One of the best things you can do for yourself, both personally and professionally, is to master a foreign language. Not only does it enable you to get to know different cultures a lot better, but it also opens up new job opportunities in markets that were previously unavailable to you.
Spanish is one of the languages that are becoming increasingly relevant for working professionals, especially in the US. When it comes to the number of native speakers, it earns the no. 2 spot with 329 million, which puts it slightly ahead of English (which has 328 speakers), and way behind Chinese (which boasts 1.2 billion speakers).
While Spanish is a pretty obvious choice, learning it is a different beast altogether, because there are so many different methods, and it’s hard to pick the best one. In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, which means you will have to figure out what works best for you.
With that in mind, here is a list of the five most effective strategies for learning Spanish in order to boost your career growth.
1) Get a Tutor
Going to group classes is a popular choice for language learners, and while it’s certainly one of the most effective methods, it is not the best way to learn Spanish.
You might want to try your chances with a one-on-one tutor. Although it might sound like the pricier option, especially if you have a mentor coming to your house, the actual cost of individual lessons is not too far off from their group counterpart.
However, if it’s still outside of your budget, there are alternatives that you can explore and which might be just as effective.
For instance, there are plenty of online platforms that can connect you with one of their Spanish tutors, so you can have lessons via video chat. Video lessons are often more affordable than getting a tutor to meet with you in person since the costs start at only a few dollars per hour.
Then there’s also an implicit benefit of being able to look around and choose among different tutors in a relatively short time. Plus, there’s the convenience of not having to leave your home. Speaking Spanish from day one with someone who speaks it every day is probably the fastest language-learning method out there.
2) Immerse Yourself in the Language
We’ve mentioned that learning a second language can open up new job opportunities for you in foreign markets, which is true and to get there faster, you might want to try immersing yourself in the language.
Now, one of the most obvious choices would be to visit one of the Spanish-speaking countries or even move there, because you’ll be forced to rely more on the language. But don’t be so quick to move to another country.
Moving can be a hassle, and living somewhere else may not be feasible in the financial sense. Plus, it’s not really a guarantee you’ll learn faster, because a lot of foreigners tend to gravitate toward expat communities, which actually impedes their progress.
On the other hand, immersing yourself in Spanish all day may not be possible because you still need to go to work or school and speak your own language. Outside of your regular obligations, try your best to keep the exposure to your first language to an absolute minimum.
Another important guideline to remember is to concentrate those hours you spend immersed in Spanish into a relatively narrow time frame.
For example, spacing out 20 hours per week will work a lot better than spacing out the same number of hours over the course of one month. And you may also want to know that, according to research, immersion also improves your cognitive abilities.
3) Consume Content in Spanish
Reading Spanish newspapers, blogs, and books is an excellent way to start. It will help you learn how words are spelled in Spanish, but the strategy still doesn’t provide a complete experience because you don’t get to hear how they’re pronounced by a native speaker.
With that in mind, you might want to pair up your reading with listening to podcasts and audio courses in Spanish, as well as consuming content such as music and movies. You won’t have a hard time finding content in Spanish – of the top 10 million websites, 4.9% of them are in Spanish.
At the beginner level, you’ll have a hard time picking up on the talking speed to comprehend the words in movies and songs. We recommend sticking to podcasts and audio courses first, as a starting point for building up your listening skills.
The benefit of Spanish-learning podcasts is that they take things slowly, so you’ll be able to discern the words. But it’s perfectly fine even if you don’t understand everything right away. Try and look up the words you don’t know, write them down, and practice their spelling.
Most importantly, don’t forget to say them out loud each time to practice pronunciation, so that you start developing a feel for the language. Also, merely reading or listening is a rather passive experience. Writing and speaking, on the other hand, will help you progress much faster.
4) Learn the Basics First
If you feel like all of the methods above are too intense for you, don’t worry, because you can pick them up much faster if you establish a base first. The key is to start building up your vocabulary slowly.
One of the most common mistakes people make when they start picking up Spanish or any other language is that they start memorizing too many words at once. Even if you do have the time to learn 50 new Spanish words every day, in a few weeks, you’re probably not going to remember most of them. So, pick no more than ten words to memorize each day.
And don’t just choose random words, either.
Don’t start with complicated medical jargon or technical terms. Stick with the stuff that might get used every day, such as words, phrases, and sentences you might encounter in the supermarket or on the street.
Picking up a book of Spanish phrases or finding a similar list online is also a good idea. Or you might want to try the opposite approach: Find a word, and then memorize a few common phrases which revolve around it.
5) Find a Language Partner
If having a one-on-one tutor is not an option, you can still try the closest alternative: having a language partner.
Let’s say that your first language is English. At any given moment, there is a huge number of Spanish-speaking people all over the globe who are looking to pick up English. So why not help each other out?
A lot of tutoring platforms allow you to find a language partner, but if you’re not on one of them, there are plenty of other options. You can rely on instant messaging, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and even Reddit, where you can find people and reach out to them to work out an arrangement that’s going to benefit you both.
The only tricky part is that these meetups lack the structure that you might get when having a tutor. So, it’s up to you and your partner to be creative and decide what your lessons are going to look like. You may choose to alternate between languages every 15 minutes or so, or you may opt for entire sessions spoken in a single language once both parties involved have built up their vocabulary to a decent degree.
The best part about this method is that it won’t cost you anything. And it’s not uncommon for language partners to become friends and visit each other in their respective countries, which is yet another opportunity for you to improve your Spanish.
Learning Spanish is one of the best things you can do to further your career since it enables you to gain access to an expanded job market.
Your life outside of work will also become richer, even if the only thing you get out of it is the satisfaction of speaking another language, which is priceless.