So, you want to learn Spanish on your own – great! If you want to avoid some of the most common pitfalls that new speakers run into (like, accidentally telling someone that you're pregnant – embarazada – when you're trying to tell them you're embarrassed), you probably need a little bit of help.
But what's really the best way to learn Spanish on your own? Well, a lot of that depends on you. How do you like to learn? What does your timetable look like, and how do you access fellow Spanish learners and speakers?
We've rounded up some of our favorite methods to help make learning Spanish quick and easy. Read on for some great free resources and tips to make 2022 the year you learn to speak Spanish like a native!
Is It Hard to Learn Spanish?
As one of the most widely-spoken languages in the Western world, there's no shortage of reasons to want to learn Spanish.
And the great news? It's actually one of the easiest languages to pick up if you're a native English speaker. That's because it's a Romance language, so it originates from Latin, just like so many of the English words you use on a daily basis.
This means you'll be able to spot plenty of cognates, or words that look and sound almost identical in both languages, which will help you figure out the context of a sentence pretty quickly, even before you've learned to identify grammar structures or nuance.
While Spanish does feature a wide array of verb tenses, they're really similar to their English counterparts. So, you'll have a much easier time learning how to formulate functional sentences and express yourself comprehensively.
Even better? Unlike many languages, Spanish is largely phonetic, so you'll pronounce most words the way they're spelled. This means you can avoid the stress of trying to relearn how letter combinations should sound.
Plus, if you studied Spanish at school, you might be surprised how much comes back to you when you revisit it.
These factors, paired with finding the right learning method for you, mean that you could become fluent in Spanish in time for your next trip abroad!
How do I start learning Spanish from scratch?
Gone are the days of bone-dry textbooks and rote recitation. With the wide array of resources available online and via apps, it's never been easier to learn Spanish at your own pace, even if you're a complete beginner.
Whether you like the gamification of language apps, you prefer to learn in a Spanish-speaking environment, or you want to seek out one-on-ones from a qualified Spanish teacher, there's no shortage of great ways to pick up the language.
Ready to dive into your journey towards fluency? We've rounded up plenty of ideas for ensuring you're still learning Spanish in your free time without even realizing it.
How long does it really take to teach yourself Spanish?
There is no correct answer when it comes to how long it takes to learn Spanish. Everyone learns languages at a different pace, and this can be affected by a number of factors.
These include previous knowledge of similar languages, exposure to native speakers, participation in a language course, and so on.
There's no one foolproof method that works for everyone. After all, people have different learning styles. You might be a visual learner, and find it easiest when you can see words and sentences written down.
Or, you might be an aural learner, which means you'd progress faster by listening. Verbal learners need to be able to practice speaking, even when they're learning their first words, and physical learners learn by doing, so they're best suited to an immersive approach.
To further fine-tune the process, you can be a social or a solitary learner. Social learners improve fastest when they can chat with other students, a tutor, or a Spanish-speaking friend, while solitary learners can lock themselves away for a long weekend and emerge brimming with new knowledge.
You might not yet know your optimum language learning process, so you may find you've struggled to gain comprehension previously, or you might have been practicing sporadically.
If you work smarter, not harder, you'll be able to have basic conversations after just a short few weeks. And the best way to find out which style suits you best? Trying them all on for size, of course.
Steps to Learn Spanish
1. Start learning Spanish as soon as possible
Often, people sabotage their own learning efforts because they think it's too late or it'll take too long to gain fluency. "It might take me a year to learn Spanish," they think to themselves – but that time is going to pass either way, so you might as well pick up a new skill while it does!
Truthfully, though, you don't need to commit much time at all to learn the basics in order to speak Spanish in simple conversations.
So there's no time like the present to download an app, look for local Spanish tutors, or start watching some educational videos. You'll then be one step closer to testing your skills out on your next holiday!
2. Travel to a Spanish-speaking country
One of the tried-and-tested best ways to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it. While we can't all run away to Latin America for months on a quest to become fluent, spending time with native Spanish speakers is one of the most valuable steps you'll take on your language learning journey.
There's nothing quite like learning in real-life situations because you'll be forced to actually think about how you want to express yourself.
