Monday, July 29, 2013

The Best Way to Learn Spanish: How Long Will It Take?

by Marie Ryan

I have heard some students say "I have been learning Spanish for three years and I still can't speak or understand it!"

Of course they don't really mean that they have been learning it non-stop for three years. They may have only had very few classes but the process has dragged on for such a long time they become frustrated and disillusioned. So what is one of the best ways to learn Spanish?


If you want to learn fast, by far the best way is to immerse yourself in the Spanish language. This could mean relocating for at least several months to Spain or another Spanish-speaking country.

In this way you will be able to pick the language up, 'in situ' and develop your language skills fast. However not everyone is able to do this.


If you are not able to take the "full immersion" route, you can sign up for a Spanish course in your area.

You may be lucky enough to live in an area where there are a lot of courses on offer and you may find it difficult to choose the right course for you. It is very important to remember when learning Spanish, or any other language, it takes time and dedication.

A lot of the "methods" or written courses for adult language learning are divided into four stages or books: Beginners, Lower Intermediate, Upper Intermediate and Advanced. Let us assume that "Advanced" would be the minimum desired goal for a student of Spanish.

"Advanced level" will usually allow a student to hold conversations and listen to and understand most of what is being said in an informal situation and probably much more. This would be good level "to get by" very well with.

It is very interesting to know that language learning methods or books are based on very precise figures.

Some "methods" for adults which are being published recently are based on the assumption that each level will take on average 100 hours to impart. This means a grand total of, on average, 400 hours of actual structured instruction to reach your end goal.

If you sign up for ONE lesson a week for the academic year of 36 weeks, it will take you approximately ELEVEN years to reach your goal. You will almost certainly give up on the way.

Methods which are divided into four levels as mentioned above calculate three hours of instruction per week will accommodate one level per year. That is THREE hours per week for 36 weeks = approximately FOUR years to reach your goal.


In my language teaching experience, I have had the best results by teaching students more hours but over a shorter period of time. For example; FIVE hours a week for 36 weeks = approximately TWO years and TWO months to reach your goal. And so the calculation goes on.

If you sign up for a more intensive language course you will have great advantages over infrequent lessons. A real advantage of the intensive course is that you will not waste so much time on "warming up" each lesson.

You will be more ready to pick up from where you left off. This will be much more efficient for both teacher and student.


Did you know that, just as teachers of English are accredited by T.E.F.L. courses, the Spanish equivalent is accredited by the E.L.E. (Espanol como lengua Extranjera). Find out if your teacher is qualified to teach.

All the above calculations are approximate and all learners are different. This article is based on my own personal experience over the years. So now you know; 'immersion' or 'intensive' is best way to learn. It's up to you to take the plunge or get intense!

by Marie Ryan

Marie writes about all things Spanish. Read more tips for learning Spanish at:

Read the first part of series: Spanish grammar for Beginners at

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