How I Became Fluent in Spanish in 6 weeks

Pin It

When people find out that I’ve managed to become fluent in Spanish in 6 weeks, they usually don’t believe me. Some people take years to learn a language, some live in a place where the language is widely spoken and never learn to even properly construct a sentence. But I did it, and I believe so can you.

I’m definitely not a genius. My way of learning any language I speak isn’t particularly innovative either. I believe anyone can learn a language (with the same alphabet as their native language) quite fast, by using my method.

How to Learn Spanish in 6 Weeks
(or any other language)

How to Learn Spanish in Just 6 Weeks.png

I had never studied Spanish before. My parents made me learn German in my primary school and I chose French later on, so pretty much the only Spanish phrases I knew were: “Hola, como estas?” and “Gracias”. After graduating from my university, I got an internship in Mendoza, Argentina. The internship I got was supposed to be at an English speaking wine magazine, but once I arrived it turned out that I was supposed to speak Spanish. Oops.

Mendoza is quite a touristy place, where travelers come to see wineries, do whitewater rafting and hike in the mountains. Hostel owners and tour guides obviously speak English. But since I got there for work, I was living with a host family and hang out in local areas where apart from tourists noone spoke ANY English.

My host family didn’t even know simple English words. I was terrified. Every time I wanted to ask them for anything I had to go to my room, compose the sentence with a dictionary, and come back to recite what I had learned.

I had to come up with a backup plan. The company agreed to send me to a Spanish course at the local language school for 3 weeks, and come back to work for them afterward.

A lot of people in Mendoza, but noone to talk to.

There were a lot of people in Mendoza, but no one to talk to in English.

 


My method of learning Spanish

Because the Spanish course was only 3 weeks, I had to make the most of it. Luckily for me, there were no other beginners, so my classes had to be individual ones. However, even with a private tutor, nothing is guaranteed. If I waited for my teacher to tell me what to do, I’d have finished the course knowing basic grammar and not much vocabulary.

Before I even started the course, I equipped myself with some Spanish coursebooks. I’ve learned basics myself, not to waste time in class. Because if I can learn some things myself, why would I pay for someone else to tell me the same thing?

For Spanish, French, Arabic, and Italian, I used ‘Language in 3 Months’ books by PONS, however, I realized that they aren’t available in English (just German and Polish). Therefore, I’d recommend Living Language book series.

 

My school in Mendoza

My school in Mendoza

 

Every day after my class I was researching and studying all necessary vocabulary and grammar, so I could discuss it with the teacher the next day. I created sections of: Useful words (‘because’, ‘but’, ‘then’, ‘why’, .etc), food, animals, household, and words that I’d need, wrote down all words I could find, and studied each chapter every day.

Based on the book my teacher has chosen for me, I studied grammar sections at home as well.

This way, in class, I was able to ask my teacher what was unclear from the grammar section and practice words I’ve learned at home, instead of waiting for her to show me everything that was written in the book.

Every afternoon I read some bilingual books from the local library and watched tons of Argentinian TV. There are a lot of brilliant books that are written in a way you can understand, with an English translation on another page. Here are some examples: Spanish Short Stories 1, Spanish Short Stories 2, but believe me – there are plenty of other dual-language books.


After only 3 weeks, I had to actually start working and using my Spanish skills. It wasn’t easy and I struggled a lot, especially because I had to interview a lot of native Spanish speakers, but it was manageable. I simply practiced what I’ve learned.

Whether I liked it or not, I was also forced to use my Spanish everywhere I went in Mendoza. I’ll never forget when I went to the pharmacy to get some bandages but I didn’t know the word, so I had to pantomime it. I must have looked no better than Bridget Jones at the Austrian ski resort, but what could I do? I had to go shopping, I had to organize things for myself, and I had to interact with the local community.

I finished my internship after 7 weeks and flew to Mexico. Upon arrival, I could freely speak to my Mexican friends in Spanish. We were all surprised how quickly I learned Spanish, but it just goes to show that a lot of work and having a good system pays off.

2 years later: debating on a Mexican TV program.

2 years later: debating on a Mexican TV program.


Here is my advice for people who want to learn Spanish or any other language incredibly quickly:

*

  • 1. Throw yourself into a place where nobody speaks your language.

Going somewhere where you won’t be able to communicate with anyone isn’t easy. In the beginning, you’ll end up being frustrated most of the time. You must consciously lock yourself outside your comfort zone and not allow yourself to step back inside it for a while. But after all, you’ll thank yourself for this decision.