You can't always predict the direction a conversation will go, so you'll learn to be inventive when you string responses together.
Consider this a great excuse for a mini-break – but make sure to give yourself permission to get things wrong. You won't speak or comprehend Spanish perfectly at first, and no one expects you to.
However, if you try and make mistakes along the way, you'll learn faster than ever, because you're using the language to achieve a goal – whether that's asking for directions or ordering a meal – instead of simply repeating phrases.
3. Watch Spanish movies & TV shows with subtitles
Can't get away to a Spanish-speaking country? No problem! There's a wealth of Spanish content available online that'll help you progress and make learning Spanish a natural, fun process – as easy as watching these shows on Netflix.
Lingopie has a huge library of movies and TV shows that you can watch with or without English or Spanish subtitles to train your brain to think in your new language – the crown jewel of fluency.
Popular Spanish Movies
If you're unsure where to begin, here are some of the most popular Spanish movies and TV shows in Lingopie's library or elsewhere online.
All of these can be watched with Spanish or English subtitles – or none at all if you want to test your comprehension skills!
El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)
Guillermo del Toro's spooky 2006 fantasy is set in post-Civil War Spain and follows the main character Ofelia as she heads deep into the titular labyrinth to free a trapped princess.
Meanwhile, her new stepfather – a committed Falangist, becomes increasingly dangerous in his own quest to hunt down republican rebels.
It's a multifaceted and fascinating story that makes for a great way to study Spanish and learn some of the country's rich history, too.
It's such a cult classic film that you've likely already seen it with English subtitles. So, it's a great starting point for moving on to watching with Spanish subtitles instead.
Todo Sobre mi Madre (All About My Mother)
This black comedy follows a grieving mother who, following the death of her teenage son on his birthday, travels to Barcelona to find his estranged father, a transgender woman named Lola who never knew she had a child.
There, she meets and befriends a group of sex workers, addicts, and actors, which means there are plenty of storylines to get wrapped up in as you learn Spanish.
Starring Gael García Bernal, this Mexican drama is a triptych of stories, each interlinked in strange ways. There's a hitman, an injured model, and a dogfighting scandal – and more than enough drama to keep you hooked.
The film provides an excellent way to learn Spanish through video.
Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)
Javier Bardem takes the lead role in this Academy Award-winning film that focuses on the real-life story of diver Ramón Sampedro, who campaigned for nearly three decades for the right to end his own life following an accident that left him as a quadriplegic.
A recreational weep might not be everyone's preferred way to learn Spanish, but we think it's pretty effective!
El Orfanato (The Orphanage)
If horror films are more your style, this critically-acclaimed effort will tick all your boxes.
Terrifying ghostly kids?
Verbs, conjugated by native Spanish speakers? You've got it!
4. Learn Spanish vocabulary through language learning apps
The rise of app-based learning has made it easier than ever before to study Spanish on the go.
Language apps turn learning into a reward-based game, with points to earn and levels to climb on your way to total fluency. They are a great way to learn Spanish, even if you can only spare a few minutes on your commute every day.
You can also choose to focus on certain skills while using apps, whether that's a certain topic of conversation, written Spanish, grammar rules, or pronunciation.
5. Find Youtube channels to learn spanish
Learning grammar rules, verb conjugations, and new Spanish words doesn't have to require a huge financial outlay.
There are plenty of YouTube videos to help you learn languages, providing free lessons that can supplement your chosen language course and giving you a chance to practice Spanish in different ways.
YouTube also gives you a chance to try different types of content. You might opt for a video featuring a native speaker in conversation with other Spanish-speaking people, or you might choose to watch a video led by a native English speaker who can share the tricks they used to learn Spanish.
Some videos might involve repeating phrases back, some might test your conversational skills, and others might simply hone your comprehension and give you a chance to pick up some new vocabulary.
Or, if you don't want to watch a purely educational video, browse through some of the top Spanish content creators to watch vlogs on a topic you're interested in.
TikTok and Instagram also work well for this. TikTok's short, relatively simple videos will give you the chance to learn Spanish slang and pick up on chatty phrases. In addition, Instagram's reels and captions will give you a similar feel for conversational Spanish.
