Learning Spanish - how long will it take?


Studying a language is not like studying a subject at school or university over a semester. There is no set curriculum – it's a living, breathing language! So, when people ask me how long it will take them to learn Spanish, I ask them how long it took them to learn their first language. Think about it – how was your vocabulary in your first language at 5, 10, 20, and 30 years old?  Did you not continue to improve throughout your lives, the more you studied, the more you talked with others? Don’t you still learn new words whenever you read a new book, or hear a great speaker express something eloquently? What’s the definition of having ‘learnt’ anyway – being able to order food at a restaurant or getting up and delivering a fluent, spontaneous speech in front of native speakers?


The point is that becoming proficient in any language is a process of studying, practising and learning for a considerable period of time. That’s not to say you won’t be able to quickly pick up the essentials, it’s just that you will always keep improving your skills (despite what some language courses might promise – “fluent in a week” – sound familiar?).


My wife Louise has now been to Colombia three times, and her Spanish just gets better every time. However, she never gives up trying to improve. She continues reading, and writes down and repeats new words and expressions whenever she hears them (she often pulls out a small notebook and writes down things as we all sit around chatting). She loves to practise her Spanish with Spanish speakers whenever she can. She knows that mastering another language is an ongoing process, just like with one’s first language.


All of this is definitely not meant to alarm you – it’s meant to relax you. The more you relax and just realise that you will always continue to improve, the more likely you are to enjoy the journey of learning and really make the most out of it. The more likely you are to laugh when you make a mistake or forget how to say something, and get back up and try again. Just remember that  Spanish is not a destination, it’s not a race, it is a journey!


Julian Correcha - The Spanish Kangaroo


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