- Spanish grammarBusiness Spanish
Practice speaking, for free, with a native speaker from one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries.
Our Spanish courses offer you a solid foundation. With Lengalia you learn what you need to be able to speak Spanish. And in order to be able to practise what you are learning, we recommend that you practise with a language partner.
A language partner is a person who speaks the language you want to learn perfectly. And if you speak the language they want to learn, you can both benefit from each other. It works on the principle: I help you learn my language, you help me learn yours.
Emma, from San Francisco, wants to practice Spanish for her upcoming trip to Bolivia; Hugo, from La Paz (and who is a tour guide in Bolivia!), is interested in practicing American English for his job. Thanks to this language exchange service, they have the opportunity to get in touch with each other. They make a first contact in writing via the website/app and decide when they want to talk via Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp, for example. This way, Emma can speak Spanish with Hugo, and Hugo can speak English with Emma.
There are many applications and websites with thousands of registered, Spanish-speaking members, where you can find, for free, the partner that best suits your current needs, according to their nationality, interests, availability, etc. Some examples of such sites: speaky, conversationexchange, lingoglobe, interpals, penpals, wespeke, openlanguageexchange, fluent future, tandem, etc.
As the Chinese proverb says, ‘to learn a language is to have another window from which to observe the world.’ In addition to the obvious advantages of being able to communicate in another language and getting to know its culture up close, learning a language is a healthy habit. Research suggests that speaking a foreign language is good for our brains, strengthening cognitive skills and helping prevent dementia in later life.
However, language learning requires commitment so it is important that learners feel the effort they put in to learn another language is worthwhile. Becoming fluent in Spanish will not only allow you to meet lots of people from the Spanish-speaking world but mastering this new skill will also strengthen your mental muscles.
Of course, learning to speak Spanish takes time, effort, practice and patience - but don't worry, with the right tools and techniques, you will soon be speaking Spanish with confidence and fluency!
Table of contents
1. Is it difficult to speak Spanish?
2. Why is it important to learn to speak Spanish?
3. What strategies can I use to speak Spanish?
4. What techniques does Lengalia recommend for speaking Spanish?
5. What resources does Lengalia offer me for speaking Spanish?
6. What tips will help me speak Spanish?
You've probably already taken classes and practised at home, but how are you at speaking Spanish with native speakers? When face to face with a native Spanish speaker, many students become so nervous that they can't hold a conversation. You might be afraid of making mistakes, you might get stuck, think you can't speak fast enough or you don't understand the replies. If this is the case, don't worry, we can assure you you are not alone.
When you feel this way, you may be tempted to put it off until you have had a little more practice. However, the best way to become fluent in Spanish is to seize every opportunity you can to speak Spanish, starting today.
IS IT DIFFICULT TO SPEAK SPANISH?
Well, that all depends on how you look at it! The songwriters of the famous Qué difícil es hablar el español available on YouTube complain about the language's many regional differences, when one word can mean something totally different in several Spanish-speaking countries.
The most important thing to emphasise as Spanish teachers is that there is no such thing as ‘the right Spanish’ or ‘the wrong Spanish’. The dialectal variations of Spanish simply enrich the language, and provide us with both linguistic and cultural representation. We recommend you don’t start off by trying to learn every single word that can be used to express a particular concept. For example, ‘bus’ can be colectivo, chivilla, guagua, buseta, micro, camioneta... and ‘beer’ can be cheve, chela, birra, biela, fría, cristal, etc. Remember that context plays a very important role in understanding.
We believe it is most important to acquire a good basis of Standard Spanish, something we offer at Lengalia. When you do eventually meet speakers from different countries, you will have no problem getting to know their lexicon and using words such as, for example, platicar instead of hablar in Mexico or cambur instead of plátano in Venezuela. You will learn these very quickly as they are small pieces that you will easily and quickly slot into your Spanish puzzle.
