Spanish is one of the most commonly spoken languages throughout the world. Many people are already bilingual, most often with English and Spanish. However, many want to learn Spanish simply because it is so common. Some want to learn it for business purposes, some for outreach, and some simply to converse with friends.
There are many different programs that can be used to learn Spanish and in-person classes that can be enjoyed, but most will tell you that you can learn the language in a few days or a month or in 30 hours. These answers are typically exaggerated, unhelpful, and almost always misleading. To demystify some of the differing opinions you may find about learning Spanish, this article was created.
Before you can discuss the amount of time it takes to learn any language, you must understand fluency. There are levels of fluency. The first is the conversational fluency. This is when you can understand about 95% of what is heard or read on common topics. When it comes to technical topics, it is less likely you will understand as much, but you can still glean some information. This also refers to being able to hold one on one conversations with a native speaker at a normal pace. You should be able to get ideas across on a variety of topics without having to stop to think about words often or repeat yourself so the listener can understand.
The second level is the native-level fluency. This is a deeper understanding and fluency level. It means you can understand 99-100% of everything heard or read, regardless of the topic matter, including cultural expressions and even jokes. This further means you can spontaneously express yourself in everyday and complex situations that involve more than one person. This includes communicating emotions with subtle shades of meaning on a variety of topics.
Most people who want to learn Spanish should shoot for conversational literacy unless you are moving to an area in which Spanish is normally spoken and you need to be able to have the native-level fluency. Conversational fluency will allow you the benefits of knowing how to speak Spanish so you can travel, communicate with a native speaker casually, and use it well in a work setting. Most people will not become native level speakers because of the work that would need to be invested to do so. With conversational level fluency, there is still time and effort involved, but a higher return in a shorter amount of time. This makes the goal of being able to converse effectively more attainable. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to become a native level speaker, many do not want to commit for that long.
How Long Does It Take?
Some programs will advertise that you can learn Spanish in a day or a week with just minutes of practice. This is obviously not true; it is a language and takes time to master. Others go in the opposite direction an say it can take up to 1200 hours of practice and learning to become conversational. This turns people off before they even try, unwilling to spend that amount of time on a language that is not native.
The actual best way to learn Spanish is with a one on one teacher. Even an hour session at a time means you will be speaking for approximately half of it. This is better than listening to a lecture in class. People tend to remember things better if they are actively engaged in learning. If you are focused on conversational Spanish, practice having actual conversations with someone fluent in the language. This will help you retain much more. By focusing on the efficient ways of learning, you are more likely to stick with it over time. Most of all, remember that fluency is not a test. It is an activity and ability that will only improve over time with real-life practice.