I Tried to Learn Spanish in 30 days4 min read
Hola, soy Zach. For the next thirty days, I am going to try to learn Spanish, because, why not?
What’s the best way to learn Spanish? I have no idea, and I didn’t do any research, which is very unlike me. I just jumped into the first resource I saw Xioma use which was Storylearning. I then found a language exchange group of lessons and, of course, Duolingo.
1. Duolingo + Language Exchange + Stories (Day 1-3)
For the first couple of days I decided to use Duolingo, a couple lessons language exchange on Soundcloud, and a website that helps you learn Spanish with stories (story learning).
I quickly realized Duolingo was an absolute waste of time. It was too easy and too slow. I wanted to commit hardcore, like at least 4 hours a day hardcore, to learning Spanish because, oh yeah, on day four of my Spanish learning journey, I’ll be flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2. Moving to A Spanish Speaking Country
On the plane to Buenos Aires, I remember an English-speaking flight attendant was trying to ask a Spanish Speaking person to wait until the other people passed. The flight attendant kept walking away, and the person followed her. Finally, with my newfound exceptional Spanish, I had to step in. This was my first interaction with a native Spanish speaker, I remember I said, “Nececitas esperar.” She said, “porque,” followed by the fastest Spanish speaking I had ever heard in my life. I gave the classic, “disculpe, por mi Espanol, solo hablo un poco…” and whipped out google translate to finalize our conversation.
However, after this interaction, I learned I desperately needed more interactions with native Spanish speakers. Luckily I was headed to my first formal class, in the city of Buenos Aires.
3. Formal Classes and Full Integration
The formal classes were tough initially but then became fairly easy. It was mostly grammar and a bit of vocabulary, but what I found the most helpful was everyone only spoke in Spanish. I think I was put into A1. The most basic level.
I wanted more, though. I needed more. To have better interactions with the local people and culture, and so at restaurants, they don’t always say, “Quieres menu en Inglese?” My dream was to go to a restaurant, sit down, and make it through the whole thing without them realizing I was an English-speaking tourist.
So, my classes were from 9 am to 1 pm, I decided to add additional “private” lessons on Baselang, which were hugely helpful. These were Zoom sessions with a native Spanish speaker that would also teach me specific things. This is where my Spanish took on a new level. Private lessons were hugely helpful, and if I redid learning, I would have started these immediately.
Regarding the goal of learning Spanish, the sooner I jumped into speaking with a Native speaker, the sooner I would have learned Spanish. Writing down important words and memorizing those words like “so, maybe, therefore, sometimes, that, thing, more, less, very,” and many others and then integrating that into speaking as soon as possible was extremely helpful.
If I were going to rank ways to learn a new language, it would be speaking to a native speaker as much as possible >> formal private lessons > memorizing key vocabulary > conjugating common verbs in the present > practicing advanced conjugation, grammar, and vocabulary > listening or reading as much content in that language as possible. The great thing about getting to a certain basic ability in Spanish is that you can start to interact with the Spanish world. Spanish TV, Spanish Tik Toks, Spanish sports, etc. If I had another month, I know my Spanish would get dramatically better because, unlike the first couple of weeks, I could understand maybe 50% of what was going on as opposed to 10%. I would watch La Casa Del Papel, go to Futbol matches, and hang out more with my Argentinian Amigos.
After three weeks of formal classes from 9-1 (I was now at the intermediate level), and 1-2 hours of private lessons every day after classes, and, the most crucial part, living and speaking in a Spanish-speaking country, I saw the beautiful potential in learning a new language.
4. Final Thoughts
I was having full-on conversations with people! Of course, they were abysmal and mostly only in the present tense; differentiating between perfect past (camine) and imperfect past (caminaba) was still pretty much impossible for me. However, I could communicate! I was able to meet and get to know people who only spoke Spanish. Every native speaker was so happy that I was trying to speak Spanish and helpful! My only bad interaction was with a bus driver who eventually got fed up with me and told me to move forward! (“Adelante!”)
I was translating occasionally for my very novice Spanish-speaking friends at restaurants, and the best part was seeing a side of Buenos Aires I would have never seen without these new Spanish speaking abilities. It was like a new part of my brain unlocked. An unknown unknown was revealed and became a known unknown. A part of my brain was unlocked not only because Buenos Aires is a passionate, beautiful, vibrant, welcoming, and diverse city but also because I had never spoken any other language before. Why didn’t I do this sooner?