If you have a niche hobby or job, following creators with a similar interest will also help you learn the terminology in your new language, which can be tricky to find correct translations for.
6. Try to spend time with Spanish-speakers
Just as traveling to a Spanish-speaking country will help you learn Spanish through immersion, finding a native speaker to chat to in your new language can be a useful step in your journey.
Consider getting a language exchange partner. One day, you'll meet up and chat entirely in Spanish, and the next time, your conversations will be in your native language, giving them a chance to practice, too.
There are plenty of Facebook groups full of people looking for arrangements like this because it's a cheap and cheerful way to supplement language courses or personal study.
Engaging in actual conversations will give you so much valuable speaking practice, building your confidence and making your journey even more fun and effective when you learn Spanish.
7. Learn conversational Spanish with a language partner
While chatting with a native Spanish speaker is undoubtedly useful, you can also practice your Spanish with other language learners.
Again, you can find partners for interesting conversations on local Facebook groups and at language classes.
Furthermore, following Spanish-speaking accounts on Instagram gives you a chance to practice your written Spanish when interacting in the comments.
8. Speak and read Spanish as much as possible
Just as watching movies and TV shows can help you learn Spanish quickly and easily, incorporating the language into your reading material is a great technique too.
There's plenty of free PDF reading material available online, such as ebooks and magazines or newspapers. Or, you can often find foreign language sections in your local library or secondhand book shop.
One great way to learn Spanish is by reading. Pick a lower grade book that you're already familiar with in English, and find a Spanish translation.
Rereading the Harry Potter series in Spanish, for example, will teach you plenty of new vocabulary in a context you already understand. You'll be surprised how many words you can figure out without much effort at all!
Don't be afraid to read passages aloud, too. This is a great way to get comfortable with Spanish in your own voice along your Spanish journey.
If you can also find an audiobook version, you can switch back and forth between listening, reading, and speaking aloud to solidify multiple areas of your Spanish comprehension.
9. Find work in a Spanish speaking country
If you can, taking some time to work in Spanish-speaking countries is a fantastic way to quickly become fluent. Not only will you be surrounded by native speakers, you'll also be expected to use the language on the job.
That does add a unique kind of pressure on your Spanish learning journey, of course, but it can be the perfect antidote if you tend to avoid speaking your new language unless you're forced to.
This is one of the biggest commitments on this list, of course, but it might just be the best way to learn Spanish on your own, without endless courses and textbooks.
10. Change the language on your phone to Spanish
One simple trick for introducing a little more Spanish into your life on a daily basis is by changing your phone so its menus and basic functionality are all in the language.
This works well because you likely already know instinctively where everything on your phone is. So, you'll immediately feel confident and comfortable – and you can put your Spanish skills to the test when you need to find a menu item you're not sure of.
11. Spend an hour a day learning Spanish grammar
Okay, so when you daydream about speaking Spanish fluently, you're probably not wistfully thinking of grammar exercises, noun genders, and memorizing verb forms.
But while grammar isn't particularly sexy, it's an essential part of learning languages. Just as learning a few chords will make it way easier to pick up songs on the guitar, taking the time to study Spanish grammar will make it so much easier to jump into conversational, practical use of the language. And that is sexy.
12. Sing Spanish songs to boost your language learning
If you've ever heard a song for the first time in ten years and realized you still had every word memorized, you know how powerful music can be as a way to engage your brain.
Create a playlist of Spanish music – or search for one that's been made already – on your streaming platform, and pop it on when you're driving or at the gym.
You'll quickly become more comfortable with identifying words and phrases on your Spanish learning journey. Who says Despacito isn't educational content?
13. Talk to yourself in Spanish
No judgment here – we all talk to ourselves when we think no one can hear us.
But the next time you're running through your to-do list out loud or practicing an argument you might never actually have with your neighbor, switch it up a bit and do it in Spanish instead.
You might not look any less crazy to passersby, but at least they're less likely to understand what you're saying!
14. Keep a Spanish blog
There are plenty of great reasons to blog through your Spanish-learning journey.
First of all, learning to tell stories in your new language is a quick way to gain mastery of it, because you'll begin to seek out more interesting and nuanced ways to express your thoughts.
