In official classes that focus on conversation, you can explore grammar topics based on conversational phrases. However, the heavy focus on conjugations is lifted, providing for a more relaxed, fun learning environment.
Feel free to ask people questions about why certain verb forms are used in various situations. However, don’t be afraid to let go of the idea of understanding the why behind every word.
Remember, fluency doesn’t mean mastering every single of Spanish grammar, but rather being able to communicate freely. You don’t need to understand every verb conjugation, just how to use them effectively in a sentence. Learning conversational Spanish will give you the capacity to speak Spanish without understanding the intricacies of the language—even most native speakers don’t understand everything!
Learn Spanish You Will Actually Use
Have you ever wondered when you will use certain vocabulary you learned in Spanish class? When the curriculum is set, you don’t have a choice in what you learn, whether it’s useful for your future or not.
If you instead focus on conversational Spanish, you decide what you learn. For example, if you need conversational Spanish to travel, visit your in-laws, or work in a kitchen, let your teacher know and they can focus the classes on that.
On the other hand, if you are just conversing with your Spanish-speaking friends, you will hear and learn Spanish filled with useful slang and everyday phrases.
Talk to whoever you are learning conversational Spanish with and tell them what you want your focus to be. The point of conversational fluency is to use it in real life, so make sure you make your goals clear.
More Natural Learning Method
How did you naturally learn English? Was it through intense verb conjugations and memorizing vocabulary lists, or was it by learning phrases useful to life?
We all learn our first language in the latter form, focusing on the speech coming naturally. It isn’t until years later when we learn what a verb or adjective is. The process for learning a second language should be similar. The more natural the method is, the faster you will reach fluency.
Conversational Spanish takes a more natural approach by teaching useful phrases first and letting the student learn the grammar instinctively.
Have fun learning conversational Spanish. It’s meant to be more natural, without the added pressure of grades, verbs, and tests.
Next Step to Fluency
If you are ready to start your journey with conversational Spanish, the best place to start is with Homeschool Spanish Academy. We are an online Spanish school that focuses on leading students of all ages to fluency. While we do have established curricula, they are focused on conversation. Our goal is to get you talking after just one class! If you want only conversation with one of our live, native Spanish-speaking teachers, just let them know and they’ll adjust the classes.
Sign up for a free trial class today and start speaking the language! Your conversational Spanish will progress in leaps and bounds, and you’ll find yourself on the road to fluency.
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