How You Can Learn Spanish WITHOUT Speaking it! AKA The Silent Period in Spanish
Some polyglots use a technique called the “silent period” to make massive progress learning a language WITHOUT speaking it at all! ¡Y dicen que es la clave de su éxito! (And they say it’s the key to their success!)
So if you’re afraid of speaking Spanish or don’t feel ready yet, no te preocupes (don’t worry) because in this video I, Spring Spanish teacher Juan, will show you how you can use it too to learn Spanish!
Retrocedamos un poco (Let’s rewind a bit.) There’s a lot of research that shows that the only way to get really good at a foreign language is by listening to it. A lot.
Why? Porque cuando estás empezando, no conoces el sonido del lenguaje (Because when you’re just starting out, you don’t know the sound of the language), you don’t know which words native speakers use, which phrases,…
Básicamente, no sabes nada. (Basically, you know nothing.)
So if you know nothing (or just a few words) in Spanish, but you decide to start speaking anyway, you will:
Hello, nice to meet you! I’m J–
No no inglés please! Io hable spañola
(No, no English please! I “speaks Spañol”)
Ah, ¡perfecto! Bueno, yo soy Juan, ¡mucho gusto!
(Ah, perfect! Well, I’m Juan, nice to meet you!)
¡Mucho mi gustas Juan! Yo nombre John.
(Much you me likes, Juan! I name John.)
Mucho gusto John, se dice yo me llam-
(Nice to meet you John, it’s actually ‘my name is–”)
Sí sí, también estoy cansado con mi esposa dentro de 5 años.
(Yes, yes, I am also tired with my wife in 5 years.)
¿Cansado? No, espera…
(Tired? No, wait…)
¡Y me gusta viajarlo también! Perro no me gusta cagar maletas…
(And I like to travel it too! Dog I don’t like to take a dump in suitcases…)
¿Perro? ¿Ca qué? Uhm John? I think it’s better if we switch to English…
(Dog? Dump what? Uh, John? I think it’s better if we switch to English…)
You’ll translate sentences word for word from your mother tongue like in that unfortunate conversation.
The problem with this is, una vez que empieces a hablar así (once you start speaking this way), your brain starts thinking THAT’s correct Spanish! Again, because your brain doesn’t know what REAL Spanish sounds like yet. Es muy difícil corregir esto (It’s very hard to correct this, this is called “fossilization”), which means that these mistakes or this bad way of speaking fossilizes in your brain, and it’s very hard to get rid of this fossilization
Así que para evitar todos estos problemas (So to avoid all these problems), some linguists and polyglots think it’s better to take some time where you just say… NOTHING.
So you stay silent yourself, and you just listen and observe instead until your brain starts getting an idea of what Spanish is supposed to sound and look like.
A bit like babies do: Escuchando sin hablar (listening without speaking)… but without the crying, maybe.
And ONLY when you’ve given your brain enough real Spanish input, you start speaking yourself. Y cometerás muchísimo menos errores (And you’ll make WAY fewer mistakes.)
Tiene sentido, ¿no? (Makes sense, right?)
A silent period can take anywhere from 1 month up to 6-12 months.
So if you’d like to try this out, here are some Spring Spanish tips to make the most out of your silent period:
1. Escucha información comprensible y diálogos (Listen to “comprehensible input” and dialogues.)
En el período de silencio, deberías pasar la mayor cantidad de tiempo posible escuchando español. (In the silent period, you should spend as much time as possible listening to Spanish.) Like in our videos. Try to choose stuff that’s comprehensible to you. So in the beginning you’ll have to use materials made specifically for beginners students. Podcasts, courses with dialogues, our YouTube videos, TV series if you’re more advanced already… Mientras más, mejor (the more, the better). And when I say as much as possible, I really mean as much as possible.
2. Potencia tu entendimiento con cloze cards (Boost your understanding with cloze cards)
If you listen to so much Spanish, you’ll come across tons of useful words and phrases that you might want to start using yourself after your silent period is over. Puedes empezar a memorizarlas en seguida con cloze cards (You can start memorizing them already with cloze cards), which look like this:
Deberías pasar ___________ (as much time as possible) escuchando español.
Deberías pasar la mayor cantidad de tiempo posible escuchando español.
You should spend as much time as possible listening to Spanish.
Memorize some cloze cards like this every day, and you’ll get fluent even faster.
3. Usa algún curso de gramática si quieres (Use some grammar course if you want)
If you use an actual course, usually they’ll teach you some grammar too. Y si escuchas suficiente español, vas a aprender mucho de la estructura del lenguaje automáticamente. (And if you listen enough to Spanish, you’ll pick up a lot of the structure of the language automatically.) Combined, your brain will start grasping the language better and better!
Cómo hacer la transición del período de silencio (How to transition out of the silent period)
So let’s say your silent period is over: hopefully, you’ll feel ready to show off your Spanish skills now!
Pero quizás no te sientes tan seguro todavía desde el principio. (But maybe you don’t feel so confident yet from the start.) If that’s the case, here are some techniques to transition into speaking Spanish.
Dry runs (with yourself and others)
Esto significa construir tus propias frases en español (This means building your own Spanish phrases) that you have either heard before or by putting together chunks of Spanish without having to speak in an actual conversation with natives.
Aquí hay algunas formas en las que puedes hacer esto por ti mismo (Here are some ways you can do this by yourself):
- Speaking to yourself or thinking in Spanish in your head, you can also write Spanish.
- Doing it with others: Escríbele correos a hispanohablantes y pídeles que te corrijan (write emails to native speakers and get them corrected), record yourself speaking and send it to native speakers to get it corrected (b-roll)
La ventaja de esto es que tienes todo el tiempo del mundo para pensar (This has the advantage that you have all the time in the world to think) about what to write or say and do it over and over again until you are happy with the result and only then send it to a native speaker to get it corrected. The advantage of getting it corrected is still there without the need to have an actual conversation in real time
You can get really far with the silent period and get to a fairly good degree of Spanish without speaking it. But at some point you will want to start speaking because that’s why you’re learning it in the first place. This is scary. Speaking a foreign language with natives.