Before I answer your question, let’s clarify one thing.
Learning a foreign language is never an easy task. It requires persistence, dedication, self-motivation, lots of discipline, and time.
If you think you can genuinely master Spanish in a question of weeks, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to burst your bubble.
Just moving from A1 to A2 will probably take you 1 to 2 months.
Unless, of course, you are doing a full immersion course or living in a Spanish speaking country.
Having straightened that out, let’s go back to the original question.
Is Spanish easy to learn?
Spanish is definitely the right choice as your second language and a relatively easy to learn if English is your mother tongue.
I’d like to back up my answer with official data:
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the American Department of State has compiled a list of learning expectations for a group of selected languages and divided them into categories depending on how long it takes to reach proficiency (Level 3 Speaking and Reading) in each of them.
According to these criteria, Spanish has been placed in Category 1 (“Languages closely related to English”), which means around 24 weeks of studies or about 600 hours of classes.
By the way, English, Italian, French, and Portuguese belong to the same category.
Just to compare, Polish – my native language – is classified as level 3 (44 weeks of study).
Among the most challenging languages in the world (category 4), you’ll find Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. They are considered “exceptionally difficult for native English speakers” and require around 2200 hours of classes!
3 reasons why your adventure with Spanish should be easy
1. Spanish grammar is similar to English – no headaches and confusion.
This is the number one thing to consider when studying a foreign language. Grammar differences can throw many stones on your learning path and cause you lots of headaches.
For example, when you want to translate this sentence from Japanese: わたしはごはんを食べます , it literally means “I rice eat.” Sounds wrong, doesn’t it?
In Arabic, on the other hand, a sentence that means “He threw the ball” will follow a verb-subject-object structure and read “Threw he the ball.”.
Well, you might not be aware of the grammar patterns (i.e., syntax) in your language, not know what a subject or an object is, but you’ll want words in the foreign language to go in the same place as in English.
In Spanish, they do. Most of the time, at least.
You’ll easily recognize your verbs, nouns, adverbs, or adjectives.
Like in these examples:
🇪🇸 Juan tiene una camisa nueva.
🇬🇧 Juan has a new shirt.
🇪🇸 María maneja muy bien.
🇬🇧 María drives very well.
🇪🇸 El gato siempre duerme en el sofá.
🇬🇧 The cat always sleeps on the sofa.
🇪🇸 ¿Quieres algo para comer?
🇬🇧 Do you want something to eat?
🇪🇸 Nuestra empresa fabrica miel.
🇬🇧 Our company produces honey.
See, most of the time, the words fit precisely in your intuitive patterns.
There are some differences, of course, as no two languages are identical, but they are relatively easy to understand and to remember.
When you dig deeper into Spanish grammar, you’ll also learn that:
- it uses articles, just like English
- nouns pluralize pretty much in the same way
- Spanish pronouns are quite consistent with the English ones
- grammar tenses are comparable and in some cases almost identical
- prepositions follow a similar logic
- questions are made only by changing your intonation – how simple is that?!
2. Many Spanish words are similar to English – save time on memorizing vocabulary
Another aspect that makes Spanish such an easy language to learn for native English speakers is the fact that both of them have plenty of words in common.
The reason for this similarity lies in the origin of these two languages: they both belong to the Indio-European family.
Those similar words are called “cognates” or “friends” and can help you a great deal.
🇪🇸 Soy alérgico al gluten.
🇬🇧 I’m allergic to gluten.
🇪🇸 James Bond era un agente secreto.
🇬🇧 James Bond was a secret agent.
🇪🇸 Necesito información sobre sus productos.
🇬🇧 I need information about your products.
🇪🇸 Juan tiene una pantalones nuevos.
🇬🇧 Juan has new pants.
🇪🇸 Esta foto es perfecta para mi nuevo album.
🇬🇧 This photo is perfect for my new album.
I am sure you would understand all these sentences above without the following translation.
However, don’t get overly confident when you see a Spanish word that looks similar to English and beware of the so-called “false cognates”, a.k.a. words that have a different meaning even though they look almost the same. You can read more about them in my post on the most common mistakes in Spanish.
Another reason why there are so many vocabulary similarities between Spanish and English is the fact that both languages tend to “borrow” words from each other.
What are some common English words that you’ll find in Spanish?
Mostly sports, business, or tech words, like the ones below:
🇬🇧 basketball – 🇪🇸 báquetbol
🇬🇧 tennis – 🇪🇸 tenis
🇬🇧 memo – 🇪🇸 memo
🇬🇧 leader – 🇪🇸 líder
🇬🇧 director – 🇪🇸 director
🇬🇧 click – 🇪🇸 clic
🇬🇧 disc – 🇪🇸 disco
🇬🇧 to chat – 🇪🇸 chatear
English borrows from Spanish too.
