How to become fluent in Spanish?
We are not going to promise that you will be fluent in Spanish in 3 months. Generally, if you are not a Romance-language speaker, this is not realistic unless you spend all that time exclusively studying and practicing Spanish. We guess that you work or study, meet your family and friends, enjoy other hobbies, eat, sleep… you have a life beyond your desire to speak Spanish!
However, it is true that there are some resources and techniques that can help you in your process of becoming fluent in Spanish.
1. Identify your motivation for speaking fluent Spanish
Achieving a high level of fluency in another language may be more difficult the older you become. Research shows that a child’s brain is able to better differentiate between two or more languages. Eventually, they could speak the foreign language almost flawlessly. However, adults who have been successful in learning a new language are those who are very motivated.
By looking for your real reason for learning Spanish, you have a better chance of keeping your motivation high as you improve. If you feel blocked with Spanish, go back to the reason you chose it in the first place. This is what will keep you on track.
In some cases, the link with the Spanish culture or any other culture from Latin-American countries is a motivational source. This is about loving and hugging a culture as it were part of yourself, as our friend Kristin Bond told us in this beautiful post.
2. Practice your speaking skills
Becoming fluent in Spanish requires constant and consistent practice of speaking aloud. It is better if you can speak with native Spanish speakers, but if you cannot, talk to yourself aloud in Spanish and record it. Remember to think about both, what words the native speakers choose and how they use the language. Moreover, try to imitate them in terms of pronunciation, intonation, and melody. You might feel a bit forced at the beginning, but when time goes by you will achieve a more natural diction.
This is a good practice that will only take you 10 minutes per day. At the same time, you are speaking in Spanish, you are reviewing your day and after you can check your pronunciation by listening to it. Many times, after listening to what you have said, you begin to realize the mistakes you have made, and therefore you are able to correct them next time. Furthermore, repetition allows yourself the opportunity to evaluate whether you sound the same as a native speaker.
Accordingly, we want to recommend Forvo, a pronunciation dictionary to have a reference of how to pronounce words in Spanish by native speakers from different nationalities.
3. Find someone to practice Spanish with
You need to practice speaking Spanish to build fluency, so having a friend who is also learning Spanish will give you both the opportunity to learn and practice together. Also, you could try to find a native Spanish speaker who wishes to learn your native language and work out an exchange deal. If you are learning Spanish and you are from the United States, then find a Spanish-speaker who wants to learn English. You spend half the time speaking in Spanish and half the time speaking in English.
Another option is joining forums in Spanish or Facebook groups, like Aprende Hablando. This is an excellent option to become part of a big community of Spanish learners. There, you could solve any kind of doubts, help others with their questions and even participate in conversation clubs.
In particular, we want to invite you to participate in our Spanish Conversation Challenge, a conversation club which gives you the opportunity to talk to other Spanish students in order to increase your motivation and self-confidence. It is totally free and divided into proficiency levels. And if you need a more individualized instruction that boosts your Spanish learning, join our custom-made courses, where you will also have a free trial week.
4. Surround yourself with Spanish
To become fluent in Spanish you need to develop your listening skills. They are going to be a door to progress with your fluency. There are unlimited resources to surround yourself with to get constant input in Spanish. The key is finding resources that are right for you. This means resources suitable for your level, useful and interesting for you.
Spanish news reports are a great way to begin surrounding yourself with Spanish because reporters frequently speak clearly without any significant accent. However, diversifying the types of Spanish videos you watch can help you develop fluency in conversational Spanish so that you do not sound overly formal in your speech.
Watching TV series or shows may be a good option as well because they are shorter than movies and can give you a sense of comic timing and humor, which can be a part of fluency as well. An excellent option is to turn on subtitles for anything you watch if they are available. Watching the words while you hear them can improve your pronunciation and vocabulary. However, do not get used to them. If you realize that you are continuously reading, you need to change your strategy because your listening becomes passive instead of active. What do you do if this happens? Try to actively train your ear with dictations. Listen to one sequence or scene and try to write down what you hear until you begin to discern sounds.
Applying these methods in Spanish will help you to reach fluency faster. If you want to keep informed and updated in Spanish, here we offer a lot of options and resources for you to start with.
5. Take some lessons in Spanish
Spanish classes are very useful if they are customized to you. What does this mean? Concepts you learn are related to your work or interests, so Spanish becomes easier to understand and your language experience becomes more enriched. You can read a little bit more about this methodology of lessons here.
A teacher will give you feedback on your mistakes and help you with your deliberate practice. Spanish lessons will help you with your intonation and pronunciation which will make you feel more comfortable with the language. Also, they will give you more opportunities for meaningful and realistic conversations.
A short amount of time every day is far superior to a large chunk of time once a week, as short lessons are more fun and easier to squeeze in, and most importantly you forget nearly everything new if a week has passed.
You should be aware that you are the ultimate person responsible for your learning process. However, having a teacher will enormously help you to achieve faster results. A teacher is not only a mere knowledge transmitter but also a facilitator or guide in the learning process who will recommend the best effective options in order for you to have the most successful learning experience. Furthermore, you need to have a good connection with her or him in terms of empathy in order to achieve a more significant learning process. If a teacher is not helping you with these aspects (continuous feedback, facilitator, mutual connection, etc.) you should consider if he or she is the best teacher for you.
6. Expand your vocabulary
Once you have a basic understanding of the way Spanish works, spend some time increasing your vocabulary. Build a good vocabulary by noting the words and phrases that are commonly used in your daily activities. If you study or work, write down all of the useful words.
Reading in Spanish and circling words that you are unfamiliar with, then looking up the words and making an effort to incorporate them into your vocabulary is a great way to improve your fluency.
The more vocabulary you know, the more fluency you have because you will be able to talk about any kind of topic easily and without thinking too much about the words you need. They will come up in your mind automatically. It means you will be thinking in Spanish.
On the other hand, using idioms or sayings will positively contribute to your speaking skills. Nevertheless, our recommendation is not to abuse them and use these expressions carefully as you would do in your own language. In other words, adequate them to the context and conversation register. Using a colloquial idiom in a formal or semiformal context will make you look like you cannot match the expectations. The rule is simple: don’t do what you wouldn’t do in your own language (our dear friends of the Spanish language, we will write a post about this soon)
7. Use your body and some “muletillas”
Your body is a reflection of what is inside of you, so if you are relaxed and you feel comfortable with any speaking situation, your body will show us this.
Don’t let the fear of saying something wrong stop you from speaking at all. Even if you think you’re making a mistake, keep speaking anyway. Even though the more you speak, the easier it flows, and the more quickly the right words will come to mind.
These guidelines are easy to say but difficult to implement, we know that. Because of that las muletillas or filler words are going to be your best friends for sure. Las muletillas make your speaking seem more natural, so more local. These words do not have any concrete meaning when they are used as filler words. However, they are a great support to get fluency and spontaneity in your speech. In this link, you can learn the main ones and start using them.
Learning a language requires dedication, focus, and commitment. The more time you dedicate the more results you will see sooner. Your capacity to become conversationally fluent in Spanish is really all about your mindset and approach to learning Spanish.
These seven techniques are a plan to help you move forward with your “Spanish flow”. However, regardless of the materials you use or the method you employ, if you want to become fluent in Spanish, then you need to speak. So, what are you waiting for?
Finally, if you have not yet read our previous post about what it means to be fluent in Spanish, check it out. Don’t miss it!
(Spanish version of this post here)
Thank you for reading us and see you soon!