Hola! Whether you know how to speak Spanish or not, it’s probably a word you’re familiar with.
It’s a greeting that’s commonly used by over 470 million native Spanish speakers around the world. With nearly 10% of the population speaking this beautiful language, Spanish is the top 3 most spoken language in the world.
However, don’t let the beauty and natural flow of the language fool you into its simplicity of how to speak Spanish. The origins of Spanish as a language originated back in the fifth century. Over the next thousand years, the language expanded into several different countries including The Americas, Africa, and the pacific.
With the international expansion, the language was influenced and accepted loan words (also known as lexical borrowing) from the pre-Roman languages, Greek, Germanic languages, neighboring Romance languages, and even English. This is why there are over a thousand most common words in Spanish very similar to the other Romance languages, such as Portuguese, Italian, and French.
In addition to the influences that Spanish received in its early stages, you’ll also find that nearly every Spanish-speaking country has formed their own style and dialect. Just like how English from Britain is quite distinguishable from American English, the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires is very different from the Spanish spoken in Spain. In fact, it’s not uncommon to witness a Colombian and a Mexican misinterpreting each other during conversation.
Now that we understand the brief history and differences that exist in Spanish, let’s talk about the benefits you’ll reap when you learn how to speak Spanish.
Why You Should Learn How to Speak Spanish
The benefits of learning a language is clear, and we’ve written an extensive post explaining the core benefits of language learning here. In this complete guide, we wanted to be more specific by sharing the benefits of knowing how to speak Spanish. Here are the three main ones we’ll share.
a. Reach 500MM people (without the complexity)
When people think of a language that’s the most widely spoken, they will normally say Mandarin. How many times have we heard, “China is taking over the world!” by politicians and journalists. While there are over 1.1 billion Mandarin speakers around the world, the complexity and difficulties of learning the language may not be worth the reach.
Learning expert Scott H. Young states that learning how to speak Mandarin is not only harder than learning how to speak Spanish for beginners, but it is fundamentally different. Everything from the tones, vocabulary, and character is vastly unique compared to the latin languages, and the learning curve would be quite steep. While learning Spanish for beginners from English is like going from playing water polo to handball, learning Mandarin from English is like going from playing golf to skiing.
In fact, it‘s not an exaggeration to claim that reaching fluency in speaking, writing, and reading in Mandarin will take 4x more effort and time than learning how to speak Spanish.
b. Increase your career opportunities
Apart from China, many of the fastest growing economies in the world, such as Mexico and South America, use Spanish as their official language. Not to mention, it’s the second official language in the United States, with over 45 million people who know how to speak Spanish as their first or second language.
In terms of global purchasing power, the combined GDP of Spanish-speaking countries total to over $6 trillion, with Mexico and Spain alone totalling $1.68 trillion and $1.43 trillion respectively. The economic power of these countries will only continue to increase by second, and it’s why global corporations like PepsiCo are investing over $5 billion into Mexico alone.
Knowing Spanish is quickly becoming a standard for many corporations doing business with Spanish-speaking countries, not just a “nice-to-have” skill. As the world continues to become more globalized, there’s no question that Spanish will become one of the most useful languages to learn.
c. Opens the door to more languages (very transferable)
The last and main advantage of learning how to speak Spanish, is that it’s incredibly transferable to other languages. This is great news for polyglots who have desires to learn not just Spanish, but French, Italian, German, Portuguese, or other languages originating from the latin root.
A study mapping the flow of information online found that the languages that reach the most linguistically diverse readership tend to be the ones most connected by multilingual speakers. In order, they were English, Spanish, French, and German (notice how Mandarin is not on this list).
Spanish is not only transferable to other languages, but it contains many of the same words in several languages, including English. Take a look at just some of the many words that cross-over between English and Spanish.
7 Steps to Learn How to Speak Spanish For Beginners
Hopefully we’ve been able to show you the major advantages of knowing Spanish for beginners versus other popular languages like Mandarin, and what the core benefits are. We assure you there are many more benefits to learning Spanish that we didn’t mention here, but now we need to outline the core steps you need to take if you want to learn how to speak Spanish.
