Ever asked yourself how you’d know if you’re really fluent in Spanish? If you never make a mistake again? Never have to think about grammar, know all the words?
Our humble Spring Spanish opinion: you’re asking LA PREGUNTA EQUIVOCADA (the wrong question)! In today’s video, we’re going to show you a different way to think about fluency in Spanish.
This way will help you to speak Spanish fluently faster… All through a concept and method called… Topic-based fluency!
Let’s take a look at what topic-based fluency means and how you can achieve it…
Let’s say you’re learning Spanish because estás viajando a México frecuentemente (you’re often travelling to Mexico). In that case, after learning some basic grammar and vocabulary, probablemente usarás el español en conversaciones en el aeropuerto, en el hotel, en el restaurante (you’ll probably use your Spanish in conversations at the airport, in a hotel, at a restaurant) and in similar situations.
Hola, quiero hacer el check-in, por favor. (Passenger: Hello, I’d like to check in, please.)
¿Me permite su pasaporte? (Counter: May I have your passport?)
Claro, aquí tiene. (Passenger: Sure, here you have it.)
¿Le gustaría ventana o pasillo? (Counter: Would you like window or aisle?)
Prefiero ventana, por favor. (Passenger: I prefer window, please.)
So you might feel very confident… even fluently talking Spanish in this situation, impressing the girl at the counter who might even say:
Wow, ¡Su español es increíble! ¿(Wow, your Spanish is amazing! How did you get fluent?)
But what if the girl at the counter asks you a question about a topic you’ve never talked about in Spanish?
¿Conoce usted las nuevas medidas sanitarias del país que va a visitar? (Counter: Do you know the new health measures of the country you are going to visit?)
Suddenly you don’t feel so fluent anymore, right?
So are you fluent or not?
Here is where topic-based fluency comes into play.
You don’t get fluent in the Spanish language (or any language for that matter) as a whole; una vez que conozcas los fundamentos del vocabulario y la gramática (once you know foundational vocabulary and grammar), you will get fluent hablando sobre ciertos temas en español (speaking about certain topics in Spanish), one by one, depending on which topics you focus on most.
If you think about it, the same happens in your mother tongue! In your mother tongue, you can speak effortlessly on a really wide range of topics, but there are probably certain specific topics like ¿Aviación? ¿Medicina? (Aviation? Medicine?) you probably can’t say a single useful thing about that.
¿Viste el juego de anoche de los Lakers? (Did you watch last night Lakers’ game?)
¡Sí claro! (Yes, of course!)
Me parece que los jugadores necesitaban un poco más de apoyo del entrenador. Tal vez el árbitro no estaba marcando bien. (I think that the players needed a bit more support from their coach. Or maybe the referee wasn’t marking well).
No entiendo ninguna palabra que estás diciendo. (I don’t understand a word of what you’re saying.)
Well, because you don’t know the specific terminology, and you don’t know which expressions and phrases people use!
Here is another way to think about this, how would you say to a 5-year-old child?
¿No sabes qué significa neurociencia? (You don’t know anything about neuroscience?)
(MAKING A SAD FACE SAYING NO)
Oh, your Spanish is so bad!
That’s unfair, you wouldn’t do that. So is a 5-year-old whose mother tongue is Spanish fluent in Spanish or not?
They’re just not that fluent in a certain topic yet, and you as a Spanish student don’t have to be fluent on ALL topics either. Así que no te desanimes, recuerda que así tú aprendiste tu lengua materna y así deberás aprender el español. (So do not be discouraged, remember that is how you learned your mother tongue, and this is how you should learn Spanish). Little by little.
Now, here’s the good news: you can learn to speak Spanish fluently on a certain number of topics pretty quickly. Once you have some basic vocabulary and grammar knowledge, it’s just a matter of escuchar a los hablantes nativos de español hablar de los temas que tú quieres hablar también (listening to Spanish natives speak about the topics you want to be able to speak about as well) and identifying the chunks they use on these topics, and learn to say the same things!
Let’s go back to our example from the airport.
You’ve heard me say “quiero hacer el check-in” and ¿Me permite su pasaporte? And prefiero ventana, don’t you think you can use that yourself in conversation now as well?
If you listen to some more travel dialogues (like in our videos) and actually speak Spanish on your own travels, soon you’ll feel pretty confident about your skills in these situations. AND people will say that you are fluent!
Lo mejor, ¡es que esto funciona para cualquier tema! (The best thing is that this works for any topic!) Let’s say you’re learning Spanish for work. Then you just listen to Spanish conversations about, say, planning a meeting.
Learn the chunks you’ll need in that work situation… and you’ll feel much more fluent in that situation already! That’s why we have videos on myriads of topics! That’s also why you should subscribe to our YouTube channel right now!
¡Recapitulemos! (Let’s recap) here’s how we recommend you approach getting fluent in Spanish:
- Paso 1 (Step 1): Learn some basic grammar and basic vocabulary and chunks you’ll need in CUALQUIER conversación (ANY conversation). That’s what our videos are for! You can also check out our structured 12 weeks Spring Spanish Academy courses.
- Paso 2 (Step 2): Make a topic-based fluency list: a list of topics/situations in which you want to speak fluently. Te enfocas en un tema a la vez y hablas fluido en ese tema en específico (You focus on one topic at a time and speak fluently about that specific topic). Once you’re satisfied, you move on to the next topic on the list. Check out our Spring Spanish videos on these topics.
It can be as easy as that!