How to learn Spanish: the four pillars


Believe me, there are no secret formulas or shortcuts on how to learn Spanish.

There are only three true facts:

1. The more you practice the better you get.

2. Little practice, little improvement.

3. No practice, no improvement at all.

As simple as:

1 + 1 = 2

0 + 0 = 0

I use this sentence a lot with my clients: “learning foreign languages is a matter of time, practice and dedication“.

And such practice and dedication must be supported by the 4 pillars, which can be complemented with other recommendations to improve your Spanish.


Well, I don’t think that system exists neither to learn Spanish nor English or any other language on earth.

Learning foreign languages is a matter of… what do I usually say to my clients? Yep: time, practice and dedication. And that’s neither funny nor cool all the time.

The key is on putting into practice the 4 pillars I’m about to share with you, which are based on my own experience learning English.


(Tempted to buy it, right?)


Do you believe you can learn a language in a few weeks?

Do you think you can assert that you speak Spanish after taking a 1000-word learning system course?

And what about that set of 3 CDs somebody gave you at Christmas to learn on your own? Will that be effective?

You know what I’m talking about. Let’s get into serious things 😉


1. Write it up!

I know, writing with no goal can be boring. I remember myself the first months in the USA copying sentences and smalls texts with the only purpose of memorizing words. That did not work for me.

Instead, my English took off when I joined the “Peoria Adult Education Center” in Peoria, Illinois (I owe lots of articles to this lovely US city).

In your case you could try to join a Spanish school. A few hours a day would be ideal. Writing in Spanish through exercises will dramatically reinforce the language in your mind.


(The school where I learned English for a whole year, in Peoria, Illinois, USA – Image taken from Google Maps)

2. Read that Spanish stuff more often

You have to do this every single day as well and I’m not talking about billboards, shop signs, menus at restaurants and things like that.

You must read heavy artillery: books, magazines, articles, newspapers. A good way to start out would be children books. They manage a simplistic language that will help you out to learn Spanish.


(Reading Spanish road signs won’t improve much your Spanish either – Image taken from Google Maps)

3. Watch TV in Spanish

Although I don’t watch TV at all since February 2012, I’d go back to the old bad habits if I lived in a foreign country with the sole purpose of improving the language.

If you move to Spain, in the beginning you will be tempted to contract some TV channels in your own language. Forget it! Be strong. Resist temptation.

Your ear must get used to the Spanish language. We have a lot of different accents in Spain; same as in your own country.

Finally, as in your own language, depending on the education level or the person, the language will sound and will be spoken one way or another. And the TV is a good source to learn those different versions of the language.

4. Put your Spanish into real action

Take a course on something different than Spanish language (but in Spanish, of course). Join clubs, associations, etc.

I know it’s easy to say this: “don’t be shy”. I’ve been speaking English at different levels since 2000 and I still make mistakes. That’s not a problem. As long as you try and express yourself sometimes it is enough.

Also Spaniards are not closed people. On the contrary, most local Spanish cultures are friendly overall. It will not take you long to meet new people, if you are willing to do it.


(Wrong attitude if you really wanna learn Spanish)


In order to improve your Spanish language, the right way, you must cover the four basic skills: speaking, listening, writing and reading. No mistery.

And it’s not about taking this or that course. It’s a “lifetime commitment”. As a non-Spanish speaking you’ll be learning forever. I feel this way with my English.

Maybe one day they’ll be able to plug in a cable to our heads (like Matrix, the movie) to speak a language with no effort. In the meantime, we gotta keep doing it handmade.


(Learning Spanish the Matrix way… really?)

Dedicate if you can a few hours a day of your free time to work out the four skills. In one year, I want you to call me speaking Spanish. Or at least send me an email in Spanish :-)


Image credit: Peter P., Sourabh Rath, Jimmy Changa


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