Here we go!
1. Understand “why” you’re trying to learn Spanish
As we wrote in our post on achieving any goals in life, setting a goal for the sake of it is rarely sustainable, because you will inevitably lose motivation.
Simon Sinek, who’s the bestselling author of Start With Why, calls this The Golden Circle. After studying hundreds of the world’s greatest leaders, he recognized that the most powerful way these leaders inspire lasting action is to understand the purpose behind why you’re doing something.
The bigger the purpose you have, the more confidence and persistency you will have to keep going. We can often push harder when we know there are others depending on us, whether it’s your family, friends, customers, or audience.
When we depend on external factors to motivate us, we call this The Gazelle Mindset. This is because a gazelle only runs as fast as the lion that is chasing after it. When the lion stops, the gazelle stops as well.
Having a bigger purpose will create internal motivation within you that allows you to become the lion, not the gazelle.
This can often be accomplished by asking the right questions. Imagine you accomplished your goal(s):
- How will you feel? Will you feel invincible, overjoyed, powerful, fulfilled, grateful, excited, energetic, healthy, fit, etc.
- Who will you be around? Will you be connecting and have deeper relationships with fellow language lovers across the world? Become associated with influential people you would love to connect with?
- Who will you become? Will you be more confident, interesting to you friends and family, reassured, giving, happy, financially independent, polyglot, etc.
- What opportunities will this open up? What doors will open up for you if you achieve this goal? Travel the world, more speaking opportunities, improve your love life, ability to learn other languages much faster, have a deeper connection with family members, etc.
The next time things get hard, you’ll always be able to come back to these questions, and remind yourself the purpose behind why you’re learning how to speak Spanish.
2. Schedule your Spanish learning
If we want to achieve our language goals, we need to schedule them. This applies to not only language learning, but with anything we want to achieve in our lives.
A schedule helps you prioritize what you need to get done, like memorizing 30 words a day or reviewing your Spanish in the morning, and also accounts for time.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
You may be asking, “why not use a to-do list instead?”
According to Kruse, there are a few key weaknesses of a to-do list:
Doesn’t account for time. When we have a long list of tasks, we tend to tackle those that can be completed quickly in a few minutes, leaving the longer items left undone. Research from the company iDoneThis indicates that 41% of all to-do list items are never completed!
Doesn’t distinguish between urgent and important. Once again, our impulse is to fight the urgent and ignore the important. (Are you overdue for your next colonoscopy or mammogram?)
Contribute to stress. In what’s known in psychology as the Zeigarnik effect, unfinished tasks contribute to intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts. It’s no wonder we feel so overwhelmed in the day, but fight insomnia at night.
As we want to get the things we want done, despite our busy schedules, we need to block off personal time on our calendar and dedicate our focus to it. Otherwise, it’s easier than ever to be distracted by the millions of other things trying to compete for our attention.
We recommend using a digital calendar, instead of a physical one for a couple of reasons:
a. It’s easier to set up and adjust (as your schedule will inevitably shift)
b. You can connect it to your smartphone, making it easier to access, and keep track of it
c. Set reminders for yourself that you can receive on your phone
Here are a few options to get you started:
3. Discover your “ONE” thing
In the book The ONE Thing, the author Gary Keller states that you can ask yourself this simple question to narrow down your goals:
“What is the ONE Thing I can accomplish [from this list], so that if I accomplish it, everything else will become easier or unnecessary.”
Keller refers to this technique as the Domino Effect.
If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.
Applying this to learning how to speak Spanish, we have to determine whats the “ONE method” of language learning that we can use such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary.
For example, let’s say your #1 goal is to be able to hold a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker. But you originally put down the following methods you want to use:
The problem with this is that with your busy schedule, you have too many options to choose from, causing analysis paralysis. Many studies have shown that analysis paralysis is one of the #1 causes of procrastination.
