Learn to speak Spanish as an adult in Michoacan

How To Learn Spanish As An Adult: Strategies & Tips

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Learning a new language is a wonderful journey especially if you plan on living in a country that speaks that language. From the basic tasks of going shopping to the exciting endeavors of making new friends and learning about popular culture, speaking the language makes the experience better. This article is about language acquisition strategies for people looking to learn Spanish as an adult.

Language acquisition is a long-term endeavor especially if it is started later in life. Learning Spanish as an adult is different from learning a second language as a child.

Adults approach language learning with a lifetime of experience. Those life experiences oftentimes translate into specialized vocabularies and technical knowledge that children don’t have.

When properly focused, adults can quickly acquire loads of new vocabulary.

However, our tongues get twisted up trying to learn the physical movements needed to replicate new sounds.

Teaching a class on wine in Spanish
Teaching a class about wine in Spanish

Everyone’s goals are different just as everyone’s language learning experience is different. Students need to take control of their learning with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). There are a lot of good ways to learn Spanish so pick the one that fits your own learning style. 

I learned Spanish as an adult and I have lived in Mexico for many years. This is a reflection on my own experience as a Spanish learner and a language teacher. I want to help other language learners maximize their efforts by spending time where it counts the most.

How To Learn Spanish As An Adult

Learn Spanish as an adult for business

I wish I could say that this is the best way to learn a foreign language. There are many different paths to becoming fluent in Spanish and many different levels of fluency.

My experience is based on the academic and professional level of fluency needed to attend college in Spanish and work with native Spanish speakers.

Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are all trained by developing an individualized Spanish immersion program.

The best methods for significant improvement combine formal language courses with a private tutor and a lot of Spanish language content including music, film, children’s books, and other online resources.

Listening to native speakers from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries will help students retain a solid foundation of grammar rules and new vocabulary.

Students need to understand how new language skills accomplish goals. Real-world, daily-life content in the target language helps reinforce the learning objectives.

It is important to see the new sentence, hear the new sentence, write the new sentence, and pronounce the new sentence. Dialogues often use a question-and-answer model to move between second-person and first-person verb conjugations.

1. Select An Introductory Series Of Spanish Courses

Learn Spanish as an adult to live in Mexico

Students will outgrow their teachers every term but not their textbooks. It is best to choose a series of Spanish 1, 2, 3, and 4 classes that offer the continuity of working with the same textbook for all three levels.

There is a standard curriculum for introductory Spanish but some programs rearrange the order of the lessons. It is best to stick with one program for the entirety of the introductory series.

Introductory Spanish is usually four semesters of college-level Spanish classes. Learning to speak in the present and past tense is at the core of communication.

There is no need to move on to advanced subjunctive and conditional clauses if students are not able to freely communicate basic tasks in the indicative tenses. Spend a little extra time to learn the basics really well before trying to move on.

Some of the Spanish teachers for the online courses are internationally recognized and have developed their own textbooks. There are a lot of educational options available right now.

Every university and community college in California offers a basic program in Spanish. There are hundreds of online courses taught by fun and entertaining professors.

It doesn’t matter where you find it but take an introductory series of Spanish classes with a set of Spanish books you can use throughout the whole series.

One of the most effective ways to retain information long-term is to continually review earlier learning. The best textbooks connect the new lessons to previous learning.

2. Hire A Private Tutor

Spanish teacher profile

A private tutor is a Spanish-speaking language partner who will help you refine the pronunciation of new sounds. It is important to get feedback from native speakers as early as possible.

Each of those textbooks has a ton of homework and dialogues that are best practiced with a partner. Language tutors make you talk and listen which are integral to Spanish learning.

Good language partners build scaffoldings to help the learner turn new words into new sentences.

Private tutors aren’t as good at planning long-term language learning objectives as the major universities are. They are really good at helping you stay motivated on confident.

It is a lot easier to continue with a program that you are doing well with. A private tutor will help you finish the homework but more importantly, they will help you understand the homework.

Meet with your tutor more often than you meet with your class. You should spend more time practicing grammar lessons than learning new ones. If you take an online Spanish class two nights a week I would meet with a private tutor three nights a week.

It is usually pretty easy to find a private language tutor on the popular language tutor websites.

3. Explore Spanish Immersion Programs in Latin America

University of Guadalajara Spanish language immersion program

Studying abroad is a great way to improve your language skills. It exposes you to the wide variety of speaking styles that native speakers employ. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and it has helped me improve my Spanish skills. 

I see lots of expats proclaim in the Facebook groups that they will start studying Spanish once they arrive in Mexico. The best time to start studying is before you arrive.

Take some Spanish classes and then make an exploratory trip to Guadalajara to visit and study. When you return for the next couple of Spanish classes you will be at the top of the class with a solid understanding of basic vocabulary.  

I took Spanish 1 & 2 before spending a term in Costa Rica. When I returned, Spanish 3 & 4 were easy and fun. I transferred from the community college to the University of Santa Cruz and continued to take Spanish every term. I spent another term abroad at the University of Chile taking economics classes in Spanish. 

Spanish immersion programs are a great place to learn about a new city. The big universities hire master teachers with lots of contacts. They tend to teach a lot more than just Spanish lessons.

4. Create A Daily Immersion Program​

How to immerse yourself in the Spanish language

You have access to an immense volume of Spanish language content from every corner of the Spanish-speaking world.

Listen to the weather forecast for places you would like to visit on YouTube channels.

Read articles about current events in online newspapers. Listen to Spanish music while studying the lyrics.

Find Spanish TV shows that you can watch again and again. I recommend watching an episode several times to really get the gist of what the native speakers are saying. Watch it with the English subtitles. Then watch it with the Spanish subtitles. Finally, watch it without subtitles and see how much you understand.

Repetition is a part of the process that moves vocabulary lists to long-term memory. 

Read silently and read out loud. Reading children’s books and bilingual books out loud is a great way to improve fluency. I like to practice practice individually before practicing with a Spanish-speaking partner. 

5. Complement Language Classes with Language Apps

Language apps are a great way to learn new Spanish words. They can help you remember how to conjugate Spanish verbs but they can not take the place of a language exchange partner who can give feedback on pronunciation. 

I find language learning apps to be an excellent complement but can not offer the primary foundation of a language acquisition program. 

6. Hard Work And Mindset

Mexican popular culture and Pueblos Magicos

It is important to spend a little time working on your mindset.

Learning a language is not about being the smartest person in the room it is about being the most determined.

Learning how to stay focused and motivated over the long term is more important than natural ability.

It takes a long time to learn a language fluently. Surrounding yourself with positive environments and motivational people will help you achieve your goals. 

Never give up. I failed Spanish 2 before coming back to get an A+ the next time. Don’t worry about short-term setbacks as long as you are focused on long-term goals. 

Final Thoughts on Learning Spanish As An Adult

How to learn Spanish as an adult to order tacos

Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages around the world. It can help you travel in large parts of North and South America. Being a part of the bilingual Spanish-speaking community is a respectable personal objective.

An Individualized Education Program will help the Spanish language learner think about the long term while focusing on the steps required to acquire new skills. Hiring a private tutor is a great idea because a Spanish-speaking language partner can give important feedback on areas of opportunity.  

Adult learners are often better at learning languages because of their life experiences and knowledge of specialized topics. It is easy for them to build custom immersion plans based on their interests. 

I learned the long way and think that I can help you fast-track your language acquisition program by focusing on what works and avoiding what doesn’t.

​I wish you the best on your language-learning adventure. I know you will have a great time. 

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