How do you become fluent in Spanish | SpanishDict Answers
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14 Vote

For those Spanish speaking people who are fluent in English, and those English speaking people who are fluent in Spanish...... just how did you do it? What education\studies did you have in the subject? Do you think it is imperative to actually live\spend a lot of time in the other country?

I ask this because I am really pleased with the way my Spanish reading\writing is developing but every time I hear a native speak I cant understand a word lol! I'm wondering whether the only way to really grasp the language is spend time living in the country.

  • Posted Apr 19, 2011
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  • I hope Heidita doesn't put you in the dunce corner for this lol. - Gregory84 Jan 6, 2012 flag
  • First I can't believe this question since is alive! Next I believe it doesn't hurt to get new aswers to a old question said in a different way. - Tasear Jan 7, 2012 flag
  • I am there too mate , it is very debilitating after working like a man in a flat cap I still cannot get a word of the spoken . - ray76 Jan 7, 2012 flag

16 Answers

9 Vote

When it comes to listening, I think it comes down to time, effort and most of all PRACTICE.

One way of gaining listening skills (which I recommend) is to spend an hour or two each day to try and translate a Spanish language song. Listen to it through a few times and write down what you recognise as you go through. If you listen to pop songs (i.e. Julietta Venegas or Juanes) you can easily find the lyrics online and you can correct yourself and fill in the gaps. Then translate the full lyrics to get an idea of what they are actually singing about.

I have heard many people say that 6 months living AND studying in a native speaking country is enough to make you near to fluent.

I have tried to learn Spanish in various different ways. I have tried group classes at home in England, I've tried self teaching using websites and books, I've tried One on one private tuition in England and also abroad.

Hands down the most effective was when I was studying in Bolivia. I put this down to the following 3 reasons.

  1. I was able to afford a very intense teaching schedule (4hrs per day, 5 days a week) with a native speaker.
  2. I was in a country where there are not a lot of English speakers so I was fully immersed and got plenty of practice.
  3. I had plenty of time to study after class.

Unfortunately this is not convenient for most people.

Hope this helps.

  • that is extremely helpful information, thank you! - billygoat Apr 20, 2011 flag
  • Great info allen, but how long did it take employing that regimen? - jgundy Jan 6, 2012 flag
8 Vote

I think you have to practice for a long time, by all possible means. You can use hotmail and Skype too. Try to do all in Spanish, try to think in Spanish. If you want to practice, send me a private message and i´ll give you my ID in Skype, to learn spanish, so I learn english too. Try to read a lot, wacth TV in Spanish, and so on. I started to learn english a lot of years ago, im not fluent but i am very constant and this "has" made me know a lot of english. Saludos desde Madrid, y se paciente y constante estudiando. Trata de hacerlo divertido, como yo hago con el inglés.

  • thanks Peinadin. I need to sort skype out on my pc. Only problem is, although im a native speaker, my English is grammatically quite poor so im not too sure id be a good example!! - billygoat Apr 19, 2011 flag
  • Peinadin, ... this ''has'' helped me learn a lot of English :) - FELIZ77 Apr 19, 2011 flag
  • thanks for the advice... - Peinadin Apr 21, 2011 flag
6 Vote

Hi Billy. This is one of those concerns that many, many users and members of SpanishDict have, and so it is a question that gets asked constantly - and that has also been answered dozens of times. Please write "how to become fluent" in the search box at the top of the Answers page, and you will be able to read most of what has been written on the subject.

Cheers!

  • actually good point, i should have done that before posting the question! Thank you - billygoat Apr 19, 2011 flag
  • Great suggestion and great response! - Izanoni1 Apr 19, 2011 flag
6 Vote

For those Spanish speaking people who are fluent in English, and those English speaking people who are fluent in Spanish...... just how did you do it? What education\studies did you have in the subject? Do you think it is imperative to actually live\spend a lot of time in the other country?

I ask this because I am really pleased with the way my Spanish reading\writing is developing but every time I hear a native speak I cant understand a word lol! I'm wondering whether the only way to really grasp the language is spend time living in the country.

Hi Billy. Even though this question has been 'done to death' I felt like I should at least share a couple of things with you.

1) I personally know people (5) that have lived in a Spanish speaking country for several years, and they still can't order their food in a restaurant. Three of them are teachers that have passed all the tests, and are academically superior to me in every way, the other two are missionaries that have been in Peru for 6 years.

2) Be encouraged. The fact that you are pleased with your reading/writing progress speaks volumes, and that means that the listening/comprehension is not far behind if you continue to practice.

Now, my story is like this..... I started studying in June 2008. To get to where I am, I have done things that most people are not willing to do, or are not able. Everything we do/say in our house is in Spanish, our TV service is in Spanish. My church is Hispanic, my bible is Spanish, outside of my family, my friends and the people I hang out with are Hispanic. My life is Spanish. My volunteer work is completely in Spanish, my business is branching into the Hispanic community. I wouldn't call myself fluent, but my speaking/comprehension has been evaluated/tested to be at an advanced level. But it has come at a terrific cost. However, I can't even begin to tell you how rewarding it is for me to be able to talk with people in their native tongue. Last week I spoke to a group of about 80 Hispanics (in Spanish of course) and I was astonished to hear an outbreak of applause at the end.

