How to Learn a Language in 15 Years, 1 Month, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

I contemplated calling this post: How NOT to learn a language.

I first studied Spanish in High School. 4 years of it. I did exceptionally well at all the tests, written and verbal. But can I hold a conversation with a native speaker? Doubtful. Actually, impossible.

Fast forward 15 years, 1 month, 3 weeks, and 2 days (a la…today) and I can barely ask for directions. What irritates me (about myself, nonetheless) is how many times I have said “I am going to become fluent in Spanish” and then never followed through.

I have amassed a more than enough books and programs.

Some of my Spanish books

And joined a sick amount of language exchange websites and meet-up groups.

But I don’t end up meeting my goal. In fact, after about a month I drop the whole thing and start making excuses about time. And I consider myself more disciplined than the average (where’s my horn? toot toot). But this is one of those goals that still eludes me.

Well, I am re-committing to my Spanish fluency goal. I gots to.

What am I going to do differently this time?

1. Set more specific goals. This is a common issue people have with setting goals. Saying you want to become fluent in Spanish is pretty meaningless. What does fluency mean to you and when do you want to achieve it. For me, I would like to be able to hold conversations of at least 5 minutes in length with native speakers, watch Spanish TV and grasp the overall concept of the shows, be able to read a novel in Spanish, and be able to write my resume (if ever needed). This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consult a Spanish dictionary here and there but I don’t want to be reliant on it for every other word.

2. Make a plan. Even though plans are attempts at being psychic (you have no idea how things will turn out. Unless of course you are psychic), I still believe in them. Our brains need a guide map, direction, and the comfort of knowing “I know what to do next, then next, etc. So I have a plan. I am going to study for an hour a day. Here’s what that includes:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, & Sunday

  • 20 minutes listening to audio podcasts
  • 20 minutes studying new verbs (I write them, and draw rudimentary pictures and try to create funny stories to help solidify the verb concept).
  • 10 minutes new nouns (same as above)
  • 10 minutes studying verb conjugations
Wednesday:  Hour long conversation with my language exchange partner on Skype (I currently do an hour long conversation with him in English one day a week, so we are adding my Spanish).
Friday: Attend a local Spanish practice meeting I found on
I am going to do all of the above for a month and then re-evaluate.

3. Be clear on my why. I making my big move in October 2013. I will be going to London for a month, then through Europe for a few months. Part of that includes visiting my brother who lives in Spain. While I am there I want to be able to:

  • Order food and drinks in restaurants (tapas and wine here I come).
  • Not get lost (or if I do get lost, which I probably will, be able to ask for directions, ride public transport, and make my way back to Kansas).
  • Actually sound like a foreign speaker who is making an effort (Can’t stand to see English speaking tourists having hissy fits that “nobody speaks English here?”)

4. Carve out the time. There are 24 hours in a day (what’s my point?). Somethings gotta give for me to spend at least an hour a day on Spanish. I am going to wake up 1/2 an hour earlier (I know, I am ambitious), and commit to only checking emails 3 times a day (I spend way too much time checking emails and responding instantly to emails that should be batched and handled accordingly- this isn’t just a goal for my language learning, it’s also a goal for my business productivity).

Care to join me?

Here are a few resources I am using that may help you if you are joining me on this language trek. Most are free.

1. Meet up (to find a local group).

2. Conversation Exchange

3. Spanish Verb Conjugation site

4. Spanish exercises (sentences, phrases, verb usage, etc)

5. Spanish podcasts and online lessons

6. Another Spanish podcast (I used to listen to this one a lot, really like the dialogue and lessons and the hosts are entertaining)

7. Fluent in 3 months (tons of programs and resources on learning a language from the polyglot Benny Lewis. I actually purchased his Language Hacking Guide a few years ago. Need to dig it up and apply what I learned).

So my Spanish language journey begins….again!
purple ajoy2

6 thoughts on “How to Learn a Language in 15 Years, 1 Month, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

  1. If I lived closer I’d help you :) I’m fluent in Spanish, so if you ever want some help, hit me up. I’m down for being a penpal!

  2. Pingback: learning spanish
    1. Thank you Lindsay. I do have a lot of big goals. I think I actually stay more motivated the more goals I have. :) My Spanish is finally improving. Woohoo!

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