Pronunciation can also be difficult for some students to master when speaking Spanish. Most Spanish letters look identical to those in the English alphabet. However, despite this the pronunciation of Spanish differs significantly from that of English.
Special care should be taken with vowels, which use different pronunciations from their English equivalents. In some ways, Spanish vowels are easier to learn. Unlike English vowels, which have several different pronunciations, each Spanish vowel is pronounced in the same way regardless of its position in the word.
However, mastering some sounds can be a challenge for non-native speakers, for example, the ‘rr’ or ‘j’ sound. It will take some practice, but based on our experience and with just a few exceptions, it can eventually be mastered.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN TO SPEAK SPANISH?
Conversation involves a two-way linguistic exchange. Therefore, to reach a conversational level we need a fairly high level of language comprehension to correctly grasp what is being said. This means that in order to become fluent in Spanish we have to prepare ourselves and be patient. To better understand what it means to ‘have a conversation’ and to find out what we are capable of, it is helpful to look at the different levels of conversation:
Chatting about things such as football, the weather, etc. This refers to the kind of trivial conversation you might have when you first meet someone or chat to a neighbour in the lift, for example.
Talking about other people, repeating what they have told you or what you already know about them.
Talking about your own ideas. This may be what you think about politics, society, or how certain things should be.
Talking about your feelings. If you talk about something that bothers you or makes you happy, you are sharing more sensitive information with another person than if you simply share general ideas or talk about others.
Sharing feelings. This is when lasting relationships are built. You don't just talk about what you feel, but you actively listen and try to understand the other person.
In short, to achieve a lasting personal relationship, you will need to be able to speak Spanish at all five levels.
Prior learning is important if you want to reach a fluent level of conversation. It is also essential you devote a lot of time to other skills such as listening and reading. If you have a limited vocabulary you may be able to say certain things, but it all depends on how well prepared you are. The more you read and listen, the more confident you will feel when speaking Spanish.
The time it takes to master the skill of speaking Spanish varies from person to person, and depends on your situation, your opportunities and your needs. If you spend an hour a day studying, it is likely that within about six months you will be able to speak Spanish with some fluency, possibly at level A2 (according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) or at an even higher level. This means that you will be able to communicate in simple and routine situations requiring a basic, direct exchange of information about everyday activities and will be able to engage in brief social exchanges.
Regardless of the level you achieve with your efforts, if you do not focus on progressing your learning, your vocabulary and comprehension skills will stagnate. Therefore, even if you’re only aiming to reach a conversational level where you can talk about your ideas and feelings, it is important to actively engage in both listening and reading.
To speak Spanish fluently you also need plenty of motivation. Motivation is the engine of success in language learning, the magic ingredient in any learner's quest for fluency. When you feel your motivation starting to fade, think of the advantages you will gain from speaking and being fluent in Spanish. When you learn a second language, you open yourself up to new experiences, opportunities, cultures and people. Here are just some reasons for you to stay motivated:
- Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. In 2021, there were 590 million Spanish speakers worldwide, of which 483 million were native speakers. Spanish is not only the second most widely spoken language on the planet, it is also the official language of 21 countries.
- It will open a door to the world of art and literature. One of the greatest benefits of learning to speak Spanish is that you will gain access to the unique and rich world of Hispanic culture. Direct contact with art and literature in their original language gives you a different insight into them than that provided by translations.
- It will increase your employment prospects. In today's global marketplace, knowledge of a second language can be a valuable asset for both employers and employees. Companies are always looking for people to help them go international, and speaking Spanish is particularly valuable in this respect.
- Your travel experiences will improve. Travelling is one of the most enriching experiences you can have, but the quality of that experience will improve significantly if you can speak Spanish. While it is perfectly possible to enjoy a holiday in a Spanish-speaking country without knowing the language, this will restrict where you can go and with whom - and to what extent - you can communicate.
