Is Spanish a hard language to learn? Here is the definite answer! This article will show you just how difficult learning Spanish is, and how to make it easy.
How hard is it to learn Spanish?
“Is it hard to learn Spanish?”
“Is Spanish easy or difficult to learn?”
We’ve gotten these questions countless times. Unfortunately, their answers aren’t as clear cut as sí or no as they depend on, well, you.
First, your mother tongue and the languages you’ve learned can make it easier or harder to learn Spanish. For example, if your native tongue is another Romance language, Italian, French, Portuguese, etc., picking up their cousin Español will be more straightforward.
Why is that? Well, languages in the same family share similar vocabularies that you’ll encounter across the board. In contrast, if your first language is Japanese, which has an entirely different alphabet and morphology – or a language’s structure – Spanish will be more difficult to learn.
Second, if you’ve already learned a foreign language, acquiring Spanish should be an achievable goal. Research shows that knowing a second language can make learning a third one easier1.
Having said this, there are specific elements surrounding a language that can make it easier or more difficult to learn. And Spanish is no different. So, is Spanish hard to learn? Keep on reading, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Before we continue, remember that Fluent Forever is your go-to source to learn Spanish. Start by downloading the Fluent Forever app, and choose either Castilian or Latin American Spanish as your target language. Then, you can check out Fluent Forever’s Live Coaching and practice 1-on-1 with a real-life native speaker to accelerate your journey to fluency. Lastly, you can tap into our Learn Spanish guide for everything there is to know about learning the language effectively.
Is Spanish hard to learn for native English speakers?
Let’s start with some good news! Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn for native English speakers.
Both languages share the same Latin alphabet, so you don’t have to deal with unfamiliar letters and symbols you’ve never seen before. And even though Spanish is a Romance language and English is Germanic, they both stem from the Indo-European linguistic family. In addition, they’re heavily influenced by French and Latin. Therefore, they share a significant amount of cognates – words that are spelled similarly and mean the same thing. That’s why the definitions for the Spanish words no, rural, and ideal are exactly what you’re thinking.
Word order in the Spanish language is muy fácil. Its sentence construction is similar to English since they both usually follow an SVO structure: Subject, Verb, and Object. The subject comes first, then an action, and the object is last. So, el perro persiguió la pelota in English would be “the dog chased the ball.”
Finally, forming the plural of nouns is fairly straightforward. Most nouns become plural by taking an s at the end. A gato is one feline, and gatos can be a pair or several.
How long does it take to learn Spanish?
The question “Is Spanish hard to learn?” is usually followed by “And how long does it take to learn it?” Well, like any language, reaching fluency depends on what you define as fluency, the amount of study hours you put in, and the languages you know, among other factors.
Additionally, things like focusing on two languages will certainly slow down your process. So, sticking only to Spanish will cut the time you require to reach your goals. And there are other common avoidable mistakes people make that add hours to their learning journey.
There is, however, a somewhat objective answer. The US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the US’s language training center for diplomats, categorizes different languages from Categories 1 to 4 in terms of increasing learning difficulty. Spanish is placed in Category 1, which makes it easy to learn. The system also estimates the amount of time it can take to learn languages from each category. In Spanish’s case, it takes 23-24 weeks of dedicated study time. Now, that’s not too bad, is it?
4 things that make Spanish hard to learn
So, what’s the verdict: is Spanish hard to learn or not? Considering everything we’ve discussed so far, you’re probably leaning for the latter.
With that said, it’s not all easy breezy as Spanish does have some elements that make it a tad complicated. This section outlines the most common, significant, yet not insurmountable challenges that the language poses for aspiring Spanish speakers.
- Gendered nouns – Nouns in Spanish, as in Portuguese and Italian, have an assigned gender. Learning that pelota is feminine and perro is masculine – and that they take the articles la pelota and el perro – can be confusing. Even when most words ending in a are feminine and those with an o ending tend to be masculine, the rule doesn’t always apply. You only have to think of el clima and la foto.
- Speed of speech – Spanish is the second-fastest spoken language behind Japanese. Consequently, trying to understand native speakers often leaves learners at every level discouraged, and a little intimidated.
- Spanish grammar – Spanish’s common irregular verbs, its essential verbs ser and estar, and the subjunctive form make the language notoriously difficult for people who are starting from scratch.
- Different varieties of Spanish – There are many different varieties of Spanish depending on where it’s spoken, and each comes with its own pronunciation rules, set of idioms, slang, and fixed expressions. The wide array of dialects can make understanding people from different parts of the Spanish-speaking world difficult. Similarly, getting a point across in Colombia if you learned Spanish in Spain can be somewhat more complicated, albeit not impossible.
Is English or Spanish harder to learn?
Is Spanish hard to learn compared to English? This is another regular enquiry in our inboxes.
We’ve already mentioned that both come from the Indo-European language family. However, they each have distinct linguistic complexities that give people different headaches.
On one hand, Spanish has gendered nouns, diacritical accents, and frequent irregular verbs. Of the three, English has only the latter, and they’re not as ubiquitous as in Spanish. On the other hand, English follows less structured grammatical patterns, whereas Spanish tends to be considered more formulaic in its rules. Think of how nouns are made in Spanish: perro and perros; casa and casas. Comparatively, you have “mice” for “mouse,” “houses” for “house,” “geese” for “goose,” and “moose” for “moose.” Confused much?
Additionally, Spanish tends to be considered a more phonetic language – words consistently sound like they’re spelled. Contrary to this, English has words like “cough,” “bough,” and “rough,” all spelled similarly but pronounced differently. However, Spanish does have nuanced letters like rr, ll, j, and the infamous ñ, each with their unique sounds.
