Learn Spanish The complete guide

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Yay! Congratulations on deciding to learn Spanish. But where do you start? Lucky for you, we’ve put together the complete guide to learning Spanish so you can get started with all the confidence in the world. Besides, with 580 million people who speak Spanish in the world in over 20 countries (41 million in the US alone), you’ll be in good company. ¡Bien!

 

We’re going to be sharing a lot of tips, advice and links here that will help you as you learn Spanish. After all, it’s our complete guide to learning Spanish. So if you struggle to remember everything we discuss here, here are the key things you should remember:

  • Learning is a very personal thing, so find a learning method that fits your lifestyle, your time, and your motivation. 
  • The best way to learn Spanish is the one that will fit your life seamlessly, letting you learn at your own time and pace and keeping you motivated.
  • The only way to make yourself learn Spanish faster is to keep yourself surrounded by the language. Our hack: do what you love to do normally, but do it in Spanish

 

Got it? Let’s read on, these bullet points will make a lot more sense later!


Why learn Spanish?

First, let’s get the basics out of the way. If you’re wondering “why is it important to learn Spanish?”, it’s pretty simple. If you’re in the US, Spanish is the second most spoken language and Mexico is just south of the border (going to Taco Bell does NOT count as a cultural experience). If you’re in the UK, you’re just a short journey on a plane to Spain (hey, it rhymes!) And if you need even more reasons to learn Spanish, it’s the most common non-English language to have songs hit top 10 on the Billboard Top 100, having appeared seven times. Take *that*, K-Pop!

 

Aside from being able to connect with the sheer number of people that speak this gorgeous language around the world, the advantages of learning Spanish are endless:

  • Never run out of things to watch on Netflix with all the Spanish content
  • Learning Spanish gets you halfway to learning Portuguese, and a third of the way to learning Italian. That’s like learning 3 languages at once!
  • Acquire the ability to impress people in over 20 countries (that’s basically a mutant superpower)
  • Be the only person at karaoke to sing Despacito or Macarena with *feeling*
  • When someone shouts “Does anyone here speak Spanish?” at the airport, you can be the hero they never knew they needed


OK, those are fun (and true!), but the biggest advantages to learning Spanish will be very personal to you. Everyone has a different motivation to learn Spanish. You may want to learn Spanish to connect with family, friends, or loved ones. Or you’re planning a trip to Mexico (or Spain or Colombia or Argentina or Chile or…) and want to get the most out of your adventure by speaking to the locals and connecting with them. Or you find that learning Spanish will get you further in your career, and it’s a valuable skill to have that’ll make you more connections in the workplace. Whatever your reasons are, there are so many benefits of learning Spanish. Spanish is a wonderful and colorful language to speak in. Sexy, too.

 

It’s not just about finding hacks on how to learn Spanish fast...

Why do we want to learn Spanish fast anyway? When we learn as an adult, we get impatient and want to learn it as fast as we can. You remember how slowly we picked up new languages in high school, back when we dreaded going to Spanish class because we didn’t do our homework the night before. You probably don’t even remember anything from those classes. You start doubting yourself and wonder “Can anyone learn Spanish? Can *I* learn Spanish?”

 

Here’s the good news: Spanish is a great language for English speakers to pick up. You’re likely able to see some results quickly (1-3 months), meaning that you’ll be able to understand some of the more useful phrases and have short conversations with people in that time frame. Phrases like

how's it going? / ¿qué tal? 
thank you very much /muchas gracias
see you later / hasta luego

that are useful for travel and everyday conversations would be in your vocabulary (especially if you use our app!)

