The WORST Way to Learn Spanish (NEVER Do This!)

The WORST Way to Learn Spanish (NEVER Do This!)

Queridos amigos (dear friends), you won’t believe how many people I see struggling to learn a language… only because they’re using a method that frankly just doesn’t work. 

So, in this article, I’m going to show you why most apps, teachers, and even textbooks are teaching you Spanish in a way that leaves you tongue-tied and frustrated (among other things)! 

And while I do this, soy tan buena en esto (I’m so good at this), that I’ll show you an alternative method too! One that bypasses grammar and translating in your head… an alternative that we’ve been (not so) secretly using here at Spring Spanish and that you can start using right away!

This is How Most People Learn Spanish

Paso 1 / Step 1

“Just learn a lot of words”… Some people say that by knowing the 1000 most frequent Spanish words, you’ll understand 85% of Spanish.

Paso  2 / Step 2

Learn some grammar and use it to piece sentences together. Then, just do grammar drills until you get it right. Over and over again… ¡Sin parar! (Don’t stop!)

Paso 3 / Step 3

Este es mi favorito (This is my favorite)…

“Start speaking Spanish from day one! People will understand you! You’ll get over your fear of speaking! You’ll learn and soon you’ll start speaking fluently!”

¿Has escuchado estos consejos antes? (Have you heard this advice before?) Y lo más importante (most importantly), have you been learning languages like this? You probably have. If so, you can also confirm that this just doesn’t work well. 

Here’s why this is the WORST advice…

EVEN if, in the best-case scenario, you get over tu miedo de hablar (your fear of speaking) and you manage to memorize some Spanish words, you might’ve noticed that when you try speaking, incluso si sabes palabras y reglas gramaticales (even if you know words and grammar rules), it takes you ages to construct sentences! 

You go blank… you’re trying to translate in your head… y te sientes torpe (and you feel clumsy). Most of the time you don’t even understand what natives are saying… even if you memorized the 1000 most frequently used words.

Why Doesn’t This Approach Work?

Well, because you simply don’t know what a natural, correct Spanish sentence looks like… yet! 

Pregúntale a cualquier hablante nativo (ask any native speaker)! The way they talk with each other can’t be fully broken down into abstract grammar and vocabulary: that’s just a categorization linguists created. Languages are not math! 

It’s like having all the ingredients para un pastel delicioso (for a delicious cake), and even a step-by-step recipe to bake something like this, but you end up baking something que se ve y sabe (that looks and tastes) more like… a ruined cake!

I’m sure you’ve felt like that before! You have probably tried to say something in Spanish and then thought, “Was that correct Spanish?! or “Did I just throw some words together with some dubious grammar?” ¡Vamos, admítelo! (Come on! Admit it!) You’ve thought that before, right?

Here’s where it gets dangerous…

To make up for your lack of knowledge of what Spanish looks like beyond words and grammar rules, you’ll be trying to make sentences with the only frame of reference your brain already has: English sentences —or whichever language you speak if English is not your mother tongue.

Lo que significa (which means) you’re literally translating English sentences palabra por palabra (word-for-word) into Spanish. Seguro lo has hecho antes, ¿verdad? (You’ve done that before, right?) I mean, thinking in English and trying to translate into Spanish?

This obviously leads to tons of mistakes and, sometimes, natives don’t even understand what you are trying to say. You’re basically inventing your own version of Spanish based on some words, some grammar you’ve half-forgotten already, and your English.

Y estos errores son pegajosos (and these mistakes are sticky)!… VERY sticky! In lack of an alternative, they get imprinted on your brain (they literally “fossilize”)… and it’s super difficult to get rid of them later on.

No suena bien, ¿verdad? (That doesn’t sound good, does it?)

The Alternative: Conversation Based Chunking

Now, quick poll: who wants to have a fossilized brain, making beginner mistakes all their life?

If there’s an alternative that can help you have fluent, natural Spanish sentences roll off your tongue and impress native speakers, you’d choose the alternative, wouldn’t you?

