I started learning Spanish at the age of 48, and 4 years later I passed the B1 intermediate level DELE exam administered by the Cervantes Institute of Spain. (The DELE exam is a standardized test of Spanish language proficiency that is taken in 900 certified examination centers in more than 100 countries around the world). Now I am at the high intermediate level, and when I pass the C1 exam I will be considered an advanced learner of Spanish. Today I would like to share with you my “Five Secrets to Becoming Fluent in Spanish.”
First, there is no secret to becoming fluent in any language. Granted, some methods work faster than others, however it still takes an estimated 3 hours of study and practice every day for 10 years to go from absolute beginner to near native fluency.
Not everyone wants to invest the time it takes to become completely fluent, so my second tip is to get clear in your mind what level of Spanish you’d like to reach, and then set specific and achievable goals for reaching that level of Spanish.
Third – keep it fun! Many people burn out quickly because learning a language becomes all work and no fun. Watch Spanish videos. Listen to Spanish music. Read Spanish news that interests you. Build your Spanish vocabulary in a way that is fun for you.
The fourth key is the importance of using the language from the very beginning. If you only know 100 Spanish words and a few verbs in the present tense, start speaking Spanish to everyone in order to make many mistakes … that’s how we learned our first language, and that’s how we learn a new language.
Fifth, check out the following list of programs and websites that I think are the most helpful for learning Spanish … they are listed in no particular order. Some are free, and some can be very expensive, so proceed as you wish. Also, be sure to go to my Spanish Words and Resources page to take advantage of the FREE resources there.
www.newsinslowspanish.com/latino – My favorite Spanish podcast. This link is to the Latino Spanish site, but you can also listen to the Spain Spanish program. You can get portions of these podcasts in iTunes for free to try them out, but if you want the entire audio program it is $14 per month. For $23 per month you get full access to the audios, PDF files, grammar exercises, etc.
www.spanishobsessed.com – This podcast is very well done, it is a British guy and his Colombian wife; you can listen to podcasts free, or pay a fee to get greater access.
www.lightspeedspanish.co.uk – This program is similar to the program above in that it was created by a British guy whose partner is a native Spanish speaker … they have some nice free audio and other resources, however the Spain Spanish accent is not the most commonly used throughout the world.
www.memrise.com – A good site for improving vocab, and there is a phone app that you can use.
http://www.laits.utexas.edu/spe/index.html – A very helpful site, free videos in Spanish for various levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), and the videos are accompanied by a text translation. I have downloaded many of their videos to my iTunes and iPod/iPhone.
http://www.learner.org/series/destinos – Destinos Spanish educational telenovela, it is a bit dated but very helpful and free to everyone; go to this site and click on “Watch” at the top.
http://conjuguemos.com – Lots of people (especially youngsters) use this sites for the vocabulary quizzes and verb drills.
http://users.pfw.edu/jehle/VERBLIST.HTm – In my opinion, hands down the best site for finding all of the conjugations of all the Spanish verbs, plus there is plenty of additional information on this site that is very helpful.
www.yabla.com – Hundreds of videos organized by learner level and Spanish country accent, this is a nice site that costs $10 per month to use.
http://noticias.univision.com/america-latina – Univision is the most trusted news source in the Latino community, and this link goes to the latest news stories for Latin America; listening to the news in Spanish is a great way to improve your ability to hear Spanish.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/temas/america_latina – BBC is very similar to NPR in the United States (and unfortunately NPR does not have a Spanish language version), and this link takes you to the latest news stores for Latin America.
www.duolingo.com – Another free site that asks you to contribute to the cause by reviewing other submissions … this site contains many helpful exercises.
www.fluentin3months.com – Benny is pretty well-known in the polyglot community and he emphasizes “speak from day one,” and he encourages you to work on becoming “fluent” in a language in as little as 3 months; he has written a few books, but the real value of this site is the language community as well as the email newsletter that includes many language learning links.
www.pimsleur.com – Pimsleur was my favorite program for a long time, however it became less useful to me when I reached intermediate level (which is about as far as Pimsleur will take you). Pimsleur is great at teaching you to speak Spanish, and since it is all audio and there are no books, you can use it anywhere (such as while exercising, driving down the road, etc.) In early 2015 Pimsleur released a level 5 Spanish program, and I purchased the download of the MP3 files for only $120 (the CDs are much more expensive). Sometimes you can borrow Pimsleur from your local library, so I encourage you to check it out.
www.rosettastone.com – Everybody knows about Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s most popular language learning programs. Most people believe that extensive marketing makes it so popular, but I believe it is popular because it makes building your vocabulary fun. (I completed all 5 levels of Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish).
www.fluenz.com – This little company fearlessly claims to be better than Rosetta Stone, and the program is equally as pricey. I own the two highest levels of Fluenz, and it has some of the best writing drills that I have ever found. Also, in Fluenz there is an English speaking instructor that clarifies grammar, vocabulary, etc., in contrast to the Rosetta Stone total immersion system where nothing is explained in English.
Julioandgringo.com – My friend Julio and I created this site to provide entertaining and informative audiobooks, podcasts, and other products that help native English speakers learn Spanish.
Fotopala.com – Last but not least, our very own Fotopala.com site where you can find numerous resources that will help you learn English, teach ESL (English as a Second Language), learn Spanish, and be Empowered.