How to learn Spanish fast

Strategies and resources for learning Spanish quickly

What’s the fastest way to learn Spanish? Search for this on Google and you'll see a number of websites claiming that their specific course is the magic bullet.

I've met hundreds of language learners, and I can tell you that there is no 'best' or fastest way to learn Spanish that works for everyone. What the best approach is for you will depend on factors like your goals, level, budget and time.

But there are some learning strategies that tend to work better than others. Let’s take a look.

How to Learn Spanish Quickly According to Polyglots

This guide is based on my experience teaching Spanish to hundreds of students, as well as research into the methods used by polyglots - people who speak several languages.

You may think that polyglots have extraordinary language learning abilities. But their success with languages is largely due to their learning strategies they follow.

I will explain these strategies, as well as give you practical resources, including both free and paid options.

You’ll get the most value from reading this guide if you're a beginner or you have a basic level (A1/A2) in Spanish. If you have an intermediate level, you should instead check out this guide on the best way to learn Spanish, which gives recommendations specific to your level and goals.

What Does 'Learning Spanish Quickly’ Mean Anyway?

Before I get stuck into the fastest ways to learn Spanish, let’s define what this even means.

I’m not going to show you how to reach a native level of Spanish in six months. Contrary to what some companies claim, it takes years of dedication to truly master a language.

But the good news is you can achieve conversational fluency in far less time.

Conversational fluency means the ability to converse with native speakers at a normal, conversational speed around everyday topics. It's what you need if your end goal is to be able to get to know the locals, understand their culture, or successfully integrate into their country.

So, unless having a native level of fluency is crucial to your work (are you an international spy?), you should focus on achieving conversational fluency.

You can reach conversational fluency in Spanish within 6-12 months. This guide will show you how.

The Fastest Way to Learn Spanish Vocabulary

One of the keys to quickly learning Spanish is to develop a solid vocabulary early. Some people feel overwhelmed by the thought of having to memorise thousands of new words. Fortunately, there are techniques that can help you start having conversations quickly:

Learning a language can feel like a daunting challenge. You may ask yourself, how am I going to memorise thousands of new words? Fortunately, there are techniques that can help you start having conversations quickly:

  1. Learn the most commonly used words. In Spanish, like in all other languages, a minority of words make up the majority of the spoken language. Luckily, you can find lists of these common words online - see my next point...
  2. Leverage flashcards. These use a spaced repetition algorithm to help you memorise Spanish vocabulary faster. And on Langua, you can actually find flashcard packs that contain the 5k most commonly used words. Learn these and you'll be able to speak and understand Spanish faster.
  3. Learn words that are relevant to you. Focus on topics that are relevant and interesting to you. The vocab will be far more useful. You’ll find it easier to memorise and you'll be more likely to actually use the words in real life.
  4. Learn cognates. Fortunately, Spanish has thousands of words that are almost the same in English. For instance, gratitud in Spanish means the same as gratitude in English. Usually, only the end of the word changes. So you simply need to learn how the endings change (e.g. instruction > instrucción) to be able to easily guess words.

Develop habits to maintain momentum

According to polyglot Alex Voloza, mastering a language 'boils down to consistent practice multiplied by time'.

Practising consistently may be easy at first. But as we all know, it's harder to maintain over months and years. So how do you give yourself the best chance of practising regularly over a long period?

By developing habits. Habits are key to behaviour change because once you form them, you don’t need to rely on willpower or motivation.

Habits are developed through cues and rewards. The cue sets the behaviour into action. For learning Spanish, the cue could be as simple as setting a daily reminder in your calendar to practise at the same time each day. The reward should ideally come from the thrill of knowing you’re getting better, as well as the fun of practising – you won't find anything boring in the resources I'll suggest below.

But if this isn't enough for you, you could promise yourself an external reward, like a trip to a Spanish-speaking country.

Another way to motivate yourself to keep at it is to tell your friends that you're going to practise every day. We all want to be true to our word, so telling others may help you maintain momentum.

Learn Spanish through habit formation.
Create learning habits so you don't have to rely on willpower.

The best activities and resources for learning Spanish fast

As you go through the resources below and choose some to try, bear in mind that your choices should reflect your goals. If your goal is to be able to have conversations in Spanish, spend most of your practice time on speaking and listening. You'll also find that speaking practice is more efficient than writing - it takes more time to write a sentence than it does to say it.

Now let's go through some of the best resources and how to use them:

Podcasts

Listen to a Spanish podcast every few days and you'll rapidly improve your ability to understand Spanish as it's spoken by natives. If you're short on time, try listening whilst doing the dishes or commuting.

There are dozens of free podcasts available for learning Spanish. You can find Spanish podcasts categorised by level & dialect on Langua.

To maximise your learning from podcasts, repeat what the podcast hosts are saying from time to time. This will help you memorise words and improve your pronunciation. On Langua, you can also generate interactive transcripts, which move with the audio and allow you to translate words by clicking on them.

Podcasts are an excellent way to learn Spanish.
Listen to Spanish podcasts - your brain will be surprised by how much it learns.

