Learning Spanish, or any language, has its ups and downs.
It can be easy, fun, and enjoyable, but it can also become boring, hard, and at times easy to lose motivation.
When I was learning Spanish, I had so much fun in the beginner stages. It was easy to grasp, easy to memorize, and fun to study. But when I hit the intermediate level, it started to get harder, and I found myself becoming more and more lazy, less motivated, and my skills…not really progressing.
And I had everything you can think of! Language learning apps, language learning software, language learning websites…it was all within my reach, or in most cases, the tap of my finger.
Yet, I wasn’t going anywhere. Why was that?
It’s because I wasn’t using them the right way. That probably sounds surprising. After all, how do you not use an app the “right way”?
I mean, I wasn’t studying the right way.
I wasn’t taking advantage of the right tools, at the right time.
And that might be your problem, too. But whatever it is, there are a few life changing tips that no one else will give you that I guarantee will save your time, money, and motivation.
These powerful tips include everything from keeping a language learning journal to knowing how to take advantage of the foreign language classes you’re already in.
No matter what your story is, I promise you that if you’re not seeing progress like you used to, you can again.
1. Choose a Novel
The first step I want you to take is to choose a Spanish book. Specifically, a novel.
You have probably heard that reading in your target language helps tremendously, and many polyglots swear by it whether they really do it as much as they advise or not.
But, here’s why…
When you choose a novel and stick with it, you avoid confusion, chaos, and learning plateau. By “learning plateau” I mean not seeing any progress: the whole problem we’re trying to fix!
Instead, when you have a specific book that you enjoy, have chosen, and are going to read to the very end, you will learn how to:
- Make predictions in Spanish
- Comprehend situations in Spanish
- Think actively in Spanish
- Adjust to local slang in Spanish
- Understand an entire story line in only Spanish
Aren’t these the exact same things that you’re able to do in your native language? That’s why the first step is to choose a book and stick with it!
And of course, read, read, read. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.
I’ve compiled a list of my Top 5 Must Have Spanish Novels, which include everything from Latin American love stories to 20th century Spain military journeys. I highly recommend you take one from this list! They have been hand picked by me, some of which I have read for myself and absolutely love.
2. Keep a Spanish Journal
I can’t emphasize just how much this has helped me improve in not only Spanish but also Chinese.
Keep a dedicated notebook or journal that you use as like your Spanish diary. Write in it, breathe in it, think in it. Do everything in this journal.
It’s like your own personal blog and progress tracker! Plus, it’s amazing to look back on your past entries and realize how far you have come since then.
So, step 2 is to keep a Spanish journal. If you aren’t much of a writer, no worries! Here are some topics for journal inspiration…
- What did you do today and how did your day go?
- Why are you learning Spanish?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What do you think about [political/religious/debatable topic]?
- What are some stereotypes in your country and in Spain/Mexico/Latin America?
- Compare and contrast the cultures of your country and Spain/Mexico/Latin America
- What do you look for in a romantic partner? A best friend? A role model?
- What was the environment in which you were raised?
You can literally journal about anything and everything.
Try to get an entry in at least once a day or every other day, and strive to use new vocabulary or words you find difficult for you to use.
3. Use SpanishPod101
It’s time for Step 3!
You might be wondering why I’m being so specific here. Well, it’s because there is really no Spanish course like SpanishPod101.
With any subscription, you get access to thousands of audio lessons, video lessons, PDF lesson notes, Spanish news, comprehensive lesson reviews, tons of grammar video courses, lessons for absolute beginner levels to completely advanced levels, and features such as flashcards, personal teachers, word lists, notepads, and more.
I have been using SpanishPod101 since I reached the intermediate level, and my skills have skyrocketed since then.
I felt relief from my learning plateau!
The lessons are so comprehensive, structured, and there are plenty of materials provided to make sure that I truly got it.
So, to see your level skyrocket too, step 3 is to use SpanishPod101. You can start by clicking here!
Also, you can get a Basic Subscription for just $4 per month, Premium at $10 per month (what I have!), or Premium Plus at $23 per month.
