There are so many Spanish-learning resources online that it’s easy to assume with a bit of research you’ll be well equipped to teach yourself Spanish. And if you’re smart, you might think you can do it all for free too.
It’s certainly possible to teach yourself Spanish and not pay a penny. In much the same way as teaching yourself to play guitar or learning to cook with video tutorials. However, the people who succeed in doing this are extremely driven and motivated. Only you can say for sure if that’s you.
The most important requirement in learning a language is commitment. If you’re fully devoted to the cause, you won’t necessarily need someone to teach you the grammatical structures and vocabulary. You can find it all online, put the hours in and you’ll get there teaching yourself Spanish.
The brutal truth, however, is that most of us are not like this, particularly if we’re jugging our endeavor alongside full-time work or school. You’ll probably come across a few days where you don’t study. Soon those few days will become a week, and without realizing it your Spanish operation will be going through a crisis. These are the moments when it helps to have a third-party influence, like a teacher or evening class. Fixed commitments of both time and money bring a range of benefits, but one of the most important of all is that kick up the backside you need to actually do this.
Here are five reasons it pays to get organized tuition instead of trying to teach yourself Spanish:
1. It keeps you focused on your goal.
Having a weekly class is worth the money for much more than just the tuition itself. It also prevents you from losing grip completely on your goal. If you couldn’t study one week (or simply didn’t out of laziness), then it’s bad, but not cataclysmic. Nothing puts you back on your feet like a teacher’s enthusiasm, some role-playing and the discovery of new words and concepts.
Like most routine appointments, you go out of habit and a feeling of obligation even in your lowest moments. Learning Spanish isn’t always fun, so it helps to be propped up by something ‘real’ when you start to lose motivation. And you will.
2. You get instant answers to your questions.
It can be difficult to find answers to very specific questions online. Maybe you heard someone use a particular expression in a different context and you’re not sure why. Maybe you want to know the difference between por and para, or you just don’t quite understand where to use imperfecto over preterito.
A teacher can give you a frank answer based on his or her own experience. They can explain it to you in many different ways to ensure that you understand. Google is a great resource, but there’s no substitute for real face-to-face tuition.
3. You get better at speaking.
Evening classes and one-to-one tuition are more interactive by design and give you more opportunities to speak Spanish.
The problem with apps, web portals, podcasts and videos is that you’re only consuming the language and not producing it. Being able to speak well is likely to be your ultimate goal as a traveler, so you’re missing out on crucial practice by not getting a teacher. Face-to-face tuition, particularly with a private teacher, will get you speaking almost the entire time. This will help to prepare you for your trip much better than simply reading, watching or playing “games” such as Duolingo.
4. You learn more about culture.
Your teacher is most likely to be a native speaker, meaning he or she has real experience of living in a Spanish-speaking country or at least being part of a Spanish-speaking family. This means they can share with you cultural nuggets, new perspectives and other concepts that will help you to understand why Spanish is the way it is.
Apps and other online learning resources make language-learning almost too academic. You have to ‘live’ it as soon as possible in order to learn quickly. And if you can’t make it to Latin America yet, the next best thing is to live it through your teacher.
5. You make valuable contacts.
Evening classes bring you into contact with other like-minded learners. Some of these people might be looking to move to the same city as you. At very least, they give you real people to study with and new opportunities to speak Spanish regularly.
Even with one-to-one tuition, your teacher can be an incredible resource that stays with you for the rest of your life. He or she can help you to prepare for your trip and be on hand to help you while you’re there. You’ll probably find that the appreciation you have for what your teacher has done for you encourages you to stay in touch with them forever. And that can only be a good thing for your continued learning of Spanish.
So yes, it is possible to learn Spanish on your own. But what you’re embarking on is a precious journey of self-improvement and self-discovery. Instead of looking for shortcuts and freebies, you should be thinking about the best way to go about it.
Like with most things in life, the more you put in the more you get out. And if you’re willing to spend a bit of money and time on face-to-face Spanish classes, you will reap the benefits. Not only now, but for the rest of your life.