REGIONAL DIFFERENCES IN SPANISH
Spanish is incredibly diverse when it comes to accents, dialects, colloquialisms and slang. When you move from one city to another within the same country, you will find that language use, cadence and accent change significantly, even only a few kilometres away.
With 483 million native Spanish speakers in the world, it would be crazy to think that they all speak Spanish in the same way. The dialects of Latin American Spanish can be grouped as follows:
- Central American;
- Caribbean (Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, the Colombian Caribbean and the Mexican Caribbean);
- Andean (Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, western Bolivia and Andean areas of Venezuela);
- Rioplatense (Argentina, Uruguay, eastern Bolivia and Paraguay);
- Chilean (Chile, the Cuyo region of Argentina).
Within Spain, there are also some dialects in the following territories:
- Northern peninsular (Asturias, Castilla y León, Cantabria, Basque Country, Navarre, Aragon, La Rioja, provinces of Guadalajara and Cuenca);
- Central-southern peninsular (Madrid, Toledo, La Mancha);
- Southern peninsular (Andalucia, Extremadura and Murcia);
- Canary Islands.
Despite all these dialects, most people can understand each other regardless of which Spanish-speaking country they come from. Also, the standard use of formal Spanish in commercial cinema and literature helps with language comprehension. Each dialect and each Spanish-speaking region has its own unique idioms and cultural differentiators, which makes learning Spanish and speaking Spanish fun and engaging - the number of ways to express yourself is truly endless!
It is important to believe in the learning strategy you have chosen. Will it enable you to achieve your goal? If you think the method you are using to speak Spanish is not working, try something else.
At Lengalia, we believe that the most effective learning strategy is one that prioritises listening and reading, using content that is of interest to the learner. Of course, for those who are just starting to learn the language, beginners' materials may initially be a little less interesting. However, we assure you that, as you build up your foundation, you will be able to access materials that you are passionate about or that pique your interest.
So, you first need to acquire a wide vocabulary and a high level of comprehension as a basis on which to build other language skills. When you become familiar with the language - with the new culture’s way of thinking - and when you learn a lot of words, you will easily develop the ability to express yourself naturally and clearly. Bit by bit, step by step you will begin speaking Spanish.
Learning to speak Spanish means knowing all the components of the Spanish language: pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, etc. Each of these is essential for speaking Spanish. The following strategies can also be very useful:
- Thinking in Spanish. By thinking in Spanish, you will find that your confidence increases considerably. It is easy to feel nervous when you stumble over words and think too much about what you are going to say next. Fortunately, over time, you will be able to think in Spanish without having to translate first. You can also keep a journal in Spanish. By writing down your thoughts in Spanish, you will start to train your brain to think in Spanish as well as in your mother tongue, which will help you to speak Spanish.
- Speak Spanish to yourself. To further this process, try to make comments in Spanish throughout the day, even if it is just something simple (e.g. hace buen día ‘it’s a lovely day’, tengo mucha hambre ‘I’m very hungry’, a ver qué comer ‘what should I eat’, mañana tengo planes con Sofía ‘I’ve got plans tomorrow with Sofía’, etc.).
- Read aloud. Another effective way to increase your confidence when speaking Spanish is to start reading aloud in Spanish. By doing so, you will notice that the words come out more naturally, which will prepare you for the authentic flow of a real conversation. You can also repeat phrases from your favourite film or series in Spanish. Listen to a short clip, pause the video and read the subtitles, trying to reproduce the character's tone and accent.
- Learn new words every day. It is difficult to feel confident speaking Spanish if you don't have a solid vocabulary. Therefore, it is important that you make it a point to learn new Spanish words every day. You can do this by simply reading a book or magazine and looking up unfamiliar words you stumble across.
- Listen to native speakers. If you want to increase your confidence in speaking, start listening carefully to native speakers. By listening to them, you will learn to use words correctly and become familiar with more informal terminology. If you can travel abroad to do this, it will be even better for your learning development.
