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5 Most Common Mistakes That Beginners Make When Learning Spanish

Taking on a new language on your own volition takes courage. I started learning Spanish 15 years ago when I was 12 years old. I didn't know where to start or how to go about doing things. I just had a burning desire to learn. I reached fluency after a couple years, but I know that I could have learned faster if I had more guidance. My goal with this article is to give you that guidance that I wish I had and to steer you in the right direction, so that you can create good habits that get results from the beginning. Below are the 5 most common mistakes that beginners make when learning Spanish.

1. Focusing too much on time

Problem: It always surprises me that the most frequently asked question that I receive from Spanish learners is, "Rickie, how long did it take you to become fluent in Spanish?" I have a lot of knowledge of the Spanish language, but people choose to focus on time rather than that knowledge. Maybe it is due to the addiction to instant gratification of society these days, but it is the wrong question to ask. It is a great thing to set goals, and to set deadlines when learning a language, but these goals have to be based off of yourself and your own experience as opposed to someone else who has already done it.

Solution: If you want to focus on a timeline, focus on how many words you can learn in a week. Focus on how well you would like to be able to speak 3 months from now. The most important thing involving time is that you should be improving every single day. When learning a language, it's like the tortoise and the rabbit. Slow and steady wins the race.

2. Lack of structure 

Problem: This pertains more to those who decide to take the route that I took and learn Spanish on their own. I have found that many people just don't know where to begin, or if they do know where to begin, they don't know where to go after that. These people tend to get themselves into a mess that is hard to get out of.

Solution: You need to have structure when learning a language. How do you find structure? You can search for free Spanish learning syllabuses on google. My method of choice was to use Spanish vocabulary and grammar books to guide me through the language. I found it best to focus on one aspect of grammar and combine that with a category of vocabulary at the same time. For example, if I was learning the imperative form (commands) for grammar, I would learn the vocabulary for doing chores and create sentences where I would be giving commands about which chores to do. You can use any combination you'd like, but structure is needed, so don't sleep on it.

3. Relying too much on your teacher

Problem: It seems that many people do not understand the true role of a teacher. There is a saying that says, "I can prepare your food for you, but I can't chew and swallow it for you." Language learners need to understand this and learn to apply what they are taught and expand on it.  Teachers give you the tools that you need in order to succeed, but it is up to you to use those tools.

Solution: In order to learn Spanish, and learn it quickly, you should take more responsibility for your learning do your best to get a head of the game. Study things that your teacher is not teaching yet. If you have a syllabus, then use that as your guide for structure, while using the book and other resources to focus on that. If you do not have a syllabus, learn more about the topic that your teacher is teaching since the teacher is most likely not going as in depth as they could. Come to class with questions. This will teach you to not focus on a grade, but rather on learning the language for fluency.

4. Doubting yourself

Problem: Thinking too hard about messing up and the fear of looking "stupid" hinder a lot of beginners from achieving good progression. Get out of your head! I come across so many people who know how to say things in Spanish, but stay quiet in conversation, because they second guess themselves. If you are to afraid to take risks, you will never reach your full potential.

Solution: I don't think anyone who is learning a language is dumb, but to put it in to terms of how my students have thought in the past, I offer you this advice, "Looking dumb to get smart is better than looking smart while only staying dumb." Don't worry about looking dumb.  We are conditioned to not make mistakes since childhood, but the most successful people will tell you that mistakes are only lessons that make you better. Embrace your errors. Be bold, and speak without fear.

Honorable mention

Many beginners use online translators like, or the one provided by google when they want to create long text messages. This does not help you. Using translators hinders growth. If you really wish to succeed, you have to learn to generate your own sentences and phrases. If you cannot do it all yet don't worry. Trust the process and continue to grow, but don't resort to using online translators.

5. Not taking notes during lessons

Problem: Maybe it's because we are in a world full of technology, but lately, I have come into contact with students who come to our sessions without a notebook, a pen/pencil, or a tablet to record their notes. Studies show that we remember about 20% of what is said in a conversation, and this is why notes are so important. There are some people who do not prefer pen and paper notes, (which I believe are the best) but there are always other ways to take notes on our electronic devices. Without notes, it is almost impossible to review the material you have learned unless you have your own vocabulary an grammar books.

Solution: Take good notes that will truly help you to understand what you are learning. Review your notes frequently and then apply what is learned through reading, writing, speaking and listening. Notes are also good for you to see how far you have come, so that you can be motivated to continue. If you are serious about learning a language, you MUST have notes.

My Favorite Vocabulary Books

Here are the books that I used to master Spanish vocabulary! Buy yours from Amazon now by clicking on an image below. You won't regret it!

My Favorite Grammar Books

Master Spanish grammar with the same books I used. Click on one of the books below to purchase yours on Amazon now! It's how I became fluent and you can too!


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