Successful Spanish learners understand this

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Spanish is a language with tons of tips and resources. 

Many are great. 

But it’s an “arma de doble filo” (a double-edged sword)…

The quantity invites doubts. It can make you question the way you’re doing things. 

And yep, the way you learn does make a difference…

But beyond the learning strategies themselves, a huge part of learning Spanish is mental.

So today I want to share something successful learners understand — an attitude they tend to have — and how you can adopt it for yourself. 

Am I doing this right? 

Last week, I sent out a survey to help me gauge how I can best help the learners like you who read this (many thanks to everyone who has responded!). 

Out of the many thoughtful replies, one jumped out at me. 

The survey asked: 

What questions do you have related to the process of learning a language (and how that relates to your current strategy)?

In response, the person wrote: “Ningún, lo disfruto mi proceso y tengo paciencia y confidencia que el éxito me vendrá.” 

[“None, I enjoy my process and have patience and confidence that success will come”.]

This kind of zen isn’t common. Most learners I talk to have lots of doubts, and a bit of frustration that they’re not further along. 

After all, there are tons of options for learning, so it’s natural to question your approach… 

And learning Spanish takes work, so we’re eager to start benefiting from our efforts. 

But this kind of wax on, wax off attitude is what can help you actually stick with Spanish for long enough to see those benefits. 

Choosing your method of transport

Think about different learning approaches like different ways to travel across a lake. 

You can doggy paddle.

You can swim. 

You can paddle on a surfboard. 

You can paddle on a kayak. 

(Sorry, sail boats and motor boats don’t exist in this metaphor — you only move thanks to your own power). 

All different. Some might be more effective than others. But all get you across the lake eventually. 

The trick to finding your own approach is to ask yourself: 

Right now, what do want to use my Spanish for? 

Then structure your learning around this goal. 

If your goal is to have conversations, you’ll make time for more of those (or force yourself to dive into your first chats). 

If your goal is to read novels in the original Spanish, you can structure your learning around reading, gradually progressing in difficulty. 

Your goal can change, too. 

But the important thing is to trust that, as long as… 

  1. you’re putting in active effort every day 
  2. that effort aligns with your current goal

… then you will improve (mainly in the skill you’re practicing the most).

(Btw, if you’re curious which one is the “doggy paddle” in my book… that’d be when 90% of what you do is grammar drills and vocabulary memorization. Collecting rules and words is appealing to analytical brains, but it does not lead to conversation skills on its own. It’s like trying to do a puzzle without the reference photo.)

Next steps 

It takes a long time to learn a language well. 

Sometimes, progress comes in bursts. 

Other times, you wonder if you’re getting better at all (I recently made a video on this). 

Regardless of the phase you’re in, try to trust the process you’ve chosen for now. 

If you don’t like how you’re learning, take a beat and ask yourself: 

  • How do I want to use my Spanish in the near future? 
  • What skills (e.g., listening, reading, speaking, writing, etc) do I need to be able to do that? 

Then, choose one or two of those and make it your priority for at least a month or two. 

Eso es todo por hoy. ¡Buen fin de semana!

– Connor

P.S. The course I’m working on is focused on giving you a straightforward (not perfect – there’s no such thing) plan you can follow, so you can stop bouncing around. It’ll help you build practical language skills, and equally important, the skills you need to feel confident and trust the learning process. I’m aiming for early fall to release it. 

P.P.S. If you determine that speaking more is a priority, but your pronunciation is holding you back in some way, this can help. 

Become a more skillful Spanish learner every Saturday

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Hey there, I'm Connor. I help motivated learners speak Spanish without slogging through grammar books or tapping through every new app. I started Breakthrough Spanish to give more people the confidence and focus to learn effectively Spanish from home. Learn more about me here.

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