Focusing on only one important task, and dedicating time in your day to move it forward can significantly increase your effectiveness. If your #1 goal is learning how to speak Spanish, then it’s safe to say that you should choose a learning method that allows you to get as much speaking practice and help as possible, right?
With that said, you can remove most of these distractions that won’t directly improve your speaking skills:
Now whether you decide to go with an online platform like Rype or a conversation exchange/language exchange, depends on how much time and patience you have to find the right partner for you.
We’ve written all about the pros and cons of using a conversation exchange.
4. Immerse yourself at home
Who says that you need to travel to a foreign country to immerse yourself in Spanish? With savvy strategies and techniques, you can immerse yourself at the comforts of your own home.
Here are just a few ways to get started:
a. Label items at your house
A powerful way to immerse yourself at home (and one that is super easy to do) is to label individual items at your house with a sticky note and a sharpie pen. Everything from plates, stove, window, desk, computer, etc. Start with a dozen or two items that you most often use (this way you’re learning as you use it), and continue to build on them as you learn more Spanish words.
b. Absorb all of your day to day information in Spanish
Start by making a list of all the information you absorb throughout the day, from the moment you wake up to hitting the sheets for bed time.
This may include:
- Your smartphone
- Your computer
- The newspaper (during breakfast or at work)
- Radio/podcast in the car
- Movies you watch (i.e. Netflix)
- Music you listen to
Now think of how you can change everything into the target language you want to learn.
- Change your smartphone language setting
- Watch movies on Netflix with foreign language audio and English subtitles
- Listen to podcasts in the foreign language
- Rock out to popular songs (i.e. Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony; for Spanish learners on Rype!)
The key to this strategy is not to go out of your way to immerse yourself in activities that you normally don’t do. Follow your daily routine to the minute, but just change the language.
This means that if you don’t like reading newspapers, don’t go out of your way to read them. If you enjoy watching movies, continue to watch the movies you enjoy (don’t even change the genre), and use tools like Netflix to listen in the foreign audio with subtitles.
Forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy is one of the fastest ways we’ll stop persisting our learning journey, because our brain will associate the foreign language with negative associations, rather than positive ones.
c. Find an accountability partner or coach
Language is learned with people, and used with people. This means that immersion in language learning doesn’t happen alone, nor does it happen through algorithms.
Using the abundance of resources online, you’re able to find people that you can practice Spanish with. This could be through a conversation exchange, an accountability partner online, or a Spanish tutor that’s dedicated to supporting you each step.
Just make sure that no matter who you find, you’re able to set up a consistent schedule that allows you to get a steady flow of speaking practice throughout the week, instead of practicing in waves (on and off).
5. Learn the most common words
In anything we do in life, there are a few key actions, tasks, and moments, that will have the biggest impact in the end results. This concept of minimal input and maximum output is what the Pareto’s Principle represents, stating that 80% of our desired output comes from 20% of our inputs.
Here are some examples of ways that this principle applies in our lives:
80% of your…
-Sales comes from 20% of your customers
-Happiness comes from 20% of your friends and family
-Language skills comes from 20% of what you learn
While the exact ratio is up for debate, you can use the logical concept of this theory to conclude that we should focus as much as we can on the 20% of effort that brings 80% of our results.
For language learning, this can be done by focusing on learning the most common words.
Many of us begin our language learning journey, only to waste hours of time learning words that we will either never or rarely use. It’s very unlikely that we’ll ever need to know how to say “aardvark” or “idiosyncratic” in Spanish (think about how often you use this in your everyday conversation in your English!).
You’ll be surprised how far you can manage a friendly conversation with very little words, by solely understanding the context of what’s happening around you, and through non-verbal communication.
How many Spanish words should we learn?
A study done on the Spanish language revealed that:
Studying the first 1000 most frequently used words in the language will familiarize you with 87.8% of vocabulary in oral speech.
Studying the 2000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 92.7% of vocabulary in oral speech.
And studying the 3000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 94.0% of vocabulary in oral speech.
