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How to Learn Spanish
Learning Spanish is not just an attractive endeavor for those looking to broaden their professional and personal opportunities. Speaking Spanish can also be a valuable asset. As the second most widely spoken language in the world, Spanish has more than 400 million speakers and is the native tongue in 20 different countries. The largest population of Spanish speakers reside in Central and South America, but there is also a considerable number of Spanish speakers, more than 40 million , in the United States. Spanish is also the second most widely spoken language in the US, and there are more Spanish speakers in America than live in Spain.
Picking up some basics in Spanish is relatively easy for beginners, especially those who speak a language like English, French, or Italian. Languages of the same family often share words that are cognates or have similarities because they are derived from the same mother tongue. This is why you’ll find English words like “red” that sound remarkably similar in French (rouge), Italian (rosso), and Spanish (rojo). In addition to familiar-sounding vocabulary, you’ll discover Spanish also has a straightforward system of pronunciation, fewer irregularities than many other languages, and an alphabet similar to the English one.
Rosetta Stone understands that beginners need to learn Spanish in context, building naturally towards speaking Spanish phrases and gaining confidence with the pronunciation. That’s why our Spanish language software focuses on an immersion-based learning method that teaches words alongside visual and audio cues, helping beginners learn basic conversational phrases in the context of real-world situations. Rosetta Stone’s award-winning mobile app allows you to practice anywhere, syncs across all your devices, and offers downloadable lessons to support offline learning.
Learn the Spanish Alphabet and Numbers
One of the first steps in learning Spanish for beginners is to tackle the pronunciation of the alphabet and the words that represent numbers. For English speakers, learning the Spanish alphabet is simple because the differences are minor. There are just three additional letters you’ll need to master: ch (chay), ll (elle), and ñ (eñe).
To learn the Spanish alphabet and numbers, you’ll need to focus on pronunciation. Some of the letters in the Spanish alphabet will have familiar sounds, while others may be entirely different. For instance, the letter “j” in Spanish would be pronounced as jota, where the j sounds much like a hard “h” in English.
One of the most effective ways to learn the building blocks of Spanish is in the context of conversations rather than static vocabulary drills. That’s why Rosetta Stone designs language learning as bite-sized lessons that deliver concepts as part of a broader set of conversational phrases. For instance, in a unit designed to teach numbers, you might practice words like dos (similar to the word dose in English) or tres (similar to trace) alongside a real-world situation such as paying a bill or ordering in a restaurant. The advantage to this immersion method is that beginners learn not only Spanish vocabulary, but also get a feel for the flow of the language and develop an ear for the accent.
Learn to Pronounce Words in Spanish
Focusing on pronunciation rather than vocabulary acquisition is the key to learning to speak Spanish with confidence. Often, language learners may get distracted trying to master long lists of phrases or flashcard decks full of words, but find themselves unable to understand or be understood in actual conversations. That’s why learning to pronounce and understand commonly used phrases in Spanish will go a long way towards helping you feel more comfortable engaging with locals.
Spanish does have some pronunciation distinctions that can make it a challenge for language learners. One of the most frequently discussed is the rolling of r's, which is takes some practice to replicate. Spanish has a trilling sound made by pushing air with your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Some language experts encourage beginners to focus on making the “tt” sound in the word butter as the closest equivalent.
Honing your pronunciation means getting feedback and making corrections, practicing, and persisting until your mouth can get a feel for how to shape the sounds that make up the Spanish language. Rosetta Stone embeds a patented speech recognition engine called TruAccent into every lesson to provide feedback and recommend corrections to align your accent with that of a local speaker. Developed by scanning and integrating the speech of thousands of native Spanish speakers, TruAccent can be a powerful tool in helping you learn to understand and be understood in Spanish.
Learn how to say 'What is your recommendation?' from a native Spanish speaker.
Learn Conversational Phrases in Spanish
Once beginners have learned the Spanish basics that make up the building blocks of speaking the language, it’s natural to transition to the longer phrases that are the backbone of conversations. Rosetta Stone’s bite-sized lessons are built in exactly this way, scaling naturally towards speaking confidently by always structuring vocabulary acquisition in context with real-world situations. To broaden your Spanish from beginner to intermediate language learning, it helps to focus on some tactics that can accelerate your understanding of Spanish.
1. START WITH SPANISH CONNECTORS
One of the best ways to bridge the gap between acquiring basic Spanish words and being able to speak in conversational phrases is to focus on how to use connectors. Similar to the way we use “and,” “but,” and “because” in English, Spanish connectors can help you take words you already know and put them together into a more complex idea. For example if you know the word for “Saturday” (sábado) and “happy” (feliz) as well as the word for “today” (hoy) and the pronoun “he” (él), you only need a rudimentary understanding of the verb “to be” (estar) to create a more complicated sentence using the simple connector porque (because).
Él está feliz porque hoy es sábado. He is happy because today is Saturday.
2. PRACTICE SPANISH VOCABULARY WITH A PHRASEBOOK
Of course, the key to learning any language is practice. And that doesn’t mean compiling and memorizing massive Spanish vocabulary lists. Instead, focus on speaking commonly used phrases in the context of conversations. Rosetta Stone makes this part of your language learning journey easy with a phrasebook that you can quickly reference to find the most common conversational phrases in Spanish.
