Spanish is widely considered to be one of the world’s most prevalent and useful languages in the world. The language itself is the second most spoken across the globe as well as within the United States.
As such, this specific Spanish language has the potential to boarded the opportunities and improve the lifestyle of millions of individuals.
International relations have profoundly influenced the job market and, as such, created a long-term demand for foreign language skills. Spanish is one such language in demand, being the official language in 20 countries worldwide.
Constant economic growth within Latin American countries due to the rich raw materials trade has pushed the Spanish language on an even more global scale. As it stands, there are close to 530 million Spanish speakers that cannot go ignored by companies.
As such, international banking and marketing roles often call upon this language skillset regarding understanding Hispanic demographics and cultural values. This, in turn, allows for companies to cater services towards consumer needs.
For many, Spanish comprehension enhances their ability to interact within their communities. Within the United States, there are large pockets of Latin American communities and families, requiring that thousands of government workers and healthcare professionals have some ability to comprehend their language.
Translators are too few and far between, increasing the need for proper Spanish comprehension. Also, the Spanish language itself has become a significant economic resource.
Spanish learning and by extension, Spanish teaching has seen a rise in demand from the United States, European Union, and China, as their businesses are seeking to venture into Latin America and Spain.
Given the current climate we live in, Spanish is only becoming more and more relevant as a valuable skill set to learn.
Spanish derives from its ancestral form, Old Spanish, having deep roots in spoken Latin from Iberia after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. Over the next centuries, a written system was created from the 13th to 16th centuries. From then, Spain developed into its state.
Since then, the language gained widespread usage through the Spanish Empire’s colonialism into the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and the Philippines in the 16th century. Thus, this is where we see many modern instances of Spanish usage.
Within the United States, there are approximately 41 million native Spanish speakers and another 11.6 million bilingual speakers. This is due in large part to mass immigration over time from Latin American countries.
From these numbers alone, Spanish is highly sought after language skill for not only communication but also in the realm of job markets within the United States. If you wish to incorporate this essential language into your lingo, one must first understand it's critical components and seek professional education.
The Spanish Alphabet
The basic components of any language are of course the alphabet system. Spanish employs 27 letters in the similar vein of English. The vowels consist of a, e, i, o, and u while consonants are b (be), c (ce), d (de), f (EFE), g (ge), h (hache), j (jota), k (ka), l (ele), m (eme), n (ene), ñ (eñe), p (pe), q (cu), r (erre), s (ese), t (te), v (uve), w (uve doble), x (equis), y (ye), and z (zeta).
Pronunciation in Spanish is a fairly simple affair for native English speakers given the similarities in its structure. However, there exists some variation of individual pronunciations of letters that English speakers should be cognizant of j, h, b, v, g, c, ch, ll, and ñ.
The h in Spanish is entirely silent. B and v have similar phonetic sounds but are together pronounced slightly differently given specific instances. If the letter b or v is placed at the beginning of a word, the sound is that of an English b.
If the letters happen to be anywhere other than the first letter of the word, one must make a sound as if to sound out an English b except the lips touching together.
The letter j is pronounced with an English h sound from the throat. The letter g pronunciation is also circumstantial. If it is followed by an e or I letter, the g is made to sound with an English h sound. If the g is followed by an a or u letter, it is pronounced with a “guh” sound.
The letter c has two manners of pronunciation as well. If the letter is followed by an e or I letter, it is pronounced with as z. However, if it is followed by an a, o, or u letter, it is made to sound as a k (such as kilo in English).
The ch combination is pronounced as “charity” in English. The ll combination makes an English y sound. Lastly, the ñ letter has an accent of a ny sound.
Here are some important tips of Spanihs grammar if you are trying to learn Spanish:
The Spanish language is a heavily inflected one, meaning it is subject to changes in wording based upon tenses, gender, numbers, and mood. Nouns, in particular, are often divided by a two-gender system of masculine and feminine connotations ("El niño" or "la niña," "the boy" or "the girl").
Spanish adjectives are used similarly to English but do include three main differences. Adjectives in Spanish usually appear after the noun they are modifying. For example, "mi bicicleta Roja" would translate to "my red bike."
Secondly, the adjectives must agree with the quantity of the noun as well as the gender modifier. The "red glass" would become "el vaso Rojo" in Spanish.
Lastly, Spanish adjectives can at times be used to stand in for a noun or pronoun. For example, "El Gigante" can roughly mean "the giant one."
Verbs in Spanish are defined by infinitive endings such as –ar, -er and –ir. So the word "hacer" would mean "to do, to make," and the ending "-er" can be conjugated based upon nine tenses: present tense, preterite, imperfect, present perfect, past perfect, future tense, future perfect, conditional, and conditional perfect.