The first week of February my church is hosting the Mexican Consulate. Two years ago when we held this event over two thousand people attended during the course of the week. This year, my business and volunteer work demand that I be there, because part of what I do is assisting Hispanics to get their documents in order, and that is the purpose of the Consulate coming, is to help Mexicans obtain proper identification and other documents. This year we are expecting three thousand people to attend during this week. I will be conversing with at least half of these folk (potentially 1500 people) during the course of the week. I am nervous, mainly because I have never worked with the Mexican Consulate before, but I am so happy and honored to be able to assist in this capacity. Out of this event we hope to have quite a number of follow-up interviews.

My point in telling you this is, you can do it. It is all a matter of how much you put into it. Find out how you learn best and go with it. and keep practicing. Discouragement is the first killer of language learners. You can create Spanish immersion in your home, maybe similar to what I have done. I can't go and live in another country, at least for a few more years, so I had to simulate the immersion the best way I knew how. Sorry for the ramble....just keep going......

  • Fantastic post Jack. First of all, many congratulations for your achievements so far - awesome! Secondly, thanks for the encouragement. I am learning more every day and when I look back I can see a steady line of improvement. Thanks again for - billygoat Jan 6, 2012 flag
  • sharing your success story :) - billygoat Jan 6, 2012 flag
  • Very impressive Jack-Obrien. - JazSpanish Jan 20, 2012 flag
5 Vote

update to my original post

Wow, I wrote this thread about 9 months. I never thought it would be resurrected lol. I'm very pleased though because, as usual, the fantastic people here on spanishdict are so supportive and encouraging.

Anyway, let me tell you, 9 months on...........well I still can't understand native Spanish speakers when they are in full flow or talking about subjects where my vocabulary is limited. However, I am really improving my listening and speaking skills. They are still nowhere near the level of my reading and writing but I am constantly surprising myself that I am picking up more and more listening comprehension.

Much of this is down to the fact that I utilise skype now. I am very fortunate to have made friends with a couple of wonderful native Spanish speakers from this site and they help me tremendously. One person in particular is an inspiration to me but ill mention no names lol.

Also, although spanishdict is addictive lol, I have made a conscious effort to spend less time "playing" on here and more time actually listening to audios, practising speaking to myself, and, well.........learning lol. I still visit the more social threads from time to time, but my effort is concentrated more on reading/writing the language, and of course listening/speaking. You never know, perhaps one day I'll even stay home on a Saturday night and join the group skype chat lol.

¡Gracias a todos!

4 Vote

The only way to become fluent is to use the language constantly.

I guess, to answer your question, it would be necessary to know what your definition of 'fluent' is. If it is to simply be able to speak and understand without having to translate in your head, then a way to do that without moving to another country is to watch telenovelas and speak with native speakers as frequently as possible.

If your definition of fluent is to be able to speak and understand without having to translate and have a high level of accuracy (95%+) then... the best way would be to completely immerse yourself in the language through study and real life practice/application.

  • This is all my opinion. - Nathaniel Apr 19, 2011 flag
  • unfortunately there are no spanish speaking people where i live, so i may have to jump on a flight to Spain a little more often :-) - billygoat Apr 19, 2011 flag
4 Vote

Sorry for wasting your time here guys, I've just took Gekkosan's advice and done a quick search of the forum........ this subject has been done to death lol. I'll have a good read!!

  • You didn't waste my time, I didn't have to click. I enjoyed reading all the answers. - dc-alien-z Apr 19, 2011 flag
4 Vote

Billy,

Jack's post says a lot of the same things I was going to say but I have one thing to add. I have found that Skype is a tremendous tool, one that wasn't available when I was learning German!

I would say that with the amazing ability to speak with people, even though we aren't living in a Spanish speaking country, it is possible to attain at least a level of proficiency that would have been impossible ten years ago. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

If it's not, well then, at least I've made some good friends!

  • Very good point, I completely forgot about Skype. I skype with my teacher, it certainly is an invaluable tool! - Jack-OBrien Jan 6, 2012 flag
  • weekly spanishdict chat! - Tasear Jan 7, 2012 flag
  • I couldn't agree more Lucy, thanks for the input. - billygoat Jan 7, 2012 flag
3 Vote

"1) I personally know people (5) that have lived in a Spanish speaking country for several years, and they still can't order their food in a restaurant. Three of them are teachers that have passed all the tests, and are academically superior to me in every way, the other two are missionaries that have been in Peru for 6 years"

If that's the case, I hope they are not Spanish teachers.