4. Download Memrise and Duolingo
You probably have already done this, but if not, step four is to download the apps Memrise and Duolingo.
Yes, the apps!!!
It is so important that you have language learning courses with you where ever you go, and these two do just the trick.
But not only are they great backup plans for busy days or when you’re constantly on the go. These apps give great lessons that you should be learning from everyday.
In fact, I used only Duolingo and Memrise to get me from absolute beginner Spanish to intermediate level (see my blog post “How to Learn Spanish for FREE” to see how I did it!)
But if you already have these apps (and once you get them), here’s what you should be doing with them:
- Complete 1 lesson of Memrise a day
- Complete 1/2 to 1 unit of Duolingo a day
- Use the “Classic Review” and “Speed Review” features in Memrise
- Use the “Strengthen” feature in Duolingo
- Take notes from them
- Make your own sentences modeled after the phrases you learn
Most people make the mistake of not taking notes when studying with Memrise and Duolingo, or any app, really.
This is a huge mistake. There is so much that you can learn with these apps, and there have been many times when I come across words that I once thought weren’t important when I first learned them on Duolingo.
So take notes!
5. Practice on HelloTalk
HelloTalk is another app, but it is an app used to connect you with native speakers of your target language.
I recently started using HelloTalk. I had always been a bigger fan of Italki, but decided to give HelloTalk a try to see what all the fuss was about.
Well, it was a lot better than I thought it was!
I must admit that I am not a fan of the fact that you can only practice one language at a time without paying for upgraded membership (for all of you brave people trying to learn multiple languages at once like me). However, if you’re just trying to improve your Spanish, HelloTalk for free works perfectly.
Not only does the app allow you to talk to native speakers through text, but also through audio and video calls as well as lets you sent audio messages. Plus, if you don’t know a word while chatting, you can top on it and HelloTalk will translate for you, and give you the opportunity to save it onto your notepad.
However, if you have the free version it gives you a limited amount of translations per day.
6. Focus on Listening…Hard
Next to Japanese, Spanish comes in as the second fastest spoken language in the entire world. And, you most likely can already tell if you’ve been studying it for a while now.
This means that sharpening those listening skills is going to be CRUCIAL to your practice routines.
There are several ways you can practice listening comprehension, but it’s important to recognize that passive listening won’t do you much good.
What you want to do is active listening. This means that you are listening, comprehending, focusing, and anticipating while you listen.
For example, don’t just listen to music in the background, study the lyrics, or try to mimic the singer.
Don’t just watch movies and TV series, use the words that you hear characters saying to predict what’s going to happen in later episodes or in the near future.
You can download my listening comprehension mini course for access to 3 life changing drills that changed my entire approach to learning languages and drastically improved my listening skills. Just click here!
7. Apply the 80-20 Principle
The 80-20 principle is simply the theory that 20% of a cause, results in 80% of the results.
So, what does this mean for language learning? To me, it means focus on just hardcore reviewing 20% of your study and you’ll see approximately 80% stronger improvement.
I have found time and time again that the reason my Spanish wasn’t as great as I knew it could be was because I forgot things I had learned in the past all the time. Or, I just wasn’t using them.
Therefore, I suggest dedicating a 20% chunk of your study time to reviewing. This could be flipping through flashcards, creating sentences using words you already know, or looking through old notes, etc.
I also talk heavily on the importance of reviewing in my blog post “How to Learn a Language in 20 Minutes.”
Leveling Up Your Spanish isn’t as Hard as it Seems.
Are you ready to level up and finally see the drastic improvement in your Spanish that you’ve been waiting to see? If so, then these tactics are surely for you.
No matter where you are in your Spanish learning journey, I assure you that the right, guided, and strategic practice will get you fast and meaningful results. You just have to be smart about it, and most importantly, consistent.
Practicing once a week isn’t enough. Do your best to take time out of each day to put forth a little effort into your Spanish.
And if you need help doing that, you always have me. I’m here to help you through your language learning journey, and one way I do that is through helping you with your schedule. To get a personalized Spanish study schedule from me, just click here.