Be Realistic, Learning Spanish Takes Longer Than Six Weeks

People often sign up for a six week Spanish program and are shocked when they complete the course and cannot communicate with aplomb in Spanish. If this statement sounds like it holds just a grain of truth for you, then you need to be realistic. Learning Spanish takes longer than six weeks. Think about this: I bet it took you longer than six weeks to learn English. Am I right?

Toddlers and young children who are flung into new situations and have to learn a completely different language learn fast and easily. But even these guys with their sponge like brains take longer than six weeks to decipher the ins and outs of Spanish.

Unfortunately adults are much slower at picking up languages. We are no longer producing new brain cells and making connections between neurons is a lot more difficult. We also have many years of using our own language to fight against. Adults sometimes have a tough time accepting that sentence structures may seem backwards to what we are used to, or prepositions don’t always translate across from English to Spanish.

The truth is that different languages structure communication differently to English. Often, as is the case with English too, there is no logical reason why something is the way it is, it just is and you have to accept it. This can be a bitter pill to swallow for people who are accustomed to wanting to know the whys and wherefores of things. Asking questions like “But why is it a regular verb in English and it is irregular in Spanish?” or “Why does mano end in ‘o” but has la as its definite article?” will hinder you in your language learning. There are certain things that you have to accept with childlike credulity when learning a language and then get on with it.

In my experience as a language teacher, there are people in this world who are more pre-disposed to language acquisition than others. Some people find it easy to untangle the web of Spanish grammar and can ram it into their brains with relative ease. Others struggle to remember how to conjugate the present tense. If you belong to the former group, then you are lucky; if you belong to the latter, then you are not alone and with persistence you will make it.

Another reason it takes us English speakers longer than six weeks to pick up a language is that by and large we are not very good at it. I know this is a terrible stereotype, but since English is so widely spoken, there is less motivation and necessity for us to master other languages. It is true than you can generally find an English speaker anywhere on the globe. As such, we do not grow up learning different languages in the way that other cultures do and the languages taught at school are not compulsory into the upper reaches of secondary school, nor are they taught with a communicative focus.

With realistic expectations you will be able to become a great Spanish speaker. It will take you more than six weeks; in fact if you are serious about it you will continue learning for the rest of your life. Just as we learn new words or phrases regularly in our native language you will continue to do so in Spanish too. After six weeks you can reasonably expect to have mastered some of the basics of Spanish that will form the foundation for the rest of the language to flourish in your brain.

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