Learning Spanish on Memrise App
That’s not to say that we don’t have some tips for you. We do! If you are searching for the fastest ways to learn Spanish, here are some ways to accelerate learning Spanish for beginners. We’ve broken them up by age groups, but see if you can spot a pattern between all of them:

Did you spot the pattern? The short answer to how to learn Spanish quickly is to find something that you enjoy doing already and try doing that in Spanish. Turn on the Spanish dub to your favourite show on Netflix. Switch to the Spanish commentary during the next football game or wrestling match. Search for Spanish-speaking foodie YouTubers and watch them unbox snacks from Mexico! That’s why we’ve made our language learning app the way we did, packing in as many entertaining videos as we can so you’ll enjoy your learning and stay motivated.

So, what is the key to learning Spanish fast?

  • Learn the words that are important to you. Don’t waste your time with phrases that aren’t useful in the real world.
  • Don’t worry about asking “how long does it take to learn Spanish” - everyone has their own pace, so go at your own pace.
  • Find something that you enjoy already and do it in Spanish, keep yourself surrounded by the language.
  • Say it out loud! Don’t be shy and verbalise the words and phrases you have just learned. Find context to apply them in. And if you can, find people to speak with.

What are the best ways to learn Spanish... for you?

If the keys to learning Spanish are to stay motivated and surround yourself with the language as much as possible, then you’ve got to ask yourself the following questions: 

  • When do I have time to learn? 
  • How do I stay motivated?
  • Do I have someone to learn or practice with? If not, can I learn Spanish by myself?

 

Learning as an adult can be difficult sometimes. It was so much easier when you were young, taking an elective in high school or just go to a class in your free time. But now, you find that life sometimes gets in the way. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

  • You’re trying to advance your career and work demands more of your time
  • You’re trying to keep up with regularly meeting up with all your friends so you don’t lose touch (Zoom calls still count, right?) 
  • You’ve got roommates, and it’s hard to find a quiet space to dial into a Zoom Spanish class (especially with everyone working from home nowadays). 
  • You’ve got a family, and you already find yourself spending every waking minute helping your kids with their homework. Who’s got time to go to a Spanish class? 

Many of us need a way of learning Spanish that just seamlessly fits into our lifestyle, rather than us making time for it. Wouldn’t you rather be able to learn on the train to the office rather than begrudgingly travel to a Spanish class after a long day’s work?

 

The most effective way to learn Spanish for adults (because we’re not kids anymore)

The best method to learn Spanish will be the one that keeps you motivated, helps you learn useful vocabulary and phrases quickly, keeps you surrounded in the language, gets you to apply those phrases and say them out loud. If you think about it - truthfully, it is very rarely a classroom setting. 

 

In a classroom, someone who has never met you has picked a syllabus for you on your behalf. The words, vocabulary, and phrases you’ll be learning are predetermined for you before you’ve even signed up for the course. 

Learning Spanish on Memrise App

 

But what about your needs? What if your ultimate goal for learning Spanish is to fly to Puebla, the holy birthplace of tacos al pastor, walk into a restaurant, and order every single thing on the menu in Spanish with confidence? Because you’re going to try everything on that menu, dammit, and you’re going to wow the locals with your Spanish as you do it. 

 

But nope, you are stuck in a classroom where the teacher has decided that it’s more important to learn how to say “your aunty is stuck on a blue elephant” instead. You’re going to have to sit through weeks of lessons that you aren’t interested in because all you can think of are those delicious tacos al pastor.

 

We’re not kids anymore, and we have our personal needs that have to be met when learning Spanish. And if those needs aren’t met, you will lose motivation faster than Kevin’s mom lost him in Home Alone. 

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So, whether you’re looking for the most effective way, the easiest way, or the best way way to Spanish - the winner is going to be the one that helps you learn Spanish efficiently in your own time while helping you see the benefits of your learning quickly because it addresses *your* needs.