News & Netflix

If you know a bit of Spanish, try following international news in Spanish instead of English. News presenters speak very clearly, and you'll probably already know some of the news stories, helping you understand. Some options for news in Spanish are: RFI Español, SBS Español and Euronews.

Moving on from news, if you have Netflix, numerous Spanish language shows are at your fingertips. Some of the best shows to watch include Casa de Papel, Elite, Club de Cuervos, Quien Mato a Sara and La Casa de Los Flores. Put Spanish subtitles on, and resist using English ones as you'll end up reading them and not paying attention to the Spanish.

Speaking Practice

For learning to speak Spanish quickly, you have three main options: language exchanges, classes & practising with AI.

If you live in a city and already know some Spanish, consider checking out language exchanges,– where a group of people get together and take it in turns to speak different languages, e.g. Spanish and English.

These events are a fun way to meet new people and practise in a safe setting – after all, everyone there is learning a language, so people tend to be very supportive and encouraging, giving you the confidence to speak without worrying about making mistakes.

The downside is that exchanges aren't an efficient way to learn: you spend time travelling to the meet up and once you get there, you spend half your time helping others with your native language. Therefore they are useful practice, but not the fastest way to learn Spanish if that’s your only conversation source.

If you have the means for this, the absolute fastest way to learn to speak Spanish is to take 1-on-1 lessons tailored to your needs. The cost can be a little higher, but if you're taking the lessons online, you can find a tutor for as little as $9/h (approx. €12 or £10.5). A good tutor will get you speaking for at least 70% of the lesson time, whilst making you feel comfortable about making mistakes and providing detailed feedback. If you're keen to learn Spanish fast, you can check the online Spanish tutors available on LanguaTalk.

Online Spanish lessons
Lessons should focus on speaking. Good tutors will ask you lots of questions and give precise feedback.

Another, perhaps less obvious benefit of having your own tutor, is keeping you on track. A good tutor will support you, make you accountable and help you stay consistent. Knowing you have a scheduled class/homework, and that there is somebody who cares about your progress, can be crucial.

In the last year, another good option has become available: speaking Spanish with artificial intelligence. Several platforms offer this, including Langua. There, you can practice realistic role plays, engage in controversial debates, or talk about what interests you. The AI will ask intelligent questions to get you talking, as well as provide corrections and explanations to help you make progress. Learning Spanish with AI is perfect if you want to practice for 5-10 minutes whenever you have a moment free. You can try Langua here.

Common mistakes when trying to learn Spanish fast

You're now aware of some of the best strategies and resources for learning Spanish fast. But to maximise your chances of succeeding, it's important you avoid the following pitfalls:

  1. Obsessing over grammar. Whilst it's important to learn the basics, you don't need perfect grammar to make yourself understood. If you find grammar exercises boring, know this: when you speak, read, or listen to Spanish, you'll pick up a lot of grammar instinctively. Think about grammar in your native language. Do you use it effortlessly because you studied all the rules? Or did you learn it instinctively, through practice?
  2. Avoiding speaking & making mistakes. If your goal is to be able to speak at a conversational level, you should start speaking early on. You may be nervous, but you need to get comfortable with making mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the faster you'll gain feedback and improve. I once told a Spanish lady, "estoy caliente" (I'm horny), when I meant to say I was hot (tengo calor). A funny (and slightly embarrassing!) moment, but one I learnt quickly from!
  3. Spending too long on apps. When you're a beginner, language learning apps like Duolingo can be handy for picking up some basic vocab and grammar. But beyond this, if your goal is to be able to have conversations in Spanish, the fastest way to become capable of this is not through answering multiple choice questions on an app. It's through speaking and listening practice with people.
  4. Telling yourself you don't have enough time. The reality is you only need 15 minutes a day to make progress. Consider your daily commute, for example – thanks to technology, you can spend this time revising vocab or listening to Spanish podcasts. Do you often watch TV and films? Watch Spanish media instead, or turn on Spanish subtitles in Netflix.

You can learn Spanish fast, irrespective of your budget.

In this guide, I've given you everything you need to learn Spanish fast, even if you're on a limited budget. If you're feeling motivated, put your new knowledge to use by taking action today. Start building daily learning habits. Make a note of some of the resources I mentioned and try them. Create a rough plan similar to this one below:

Day 1: Listen to a podcast episode and read the transcripts. Find Spanish podcasts matching your level and preferred dialect here.

Day 2: Find a Spanish tutor and book a taster session.

Day 3: Go over 100 of the most commonly used Spanish words.

Day 4: Start a Spanish series on Netflix (with Spanish subtitles on).

Day 5: Try practising speaking Spanish with AI.

Day 6: Go to a language exchange and practice what you've learnt!

¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

 

Samuel Pérez

About the author:

Samuel Pérez is a certified Spanish teacher based in Madrid, holding a DELE Spanish teacher certificate since 2013. He has taught Spanish at various language schools, both in-person and online, and has helped numerous students prepare for DELE exams. With a Philosophy degree from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Samuel enjoys engaging in conversations on a wide range of topics with his students. Fluent in English, Samuel creates a comfortable environment for students of all levels. If you're thinking about taking Spanish classes, you can view Samuel's profile here.