I can already hear the excuses rolling in.
“I’m too busy to learn Spanish, French, English (insert unlearned language here).” “I’ll start learning when work slows down.” Or one of my personal favorites: “If I could just take time off and live and immerse myself overseas I would be fluent in no time.”
First off, I’ve been there. I know your pain. We all have limited hours of each day and it is no fun picking up a Spanish textbook after the end of a long workweek.
The struggle is real and I had these same doubts when I was first learning Spanish. Luckily, I persevered and remained consistent in my desire to learn Spanish, and I attained a comfortable conversational fluency from basic Spanish in only a years’ time while working a 50+ hour/week full-time job.
Through lots of research and trial and error, I have discovered some of the best tips and tricks for learning Spanish while working full-time. If you’re short on time (like the rest of the world), this article will feed you with some great tips and tools to get your Spanish to a nice fluency in 5 hours or less a week.
I am going to focus on the easiest ways to learn Spanish as I know that you have limited time to work with.
Set A Game Plan
I’m putting this first, as I believe it is probably the most important tip to achieving your goal and becoming successful. Don’t worry it gets practical. When you finish reading this article, take pen and paper or use a note-taking app and write out what your plan is for the next 30 or 90 days.
You can always tweak it along the way, but the main point is you are not drifting through life purposeless going from one thing to the next without making any real substantive progress.
When you put a weekly or monthly plan in place, you aren’t wasting meaningless energy figuring out how or what you are going to learn each day. You can rest assured knowing you have a system for each and every block of free time, between 5-30 minutes long.
Take 5-10 minutes to open up your calendar and then write out this week’s action plan for learning. It can be as simple as a quick note scribbled on a napkin. Going forward, this is generally best to review and formulate at the end or very beginning of each week like a Sunday.
Here’s an example of one that I have adapted from my own:
Monday => Friday
Morning Routine: Listen to Spanish songs in the shower every morning. With coffee and/or breakfast, replace checking your email (you’ll be at work soon enough!) with 15 minutes using Duolingo.
Commute In: Listen to a Spanish Podcast to stimulate your mind.
Lunch: 30 minute Spanish Speaking Lesson with Rype.
Commute Home: Podcast or Spanish music.
After Dinner: Watch a Spanish Show or movie with Spanish subtitles. Netflix has a great variety.
Saturday – 1 hour of textbook work in the morning, 1 hour of speaking practice, and attend a Spanish meetup if available.
Sunday – Plan out next weeks plan based upon your schedule and commitments… This will feel more natural over time.
Still need some more inspiration? Check out Ollie Richards incredible morning routine: My CRAZY 5AM Language Routine.
Cut Out The Mindless Scrolling
Ever noticed how you almost always find time to check Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter each day despite how busy you are? Insert your social network of choice and I am sure you can relate. Nothings wrong with social stimulation, and I am not saying you need to delete these apps from your phone! You just have to change your unconscious mindless habits.
For example, I found myself constantly checking Twitter every couple hours during random lull times throughout the day. Lull times usually occur on trips to the bathroom, a long company meeting or call, lunch time, and right before bed. These are just a few “lull” times I observed. During these times I would meaninglessly look at my phone for non-important often unnecessary updates.
How did I fix this, and how can you?
I deleted the Twitter app (my mindless app of choice) from my phone and installed the Duolingo app. Now, whenever I sit awkwardly waiting for a friend to join me for lunch, I no longer see the Twitter app, and thus my next reaction is to kill some time brushing up on Spanish using Duolingo. It’s like a game, it’s educational, and it’ll help you reach your goals in less time when you have only minutes to spare in one go.
I limited my choices and changed my environment for success. This shift in habit essentially created 10-25 minutes a day instantly without moving or removing anything from my schedule.
Consistently Schedule Speaking Lessons Each Week
I have found that when I don’t schedule speaking lessons into my weekly schedule I rarely actually do speak much or any Spanish that week.
This plays off of Tip #1 above. Speaking is often a difficult thing for most people. It takes courage to step in front of a microphone or video camera and embarrass yourself in front of a native.
But be bold! Go after it, it’s worth it to start speaking. I have made a fool of myself countless times in Spanish and still do in front of my wife all too often (yes, I married a Spanish speaker). She laughs at me and then I laugh at me as well. Life is better that way.
