Thursday, March 20, 2008

How difficult is it to study Spanish?

People often ask me if it's hard to study Spanish, or they simply say it is a tricky language to learn. However, the biggest problem for them is that they see this 'wall' (an unknown language) and think it's almost impossible for them to get around it, or that only smart people can learn Spanish or another language. The truth is, however, that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn, if your native tongue is a European language. But even if it isn't; you already know English (otherwise you wouldn't understand this post) and English and Spanish share the same alphabet and other nice things (the spelling of Spanish is nothing compared to English; they came up with a 'concept' where you spell the things how you say them. [sarcasm]WOW![/sarcasm]). According to Khatzumoto (yeah, sorry, I like the way he thinks. And he is just right regarding a lot of things) it's possible for everyone to learn Japanese, so why wouldn't you be able to learn Spanish?

So how is it possible that people study Spanish for years and years, and that they're still not able to have even the simplest conversations? It's just a matter of choosing the wrong approach. A lot of people use textbooks with artificial conversations, old words, boring content, etc., etc. Textbooks are expecting someone to know a rule by heart by just seeing three examples, or force people to learn out-of-context words. So it's not that Spanish is difficult, that's what some people want you to believe. Just look to some of the advantages you have as a speaker of the English language:

It has the same alphabet, is spelled phonetically, has some of the easiest sounds to produce, has a clear grammar, not many hard-to-pronounce words, etc., etc. So far I can see it's pretty easy to study Spanish. The only thing that lacks most of the time, is that people believe they can't do it. Why would say if it's impossible if you didn't even try?

So, the biggest hurdle to take is to say to yourself: I. Can. Do. It. NOW! And instead of just saying it and then doing nothing, start acting like you can do it. Gather materials, USE them and you'll see Spanish really is one of the easlier languages to master. "Ahhhhh, sure Ramses. I can start studying Spanish, but my accent will suck anyway, I will never master the grammar or idioms and I will NEVER have a big vocabulary" you might say. Nonsense, I will say. Just go, study, enjoy the language. Enjoy your progress, enjoy hanging out with Spanish people. Enjoy each and every thing you do in Spanish, enjoy using Spanish. Just say to yourself: I can do it, and I WILL succeed and master Spanish to the point where I can say it's my second (or third) native language. It's not that hard, it's perfectly possible.


Jeffrey Hayes said...

This is definitely true...I still have a tough time even believing that I CAN become fluent in Spanish. Sometimes I see other people who are fluent in more than two languages and I get so discouraged, but by investing time and utilizing good resources will get you one step closer to fluency in another language. One of the difficult parts is choosing the right resources and using the right methodology. I graduated from college last year, and I think "wow, no more Spanish classes"...but that doesn't mean the learning has to end there! Thanks for the motivation :)

Rmss said...

Were you majoring Spanish?

This morning I was working on a post regarding resources, little bit of a coincidence you just mentioned it :).

Jeffrey Hayes said...

Yeah...I majored in Spanish and International Studies. Studied in Granada, Spain as well. What kind of resources were you looking to write about?

Rmss said...

Well, I want to recommend some stuff to people. And also want to point out how it can be used fully, without spending too much money.

So if you have tips for resources; tell me!

Aidan said...

I agree with you that Spanish is relatively easy but it is does get very difficult when you move beyond the basics. It is very hard to use the correct form of the pst tense and employing the subjunctive consistently and correctly is a major challenge.
All in all I think that it easy to reach a conversational level of Spanish but progression is steadily more difficult without living in an immersion environment.
My favourite resource is Punto y Coma magazine. It has articles in Spanish with an English glossary and a CD with every issue where the articles are read out word for word. Check it out

Rmss said...

Well, doesn't any language get harder along the road? I've been studying Russian, and it is really diffuclt aswell. Not only the writing system, the soft and hard sounds aswell (and the different ways to pronounce a letter), along with the complex grammar.

You need to turn a switch in order to perfectly master a new language. But if you do, the reward will be inmense.

I'll check out the link by the way.