Beginners tips for learning a new language

I’ve been learning Spanish now in Spain for around 2 weeks. Officially, I’ve actually been in the country for around 2 months travelling around, but it’s only really that last 2 weeks where I’ve actually sat down, started on a course, and if I’m being really honest actually tried! Already I have learnt so much more than I did in the previous 6 weeks, that I do feel ashamed for having been this slow. Nevertheless, I have picked up a lot of priceless tips already, which in hindsight, could have helped me learn a lot more Spanish than I currently know already if I had just had started from day 1.


What I have quickly learned is that with learning any language, the key to success stems very much so from how much motivation you have. Back when I was a high school kid I “studied” French. After 2 years of classes I have come away with being able to say about 5 sentences, and a handful of words. In 2 weeks teaching myself Spanish in Spain, I already know more than that. The difference is that right now I WANT to study Spanish. Back in high school, I really did not want to be in French class. The repetitiveness of going over and over words until they sink in, is probably the hardest part of staying motivated for me personally. Even more frustrating is that sometimes, even when you go over a word or sentence a dozen times, the next day when you try to use it you still may forget it! Other times however, just saying it once makes it stick. It really makes no sense to me sometimes how the memory works, but it’s something everyone has to go through when learning a foreign language.

For me, the best ways to try stay motivated are a) make sure you take lot’s of well timed breaks (so you don’t burn out), b) remind yourself constantly of why you’re wanting to learn a language, and c) put yourself in a position where you will be forced to learn! Not being able to communicate what you need is a big motivation to learn because it becomes a necessity for your daily life!

Start practicing with native speakers right away

As soon as you start using the language you will get better right away. For a start, if you’re speaking to native speakers then your pronunciation will become much better as you get used to listening to the way they talk, and also they can help you when you pronounce something wrong too. I have also found that by getting out there and speaking Spanish, I remember the words I have spoken more easily the next time I have to use them. Where I may have to pause and think of a word or phrase in the past, the more I talk to people, the more it comes faster to me. I hope that eventually it will become like second nature, but how long that will take who knows..

Test your knowledge constantly

For the most part, I am teaching myself Spanish, in conjunction with an online video based course. Unlike in a classroom environment where you teacher will give you little tests to check up on your knowledge, I don’t have that, and therefore have to find ways to gauge how fast I am picking things up. One thing I do that has proved very useful is that each day, whenever I find a book, magazine, sign, poster, or anything with Spanish words on it, I try to read it. If I can read and understand it, or at least understand the basic gist of it, then I know I’m doing ok. If however, there are a lot of words I don’t understand, then I write them down, take them home, and look them up. The next day I try to read the piece again without my notes and see how much I can understand. For me personally, it has proved to be a good way of learning, as I can read so much more now in Spanish in just a few weeks than I could before.

Don’t worry about mistakes

The first 3 or 4 days I was here I didn’t attempt to speak to anyone in Spanish. Even my friends who speak Spanish, I was too under confident to speak to them as I thought I would make too many mistakes, wouldn’t know the right words, or they just wouldn’t be able to understand me. This was silly as when I make mistakes they are the first people to help me. Also, provided people can understand the gist of what you are saying, they don’t care so much about grammatical errors etc, and can appreciate that you are clearly new to learning the language. So many people it seems lack confidence at first when trying to speak a foreign language, but if you get it wrong so what? What’s the worst that can happen?

Go somewhere with no English speakers!

I made this mistake upon arrival, and that was to stay in a hostel. Everyone in my hostel spoke fluent English, and it became so easy to just speak in my native tongue, that it wasn’t until I moved out 2 weeks ago that I really consider the start of me learning Spanish. I’ve been fortunate in that I chose the city of Seville as my place to study Spanish. The reason for this is that the local people of Seville speak very little English, if any at all. Even the doctors don’t speak it. I had to go for a doctors appointment here when i first arrived, and found it almost impossible to communicate what I needed to. This was a huge motivation to learn Spanish faster as it really became a necessity. In bigger cities, or places that attract tourists, you may find it harder to learn the local language as you just don’t need it. It is possible to get by on English alone in most big cities around the world. The most important thing you could do in my experience so far is to find somewhere that your native language is not spoken.

I’ll be chronicling my experiences of learning a foreign language in future posts, but if anyone has some tips or thoughts they would like to add please do share them in the comments fields. Aside from adding to the article, I would also just be interested for myself! 🙂

One Response to “Beginners tips for learning a new language”

  1. Ariana says:

    I’ve really been enjoying your posts about Spain. I just got back home after studying spanish there for a bit, and I’m missing it already. I totally agree with this, especially the last point. I probably I learned more in 2 weeks in Spain than in my 3 years of high school spanish, but staying in hostels didn’t give me as much of a chance to practice. Anyways, good luck with learning the language 🙂


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