The present tense of a verb, as the name implies, tells of an action taking place in the present.
For the conjugation options of the verb hacer, it would become yo hago (I do), tú haces (you go), él/ella/usted hace (he/she/it does), nosotros hacemos (we do), vosotros hacéis (you (informal) all do), and ellos/ellas/utedes hacen (they/ you (formal) all do).
Another variation is the present perfect tense that expresses an event taking place in the past but having present consequences. For example, “I have done the homework” becomes “Yo he hecho la tarea ayer”.
The conjugations are as listed (in the same order as before): he hecho, has hecho, ha hecho, hemos hecho, habéis hecho, and han hecho.
There are three main past tense variations. The first being the preterite tense
The preterite refers to actions that took place in the past and have been completed. For instance, “I did the homework yesterday” or “Yo hice la tarea ayer”. The conjugations are hice (I did), hiciste (you did), hizo (he/she/it did), hicimos (we did), hicisteis (you all did), hicieron (they all/you all did).
The second is the imperfect tense in which actions that have occurred in the past are still ongoing or subject to change. "You used to do good works" can be translated to "Hacían ustedes Buenas obras" Conjugations for this variation are hacía, hacías, hacía, hacíamos, hacíais, and hacían.
The third is the past perfect or pluperfect tense, which refers to an action taking place at before a time in the past. So “I had done the homework” becomes “Yo había hecho la tarea”. Conjugations are as follows: había hecho, habías hecho, había hecho, habíamos hecho, habíais hecho, and habían hecho.
Similar to the past tense, there exist variations of future tenses in the form of regular future and future perfect.
Future regular refers to actions that are predicted to happen in later events such as “I will do the homework” or “Yo estaré haciendo la tarea”. The conjugations are estaré haciendo, estarás haciendo, estará haciendo, estaremos haciendo, estaréis haciendo, and estarán haciendo.
The second variation is the future perfect tense, which refers to an action that will have been completed at some point in the future. In this instance, I "will have done the homework" or "habré hecho la tarea". The forms are habré hecho, habrás hecho, habrá hecho, habremos hecho, habréis hecho, and habrán hecho.
Conditional tenses are variations of verbs that are based on specific moods or conditions. The conditional simple form would be "I would do the homework" or "haría la tarea". The conjugations are haría, harías, haría, haríamos, haríais, harían.
The last variation is the conditional perfect which describes an action in the past that would have happened but did not because of some event. “I would have done the homework…” becomes “habría hecho la tarea…” The conjugations are habría hecho, habrías hecho, habría hecho, habríamos hecho, habríais hecho, and habrían hecho.
So What’s The Best Way To Learn Spanish
While there are many effective avenues to take in learning Spanish, perhaps the most cost-effective and time-efficient path would be through online applications.
In person, classes are great for one to one interactions and instant feedback, but similar experiences can be gained from various online platforms and can be done so based on your specific needs and schedule.
In many ways, online learning platforms can capture similar classroom learning experience through intuitive application design and modern technology.
Audio recordings and lessons are powerful language learning tools due in large part to the fact they allow the student to hear correct pronunciations and to learn at their own pace.
Modern-day listening devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops can enable the students to practice their speaking skills at virtually any point during their day.
Many Spanish learning podcasts, whether through independent language learning sites or popular platforms such as Youtube, are even free of charge! Spanish educational podcasts are usually broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
The instructors involved in these lessons are usually bilingual speakers who are actively suited to both translate meanings as well as relate to the listener. These are primarily geared towards English speakers given the full range of appeal the language holds for this audience.
This essentially means that native English speakers will be spoiled for choices regarding the sheer amount of different Spanish learning podcast lessons available.
Mobile phone applications can also enhance an individual's language learning experience. In a similar vein to audio lessons, mobile apps can take advantage of the portable nature of modern-day devices and allow the user to receive quality tutoring lessons at their own time and pace.
The advantage here is, of course, the visual and audio features of mobile applications. Many apps incorporate audio lessons, visual cues (such as flashcards and pictures), as well as quizzes and mini-games. This all serves to make the process of language learning both fun and educational for the user.
Another perk of a mobile application is the fact it becomes a useful everyday tool in communication. It is known the best way to become fluent in any language is converse regularly with native speakers.
To further enhance this interaction and learning experience, many mobile apps featured dictionaries and direct word translations. Finding the right word or phrase for a specific circumstance can often be done in a matter of seconds using a mobile app.
A key component of effective language retention is the continued practice of said language. Having a mobile app that can be used at any time allows the user to constantly challenge his/her knowledge even when not in a formal classroom setting or conversing with native speakers.
Another robust online tool is the simple language learning website. Similar to audio lessons and mobile apps, many Spanish language learning sites are free of charge but provide an immense wealth of resources.