Where to learn Spanish

Now that we know what makes a good learning method for you, let’s explore the pros and cons of all the different options we have and see how that complements your lifestyle:

 

Spanish learning classes

Great for:

  • Learning Spanish by listening to natural speech from a native speaker (your teacher)
  • Getting feedback as you’re learning

Not great for:

  • If you’re a busy person, it’s hard to fit classes into your lifestyle
  • Learning words and phrases that are important to you
  • Your motivation (unless if you LOVE languages to begin with)
  • Your wallet

 

Having a teacher is great - you’re learning vocabulary, you’re surrounded by the language, and you get a chance to communicate. But it’s in between classes that is where you’ll make the most progress - if you surround yourself with Spanish and apply the language as often as possible. This is why learning with Memrise is also great for those who are learning in formal classes. You continue to surround yourself with Spanish and accelerate your learning.

 

Spanish learning books

Great for:

  • People who prefer to learn academically 
  • Looking smart on a bookshelf when people come over for a visit


Not great for:

  • Understanding natural language
  • Your motivation (unless if you LOVE languages to begin with)
  • Your wallet

 

Learning from books is often the first place that people think to go. We’re conditioned to think that learning academically is the only way to go, however, it’s not the best way to learn as an adult. For one, books can be very tedious to learn from. We see the words on paper and try to piece together how to pronounce them ourselves. The truth is, we learn Spanish by listening. You’ll have to also look up how things are pronounced as you’re learning the words and phrases, mostly because we haven’t quite invented books that speak just yet. We built Memrise to do quite the opposite - you’re taught the words and phrases by native speakers through videos. So not only will you learn the words quickly, but you’ll also understand how it’s spoken by real people.

 

Other Spanish learning apps and software:

Great for:

  • Portability and learning on the go
  • Learning Spanish at home 

Not great for:

  • Understanding natural language (most apps still use robotic voices)
  • Useful language (there are some very strange phrases in those apps!)

 

We love all the language apps out there! There are so many to choose from, so you’ll want to choose the one that’s right for you. The problem that most apps face is that it’s just a way of getting textbook learning onto your screen. Sure, it seems more fun at first (because learning a language is hard?), but it’s the same content and teaching format that you’ll experience through a textbook or classroom setting. You might even find ones that let you learn Spanish for free (you can start with Memrise for free), but some of these apps have clearly just lifted content from any textbook you can find and put it into a digital format. They’re filled with vocabulary that will never be used in real-life situations, and the voice recordings are always mechanical and robotic. You won’t be able to learn real-world language through these apps - they’re great for what they are, but if you really want to learn a language, make sure you can trust their content and their teaching methodology. 

 

Learning Spanish with Memrise:

Great for:

  • Portability and learning on the go
  • Learning Spanish at home 
  • Learning Spanish through listening, with hours of videos and audio of real people teaching you (this is a no robot zone)
  • Learn Spanish by immersion 
  • Learning from home and on the go
  • People who want to learn useful language and vocabulary
  • Motivation, because our courses are fun and we’ll be right in your pocket for whenever you’re bored 

Not great for:

  • People who only want a piece of paper to prove they learned something or earn a degree (but if you want to expand on what you’re learning at school, we’re a great compliment to your learning!)
  • If you want to sound like a Spanish robot
 
 

 

You might think we’re a little biased seeing that you’re reading this on Memrise.com. But we created our language learning system to do all the things we see missing in the other books, videos, and apps out there. So we believe that Memrise is the best program to learn Spanish, because we let you learn the vocabulary you find useful, help you learn fast, keep you motivated through entertainment, surround you with Spanish native speakers, and give you the confidence to communicate. 


We have a website for those who want to learn Spanish at home on a computer and an app for those who learn on the go. We teach you with videos of locals, saying useful phrases in the accents, pace, and body language that makes that language colourful. You can choose different levels to learn from at any time, meaning that you can skip to the parts that you find interesting the most.
 
 

The best app to learn Spanish

Along with the ability to learn Spanish online, we’ve also built the best app to learn Spanish. The app is created from the ground up to make it the best learning experience on your phone and on-the-go.


With limited time, you want an app that doesn’t beat around the bush and teaches you the important and useful phrases. Not only that, it’s important to go beyond the usual teaching text. So often we’re forced to learn phrases that aren’t very useful - but as a grown-up, we’re learning the language to connect with people. So we want to not only learn phrases that are practical, but also speak the way the locals do so we can make those human connections. 