You don’t have to be in a place where country where it’s a native language. Not learning a language because of the reason that you can’t visit a place where it’s spoken is an excuse. Breathing the air of Argentina wouldn’t make me learn Spanish and many foreigners living abroad never learn a local language.

Technology makes everything possible these days. Stream some movies, download podcasts, books, do anything to have contact with the language. There’s even a plugin for Chrome that can translate some parts of a text that you’d normally read in English.


  • 2. Learn some Latin first

Many languages have words that share a common (Greek/Latin or other) root. They can be spelled slightly differently, but that you’d have to try hard not to recognize. I’ve studied Latin in college with a very strict teacher, and as useless as it seemed, it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done. Thanks to Latin, understanding its grammar structure and origin of many words, learning any foreign language is now easier. I’ll totally introduce my kids to Latin early on.


  • 3. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and just talk.

Fluency and accuracy are two different things. When I lived in Italy, I became fluent in Italian, but far from being accurate. Speaking from experience, it’s better to be fluent at first and apply accuracy later. I might not have been always accurate in Italian, but at least I can speak. While in German, I’m VERY accurate when it comes to usage of grammar and vocabulary, but I would never say that I’m fluent because my vocabulary is quite limited.

Most people are usually afraid of looking stupid and don’t even try to speak the foreign language until they’re sure of their skills. That’s the biggest mistake you can make. Talk, make mistakes, and ask people to correct you. But learn words first, before you master your grammar.

Embrace your mistakes. For a very long time, I kept saying mis cumpleanos instead of ‘mi cumpleanos what made my friends laugh at me that I have more than one birthday. Remember that many native English speakers can’t even speak or spell in English properly, so you learning another language is an achievement already.


  • 4. Take individual language courses.

Group classes might be fun, but they won’t teach you as much as individual classes. Also, take advantage of the fact that the teacher is there for you. Ask questions about things you’re unsure of.

It doesn’t necessarily mean always paying for an expensive course. These days, there are plenty of language exchanges online. You can learn through Skype. My favorite site for finding natives is italki.com, with prices starting from $5 per hour.

As you can see in my Mexican dictionary, there are many differences between Spanish spoken in, for example, Mexico and Argentina. Most of the recordings in popular courses you’re listening to online aren’t real life situations. In reality, people speak much faster in their own vernacular and that’s where your native speaker can help.

How to Learn Spanish in 6 Weeks


For language courses abroad I recommend either IH (International House Organization) or EF. I have a first-hand experience with both places and can vouch for them being legit.


Remember, every new language is easier to learn. If your first language is English, learning a new language might be harder than if you were let’s say, French or German speaker. English basic grammar is less complex, so acquiring new rules might be challenging at first. Don’t give up!

Pin It

25 Comments

  1. Nov 8, 2014 / 4:37 pm

    I think your tips apply to every other languages, not just Spanish. Nothing speeds things up like when you have no choice but to do it.

    • Nov 8, 2014 / 4:56 pm

      That’s definitely true!

  2. Nov 9, 2014 / 2:18 pm

    We’ve learnt our Spanish in a pretty similar way. When we arrived in Barcelona 4 years ago we didn’t speak a word of it and even though it was possible for us to get jobs with English only, we had to find a flat, get registered, open a bank account and do all the official stuff you must do when you start your life somewhere new. I remember calling my landlord, who didn’t speak a word of English, for the first time and having problems understanding the time of the flat viewing. We arrived on time though 🙂
    We were sharing a flat with a couple of really cool Italian guys who didn’t speak any English or Spanish, and were new in the city like us. And because we instantly got on amazingly well and knew we could be really good friends, we made a lot of effort trying to speak Spanish to each other. So the first evening we sat together with English-Spanish and Italian-Spanish dictionaries and tried to speak. It worked and after about 2 months we could freely communicate with each other. That shows that you can easily learn a language quickly if you force yourself to do it and if you’re not embarrassed of sounding like a retard 😉

    • Nov 10, 2014 / 2:17 am

      Exactly! 🙂 However, if you look at the amount of American expats living in Holland for years without even a simple knowledge of Dutch (my own boyfriend is guilty of that lol!) I started to think that maybe because of our knowledge of already hard language like Polish it’s easier for us to learn any other foreign language 😀

  3. Nov 16, 2014 / 8:51 pm

    The question is how to speek WELL in six weeks! 😉

  4. Kevin Gates
    Nov 23, 2014 / 4:14 pm

    You seem to imply that Spaniards and Latin Americans must be a bit slow since they obvious spend way more than 6 weeks to become fluent in thier own native language, more like many years. Were you fluent in Polish in 6 weeks? Spanish is not THAT simple, it’s not baby talk but rather a complex language, Iwould say more complex than English. I have difficulty believing cliams like this..or Benny
    Lewis, fin3m. Depends on your definition of “fluent ” i suppose. Your English writing still sounds very “foreign” and stilted sometimes, do you consider it on a level higher or lower than your Spanish?