Secondly, you'll naturally memorize words and their spelling through repetitive use.
Thirdly, you'll start to hold yourself accountable for making sure you commit to your language learning because you'll have made your journey public.
And finally, that bold step might just help you meet some new friends who are also learning Spanish, or who are native speakers who might be interested in speaking Spanish with you.
Furthermore, it's been proven that one of the best ways to retain new knowledge is to educate others. So, even though you might not think you're qualified to teach Spanish yet, writing a blog explaining how to use a grammar rule that you've just picked up will help you cement it in your toolkit.
If you're using the Lingopie app, focus on writing down the flashcards with words you think you're likely to forget and the English translation provided. That'll help you focus on committing them to memory.
15. Keep a list of useful Spanish words and short Spanish expressions
As you pick up more Spanish words, you'll start to notice interesting sayings and phrases that you'll want to use to add some spice to your own conversations. Write these down, whether you use the notes app on your phone or carry a notebook with you.
Add unfamiliar words that you hear in passing to your list too. The next time you sit down to study, you'll be able to add at least one brand new Spanish word to your collection.
This is also a great way to memorize those pesky words that sound like cognates but actually have a totally different meaning. For example...
"Tengo veintiún anos" doesn't mean that you're 21 years old – it means you have 21 anuses.
"Preservativos" are not meant to be spread on toast – they're condoms!
And, of course, announcing that you're feeling "caliente" won't lead your friends to assume you need a cold glass of water – but it might result in an unwanted proposition from a passing stranger!
Here are other seven hilarious mistakes to avoid when you learn Spanish!
16. Listen to the radio in Spanish
Thanks to the rise of digital radio, you can tune in to music and talk stations from Spanish-speaking countries wherever you are in the world.
Just like watching TV and movies, this is an efficient and engaging way to learn Spanish. Check out the best Spanish radio stations.
It's also a great way to pick up on the subtle differences between the Spanish spoken in Europe and the variations spoken across Latin America.
FAQs relating to how to learn Spanish by yourself
Let's revisit some of the burning questions you might have if you're interested in finding the best way to learn Spanish on your own.
What is the fastest and most effective way to learn Spanish?
There are plenty of ways to learn Spanish, so this depends completely on which learning methods are best for you.
By trying a combination of app-learning, in-person conversation, and immersion via travel, streaming services, and radio stations, you'll be able to figure out what makes the greatest impact.
Can you learn Spanish at home?
Absolutely! While traveling abroad temporarily or permanently is a foolproof way to immerse yourself in the Spanish language and gain fluency, it's not always possible for everyone to take the time off to do so.
Luckily, all the resources you could possibly need are available for you to use from the comfort of your own home.
What is the most efficient way to learn Spanish?
There's no one best way to learn Spanish on your own, but if you're keen to learn a new language this year, there have never been more easily accessible options for you.
If you want to start with basic Spanish, a language app is the fastest way to get started, while intermediate learners might prefer to put their skills to the test in Spanish courses, by chatting to Spanish natives, or by engaging with content in the Spanish language.
For advanced students or those who aspire to total fluency, there's no method more efficient than heading into the heart of the Spanish-speaking world and using it as your primary language.
How can I teach myself Spanish for free?
There are so many resources available if you want to learn Spanish without spending money.
Check out YouTube, listen to some podcasts, stream a Spanish TV show, or visit your local library. Or, for a guided approach, download a language app.
Lingopie has a free trial available that will help you make a great start on learning Spanish without spending a dime, and will give you the chance to try out a variety of different learning methods, too.
Whether you want to focus on using a spaced repetition system or watch movies without pausing them, Lingopie has got you covered.
Summing It Up: What Is the Most Effective Way to Learn Spanish?
While there's no one best way to learn Spanish on your own, there are plenty of options available to you.
In this post, we have shown you what these are, how to use them, and how they can benefit you no matter what level you have.
Get started on your language learning journey today by signing up for a free trial of Lingopie, and you'll get access to everything you need – plus plenty more ideas and resources to make learning Spanish fun, easy, and quick!
And if you're up for a challenge, try learning two languages at once.