Everything ever achieved, ever overcome, ever learnt, ever walked, swum, run, eaten, lifted or climbed started with definition.
Before Edmund Hillary could climb Mount Everest he first needed to define his goal. He had to define what he wanted to achieve before he could even consider why or how he was going to achieve it.
That same starting point applies to anything that you could want to achieve in your life.
Confucius said that ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ That first step should always be definition. Without it, the road is not clear and the direction not obvious.
So let’s start by defining what this blog is all about. This blog is going to be dedicated to learning Spanish. It will be a resource that Spanish students can use to find training programs, tips, tricks, reviews, interviews and most importantly motivation.
I believe that most students who fail to learn Spanish or fail to even begin haven’t yet defined what learning Spanish is about to them. What do they want to learn? How much do they want to learn and what do they want to do with it?
Ask yourself these questions: What defines your Spanish journey? Where do you want it to take you? Is simply ordering tapas or a glass of vino on the streets of Spain good enough? Or do you want to be capable of entering into a discussion on the most complex of topics with someone who has never uttered a word of English?
What is Spanish (Español)?
It is a romantic language that was first started in Castile in Spain. It is the official language in 20 countries and is the second-largest language spoken as a native language next to Mandarin. It is spoken by approximately 400 million people as a first language and 60 million as a second.
It is a beautiful language and one that a lot of language students tackle every year.
Another great advantage of the Spanish language is that it shares the majority of its alphabet with English. There are also a number of words that could almost pass as English with the change of an accent or letter here or there. This makes it a great language to learn because you can start with a set of vocabulary that requires next to no effort to learn.
What is real Spanish?
A lot of Spanish blogs and modern learning materials talk about real Spanish. And that real might be more desirable than what you could learn in a classroom or textbook.
In this definition real Spanish might be the Spanish spoken by the people on the street. The problem is this can be misleading. Some Spanish natives use slang that is used only by a small community in a small neighbourhood of a capital city of just one of the Spanish speaking countries. The Spanish is real but would only be useful in that one small part of the Spanish speaking world.
I have some close friends from the Dominican Republic who have taught me some of their local slang. A good example is “¿Qué lo que?” which is equivalent to “what’s up?”. This would be a great phrase to use if you are walking the streets of Santo Domingo but would not be of any use in Mexico City or Madrid.
For me, real Spanish is the Spanish that is most useful and widespread. The words, phrases and grammar that can be applied to a lot of Spanish speaking countries around the world. If you want to able to converse quickly and confidently then there is little benefit in focusing time and effort on unique colloquial sayings and expressions in an effort to be more authentic.
So in the definition of real, it is worth dedicating yourself to learning about the grammar and phrases that are used regularly across the Spanish speaking world. And how best to convey a point, question or idea as quickly and universally as you can.
What is fast?
There are polyglots that claim to be able to learn languages to fluency in extremely short timeframes. In 2005, Daniel Tammet (a savant) learnt Icelandic in 7 days as a demonstration of his talents. To prove his accomplishment he was interviewed on Icelandic television at the end of the week and by all accounts spoke with near fluency.
For the rest of us mortals, ‘fast’ is a combination of your own ability, commitment and goals. I have been learning Spanish for 5 years and in that time I have experienced months of good focused study and months that were not so good. What has slowed my progress is a lack of focus and commitment.
For most Spanish students the same would apply. If you go large time periods without practice your progress will be slowed. This is why immersion is so widely prescribed. It forces you to be buried in the language and avoid large periods without practice.
Immersion is a great way to learn a language fast, but it is not essential. To learn Spanish quickly it is simply a case of applying the principles that make immersion so effective. These include daily practice, a high exposure to the language and avoiding downtime wherever possible.
But before you decide to immerse yourself remember to define what level you want to achieve and how quickly you want to achieve it.
It is only after you decide how good you want to be and how quickly, before you can take your second step on the journey fulfilling the dream of learning a second language.
The blog is for anybody that is willing to put some time and effort in to learn Spanish. It isn’t going to be easy but it is going to be fun and incredibly rewarding.
Before you read any more of this blog, take out a piece of paper and define what your language learning goals are. Put this in a safe place and refer back to it when you feel yourself losing focus.