3. SPEAK SPANISH DAILY
Whether it’s a few stolen minutes during breakfast or a half an hour you set aside at bedtime, setting a goal to speak Spanish daily can be one of the most successful strategies to accelerate language learning. Rosetta Stone’s bite-sized lessons make this easy, with ten-minute increments of learning that you can take with you in the mobile app or on your desktop. Your progress in the lessons syncs across all devices, so you’ll be able to pick up learning Spanish where you left off.
4. GET FEEDBACK ON YOUR SPANISH PRONUNCIATION
Learning Spanish words and phrases is an excellent place to start, but this alone won’t help you feel comfortable having conversations with locals. For that kind of confidence, you’ll need to learn phrases in context and practice your pronunciation consistently. Rosetta Stone embeds the patented speech recognition engine TruAccent into every lesson, so you have an opportunity to model the pronunciation and practice rolling r’s every day.
How to Advance Your Spanish Learning?
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Practicing online a few minutes a day isn’t likely to make you fluent in Spanish. However, language learning is a journey, not a destination. To get the most out of yours, focus on advancing your learning one step at a time instead of striving towards an elusive end goal. Rosetta Stone can help with plenty of lessons and learning strategies for advanced Spanish language learners.
LEARN TO CONJUGATE SPANISH VERBS
If you’ve mastered some basic words and feel relatively comfortable with more than a handful of conversational phrases, it’s time to start conjugating Spanish verbs. In most languages, it’s easiest to start off with the most common regular verbs in present tense and then branch out into irregular verbs and other tenses.
For Spanish, that means learning a handful of verbs ending in -ir, -ar, and -er. Words like comer (to eat) or hablar (to talk) have straightforward conjugations. Unfortunately, some of the more commonly used Spanish verbs are irregular, meaning that they have nuanced rules for conjugation. Ser (to be) is a excellent example of one of the most widely used irregular Spanish verbs. When conjugated it can change from soy to eres, es, and somos. Irregular verbs like these can be memorized, but are also best learned through contextualized practice.
LEARN GENDER RULES FOR SPANISH
All nouns in Spanish have a gender that is either masculine or feminine. And with the help of a few simple rules, you can usually figure out which gender is associated with which noun. If it’s a person or a living creature, the gender assigned to the word should match the gender of the living thing. For instance, el gato is a male cat while la perra is a female dog, but you can also have la gata (female cat) and el perro (male dog). Mixed groups of people or living things are referred to with masculine gender. Certain endings of words for nouns can also determine the gender of the article. Nouns that end in –sión, –ción, –dad, –tud and –umbre are female while those ending in -ma are masculine. For the rest, you’ll have to learn as you go and continue to practice until you feel confident you’ve got the right pairing.
PRACTICE DEFINITE AND INDEFINITE ARTICLES IN SPANISH
The difference between definite and indefinite articles may seem confusing in Spanish, but it’s the same concept in English. Definite articles are things that are specific. For instance, in Spanish el gato is “the cat” versus un gato which is “a cat”. It’s important to learn and practice these kinds of rules, but you should also continue to build your vocabulary in context so that when you are engaged in a conversation, using the correct article will come naturally.
Ways to Learn Spanish
Whether you’re just beginning to learn a few basics or looking to brush up on your language skills before you travel, there are many ways to learn to speak Spanish. Before you decide which one is the right fit for you, it makes sense to assess your schedule and commitments. While you can learn some basic Spanish by setting aside just a few minutes each day, being confident enough to have conversations in Spanish may take longer depending on how much time you have to devote to study and practice.
Here are just a few ways you might incorporate Spanish language learning into your daily routine.
LEARN SPANISH THROUGH SELF STUDY ONLINE
Poking around online and finding a few phrases isn’t too difficult, but you can probably guess that this isn’t the best method for learning to speak Spanish confidently. It also doesn’t allow you to get feedback on your pronunciation so you may struggle to be understood by native speakers.
SPANISH LEARNING LANGUAGE APPS AND SOFTWARE
Language-learning programs like Rosetta Stone’s award-winning mobile app and software are designed to teach language through immersive methods that combine audio and visual cues with vocabulary acquisition for contextualized learning. One of the real advantages of Rosetta Stone’s bite-sized lessons and pronunciation feedback is that you can learn Spanish anytime, anywhere with a program that syncs across devices.
LEARN SPANISH IN THE CLASSROOM
Learning Spanish in a classroom is a traditional approach to language learning, but it can lack some of the ease of engagement and consistency that mobile apps or software can offer. The tuition costs of taking a Spanish course can also be prohibitive and may stretch your budget more than you’d like.
ACCELERATE YOUR SPANISH LEARNING WITH IMMERSION TECHNIQUES
Immersing yourself in a language is one of the best ways to accelerate your understanding. Watch Spanish soap operas with the subtitles turned off or listen to Spanish music or podcasts in the car on the way to work. Even if you don’t know enough Spanish to fully understand what’s being said, hearing the pronunciations and being exposed to the cultural nuances can help you pick up the language more quickly.
PARTNER UP TO PRACTICE SPEAKING SPANISH
The best way to get a deeper understanding of the language and get plenty of practice with having conversations is to partner up. Rosetta Stone has an online community of language learners where you can find other Spanish speakers to roll those r’s with and open up a new world of conversational opportunities.
Try Our Award-Winning App
Surround yourself with Spanish (Latin America) whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app.
Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation.
The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.