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How I Got Fluent In Spanish: My Story

You can get fluent in Spanish within the next year or two, I guarantee it! You are smart enough to find this article, you’re more than smart enough to learn a language.

I was in your position about 3 years ago. I was reading about other people’s experiences learning Spanish so that I could, in some sort of way, see into my future.

In this article, I am going to make the whole learning process extremely simple for you. I’ll do this by breaking up the whole journey from beginner to advanced in only 3 steps or phases.

Are you ready to figure out exactly how I became fluent in Spanish within 2 years? Let’s go over my story and a simple framework that I followed that you can copy for the same results.

picture of me years ago that says "Before" and a picture of me now that says "

Summary: How I Learned Spanish To C1 Level

I used many methods to learn Spanish. In this article, I’ll break up the process into three main steps or “phases.” These are the phases and the methods that best work for each of them:

Phase #1 | A1 & A2

  • Flashcards

  • Super-beginner Comprehensible Input (Dreaming Spanish YT Channel)

  • Reading stories that are made for beginners (The Fable Cottage)

  • Spanish Music (With Lyrics)

Phase #2 | B1 & B2

  • Changing Phone Language To Spanish

  • Speaking With Language Partners

  • Watching Movies And TV Shows In Spanish

  • Journaling In Spanish

Phase #3 | C1

  • Reading Books (Native Level)

  • Traveling To Spanish Speaking Country (Panama)

  • Writing Articles In Spanish

  • ONLY Listening To Spanish Content (YouTube videos, Movies, TV, Podcasts)

With a mixture of all of these methods, I was able to reach fluency within 2 years and advanced C1 level within 3 years. Now, let’s jump into the article and talk about my experience going through this process of learning Spanish.

Phase One (A1/A2) - Spanish Vocabulary Acquisition & Apps

Phase one is definitely the hardest part of learning Spanish. You’ll be faced with what seems like infinite vocabulary that you need to learn, crazy grammar, gendered nouns, and some different sentence structures.

Pro Tip: Congratulate yourself and reward yourself for every study session. This is the phase where most people quit. Tell yourself it's fun to learn Spanish, and convice yourself that it's important for you.

Think of each study session like 1/500 until you reach fluency. From my experience, this not only helps with motivation, but it’s completely accurate.

Let’s take a look at what I did which helped me progress as quickly as possible.

my phase 1 (A1 & A2):flash cards comprehensible input beginner stories tons of music

Using Flashcards (Even Though I Despise Them)

Generally, I’m a flashcard hater, but at the beginner stages of a language, anyway that you can get to know the first 1,000 words is worth a try. Recently I started learning French, and I was able to get over phase 1 within 4 months.

What I suggest is that you find a flashcard deck with the 1,000 most common words in Spanish, and you study them until you feel like they’re not helping you learn anymore.

Watching “Super-Beginner” Spanish Comprehensible Input Videos

Now, one of the best things that I did that I really suggest you try too, is watch comprehensible input videos in Spanish. If you don’t know what this is exactly, basically they are videos that are 100% in Spanish, but they speak in a way that even beginners can understand.

My favorite part about running this website is being able to share things with you that have helped me, which is why I'm so happy to share the Dreaming Spanish YouTube Channel with you.

Trust me, it will change your life if you let it. Personally, I listened to three of his videos a day, one in the morning, one around lunchtime, and one in bed before I went to sleep.

Reading Stories That Are Made For Beginners (Even Though They’re Generally Boring)

Reading short stories is super beneficial because these stories are generally short, and manageable. While most stories on sites like The Fable Cottage or Acquire The Language take under 7 minutes to read, we can easily read them once a day and progress with them over time. I would pick one story, read it daily, and move on to another after I can understand at least 80% of the first one.

Listening To Tons of Spanish Music

Apart from being a method that helps us develop our vocabulary at insane speeds, it also helps us acquire the accent of the artists. Ps. This is actually why when I speak Spanish, I sound a bit more Caribbean because I listened to so much Reggaeton.

If you want to learn the exact free technique that helps me learn hundreds of words a month, check out this tiny article I did on it called “The RRSL Method.” I have about 600+ hours listening to my Spanish music playlists, and not even in one of those hours did I feel like I was “studying.”

Phase Two (B1/B2) - Speaking Practice & Vocabulary Acquisition

When you’re in phase two, everything will begin to change. You’ll understand much more content, and you’ll be able to express yourself so much easier in Spanish.

At the B2 level, the language will start to really make sense to you, and you’ll be able to speak without even thinking about it. This is the most exciting stage of all. Welcome to phase two!

my phase 2 | (b1 & b2) set phone lang. to spanish Speak to people in spanish find a friend on hellotalk watch content in spanish

Changing Phone Language To Spanish

One thing that I suggest to all of the readers of Acquire The Language is that they change their phone language to their target language when they reach the B1 or B2 stage.

This just helped me be immersed more in the language. I mean, every swipe, click, and scroll showed me something in Spanish. To say that it's beneficial would be an understatement.

My First Time Speaking (Spoiler… I sucked)

At about the early B1 stage, I heard someone talking in Spanish in the supermarket. I thought “He looks like a nice guy, if I can get the chance to speak with him I’ll try to practice my Spanish…” Well, that moment did come, but I couldn’t understand a word out of his mouth.

This made me realize that the Spanish spoken in many countries is far from “Standard” and that I was going to have to study dialects a little bit, to understand that man and others like him. So I did, and as I learned more about different Spanish cultures, my love for the language grew.