    • Nov 23, 2014 / 5:50 pm

      By fluent I mean being able to talk about everything, understanding anyone (considering different accents & slang) and not missing necessary vocabulary. I’d also add to talk with a normal speed, but many would argue against my opinion.
      I agree Spanish is more complex than English – but so does any other foreign language, English grammar is simple 😉

    • Michelle Cantu
      Jul 6, 2016 / 8:09 am

      GET EM GATES!!!!

  5. Feb 28, 2015 / 6:16 am

    Hi Anna,
    I just discovered your blog and it is amazing, full of great tips!
    If you don’t mind me asking how do you afford all the courses (MA, diplomas, etc.)? Education is quite expensive so I was just wondering. I did a MA abroad too but it costed me a lot of money and am still paying for it. I would like to study more but the cost of education is too high these days!
    Thanks, Elisa

    • Mar 1, 2015 / 7:20 pm

      Hi Elisa! Thanks a lot!
      Well, there is a way to study for less, but the options are very limited. Example: my BA in Poland was free and moreover I got a good GPA so the university paid me instead 😀 . When I started my degree in the UK I was fortunate enough that the fees were 3-4 times lower than now… Degrees in the Netherlands are cheap if you’re from the EU, so there are a few options. Also a lot of universities offer a bunch of scholarships 🙂

  6. Sep 4, 2015 / 7:05 am

    Great Post! I spent a few weeks at Spanish school in Guatemala and learnt a lot. What I lacked however was the confidence to just speak in Spanish outside of my host family and the school, it’s pretty sad, because I’ve forgotten a lot of it, but part of me dreams about heading to South America, so I want to try and relearn it again. Watching Movies and listening to music in the language you are learning also helps, just because you get used to hearing the rhythm of the words.

  7. Lloyd Clay
    Jan 31, 2016 / 12:59 am

    So if I want to learn in 6 weeks, what Country or City should I go to b immeresed if money is no object?
    Thanks so very much for all your advise. I must learn Soanish right away

    • Jan 31, 2016 / 1:04 am

      I’d suggest Guatemala?

      • Lloyd
        Aug 15, 2016 / 3:49 pm

        Why Guatemala?, and where exactly? Last I was there, they were robbing people at night along the highways . Although that’s been 20 years.

        • Kevin Gatzz
          Aug 15, 2016 / 10:43 pm

          Guatemala because it’s the trendiest locale especially Antigua, you will see more foreigners/gringos than locals in the streets..

  8. Kevin Gatzz
    Aug 15, 2016 / 10:45 pm

    “Throw yourself into a place where nobody speaks your language.”

    in Antigua, Guatemala, often recommended there will definitely be hundreds, if not thousands of English speakers

    • Aug 16, 2016 / 6:26 pm

      I never said Antigua 🙂

  9. Lloyd
    Aug 16, 2016 / 7:51 pm

    Yes, Antigua makes no sense if there are many English speaking people. I spent 3 weeks in Costa Rica in a CPI school which was great however, the town Monteverde had too many English speaking people
    Lloyd

  10. Aug 27, 2016 / 5:44 am

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 How many languages do you speak nowadays?

    • Aug 27, 2016 / 6:25 pm

      These days 6 🙂

  11. Lloyd
    Dec 29, 2016 / 2:20 pm

    Anna
    I ended up going to,Cabo for 3 more weeks of private Spanish lessons. That’s now a total of 6 weeks of private lessons over the last 6 mo. I now may be appointed an ambassador to a South American country and really need to finish my lessons so I can speak and communicate reasonable so. The best for me would be to hire a teacher to live with my wife and I in Scottsdale to finish my process. Otherwise, I will be forced to go back to Cabo and learn. I only have 6 more weeks to finish and get fluent. I am very concerned , any thoughts or new ideas? Much appreciated

    • Dec 29, 2016 / 3:13 pm

      Yes! A live-in Spanish speaking person is great. But make sure she speaks ONLY Spanish as then you won’t be tempted to use English 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *