Saturday Spanish #1: Do you need to live abroad to learn Spanish? 

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Edition #1 of the newsletter: Do you really need to live abroad to learn Spanish?

Most people think they need to live abroad to get good at Spanish.

This comes from two places, as I see it:

  1. People who speak fluently tend to have lived in a country where it’s spoken
  2. Most people’s learning experience is limited to outdated, grammar-heavy approaches that don’t help you speak

Here’s the problem with the idea that you need to be abroad to learn: it leads people to put off their goal of learning.

You might have thought to yourself…

  • “I’ll just learn when I get there.”
  • “I’m not moving abroad, so I’ll never speak well — it’s not worth it.”
  • “I’ll need to master X or Y grammar rule so I can speak correctly when I get there.”

Focused, consistent practice > location

Being in a Spanish-speaking country helps, but it’s not a learning strategy by itself.

You might know people who’ve lived abroad for years but don’t speak the local language at all.

That’s because there’s no magical process of Spanish osmosis, and you don’t just “pick it up” unless you’re surrounded by it 24-7 and need it to communicate.

After all, we can usually get by with English. So location alone isn’t enough.

If you do have a consistent learning strategy, you can develop strong speaking skills before you ever arrive abroad.

And if you’re already abroad, an effective routine will help you make the most of being surrounded by Spanish.

In both cases, you’ll get better, faster.

Building a doable habit

A common concern is, “How will I practice speaking?”.

The first thing to do is build a small, “so-easy-I-can’t-not-do-it” learning habit:

  • Each morning, set a timer for 2 minutes and answer one question in Spanish.
    • Start simple: What’s for breakfast? Where are you from?
    • Then graduate to bigger topics: Why are you learning Spanish? Where do you want to travel next? What’s your favorite hobby? 
    • More ideas here

Once you make this shift, you can start building the skills you need to form your own sentences more fluently, little by little.

In a few months, you’ll look back and be seriously impressed with the progress you’ve made.

Living abroad helps, but it’s not the golden ticket.

You can be in Mexico or Uruguay and never get beyond the basics of Spanish.

You can also be in Milwaukee or London and build strong Spanish skills.

Start by interviewing yourself with simple questions like the above.

Then, incorporate speaking practice with conversation partners online.

Once you realize how good you can get from the comfort of home, you’ll get addicted to the process and the progress, and your next trip or big move will be backed by a new set of Spanish skills.


P.S. I’m making a list of things to cover in future editions of this newsletter. If you have suggestions, just click reply and let me know. 

P.P.S. I started an Instagram page to share shorter tips — like my YouTube channel, but more bite-size. Check it out here

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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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