How I’ve Learned Spanish By Myself (Part I)

I’m pretty sure that everyone has something they always have wanted to achieve.

For me, it was learning Spanish. Since I was a little girl, I have been listening to songs in Spanish. I really like Spanish music and the way Spanish artists sing. It made me start learning Spanish by myself.

Spanish is the first language I learned by myself and I wasn’t experienced with learning a language from scratch. Now, I’m able to communicate well and understand everything when I read a newspaper or a book. 

In this post, I’m going to describe how I have learned Spanish by myself and how I became passionate about learning languages.

Building vocabulary

Building vocabulary was the first step I took. In the beginning, I practiced words and sentences for approximately 5-10 minutes a day by using Duolingo and Memrise.

Duolingo is a free language-learning platform that teaches its users a foreign language by having them translate simple sentences. It can be used to learn many different languages such as Spanish, Rusian, Dutch, German from English. Memrise is an online learning platform with courses created by its community. The courses are used to teach languages and other academic and nonacademic subjects. Memrise uses flashcards with mnemonics, gathered and supplemented by the learners. Both platforms include a website and a mobile application.

Duolingo is helpful to learn basic vocabulary in Spanish. However, I missed some important grammar rules on it, such as the difference between ‘por’ and ‘para’ or the difference between ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ on the mobile application. Later, I saw a little grammar explanation on the web version but I already did figure out the grammar rules by using Google. I kept using Duolingo every day for approximately 1 year.

Memrise taught me useful phrases I can use in everyday conversations. It also helped me understanding some basic grammar, including how I have to use verbs like gustar in sentences. I found the application very slow so I only used it for 2-3 weeks. Some of my friends also use Memrise and they are satisfied with the speed of the application. But I already knew some basic vocabulary, so it was very slow for me.

Changing my daily routine

Only practicing words was quite boring for me. I stopped studying multiple times and then I started over again. In addition, learning Spanish looked like something that requires a lot of time. I had to do a couple of tasks for school in the meantime. I was even thinking that I couldn’t learn Spanish by myself and that I had to live in Spain or a Latin American country to become able to speak the language well.

However, I found a way to make language learning part of my daily routine.

I started practicing words and sentences while traveling to work and going to school. I started writing my diary in Spanish. Even if it wasn’t written in correct Spanish… I love cooking and I started watching and reading recipes in Spanish. Sometimes I didn’t understand it so I compared the same recipes with the ones in Dutch or in English… I used to do that in English, Turkish or Dutch before. And I can sum more of this kind of examples.

I didn’t do something extra, I just found a way to continue the activities I already do in Spanish. In addition, I focused on the things I’m interested about.

Learning grammar

I understood the basic grammar since I was practicing words and sentences on Duolingo and Memrise. Sometimes I used StudySpanish. StudySpanish is a website with the explanation of Spanish grammar. It also includes free  exercises as well as exercises that are accessible with a paid subscription. 

When I was writing little Spanish stories in my diary, I used Spanishdict to check the conjugations of verbs. Spanishdict is a dictionary including translation of Spanish words from and to English, examples of sentences and conjugations. It helped me a lot when I wasn’t sure which word I had to use in a certain context.

Discovering the language as it is spoken

After finishing my Spanish tree on Duolingo, I decided to speed up my learning progress by talking with native Spanish speakers. I met them on Duolingo and HelloTalk. HelloTalk is an application which allows you to find native speakers of the language you want to learn. It shows you a list including native speakers who want to learn your mother tongue.

By talking with native speakers, I got used to the way the language is spoken and the way the grammar rules are applied. It made me realize that some words are only used in a certain context. I also discovered that the meaning of some words may differ in each country.

In the beginning, I only wanted to improve my writing skills. So I only text with native speakers via Skype. I kept doing this every day and after 2 months I was able to write without using a dictionary. Now, I also sent some voice recordings and I call them to practice speaking.

Improving my listening skills

Spanish is the official language of 20 countries in the world. The way words are pronounced differs a bit in every country. I used music to improve my listening comprehension.

Listening to Spanish and Latin American artists of different origins made me understand the different Spanish accents way better than before. 

I have also used podcasts for a while, just for two weeks. When I started listening podcasts, I was already able to write well in Spanish and knew a lot of things. For me, it wasn’t very effective in this case.

The podcasts I have used include Coffee Break Spanish and SpanishPod101.

Mastering the language

My first goal was to understand Spanish songs. I have already achieved that goal and now I want to master the language.

Since I’m able to speak five languages, I only spend three days in the week studying and practicing Spanish. This includes watching Youtube videos, talking with native speakers and reading.

I don’t translate unknown words literally from Spanish to one of the languages I already know. I look up the definition of Spanish words in the Spanish dictionary. This way helps me to remember the words better and doesn’t get me confused with words from other languages.

Conclusion

Spanish is the first language I have learned by myself, without taking any language course. I started a couple of years ago by studying Spanish passively. Then I started doing more activities in Spanish, talking with native speakers and listening to different accents. Now, I still study Spanish to master the language.

The phases I went through while I was learning, can be summed as:

  • Learning the basic vocabulary
  • Changing the daily routine
  • Learning grammar
  • Discovering the language as it’s spoken by native speakers
  • Discovering the differences in dialects and improving listening comprehension
  • Mastering the language

The way I went through these phases might not be the most efficient way. However, I learned that it is possible to learn any language, even if you don’t have the ability to travel to that country. We don’t have to spend a lot of money to expensive educational tools. Nowadays, we are able to find enough useful learning materials on the internet. 

How did you learn your first foreign language?

 


Featured image by Freestocks via Stocksnap

Kamila is a polyglot who taught herself over 5 languages using social media and apps. She created Polyglot’s Diary where she enjoys sharing her tips and experiences. Head over to her Instagram profile and YouTube Channel to follow her progress.

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