Have you ever wondered why California has so many Spanish sounding city names? Well, it used to belong to Mexico. No wonder then.
How about a patio, siesta, plaza, bonanza, pronto, tequila? All of them are Spanish words, yet so often used in English.
Wanna hear something interesting?
There are also words in English that derive not directly from Spanish but from the indigenous languages spoken on the Latin American territories conquered by the Spaniards.
Coyote, chipotle, avocado, chocolate, cocoa – before they entered English vocabulary, they were acquired from native Latin American tribes.
3. Not many differences between Spanish and English sound systems
There is yet another thing that makes Spanish easy to learn for English native speakers.
Spanish is a phonetic language, which means that most words are pronounced in the same way as they are written. Pronunciation rules are straightforward and clear and you can learn them quite effortlessly.
What’s more, most of the sounds contained in the Spanish language can be reproduced by an English speaker without major problems, especially considering that the vowel sounds are rather similar.
🇪🇸 un coche
🇬🇧 a car / a stroller
🇪🇸 una mesa
🇬🇧 a table
🇪🇸 un gato
🇬🇧 a cat
🇪🇸 una hora
🇬🇧 an hour
🇪🇸 un libro
🇬🇧 a book
I am not saying it is all roses and unicorns, there are sounds that are quite hard to pronounce, but with a little bit of practice, you’ll master them too.
When compared with Polish, for instance, which is packed with consonant clusters that make you wonder “does this language even use any vowels?”, Spanish is a piece of cake.
Now, if you do like twisting your tongue, here’s a little practice for you:
🇪🇸 El perro aburrido mordisqueó el paraguas de Joaquin.
🇬🇧 The bored dog bit Joaquin’s umbrella.
🇪🇸 Catorze hamburguesas se quemaron porque Miguel se equivocó.
🇬🇧 Fourteen burgers got burned because Miguel made a mistake.
Lots of possibilities to practice Spanish and advance quickly
Mastering a foreign language requires constant practice – never forget that.
It is one thing to do grammar exercises and learn new vocabulary, and a totally different thing to actually use Spanish to communicate with other people.
I often get to see students who know complicated grammar structures, have very good reading skills, but struggle to use the language communicatively.
Luckily for you, Spanish is so widely spoken that you’ll surely have many opportunities to practice it, either on vacation or at work.
Perhaps there is a Spanish speaking community in our own country as well?
How to use my time in Spain or Latin America to the fullest?
Here are a few tips for you if I may:
- Don’t be afraid of speaking Spanish in front of other people. Everybody makes mistakes. You should be proud that you are learning another language.
- Don’t worry about perfect grammar. The whole purpose of learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate with other people. And we can make ourselves understood even if what we say is not 100% correct.
- Ask people to repeat or speak slower if you need it. For some reason, we tend to be kinder with foreigners when they make an effort to talk to us in our own language.
- Be the one who initiates the communication. There are lots of great conversation starter ideas that you can use.
- Absorb the language from everywhere: watch TV in Spanish, listen to other people’s conversation on a bus or a train, read local newspapers and magazines.
- Stay away from other English speaking people. You’ll be too tempted to use your own language with them.
What’s hard about Spanish for a native English speaker?
If I only mentioned the easy things about Spanish, you’d probably get suspicious, wouldn’t you?
Too good to be true, right?
So yes, I admit, there are certain tricky aspects of Spanish that native English speakers tend to struggle with.
The most challenging part of learning Spanish – I’m sure you’ll agree – is definitely the verb conjugation.
In English, verbs hardly conjugate at all. You need pronouns and auxiliaries to indicate whether you’re talking about me, him, her, us, or them, and if your sentence is in present, past or future.
In Spanish, you’ll need a different verb form to convey this information, which makes personal pronouns quite needless.
🇪🇸 No comen carne.
🇬🇧 They don’t eat meat.
🇪🇸 Fuimos al cine
🇬🇧 We went to the movies.
🇪🇸 ¿Serás mi esposa?
🇬🇧 Will you be my wife?
In all the 3 examples, it is not necessary to include person pronouns in the Spanish version, because the verb form contains this information.
When you start learning Spanish, you’ll also find out it has 2 different verbs (ser and estar) that translate as “to be”. It will take some practice before you’re able to choose the correct one intuitively.
I promise to help you with this some other time.