BASIC ELEMENTS OF SPANISH PRONUNCIATION
One of the most important things to keep in mind if you want to speak Spanish is to learn pronunciation. After all, you can't speak the language if you don't know how to pronounce the sounds. Fortunately, practically every letter of the Spanish alphabet has a set pronunciation. This makes Spanish spelling much more uniform than English. However, there are some pronunciation issues that are worth paying attention to. Our main aim is to help you pronounce the most problematic Spanish sounds correctly.
- The vowels. Spanish vowels are always pronounced in the same way. But when practising, be sure to pay attention to the length of the vowel sound. There are only short vowel sounds in Spanish while English has both long and short vowel sounds.
- Accent marks. Accent marks are very important. Misplacing or forgetting an accent can make a big difference to the meaning of your Spanish sentence. When speaking Spanish, it is very helpful to know which words carry accents.
- The consonants. All Spanish consonants follow strict rules regarding the sounds they make and there are few exceptions. The sound of a consonant only changes when it is combined with certain consonants and vowels.
• B/v. In spoken Spanish, ‘b’ and ‘v’ sound exactly the same. For example, Venezuela and Barcelona.
• C/s. The letter ‘c’ is pronounced differently when followed by the vowels ‘e’ and ‘i’. In Spain, this sound is similar to ‘th’ (i.e. [θ]) in English and in Latin America it makes a soft [s] sound. When ‘c’ is followed by the vowels ‘a’, ‘o’, ‘u’ or a consonant, it makes a hard [k] sound.
• D. The Spanish ‘d’, when it appears at the end of a word in the form of -ado or -ada, is often dropped in pronunciation in many Spanish regions. For example, pescado sounds like pescao.
• G/j. When the Spanish letter ‘g’ precedes ‘u’, ‘a’ or a consonant, it is pronounced as [g]. When ‘g’ precedes ‘i’ or ‘e’, it is pronounced like the letter ‘j’.
• H. The ‘h’ is a silent letter, unless it is in a ‘ch’ combination.
• R/rr. A single ‘r’ should be made at the tip of the tongue, not in the back of the throat like the English ‘r’. The ‘rr’ sound is usually louder and often causes problems for students learning to speak Spanish.
More detailed information, with many examples and exercises, can be found in our dedicated Spanish pronunciation course.
A number of different techniques are needed to be able to speak Spanish fluently and to cover all levels of learning. At Lengalia, we recommend the following:
- Listen to Spanish frequently. If you can, dedicate at least one hour to this activity almost every day. You can listen in the car or while doing housework. Just listen and don’t worry about paying too much attention. If the content is interesting and you like the speaker’s voice, listening can create an emotional connection to another language and build neural connections. You will also learn new phrases, and improve your comprehension and pronunciation when speaking Spanish.
- Read in Spanish frequently. Reading is the best way to increase your vocabulary as reading provides you with the lexicon. To communicate in and speak Spanish you will need to understand what the other person is saying, this means you need to know many phrases and words.
- Imitating. Listening, combined with reading, will fill your brain with phrases that you will recognise and be able to use. We recommend that you say a few words or phrases out loud while listening or reading. By repeating them, by trying to use them, they will eventually become part of your repertoire. In addition, when imitating what we hear, we often focus more on the rhythm, the intonation of the language, than on the individual words. This helps improve pronunciation and makes lexical usage more natural.
- Writing in Spanish. Writing is a good way to start reproducing the language in order to gain fluency in Spanish. When we write, we have time to look up words and double check grammar rules and verb endings. We have more time to think things through. This, without a doubt, is good preparation for speaking Spanish.
- Speaking Spanish. You need to speak Spanish frequently in order to speak it well. It can be very useful to have someone to talk to in the language you are learning. If you have reached a certain level in your learning, you may need to go to the country where the language is spoken to get a lot of speaking experience. If this is not possible, you can look for language exchange partners.
