Over 572 million people speak Spanish worldwide, making it the second-most spoken language in the world (after Mandarin). Furthermore, according to recent data, only in the U.S, there are 40+ million native Spanish speakers and over 15 million people with some degree of knowledge of Spanish. If you scale that statistic worldwide, it is safe to say that Spanish seems like the right choice when choosing to learn a second language.
However, learning a new language is no easy task — especially as an adult. It requires a lot of effort and commitment on your part. But, do not be discouraged! There are plenty of effective memory methods that can help you along the way.
Below I will share seven of the top methods and techniques for Spanish learners:
Understand How to Use Words
The key to learning Spanish (and any other language) is to know when and how to use words. Meaning that you need to understand where it is appropriate to use specific words or expressions. In certain scenarios, it might be acceptable to use jargon that could be otherwise frown upon in formal instances.
For example, in Spain, you may hear someone say, “¡Esto es la hostia!”. And I can assure you, he/she is talking about anything but a communion wafer. Or you might come across ordinary words that can have a different connotation depending on the country you are in — even if there are all Spanish-speaking countries.
Thus, as you progress in your studies, you will inevitably notice that you are learning different words through use and context. Please take note of those words and expressions to ensure they stick in your memory.
Cognates refer to words that have a similar/exact spelling or the same meaning in two languages. In other words, cognates are expressions that are identical or very close in different languages. Spanish and English share many of these words, including:
• Accident / Accidente
• Banana / Banana
• Camera / Cámara
• Disaster / Desastre
• Idea / Idea
• Map / Mapa
• Object / Objeto
• Radio / Radio
• Traffic / Tráfico
As a result, cognates are the easiest of Spanish words to learn. Nonetheless, be aware of the so-called “false friends.” A false friend is an expression that appears to be a cognate but has an entirely different meaning. For example, ‘carpet’ and ‘carpeta’ or ‘éxito’ and ‘exit.’
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
It comes as no surprise that repetition is one of the best techniques for memorization. Thus, when trying to grasp a new language, practice definitely makes perfect! By repeating and regularly using words/phrases, you are forcing your brain to remember new concepts.
Additionally, repetition helps perfect pronunciation and intonation. Hence, you can use voice recordings to mimic what native speakers are saying or employ repetition by repeatedly writing words and sentences.
More so, studies show that this type of memorization technique allows students to get ready for tests, and it works similarly to help us retain new languages.
Entertain Your Senses
Many scientific studies have shown that we retain information better when learning through games or fun activities. Plus, millions of creative works, including books and movies, have traversed language barriers by being subtitled or translated in different languages.
Therefore, translated works are not only a way of expanding entertainment throughout different cultures but also a scientifically proven technique for enabling the memorization of foreign words.
There are plenty of things you can do to help you improve or learn Spanish, including:
• Reading a book, you have already read
• Listen to songs and jotting down the lyrics
• Watch a movie or television series without subtitles
• Playing a game through apps such as Duolingo, Busuu or Babbel that are specifically designed for language learning
Use Mnemonic Devices
Another old but handy technique is to employ mnemonic devices to help you remember words, meanings, and even expressions. Mnemonic devices come in many forms, from keyword relations and storylines to songs and visualizations. However, the best methods for language learning are generally keyword relations and visualizations.
The secret behind keyword memorization is to look for a word in your native language that can be related to a new concept in Spanish to create a mental connection. For example, if you want to learn the Spanish word for ‘cat,’ which is ‘gato,’ you may relate the word gate. To make it even more apparent, every time you hear the word ‘gato’ imagine a cat sitting on top of a gate.
Here, you are not only using keywords but also pictographic visualizations to create cognitive anchors. If you think this is a technique that you can exploit, there are plenty of online resources to help you develop these types of connections.
Develop Flash Cards/Lists
Flashcards are another practical method when learning a new language or trying to memorize foreign terms. Although it may seem dumb, it is incredibly helpful!
Think back to those preschool years where teachers used pictures with words underneath to teach you to read or to help you understand the meaning of certain things. In adults, this technique is proven to be equally helpful.
Therefore, if you are having trouble remembering or learning specific terms, try writing them down on colorful cards. And whenever you have time or are merely bored, go over them. Sooner than later, you will start to understand and remember those terms faster.
Last but not least, if you have the chance, the best way of becoming fluent in a new language is by immersion. Visiting a Spanish-speaking country or location can go a long way!
Furthermore, the immersion technique is genuinely effective due to its sense of urgency. If you are visiting a place where no one speaks your language, there is a sense of urgency because you must find a way of communicating with those around you.
Additionally, interacting with Spanish-speaking natives serves as a way of learning specific inflections or other nuances of the language that differ from their ‘textbook’ version.