This isn’t a Spanish lesson, this is a short and basic guide telling you how to teach yourself Spanish properly. The key to doing this is persistence and action: you have to persistently take action, specifically the correct action, and I’m going to tell you what that is. I’m going to give you just 2 basic things you need to do, they’ll barely cost you anything (you might want to buy a couple Spanish-language movies on DVD, but even that’s optional as you can just download or watch them online for free), and don’t require any complicated system, program, or tutor.
What you’ll need:
-An online dictionary and/or translator, I recommend SpanishDict.com, they have both on the same page and they work fantastically.
-Time (30-60 minutes a day, at minimum, for a few months).
-A desire to learn Spanish
What to Do
You must speak with natives speakers. This is by far the most important, and also the one thing the most neglected by beginning language-learners. Also, you can start doing this far sooner than 98% of beginners think you can. Honestly, you could start doing it from Day 1, right away, but you should probably spend a couple months learning some basic vocabulary, grammar (you don’t need to know formal grammar rules, you just need to get a feel for what’s correct and what isn’t, which will come through practice), and phrases so that you’ve got something to actually work with when you do start practicing with native speakers.
The way you learn vocabulary, grammar, and basic phrases is you get them from real-life sources (which is covered in step 2 right below) and then you enter them into your SRS (Spaced-Repetition Software: I recommend ‘Anki’, just Google it, you can download it for free, it’s awesome) which will handle absolutely everything for you (you can also use paper flashcards if you really want to): Anki is a flashcard program that learns how well you know individual words—based on your competence, it will then schedules appropriate review times for those words. It automatically schedules a new word/phrase to be reviewed immediately and then, as long as you keep getting the answer right when shown the ‘front’ of the card (e.g. the front is “Man” and the back, the answer, is “hombre”) Anki will continue to schedule that particular card to be reviewed at longer and longer intervals—I’ve got cards now that I only see pop up on Anki once every 2 or 3 months now because I’ve reviewed them so many times that Anki knows I don’t need to see them very often.
After only a couple of months of consistently doing this, you will have learned a couple thousand new words and MORE than enough grammar and basic phrases to start communicating with native speakers, and it will feel like it was almost effortless since Anki is doing 90% of the heavy lifting with regards to determining what you need to review and when.
Movies, TV shows, music, radio, blogs, newspapers (online or paper), etc. This is so valuable to your language-learning I can’t possibly overemphasize it. This beats any kind of language-learning program out there, no matter how expensive. The only thing that might be better than this would be a private tutor, and even then they’re going to tell you that you need to be listening to as much Spanish-language media (movies, music, etc.) in your spare time when you’re not talking with them as you possibly can. Ok, here’s how you do this…
I recommend that you start off with online Spanish language newspapers and magazines and such (blogs would work fine as well) because they’re free and you don’t have to worry about keeping up with someone talking at a normal conversational rate of speed. Just start reading these, looking up or translating everything you have to so that you can understand it, and entering all your new vocabulary into Anki along with any common expressions, phrases, or idioms that you see. It will be a bit tedious at first but after a couple weeks of this you will have learned probably 500-1000 new vocabulary words, and that will include the most common and essential. Now you can move onto…
Movies on DVD (or that you’ve Tivo’d or downloaded online—tons of places you can do this for free) that have subtitles available for them: now, here’s the thing, you want the Spanish subtitles, not the English ones. Why? A couple reasons:
Because you need to know how those words are spelled so that you can enter them into Anki (or paper flashcards if you choose, those will work as well).
This way you’re learning to read Spanish at the same time that you’re learning to speak it, plus you’re learning how those words that you’re writing down are properly pronounced at the time that you’re writing them down, pretty cool huh?
Now, what you do is simply start the movie and pause after a couple sentences, look up all the words you need to so that you can understand what they said, enter them into Anki, and then practice repeating the sentence outloud (you know what you’re saying because you’ve looked it up) while rewinding and playing the native speakers saying it until you’ve got it down pat and you sound just like the native speakers. Then hit play, let it go another sentence or two, and repeat. I know this seems ridiculously tedious, and initially it will be, but you’ll learn a TON of Spanish this way very very quickly.