Here is the disclaimer before we begin: there is no fastest way to learn Spanish, but traveling maybe the closest.
Imagine you are in a distant relationship. You are connected on Skype, WhatsApp, Face time, and whatnot. You finish your day with love emojis and goodnight kisses, and you always send a card for special days. Occasional gifts here and there. Every now and then you keep on wondering if it is working. Whether this whole distant thing would ever end in something real. You worry whether you just don’t want to break up because you would be ablone. Maybe lonely.
Then all of a sudden one of you gets a job in the other person’s city and moves there, and then you start living together. Everything is right there. Real. Sure there are issues, but the way you look at them has changed.
That’s the difference between learning Spanish in a classroom and learning it when traveling or living in a Spanish speaking country. When traveling, you are out of your comfort zone. You have to communicate. New friends, new stories, new dates, new doors just waiting to open- only if you start speaking it.
And you will always be meeting new people. So you can easily move on after making mistakes.Travel makes it easy to speak Spanish.
See, you still need to take classes. Taking classes is like building that foundation. Learn the Spanish grammar rules, basic Spanish vocabulary, sentence structure and all that.
There are people who will tell you not to focus on grammar. But it is impossible to speak a language well if you keep on making grammatical mistakes.
You still need to want to learn the language. You can’t just go to language exchanges to end up talking to the expats in English or use Spanish just as a means to travel and not the other way around.
I have met people who have been living in Latin America for years and yet they speak broken Spanish or basic Spanish. Just like I have met countless Latinos in the United States who don’t speak English at all. And I am not talking about grandmas here.Unless you change the circle you are in, becoming fluent in a language will always be a pipe dream.
Now, I must tell you that there is no one miracle method or “the chosen one” to learn perfect Spanish. There are so many ways to learn Spanish. What has worked for me, might not work for you.
That being said, if anyone asks me the best way to learn Spanish or the fastest way to learn Spanish, my answer would be travel and take classes and make local friends.
1. Fastest way to learn Spanish pronunciation
You dread the pesky r sound. You want to know how to roll that Spanish r when a word starts with r.
Then there are those words like perro, borracho that come packed with two consecutive ‘r’s.
Then the ‘d’ and ‘t’ that are softened.
How about that ll, that sounds completely different in different countries. The ll is part of the differences between Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish.
This is just to give an idea of all the sounds and accents that define a language. When you are travelling, you are hearing all these different Spanish pronunciations that in turn fix the mistakes you are making with yours.
The more you listen to native speakers talking, and mimic them, the better your Spanish gets.
And by simply sitting down with a native Spanish speaker and reading out sentences, you can fix half of your mistakes with pronunciation.
2. Fastest Way to Learn Spanish Words
The words that you would hear in a classroom setting in your home country would always be limited. Yes, you can listen to those songs, make notes, read articles and all.
However, the best way to learn Spanish words, especially words that people actually use in their conversations is being there.
Imagine the words you would hear in the historic center in Bogota, a van in Lima, a party in Montañita, a trip with volunteers and so on.
You are always listening to people talking (and trust me people who speak Spanish talk way more than English speakers). Yes, you wouldn’t understand many of them in the beginning but as time passes, you will start picking up.
3. Best Way to Learn Spanish Conversation
Let’s not be mistaken. It is often daunting to speak a language that you are beginning to learn with people who have spoken it all their lives.
But by speaking to native Spanish speakers from the beginning, by making mistakes, you only end up accelerating your learning process. I mean, yes, you can wait to learn the basics and grammar, and then only start communicating.
The conversations won’t be long or deep in the beginning. They will however act as stepping stones.
Latin America is full of markets where you can buy anything and everything. Simply go to a market and buy stuff. Or order stuff. Bargain. Strike up small talk with that friendly lady selling chicha morada.
You can find a conversation partner on Hello Talk or any other app. I found mine at a tourist information center in Montañita. We would meet twice a week in a cafe near the beach from where we would watch the surfers and beach-goers, while taking turns to speak and give each other feedback.
Latin American Spanish Travel Phrases
While the basic Spanish phrases are quite important for day-to-day activities, these phrases will help you talk like a local from the get-go. And you can say something unexpected from a learner to surprise people, maybe break the ice or make a new friend.
1. Me regalas algo
To ask for something at a neighborhood shop or restaurant, you can say
me regalas + what you need + veci and/or por fa?
me regalas un pan, veci? me regalas una torta, por fa?
The verb regalar means gift or simply give, without hoping for money or something else in return. veci is short for vecino or neighbor.
2. Bacano / Chévere
To say something is cool or great.
Rather than saying “muy bueno” or “estupendo”, you can go for bacano or chévere.
Este lugar es chévere.
This place is cool.
El paseo era bacano.
The trip was awesome.
Equivalent to saying stuff or thing in English.
Ex- Esta vaina es muy complicada. This thing is very complicated.
“¿Qué onda?” is similar to saying “what’s up” in English. This would come up as an informal greeting with friends in Mexico.
2. Desde luego
desde luego is equivalent to saying “of course” in English.
“¿Quieres tacos para la cena esta noche?”
Do you want taco for dinner tonight?
Saying Mande in Mexico is like saying “what?” or “I beg your pardon?” or “come again” in English, so that the person asking can repeat the question.
¿Conoces el restaurante en frente de la biblioteca?
Do you know the restaurant in front of the library?
Saying ¡Che! in Argentina is like saying “hey” or “yo” or “wassup” in English, to get someone’s attention or to give what you are saying some extra punch.
Che, creo que boca gana hoy.
Yo, I think Boca will win today.
Viste in Spanish literally means “Did you see?”
But Argentinos use viste casually to emphasize something to check that the other person gets what you’re saying, the same way English speakers say “right?”.
He is not gonna wreck my car, right?
El no va a destrozar mi coche, viste?
Re in Argentina stands for very in English. While you can still say muy, Argentinians use re to emphasize the same.
This movie is very good.
Esta pelicula es re buena.