Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. For Americans, it's the language of the closest foreign-language neighbor, but Spanish is present and very important on almost every continent on the planet.
Needless to say, there are many reasons to learn the Spanish language. People might want to learn Spanish for traveling, for doing business, for reading literature or simply for the challenge.
But how to go about learning Spanish?
Many people would assume that the best way is to enroll in a Spanish course or Spanish classes.
But is it?
Why I don't recommend learning Spanish in a classroom
Typically, in a classroom learning situation you would be 10-20 students and one teacher. In some cases there are even more (many more) students, but more concentrated courses with fewer students exist as well.
The teacher is usually the source of Spanish language input as well as the "editor". He or she will speak, converse and correct the students in the class.
Other than what I've mentioned, you'll usually get grammar explanations (in English), cultural input (also explained in English) exercises, quizzes and drills.
And lastly, often the language instructor will divide the students into groups where they're asked to discuss a topic in Spanish, do role-playing or something similar.
If you ask me, every single one of these things are ineffective for learning Spanish!
First of all: The teacher is the only one in the room who speaks Spanish fluently and with a native accent. 20 students are going to rely on one teacher for all their Spanish input. (At least all the input that they can realistically consider correct Spanish).
If the course lasts 2 hours, one time per week, that's 6 minutes of conversation time per week for each student. (And that's given that the course is entirely based on Spanish conversation which most classes aren't)
All the time spent conversing with your fellow students is bad news. You'll be listening to some form of Spanish - but it will not be very correct. And since you're not listening to a lot of native input, you run the risk of internalizing and getting used to your fellow students' mistakes.
Lastly, two hours per week, even if it was good quality time with a dedicated tutor, is not enough. When you come back a week later, you've forgotten most of what was covered the previous week.
Even though your homework helps a little, I recommend that you study around 30-60 minutes of Spanish every day to keep your Spanish alive and to really advance.
If you start doing this in your own time, you'll quickly realize that it's much more effective than your actual Spanish classes.
I don't recommend doing Spanish language classes. You can learn better and faster by yourself, and you wont be wasting a ton of money.
How long does it take to learn Spanish? That's an article I wrote about how long it takes to learn Spanish.
A few advantages with Spanish language classes
Like most things, Spanish classes aren't entirely bad.
Among the advantages of supplementing your Spanish studies with classes is the fact that you have a teacher at hand.
A teacher can be good for corrections. If you consistently make the same mistakes when speaking, it's nice to have them corrected by someone who can quickly see what's wrong.
A language course also helps keep you disciplined with your Spanish studies. If you paid to go to classes once a week for half a year, you've better show up, or your money will be wasted! And if you don't study by yourself, you won't advance a lot. So it's good encouragement.
And then there are the tests. Many courses will test you by the end and give you an official grade. These can be useful for CV's and applications. They're also good for measuring your own progress.
But you have to ask yourself - is it worth it?
Can't you be disciplined by yourself? And isn't there another way that you can get into contact with a Spanish speaking person who might want to correct you now and then?
Check out my article called "Why am I struggling to learn Spanish"
How can Spanish be self-studied?
There are many ways to go about learning Spanish by yourself.
I'm not going to get too much into detail, but here's briefly how I'd go about it:
Start by getting one or two Spanish beginner's textbooks.
I recommend that you do a lesson in each one every day. Do one in the morning and another one in the evening.
Why do I recommend doing two textbooks simultaneously?
Because you'll be covering the beginner's material from two different perspectives, allowing you to recognize words you've briefly touched upon in other contexts. This creates stronger memories in your brain than if you were to simply re-read the same lesson.
I've written an article specifically on the topic of attacking a language from multiple fronts, that you might want to read!
I've picked these two courses, because they're both based on dialogue. This is something that I've found works extremely well.
Assimil is my all-time favorite course for the beginner's stage.
It focuses strongly on the dialogue, and the grammar explanations and exercises are very limited. This is what I feel works best, because I believe that these things are best learned from habituation rather than intense study.
Teach Yourself is a little heavier on the grammar-side of things. This can be useful for reference, but don't spend too long on grammar in the beginning. You'll understand Spanish grammar by yourself later on.
When you've done roughly one third of the beginner's courses, I suggest that you start working daily with Glossika Spanish as well. I've written a separate article on Glossika here, that I recommend that you read.
And then there's reading! Reading, in my opinion, is the single most important activity that you can spend your time doing when self-studying Spanish. It's mostly for the intermediate stage and upwards, however.
But when you get there, you can apply what I've written in my article entitled How to learn Spanish by reading
Lastly, you might want to focus on conversing and writing. I like to do this with a tutor, but you can also try go looking for a pen-pal or a language exchange partner who is learning English or another language that you can help with!
What do you choose?
Wether Spanish language classes are for you or not is obviously for you to decide!
I do hope, however, that this article has been helpful for you in deciding which route to take. Are you going to self-study Spanish, take classes, or perhaps work with a combination of the two?
In case you choose the route of self-studying Spanish, you'll need some patience along the way.
While self-studies are more effective than classes, it can still take one or two years before you're really feeling fluent.
But it's not hard to learn Spanish on your own. If you're consistent with your studies, patient and keep at it, you'll be sure to get there!
My above description about self-studying Spanish is the short version!
I plan on writing a longer article going a little further into depth on the subject. But until then, if you have any questions or if you want any tips, feel free to write below!
I hope you've found this article helpful! If you have, don't hesitate to share it with other people who're also considering taking Spanish language classes!