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  • Writer's pictureKaren Spanish Tutor

5 Secrets About Achieving Fluency In Spanish

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Fluency is seen by many as the holy grail of learning a language - an illusive and tantalising goal. The trouble is, how do you know when you have achieved fluency? What defines a fluent speaker versus an advanced speaker of a language? The good news is that fluency is not equivalent to perfection. Fluency is just a description of how smoothly and efficiently someone is communicating in any given circumstance. Read on to find out how your goal of reaching fluency in Spanish might not be as far away as you think!

1. You Don't Have To Learn The Entire Spanish Dictionary To Be Fluent

The most recent edition of the Spanish dictionary (Diccionario Real Academia Española, 2014) contained approximately 93,000 words. This is an intimidating list for anyone. Luckily you only need to know a fraction of this to understand the majority of oral speech. Estimates vary between 1000-3000 words to be able to understand and speak in the majority of circumstances. This is an interesting article if you'd like more information about the statistics. If your aim is to be able to speak fluently while you are on holiday you may not even need this number as your interactions will be limited to specific settings. The bottom line is - you don't need to know every word to be fluent.

Click here for more tips on how to expand your Spanish vocabulary.

2. You Can Still Be Fluent In A Language And Make Mistakes

Think of the way you speak English. It is highly likely that you make grammatical errors and forget words all the time. I certainly do, especially in informal circumstances! The difference is, you are less likely to worry about these small mistakes when speaking in your native tongue, compared with when you are speaking a foreign language. When speaking a second language you may experience feelings of anxiety and panic if you forget a word or make a mistake. This can cause the mind to go blank and stop your conversation in its tracks. A big part of achieving fluency is to forgive yourself these mistakes and continue with what you want to say regardless. Try using other words to describe what you want to say to keep the conversation going. The more practice you have the easier it will get.

3. You Already Have A Head Start With Learning Spanish

English and Spanish share common roots in Latin which means that, though you may not realise it, you will already recognise a large number of words in Spanish. For example 'chocolate' in Spanish is 'chocolate' in English! Here is a useful article on the words that are shared across the two languages. There are, of course, some false friends to look out for. For example, the Spanish word 'éxito' mean 'success', not 'exit', in English. However, the similarity of the two languages will, in general, help you reach your language goals more quickly.

4. Improving Your Confidence Will Improve Your Fluency

The saying "fake it until you make it" is very relevant when it comes to language fluency. The only way to become more confident when speaking in Spanish is to speak Spanish. This is easier said than done when you are feeling anxious about starting a conversation in a new language. Try speaking initially in safer environments, such as with a tutor or language partner. Start practising conversations from the beginning of your language learning journey. This can give you the confidence to spread your wings and speak to others over time.

5. Fluency Can Fluctuate Over Time

Fluency is less of a fixed state and more of an organic description of where you are with a language at any given time. There is no such thing as perfectly fluent. You may find that, in times when you have been more able to practice and Spanish is fresher in your mind, you will achieve greater fluency. If you then have a period where you don't use Spanish for a while, your fluency may reduce, even though your knowledge of the language still remains with you. All it will take is introducing Spanish back into your routine and increasing your exposure to the language to get back the fluency you previously had.

If you have found this useful please do take a look at my other blog posts here.

Hi, I am Karen. I am a languages tutor and blogger. I offer online tuition for students across the UK. I live in Tonbridge, in Kent, with my husband and my son. For me learning Spanish has meant fun, adventure, friendship and fulfilling work. I love sharing all that I have learnt with my students and via my blog. If you would like to receive 10% off your first online lesson, as well as regular updates and tips for learning Spanish, subscribe here.

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