Take yourself back to the beginning. How did you learn English? Likely it was as a child, hearing it spoken consistently and then slowly formulating your words and speaking them out loud. Likewise, you must hear these words and then speak them or you will never actually learn them, and they will fall out of your brain! Learning is done best when you are actually the one doing the action of learning.
So get out there and start speaking from day 1 or you won’t be speaking fluent Spanish at day 180. Everyone starts somewhere… and yes, it is possible to reach conversational fluency in just 180 days using Rype.
Don’t believe me? Then check out Benny Lewis’s excellent Ted Talk.
Schedule and pay for professional online tutors at the beginning of each week and schedule them on your calendar. The main thing is to invest in it and put it on your calendar at a set time before the week gets moving.
**Check out Rype’s awesome, easy to use lesson package to get you going with a free 14-day trial. One flat monthly rate means it’s affordable, and you don’t have to whip out your credit card before each lesson. It makes scheduling lessons a breeze. Start practicing 30 minutes speaking right now!
Do you have a Spanish speaking friend that would like to help you also become bilingual? What about a Spanish meetup?
When I was busy working and learning Spanish I would always try and seek out local meetups that fit my schedule using Meetup.com. If you don’t have to work on the weekend, why not find a fun Spanish meetup and get to know some Spanish natives and language learners?
I did this consistently and met some really cool people during the happy hour meetups I attended. I met similar people that were in the same place as I was. They were eager to converse in Spanish with me and the natives were so helpful in correcting errors.
Personally, I preferred the ones that were in all Spanish as it really pushed me, but you can also do half English/ half Spanish if you so please.
Beyond that, I also have a friend that was born in Mexico that I used to meet with for an hour or so on a weekly basis. By that time my Spanish was slightly more proficient so we spoke almost completely in Spanish during our weekly dinner at Whole Foods.
It was so much fun! I worked on my Spanish and caught up with a good friend and explored interesting topics in Spanish. The bonus was I got to learn more about Latin Culture and her history.
Plan 1A: Search on meetup.com and find a local Spanish conversation group. Find an event that fits your schedule, RSVP, and then put it on your calendar and make sure you don’t back out when the time comes. Check it out, people will more than likely be friendly and be in the same boat as you.
Plan 1B: If you know someone who speaks fluent or highly proficient Spanish, approach them to see if they would be free to speak Spanish with you and catch up on life for a meal sometime this week. If it goes well and they enjoy it, see if they would be willing to meet more regularly.
*Crucial Tip-: Make sure the other person is enjoying themselves also and it’s not just about you!
Learn the 625 Most Important Words
I thought about saying something broad here, like immerse yourself in the language with Podcasts, TV shows, and books but that advice has been around the block quite a bit.
And after all, you are reading this article because you want to find out the easiest ways to learn Spanish.
So this last tip focuses on the 80/20 rule brought into light by word famous entrepreneur and teacher Tim Ferriss.
The key behind this strategy is what he calls the minimum effective dose. What’s the point of getting to 97% proficiency in Spanish when 95% will do just fine almost all the time in normal conversation? Plus, the work that it takes to get that extra 2% probably isn’t all that sustainable.
Here’s the gist of it. In English, we speak 20% of the words in our language 80% of the time. Why not just learn the 625 most important, most common and useful words before learning any other more advanced words? Once you have learnt that nice base of 625 words, you can step up your game with more advanced words and phrases.
With the Anki App mentioned earlier, put together a list of the 625 most common Spanish words. Feel free to use this excellent article from language expert Gabriel Wyner as a guide to creating the flash cards. Or do what I did, and just pay $10 for the flash cards already created.
I hope you liked some of the tips and tools we have laid out for you. Hopefully you can use them in the midst of your busy schedule. Just like anything in life, you need to take consistent action every single day. If you don’t put the work in consistently, you will not make much progress.
The goal is not to spend two days at 2.5 hours each. It is much more efficient to spend 45 minutes every single day each week. It might not seem like it but the latter is not only much more achievable, but will increase your learning to grow exponentially over time.
Now get to it! Best of luck on your language learning journey.
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