Well, here’s how that alternative works… You don’t HAVE to invent brand-new Spanish sentences with words and grammar rules.

Millions of native speakers out there are speaking Spanish every single day, in full, natural, correct sentences without having to think about the grammar behind them (por cierto, más de eso en un minuto / by the way, more on that in a minute). 

You’re not the first person trying to say “tengo frío or tengo hambre or quiero unos tacos” (I’m cold, or I’m hungry, or I want some tacos). 

The good news: you can just tap into the sentences that native speakers use to sound like a native speaker yourself.

And even better news… 

If you listen carefully to WHAT native speakers say and HOW they say it, the EXACT word combinations they use (linguists call them “chunks”) and then start using these exact SAME word combinations (or again, chunks) while speaking Spanish, there will be no mistakes that can be imprinted and “fossilized” in your brain! The only thing that gets imprinted or fossilized is the chunks in correct, natural Spanish!

Eso ya suena mucho mejor, ¿verdad? (That sounds much better already, right?) Wouldn’t you prefer having correct, native-like Spanish fossilized in your brain?

Hay algunos beneficios más de aprender español de esta manera (There are some more benefits to learning Spanish like this), you won’t need to remember grammar! Después de todo (After all), if you’ve heard someone say it correctly, and you say the exact same thing, sabes que lo que estás diciendo es correcto (you KNOW what you’re saying is correct). 

Here’s the best news: I (and the other Spring Spanish teachers) have been secretly teaching you Spanish that way… through chunks!

Chunking Examples

If you watch one of my older videos about the the days of the week in Spanish, where I said “Odio los lunes”, which means “I hate Mondays”, but if literally translated, it would say “I hate THE Mondays”.

How would you know that you have to add los in Spanish? Bueno, no lo sabes (well, you don’t)! There’s no grammar rule for it, at least not that I’m aware of…

So, your “words and grammar brain” would make you say “Odio lunes” (I hate Mondays), which is literally translated from English. 

That mistake would then get fossilized in your brain… Lo seguirías diciendo (you would keep saying it) and no matter how often people may try to correct you, it would be really difficult to stop saying it.

Afortunadamente para ti (luckily for you), you’ve SEEN and HEARD that native speakers say “Odio los lunes”. So, you know that’s correct AND you can say it yourself too without even thinking about it.

Would you agree with me that you can speak correct Spanish like this without even knowing the grammar rule behind it? ¡Claro que sí! (Of course!) 

And I’m sure you can see that if you wanted to say “I hate Tuesdays”, and you know Tuesday is martes, then, you’d say “Odio los martes”, right? Tan fácil como eso (as easy as that)…

Think about it: can you see yourself using that in real life? Maybe you see yourself saying “odio los lunes” while dragging yourself out of bed on a Monday, complaining to your spouse or partner or to your colleagues at work when you get there.

In fact, I want you to say this exact chunk some time in the following days… solo por el simple hecho de hacerlo (just for the sake of it)… and to prove to yourself the power of this way of learning Spanish. 

Can you commit to me, and to yourself, to use “odio los lunes” at least once in the coming week? Let me know in the comments!

Let’s recap

Trying to speak Spanish by memorizing words and grammar rules will only make you translate in your head and feel clumsy or insecure. Here at Spring Spanish, we think that’s the worst method for learning Spanish! 

Learning through chunks is a much faster way to speak fluent Spanish. You can start already by watching all our videos and paying attention to the chunks we teach.

Pero, si todavía estás un poco confundido (but if you’re still a bit confused) about how to put this into practice, I invite you to register to the free chunking training that’s available on the Spring Spanish website. 

In that training, you’ll discover a 4-step method to use chunking to have fluent Spanish sentences roll off the tongue! It’ll also help you make the most out of all our YouTube videos.

Mientras tanto (Meanwhile), I’d love to hear from you! Tell me, which is your favorite Spanish chunk? Maybe you’ve noticed some other chunks in this article or in our other videos? Let me know in the comments! 

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