In many cases, language sites can combine the best of both worlds of mobile applications and audio podcasts.
Websites that are specifically catered towards language education are incredibly comprehensive regarding grammatical rules, pronunciation, vocabulary, and even cultural influences within the language use (such as slang).
Mobile applications and audio podcasts can provide convenience during a busy schedule, but often this sacrifices quality and depth of the Spanish learning experience. Especially for beginners, it is essential to have a firm grasp of fundamentals of both oral and written grammar and vocabulary.
Audio lessons by the nature of its medium are ill-suited for building writing skills and reading comprehension in foreign languages. Mobile applications are better served by building upon previously established knowledge through quick, easily digestible lessons and games.
As such, websites offer a platform of easy to follow lesson structures that are both intuitive and extensively informative.
Sites often integrate the use of audio pronunciation of words, voice-over narration of lessons, vocabulary mini-games and quizzes, and even full-on timed exams to further compliment their lessons.
A unique feature of many language learning sites is the ability of near-instantaneous feedback. Graded assignments and exams can help gauge individual performance within each lesson.
Online forums allow for students to consult directly with expert Spanish speakers in regards to specific questions (circumstantial language usage, cultural specific slangs in various Hispanic countries, appropriate grammar usage, etc.).
Proper writing mechanics can only be achieved through practice, something that websites can foster through written assignments and consultation with experts.
The portability factor also is not sacrificed given that many language learning websites have mobile browser versions for the use of smartphones and tablets.
The sheer amount of combined features an abundance of information within language learning sites is often considered the best way to learn Spanish online for many.
How Long Does It Typically Take To Learn Spanish
The US Foreign Service Language Institute has estimated that it takes the average individual close to 480 hours of classroom-based instruction to be a proficient speaker. This, of course, does not take into consideration outside influences.
In most cases, language learning is highly contingent on many factors such as location, native speaker population density, interest, primary language use, and availability of time.
Regardless if you are in a classroom setting or not, some hours you're willing to commit per day determine the rate in which you will learn the material. This goes beyond spending time in a Spanish 101 class or working in an assigned textbook.
It refers to how much you’re willing to spend on conversing, writing, reading, and listening to Spanish in an everyday setting. This can be in the form of the above mentioned audio podcast listening or attempting to order food at a Mexican restaurant.
Simply put, spending four hours a day of immersive learning means the individual is learning four times as fast, regardless of a formal classroom. The best resource in the world cannot force an individual to become a fluent speaker.
The level of difficulty in learning a foreign language is heavily determined by what the individual's base language is. Given that English shares, many of the same Roman alphabet and pronunciations with Spanish, Americans, and Brits are more likely to adapt to this new system.
Approximately 30% to 40% of all words in English are in some way related to Spanish. Additionally, sentence structure, except adjective placement, is very similar. Given this knowledge, English speakers should feel right at home learning Spanish as compared to non-Latin and non-Germanic languages.
General Cultural Interest And Native Speakers
While not a game breaker, having a passion and deep understanding for the given language’s cultural roots further enhances the learning process. Genuine love for a culture sparks motivation within the student to actively become part of said culture.
Hispanic countries are incredibly diverse in both genetic makeup and cultural practices. As such, this diversity alone should have something to offer everyone seeking to immerse themselves in language learning.
By extension to Hispanic culture are the native Spanish speakers. Your location in the world will largely determine your access to interact with fluent Spanish speakers and thus influence your ability to learn effectively.
Countries such as the above mentioned United States, Philippines, and close to the entirety of South and Central America will have no shortage of native speakers. However, in many parts of East Asia and Eastern Europe for instance, this may present a problem.
Being thrust into everyday situations in which you will be more likely to use your Spanish speaking skills can make all the difference in how quickly you internalize words and phrases. Formal lessons are theory, but interactions become practical language application.
Spanish Is Essential And Everywhere
Hopefully, by now you've gained a deeper appreciation of the value and beauty of the Spanish language. The language itself shares many connections with other centuries-old civilizations and cultures; to the point that now it is the second most prevalent language in the world.
Whether you’re seeking to make meaningful gains in the job market, connect with your ancestral roots, meet new people, travel to across the world, or simply trying to have fun, the Spanish language can expand new horizons in both experiences and opportunities.
To fully comprehend such a rich language, it is highly recommended that prospective Spanish speakers consult with the language mentioned above learning websites for the best way to learn Spanish online.
Spanish learning sites are often free of charge, comprehensive in information, flexible to changing schedules, widely accessible on different devices and platforms, as well as easy to use. Sites can combine the convenience factor of other online options without the loss of depth in information.
Using such a powerful resource comes at no cost to you and serves only to enhance your Spanish speaking journey.