In short, Spanish does seem more cut and dried in its rules, but these can be overwhelming. Comparatively, English can be said to be more unpredictable. So which is harder to learn? Perhaps a more detailed look is warranted, or perhaps it boils down to the type of language you’re willing to tackle.
Ultimately, learning any language is going to need a good measure of commitment if you want to succeed.
So, should you still learn Spanish?
Yes, you should! Don’t be discouraged because, although common and valid, the complexities of the Spanish language have workarounds. Besides, there are plenty of reasons why you should learn Spanish.
20 countries use it as an official language, and over 400 million people speak it. That means that per native speaker, it’s the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin. By learning Spanish, you’re opening the door for better communication with a gigantic portion of the planet. You’ll also be able to travel more comfortably in exciting, culturally exquisite countries like Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Spain.
Plus, learning a second language like Spanish broadens your professional opportunities, and it can even help you earn more in your job! Knowledge of Spanish will increase your chances of studying abroad in vibrant cities like Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.
In short, while Spanish can be hard to learn, the rewards you’ll reap are absolutely worth it. So, keep your chin up! In this next section, we’ll show you how to overcome any hurdles on your journey. And in case you need any more motivation, here are 20 amazing reasons why you should learn Spanish.
6 tips to make learning Spanish easy and fun
1. Learn pronunciation first
Still wondering whether Spanish is hard to learn, all things considered? Well, if you haven’t learned how to listen to it, it can be! Our brains are hardwired to the sounds of our mother tongue. As a result, foreign words can be hard to understand and quick to forget. Therefore, by training your ears to hear Spanish’s sounds, you can pick up its vocabulary faster and understand it more easily.
You can do this by testing yourself with minimal pair words. These are words that sound similar to each other but are not quite the same – think “moss” and más. By practicing with minimal pairs, you rewire your ears to comprehend, learn, and retain Spanish words. It will also help you understand those fast-talking native speakers better. Double win!
The Fluent Forever app has hundreds of minimal pair tests for Spanish. They’re ready to use to help you train your ears for Spanish.
2. Use flashcards to learn gendered nouns
As we said earlier, learning each noun’s gender can be complicated. There is, however, an efficient and simple way to do it: enter the awesome power of flashcards.
As opposed to using translations – an inefficient method to learn and retain a language’s vocabulary, flashcards with images, pictures, and drawings, along with spaced repetition systems (SRS), provide an excellent and simple tool to learn words and their gender.
Making flashcards, whether physical ones or through softwares like Anki, is a creative process that helps you retain and recall words longer. SRS, on the other hand, is a learning technique that adjusts the time between flashcards reviewed based on your performance – if you get a flashcard right, the next time you see it will get longer. Alternatively, if you get it wrong, that interval decreases.
The Fluent Forever app simplifies the flashcard-creating process and implements an SRS algorithm, helping you tackle gendered nouns in languages like Spanish.
3. Practice with a native Spanish speaker
Practicing with a native speaker has a wider variety of benefits. First, if you practice with people from different Spanish-speaking countries, you’ll get used to and learn from the distinct varieties of Spanish. Second, a native speaker can provide you with immediate, accurate feedback on your pronunciation and vocabulary. Third, it’s a fun and socially engaging way to approach Spanish – or any other language, for that matter.
You can find native speakers to practice with in language-learning communities on social media or on websites like My Language Exchange. Another great option is working with a personal language coach.
Fluent Forever’s Live Coaching program puts you in touch with your very own trained native speaker to boost your journey to fluency. Check it out!
4. Immerse yourself as much as possible
Make it fun and immerse yourself in Spanish! Exposing yourself to the language as often as possible, using and experiencing it every day, is one of the best and fastest ways to learn a language.
There are many ways to go about it. You could travel to a Spanish-speaking country and take a language holiday. That way, you’d surround yourself with Spanish 24/7 and be forced to see, hear, and think in the language. If traveling is outside the realm of possibilities, you can consume as much Spanish media as you can – think podcasts, audiobooks, films, and series in Spanish. You can also switch everyday activities to Spanish. Trying a new cooking recipe? Setting up your new phone’s language settings? Do it in Spanish!
5. Learn grammar intuitively!
There’s no way around it: as with any other language, knowing Spanish grammar is fundamentally important. Grammar provides sentences with structure and order, and it gives a sense of who’s doing what.
However, being understood in a language beats having perfect grammatical skills. Instead of poring over grammar books and memorizing rules, you’re better off picking up grammar as you go along in your Spanish journey. It makes more sense to learn the basics of verb tenses, word order, and sentence construction well, and to pick up the grammar rules intuitively in the process.
If you do want to perfect your knowledge of Spanish grammar, hey, more power to you! We recommend you use the same tool we’ve recommended: flashcards. Here’s a useful article on how to learn grammar with flashcards.
6. Use the Fluent Forever + Live Coaching combo!
The Fluent Forever method follows a 4-stage process backed by neuroscience that’ll get you speaking Spanish fluently fast.
You can download the Fluent Forever app to start learning the fundamentals of Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. You’ll achieve this thanks to the amazing power of flashcards, minimal pair tests, and our SRS algorithm. Next, you can sign up for Fluent Forever’s Live Coaching, which provides flexible and personalized 1-on-1 language learning sessions with a native speaker. Together, you will create sessions based on your personal fluency goals, getting you to speak comfortably in your target language in no time!
So there you have it. Is Spanish hard to learn? It can be, but it doesn’t need to be! Just commit to it and keep going – we’ll help you get there.