  • They are Spanish teachers. - Jack-OBrien Jan 6, 2012 flag
  • I can't believe that spanish teachers order in food in restaurant. My Immersion classmates were all capable of order at spanish restuarant. I like to know more. I just can't believe it's true. - Tasear Jan 7, 2012 flag
  • I do not understand well , but I can order my food , I find that incredible. - ray76 Jan 7, 2012 flag
  • Más anchoas por favor y no carne pero mucho queso gracias. - ray76 Jan 7, 2012 flag
  • Wait a minute....they are Spanish teachers even though they can't even order their food in Spanish? Am I understanding your original post correctly? Because that would be outrageous... - Naomi_Callas Jan 7, 2012 flag
3 Vote

They are Spanish teachers. -> Jack-OBrien Jan 6, 2012 delete | flag

I can't believe that spanish teachers order in food in restaurant. My
Immersion classmates were all capable of order at spanish restuarant. I like to know more. I just can't believe it's true. - Torielisa17 Jan 7, 2012 I do not understand well , but I can order my food , I find that incredible. - ray76 Jan 7, 2012 flag

Más anchoas por favor y no carne pero mucho queso gracias. - ray76 Jan 7, 2012 flag

Wait a minute....they are Spanish teachers even though they can't even order their food in Spanish? Am I understanding your original post correctly? Because that would be outrageous... - Naomi_Callas Jan 7, 2012 flag

Just for clarity...... I was eating lunch in the restaurant that my Costa Rican friend owns. Two Spanish teachers were seated in a booth across the restaurant. Gilda (my friend) knew they were Spanish teachers because they just told here what their occupation was. Gilda assumed, and asked to take their order, in Spanish. After much stumbling around, the teachers switched back to English and finished ordering their food. After they had ordered, Gilda came over to my booth with the most incredulous look on her face. She said "Jack, you're not going to believe what just happened. Those teachers can't even order their food in Spanish". The restaurant is small enough to hear every conversation going on, and I knew what Gilda had just told me was true, because I witnessed it.

Now, each of those teachers are certified to teach Spanish, they passed the test. One lived in Spain for 3 years, the other lived in Mexico for two years. They obviously know the book or they wouldn't have passed the certification tests to teach.

The third teacher I mentioned was not part of this group, that's another story. It was a very similar circumstance in a different location, but the same result.

The two missionaries were visitors to our church. We all speak Spanish in our church, and I was dumbfounded when I discovered these two, after 5 or 6 years in Peru, couldn't speak enough Spanish to express themselves. They had to use our interpreter.

The only reason I brought it up was to say that passing a test or knowing all the grammar doesn't necessarily mean you can speak the language, that's all.

2 Vote

Dont worry about your grammar, just practice Spanish, you dont have anything to lose... wink

2 Vote

Hello! I know that it can feel like a daunting task to move from written comprehension to oral communication. One study method you might consider that certainly helped me is to watch movies. And I don't mean starting out in the foreign films genre. Start with your favorites!

You can watch in English with Spanish subtitles, which is an excellent way to pick up obscure or lesser known vocabulary words. I learned "compass" from Pirates of the Caribbean! However, this only works if you are actually watching the movie.

I like to watch in Spanish with English subtitles. If there is a movie that you really like or that you have seen multiple times, you should start with that. That way, you can hear the lines as they would be spoken in Spanish, and because you would have an idea of what was being said, it would be easier to decipher the native sounding dialog.

Sometimes when I am studying, cleaning, etc. I turn on a movie in Spanish just to hear the language and be "immersed" in Spanish without ever leaving the comfort of my apartment!

2 Vote

English: Fluent Spanish: Immediate

Spanish My story is the spanish intense immersion program. The program is held at my university in my native country, United States. The program teaches level one and level two spanish which is equivalent to four semester of spanish. Day one we speak spanish. We don't speak english at all during the class. Weekly oral test and a quiz. Also two chapters a week. Learning spanish in spanish enhances my listening skills. Also we have assistant professors who taught us varies lessons. The class was split during this time. This activities or lessons were very interesting. In addition once a week there is community spanish conversation gathering on campus. A diversion group attends. I have attended this group for for three years. The program end with two weeks of study in Mexico! The next spanish that I would take is level four or fourth year spanish!.

.

English I live in united states of America where english almost the official language. Therefore I live and breath the language.

Additions

  • I live in high spanish speaking region
  • Netflix spanish movies
  • Spanish channels
  • Spanish Radio
  • Spanish literature in public library
  • thanks for the input toriellisa :) - billygoat Jan 7, 2012 flag
2 Vote

I have decided that my best way to go at this stage is to do an immersion

program at a school either in Central America or Spain , I would love to

organise a group to go together and share costs , anyone interested please PM me.

  • I'd love to mate, but I don't think the wife and kids would be too happy with me lol - billygoat Jan 7, 2012 flag
  • Well you do not have to bring them with you , boom boom ! - ray76 Jan 7, 2012 flag
  • I'd love to but it would depend on costs, Ditto what Billy said except read partner and kids. - MaryMcc Jan 21, 2012 flag
1 Vote

passing a test or knowing all the grammar doesn't necessarily mean you can speak the language, that's all.

Very true, in fact maybe they were so worried about getting everything perfect that they didn't dare risk actually communicating because they might get something wrong. I think that is a fear a lot of us have.

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