The best way to learn Spanish is to spend lots of time in a Spanish-speaking country – and fall in love.
That’s what happened to me in 1994
That’s what happened to me in 1994 when a friend of mine invited me to spend Christmas with his family in Medellin, Colombia. I did not study any Spanish before arriving, and was completely lost for the entire trip.
Well, most of it. After a few days of my buddy’s large extended family (and younger sister) trying faithfully to engage me in small talk, some of it started to seep in. If you keep an open ear, an English speaker can recognize a lot of the words that have similar roots, and similar meanings, in the two languages.
Of course, understanding is very different from being understood.
I threw caution to the wind
I didn’t care about my accent or conjugating verbs.
Since I was starting to like this girl I threw caution to the wind and started talking, straight out of the dictionary. I didn’t care about my accent or conjugating verbs. It just came out and somewhere we started to understand each other. This was a hell of a lot of fun!
I learned a lot during that first three-week trip, and made several more in 1995. But not before I had dissected a Spanish cassette course, a Vox dictionary and taken a really excellent Berlitz course in downtown Chicago. I sought out Spanish friends everywhere and talked their heads off. Love motivates.
They lavished me with praise
By the next Christmas my buddy’s family was schocked and amazed. I was fluent in conversational Spanish! They lavished me with praise for my great accent and my ability to converse intelligently with them. My visits became more and more enriching – and fewer street vendors tried to rip me off. ;)
My turn to be shocked
It was my turn to be shocked though when I found out my new girlfriend had hidden a local love interest from me. My heart was broken but at least I still had Spanish.