Mis amigos, if you’re reading this, I assume you’re learning Spanish AND sometimes, when you’re struggling with a verb conjugation or word order, or forgot the gender of a word, or you watch TV and hear someone say…
- Necesito que me digas la verdad. Ya no puedes seguir mintiéndome. (I need you to tell me the truth. You can't keep lying to me.)
You think: “WHY is Spanish so hard to learn”? ¡No te preocupes! (Don’t worry!) You’re not alone! So, in this article, I will give you 5 reasons why Spanish is hard to learn and understand… and how to overcome these struggles and master Spanish anyway!
#1 Word gender
¡Espera! ¿Qué? (Wait! What?) What do you mean a table is feminine? A microphone is masculine? What’s that all about?
- Buenos días, señorita mesa. (Good Morning, Ms.Table) Ah, ¿ha venido usted también, señor micrófono?(Ah, you’ve come too, Mr. Microphone?)
Well, in Spanish, things have a gender, that is why we have the articles el, la, un, una, etc… Actually, there are some rules about this in another lesson. Buuuut here is UNA SOLUCIÓN (a solution) that you can apply immediately to fix this…
Paint the nouns in your mind in a color depending on whether they are masculine or feminine. So, for example, take red as feminine and blue as masculine, and picture this in your head:
- una mesa roja (a red table)
- un micrófono azul (a blue microphone)
Believe it or not, this mnemonic device makes it much easier to remember the gender. So, try it now with these nouns:
- el plato (the plate) —Imagine a huge, bright blue plato
- la taza (the mug) —Imagine a beautiful red mug para tomar tu café por las mañanas (to drink your coffee in the mornings)
With these images in mind, I’m sure you won’t forget that taza is feminine and plato is masculine anymore!
#2 Verb conjugations
Presente, pretérito perfecto, pretérito imperfecto, futuro, futuro próximo, subjuntivo, copretérito… ¿Qué es esto? (What is this?) Compared to verb conjugation tables in Spanish, English is like un perrito chiquitito e inocente (a tiny and innocent dog).
Mis amigos, before you freak out, remember that the other Spring Spanish teachers and I are here to help you. Getting Spanish verb conjugations right gets much easier if you learn them as chunks. You don’t have to think of the whole conjugation table while speaking!
Explaining the whole method would take a bit too long here, but why don’t you read my colleague Mariana's article about learning verb conjugations with chunks?
#3 Native speakers speak so fast
Maybe you understand quite some Spanish when it’s written, but you’ve surely noticed that, in real life, we mexicanos, colombianos, argentinos, españoles speak muy rápido (very fast).
¡Hola, María! ¿Cómo estás?
(Hi María! How are you?)
¡Wow! ¿Hablas español? ¡Buenísimo! No sé si sabes que me mudé a Chicago, y ¡las cosas han estado super caóticas! Y ahora sigo en espera de la mudanza. ¡No sabes! ¡Estoy harta! Mucho movimiento en poco tiempo.
(Wow! You speak Spanish¡ That’s great! Did you know I moved to Chicago? Things have been truly chaotic! And now I’m waiting for the freight. You have no idea! I’m so sick of this! A lot has happened in so little time!)
What did she just say? If you’re struggling with this, here are some tips that’ll help you survive a conversation:
Listen to as much as you can and use transcripts or subtitles. The more you listen, the easier it becomes.
Look out for “signal words”
Many times, you only need to catch one or two words in a sentence to understand what it is all about. For example:
- ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?)
- ¿Dónde estás? (Where are you?)
- ¿A dónde vas? (Where are you going?)
Just by hearing the word “dónde” in the first sentences will probably be enough for you to understand the other person is asking you where you’re from.
Mis amigos, you might be aware that slang differs from country to country. Sometimes, even I don’t understand what someone from Spain is saying… Or, say, someone from Venezuela, like our amigo Juan.
The only way to understand that slang is aprender con los nativos (learning with natives) and the best way to learn to do it is by listening to:
- Series de TV (TV series)
- Telenovelas (Soap operas)
- Películas (Movies)
You could also check out the Spring Spanish slang videos. We have created a whole playlist about slang on our channel.
# 5 Translating word-for-word from English to Spanish doesn’t always work
I mean, take a sentence like:
- A ti también te gusta bailar, ¿no? (You also like dancing, don’t you?)
How do we even translate that? To you… too… you it pleases dancing, no? Sometimes even for me, it is impossible to describe or translate word-for-word from Spanish into English.
Therefore, listening to Spanish speakers is the way to go… and learning the word combinations they use as word chunks. This is exactly how you learned your mother tongue and this is why being exposed to Spanish in different contexts will help you to master this skill.
The solutions include topic-based fluency, domina un tema en particular (master a topic in particular). You can do that by reading a lot about it, watching documentaries or subject specific material.
Por ejemplo (For example), for food topics watch:
- Las crónicas del taco
- Master Chef México
- Nailed It México
Pay attention to all the vocabulary and chunks used, so you can use them as well when speaking about that topic.
Good job, amigos! You have made it to the end of this article and here is your homework for today: choose a new TV series and watch it until you have identified at least 10 chunks. You can use these chunks in flashcards to help you memorize and start using them in real-life conversations.
To help you choose a good series, you have to read Spring Spanish teacher Paulisima’s article about the TOP 5 best Netflix Originals that’ll help you get fluent in Spanish.