Spanish language milestones


Every day I listen to a chapter of an audiobook in Italian. The short stories that I read are usually 3 chapters, so it usually takes me 3 days to listen to an entire story. Then I usually listen to the story 2 to 5 times, before I completely understand it (and by “completely understanding it” I do not mean every word, I mean all of the important aspects of the story), so usually it takes me between 1 – 3 weeks to get through one short story.

A few days ago I listened to my first story all the way through. I was so captivated by the story from the first chapter that I had to listen to another one and then the third one. When I was finished I realized that I had listened to the entire story and understood everything (and again, with “everything” I don’t mean every single word, I mean all of the important concepts of the story) in just one shot! I was SO excited that I immediately shared my news with everyone I ran into that day!  

So why am I telling you this?  Because throughout my personal language learning journey I always think about our Spanish students and what they must go through. On this particular occasion I realized how important it is to celebrate the milestones. We often spend so much time worrying about vocabulary that we don’t know yet, mistakes that we make when we speak, tenses we don’t yet understand, etc., What we should be doing instead is celebrating the milestones, remembering how much joy learning a language can bring into our lives, thinking about the doors learning a language opens up for us, how much fun it is to learn a new funny or useful phrase, how interesting it is to learn the way another language expresses something, etc.

Today my request is that you take a moment to celebrate your Spanish language learning accomplishments. What have you experienced recently that made YOU giddy?


Sick of always being a beginner in Spanish?


Will I ever move past being a beginner in Spanish?

I would guess that I talk to 3 to 5 people every week that have been studying Spanish on and off for 10-20 years, who have never gotten past the beginner stage. If this is you, read on.

Learning a language takes time. There is no way around that unless you move to a foreign country for a year, where you actually live your entire life in that language. Since most of us don’t have that luxury, we need to fit language learning into our daily lives.

This is where it gets tricky. The majority of students usually start out strong, and then after a few months they take a break. Then a few months later, they come back to it, and then they take another break. This totally works, if you take breaks in the right places.

For example:
When you start to learn Spanish, you should not take a break until you are conversational at least on a basic level. You should be able to talk for 2-3 minutes, (even if you sound like a 3 year old) about basic every day things in your life, such as your family, your job, your hobbies, what you did last weekend , etc. If you’re taking classes with us, we recommend not taking a break until you have been in an A1 class for at least 3-6 months.

The next break should not come until you have reached an intermediate level. If you are taking classes with us, that would be when you have been in a B1 class for at least 3-6 months.

These are the only breaks I would recommend, if your goal is to get out of being a beginner. And even when you take breaks, Spanish should continue to be a part of your life in one way or another (maybe listening to podcasts, audiobooks, chatting with friends, journaling, whatever you want), and the breaks should not last more than 3 months.

I always say that learning a language is like working out. It should always be a part of your life, not a stop and start over again kind of thing, because just like with working out, when you take a long break, you can really feel how much muscle (Spanish) you have lost!

So if you are feeling frustrated that you’ve been a beginner for what feels like 100 years, stick with it until you are solid in a low intermediate level, and then you can consider taking a short break, but not before!