Without throwing too much research at you, these findings brings us to a simple conclusion that can save you a lot of time.
Learning and mastering the first 2,000 most common words will be an essential milestone we should achieve in any language, as this will allow us to:
- “grasp over 92% of vocabulary in oral speech” (and most of us are learning with the sole intent to converse with another native speaker)
“express everything we could possibly want to say”
In fact, taking the leap from 2,000 to 3,000 most frequently used words will only provide us only an additional 1.3% knowledge (92.7% –> 94%), which is significantly marginal to achieving our desired results. It’s fair to say that while investing our time to learn the first 2,000 gives us a great return on our time.
Here are the resources you need to learn the Most Common Spanish Words
-1,000 most common Spanish words (audio version)
-1,000 most common Spanish words (flash card version)
-5,000 most common Spanish words (memrise)
6. Find a private Spanish tutor (or accountability partner)
Whatever goal you have in life – health, love, business – having a coach can not only guarantee you reach your goal, but it will accelerate your goal.
This is why the top-performers in any aspect of life, pay tens of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars to have a dedicated coach that works with them. It makes sense because having a coach saves them years of struggle and has a direct return on accelerating their achievements.
Like learning how to perfect your golf swing, or starting your own business, the only way to get better at these skills is to learn by doing. Language learning is no different.
But while you can perfect your swing or start a successful business without relying on another person, it doesn’t apply in language learning. This is because languages are specifically designed for communicating with other people. Without a Spanish tutor or accountability partner to converse with, it’s like trying to play frisbee by yourself.
Research from NTL Institute Organization shows that immediate immersion is by far the most effective way for humans to learn anything.
If you compare the retention of information between immediate immersion and the traditional (and the most mainstream) way of learning languages, such as school lectures or books, the differences are remarkable.
This means that 90-95% of everything learned through these methods go through one ear and out the other, and that learning through immersion is up to 18x more effective than learning through classroom lectures.
7. Go Long
The reason why most of us have not achieved everything we want in this world, whether it be finances, language acquisition, love, health, etc. is not because of lack of talent or resources.
It’s because we quit too early.
According to best-selling author, Seth Godin:
Five Reasons You Might Quit:
1. You run out of time (and quit)
2. You run out of money (and quit)
3. You get scared (and quit)
4. You’re not serious about it (and quit)
5. You lose interest (and quit)
This “dip” due to lack of motivation is something all of us go through several times in the process of mastery — even the best performers in the world.
We all experience a high of energy and excitement when we first start to learn something new. This is the natural part of the “honeymoon” phase.
Without a coach or someone there to guide you, most of us go through the emotions of uncertainty all the way down to acceptance mode. This is when we decide to quit.
“If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together.”
Since most of us rely on learning how to speak Spanish through methods that require very little interaction and accountability, we never get through these dips. It’s no wonder why so many of us have started to learn a new language, with zero results (and hundreds of dollars down the pipe drain).
Having a coach or teacher empowers learners to not only overcome the dip when you most need it, but to maximize the result when you’re getting in the next hump.
Here’s the graph of the “Training Effect” in action.
Notice how the lowest point of the next dip is higher than your previous high point. The key is not to avoid these inevitable low points in our learning process. It’s about having someone there to support you through it quicker and faster.
*Here are two bonus tips to make sure you don’t quit early:
a. Have a stake
“I must achieve X by Y or else I will do Z.”
Why do people quit diets or workout routine, and never pick it back up? Because there’s no penalty, there’s no cost. You don’t get fired from your job if you quit your diet. In fact, there is no tangible loss that you will face in the immediate future. So you quit.
b. Discover your trigger points: We all have moments when we say, “ah screw it.. I quit,” also known as the “What The Hell” effect. The key is to discover when we have those trigger points and what those trigger points are.
For example, according to Steve Pavlina, a major reason why we choose not to get up early in the morning is because the snooze button is right next to our beds. By putting it out of reach, say on the other side of your bedroom, we’re forced to get up and shut it off.
“Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.” — Woody Allen