So try and speak with someone. It’s okay if you embarrass yourself. If the person you’re speaking with learned English, they understand what you’re going through, and they’ll most likely show you appreciation for your efforts.

Finding Language Partners On HelloTalk

Once I realized that hiding from embarrassment wasn’t going to do me any good. I went to HelloTalk to find a language partner.

After many nice people that I couldn’t connect with, and rude people that pissed me off, I found a great language partner. We spoke for about one hour every week, then two, then an hour a day, and soon after - a couple hours a day.

This rocket shipped my speaking abilities. Within six months I went from having headaches from 30-minute conversations to being able to go 30 minutes without realizing that I was speaking in Spanish. So during phase three, don’t forget to speak, friend!

Watching TV shows In Spanish

Now I know that at this stage, many TV shows will be too difficult, but stress not, that’s good. If you keep the subtitles on, you’ll be training your brain to understand colloquial speech in real life!

So don’t give up on a series for that reason if you already have reached the B2 level. It’s always better to struggle to understand a native speaker in a movie so that you can learn their dialect than to not understand them in person because you’ve never heard their way of speaking before.

Personally, I loved watching the Netflix series “Narcos” as I went to bed, however, if you’re like me and you can go to sleep with the TV on, maybe this show is not the best… I can’t count on two hands how many times I woke up to gunshots and Pablo Escobar yelling at people, lol.

Phase Three (C1) - Reading, Immersion, & Friendships

Reaching phase three is as close to “reaching the finish line” as you can get with language learning. At this point, you have an incredible grasp of the language. You can talk about almost any subject, live and work in the language, you can even sound “smart” in the language.

Once you reach phase three it’s not a question of “how to say it,” but more of a question of “which way do I want to say it?” At this point, studying can help, but the progress will not be seen much.

For me, what’s best was to just continue acquiring vocab through acquisition and I just stopped “trying to learn.” This is exactly what I did, and continue to do.

my phase 3 (c1) read books & articles travel outside of the country write articles in spanish enjoy content in spanish ONLY

Reading Books & Articles In Spanish

I only read in Spanish, and to be honest, at this point, I have read at least 2X the amount of books in Spanish that I have EVER read in English. It’s pretty nuts. I suppose that this is a huge benefit, I began to read as a way of “acquiring Spanish,” and I began to enjoy it.

So learning Spanish also taught me how to love reading. I hope that you’ll experience the same because there are so many brilliant writers in Spanish.

Traveling To Panama

To solidify all of the vocabulary and grammar that I had acquired in the 2 years of studying, I quit my terrible job and went to Panama for 3 months.

Pro Tip: If you want to try this, do what I did and get a shared AirBnB (with a local).

This not only gave me somebody who knew the city and wanted to show me around… It gave me a language partner that I could practice Spanish with every morning, evening, night, and day.

My host's name was Adrian, and our conversations helped me so much in progressing and making beautiful memories in the Spanish language.

Writing Articles In Spanish

Some 5 or so months after reaching the B2 level, I started writing articles in Spanish. I did this so that I could use newly acquired vocabulary and read a text with them that was relevant to me.

This strategy shouldn’t be overlooked. You can make personalized texts with the exact words that you want to learn or reinforce and write them about something important that interests you.

Pro Tip: You can use Chat GPT to make this method easier.

Enjoying Most YouTube/Entertainment ONLY In Spanish

Once at this level, it takes so much time to improve your Spanish even just 1%. So to make those improvements over time, and to continue acquiring the language, I try to keep myself immersed.

I listen as much as possible. From the moment I wake up until the second I fall asleep, I’m looking for opportunities to get Spanish input. By doing this, I am constantly learning new words just by listening to content that I genuinely enjoy. Nothing more to it!

Questions & Answers About Learning Spanish

I have been asked by many of you these questions that I am about to answer. I hope this helps everyone out, even if you haven’t thought to ask these questions yet.

person asking a question to a teacher

What’s the hardest part of learning Spanish?

The hardest part of learning Spanish is maintaining your motivation and habit of studying daily. Apart from that, it would certainly be the grammar. With 18 tenses and 6 subjects, that makes for a total of 108 versions of each verb. But, don’t worry, the patterns are predictable once you learn them.

How should I learn Spanish as a beginner?

Use 1 or 2 apps, such as Busuu and Clozemaster. Listen to music in Spanish and read the lyrics. Try writing the basic phrases that you learn in a notebook. And lastly, watch super-beginner Spanish YouTube videos, such as those from Dreaming Spanish.

What’s the best app to learn Spanish with?

The answer to this question will change depending on who you ask. For me, the best app (by far) to learn Spanish with is Busuu. Busuu has pronunciation courses, and it lets you hear words and phrases from the mouths of native speakers.

Busuu also teaches Spanish slang and grammar in a super simple and interesting way. Furthermore, they’ll teach you about Spanish countries and their cultures, which for me, motivated me greatly and made me love Spanish-speaking cultures even more!

Conclusion: How I Got Fluent In Spanish

I became fluent in Spanish within two years. This process felt long, difficult, but above all - rewarding. While I tried many methods over the years, the methods that helped me the most were:

  • Comprehensible input

  • Listening to music

  • Speaking with natives

  • Reading books

  • Traveling to a Spanish-speaking country (Panama)

  • Only watching YouTube in Spanish

If you want to learn more about the techniques that I used, check out this article “The 13 Best Methods For Learning Vocabulary”

Have a wonderful day, best regards,

~ Benji



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