Learning Spanish on Memrise App

Our app not only prioritises useful phrases but also is created for an on-the-phone learning experience. And with our fun, engaging videos of native speakers teaching you Spanish, it’ll feel just like you’re playing one of your favourite games on your phone.

If you have to stop your lesson abruptly, our Spanish learning app automatically saves your progress so you won’t lose anything. Plus it keeps track of your daily streak so you get that extra boost of motivation.


For those traveling through patches where the signal is weak or just doesn’t want to burn through your data, the offline mode allows you to download all the content you need to your phone so you don’t have to depend on wifi or mobile data.

 

Additional tips for learning Spanish

Well, you’ve made it to the final segment of the *complete* guide to learning Spanish! That shows just how serious you are about learning Spanish and how very motivated you are to start. You should be rewarded handsomely for your efforts - tweet us @memrise with the hashtag #vamosMemrise and we’ll DM you a surprise.

surprise

But before you leave this page to start your Spanish learning journey, we’d like to give you one last set of tips to take away with you when learning Spanish.

 

Learn Spanish words and verbs

  • Everyone has their own reasons to learn Spanish, which means everyone will have a different definition of what “useful language” is
  • Learn vocabulary that you’ll find useful personally, which will let you contextualise many of these words in scenarios that you’ll find yourself in. 
  • Love food? Learn vocabulary around food. Love to travel? Learn words that’ll be helpful to get around with locals. This in turn helps you learn faster and stay motivated.
  • Surround yourself (or “immerse”) with Spanish as often as possible. The more you hear things repeated in context, the quicker you’ll learn these words.
  • You don’t need a piece of paper at the end to prove that you’ve learned a language - putting the time in and staying motivated is key.
  • We can go on… so we did on this blog post 

 

Spanish learning videos

  • Watching videos is a great way to keep yourself surrounded in Spanish as you’re learning (that’s why we’ve loaded our app with hours of them) 
  • Aside from our Learn With Local videos, find movies, shows, and content you love watching already and try to find a Spanish dubbed version. If you’ve never seen The Simpson’s in Spanish, you haven’t lived.
  • Our Spanish language expert has curated a list of Spanish movies, TV shows, and content that you can watch. Check out her list and enjoy

 

Learn Spanish through books, and the best books to read when learning Spanish

  • Similar to watching videos - find what you love already and read it in Spanish
  • While not quite the same as videos, books could still help reinforce recognition of words through seeing them repeatedly
  • Hot tip: if you love food, try getting a bilingual cookbook. Not only will you come out learning more Spanish, but you’ll learn the culture through their recipes and ingredients, too. Here’s a great one you can use if you have a young family (or just want simple recipes)

 

Learn Spanish Songs

  • Lucky for you, there are loads of Spanish songs you probably know already thanks to them being popular in the Billboard Charts
  • Artists you might know already include Shakira, Bad Bunny, J Balvin, J.Lo, and Luis Fonsi
  • Some old school artists you might also be familiar with include Selena, Ricky Martin, and The Gypsy Kings
  • But if you want some deep cuts to impress your friends, you can go further back the catalog for classics like Julio Iglesias, Marta Sánchez, and Celia Cruz
  • Our Spanish language expert has curated a list of Spanish songs that you can listen to! Check out her list and enjoy

Learn Spanish tools

  • There are loads of tools out there, but pick the one that fits into your lifestyle or you’ll find it hard to stay motivated.
  • Most apps teach you through very mechanical voices and random phrases - find one that will let you truly hear what the language sounds like and teach you phrases that the locals really use.
  • Memrise is the best tool to learn Spanish, but you knew that already 😉


That’s it! Go forth and learn Spanish. We’d love to hear how your Spanish learning journey is going, tell us by tweeting us at @memrise or DM us on Instagram @memrise.

 

Start learning Spanish now!