- Memorise useful phrases in Spanish. Memorise some phrases that you think are important for the dialogue, such as Encantado de conocerle ‘Pleased to meet you’, Me gustaría probar esta prenda ‘I’d like to try this garment on’, etc. If you know them by heart, you won't have to think too hard when speaking Spanish.
Lengalia's courses are useful for making improvements in all areas of the language, including oral skills, and we always ensure your ability level is taken into account. We have courses for beginners from a very basic level A1 to an advanced level C2 according to the criteria defined in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Our voice recorder is the most beneficial resource our courses offer to ensure your pronunciation is correct while also giving you the opportunity to practice speaking Spanish. This tool allows you to record your voice and compare your pronunciation instantly with that of a native Spanish speaker (Standard Spanish). In this way, you will develop your speaking ability independently and work on the skills you need to learn to speak Spanish.
All of our online Spanish courses follow the pathway approach to learning Spanish, which places emphasis on acquiring a solid foundation in the language, thus increasing the student's confidence. Taking a Spanish course like the ones offered by Lengalia is one of the fastest ways to learn Spanish and practise new vocabulary.
To conclude, we would like to present you with some tips to help you learn to speak Spanish fluently in a short period of time. With practice and perseverance, within a few months you will notice a great improvement in your learning.
- Find a language partner. Having one or more language partners with whom you can practise speaking Spanish will encourage and inspire you to start speaking Spanish more and more. You can practise with another language learner as you might feel more comfortable making mistakes or try practising with a native speaker who can help you correct them. In this way, you will have access to two essential elements for successfully learning Spanish and at a really attractive price. You will learn exactly how the Spanish language works with Lengalia and you will be able to use it (for free!) informally with your language partner.
Where can I find a language partner? We recommend using one of the many websites dedicated to connecting language partners from all over the world to chat online, make video calls, send emails (improving your writing skills as well), etc. There are several options such as Conversation Exchange, HelloTalk, Tandem, Speaky, MyLanguageExchange, etc., all of which are free.
- Go on an Spanish language trip: language immersion. Learn the language in its natural context. Studying Spanish grammar online is not the same as learning the language in situ. Living immersed in a language provides a much more meaningful and intense learning experience. We learn to master expressions, idioms, slang, pronunciation, dialects, the different uses of each word... Acquiring a language in its country of origin can even lead to us thinking in that language. The development of oral comprehension finds its greatest exponent in this type of trip. To get the most out of this type of experience, we recommend that you already have a basic level of Spanish.
- Watch films and series. Watching films and series in Spanish is a good way to familiarise yourself with conversational dialogue. You can also try watching with subtitles to improve your understanding. The more you watch, the more you will become familiar with the accent and tone of voice commonly used in Spanish. The more Spanish you hear, the more confident you will be when it comes time to speak Spanish.
- Listen to music and sing in Spanish. To increase your vocabulary and become more familiar with the language, start listening to music in Spanish. Listen with the lyrics in front of you so you can sing along.
- Record yourself speaking Spanish. Try recording yourself having a conversation or reading in Spanish. By recording yourself and playing the audio back, you will get the opportunity to hear what your voice sounds like (although you will probably notice that the recording of your voice sounds different to what you expected) and you will notice sounds that you are not pronouncing as you should, as well as other grammatical errors.
- Have prepared phrases to use in conversation. Consider studying common Spanish phrases that will be useful in conversation and everyday activities.
- Fall in love with Spanish culture. Speaking Spanish is much more enjoyable if you are enthusiastic about the language. Spanish cultures are steeped in incredible history. You’ll learn a lot and your knowledge of the language will prove that Spanish is not just a language you speak, but a love you have cultivated.
- Ridicule is nothing to be scared of. Speak whenever you get the chance, even just to yourself. Your goal is to understand and be understood. Don't try to perfect the accent at first, that will come with time.
- Finally, don't stop practising. Be persistent. Practice might not make perfect instantly, but it certainly makes progress. The more you speak, the more confident you will become.