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Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish

jason-oxenham-ceo July 31, 2015, 4:07 am
Hola to all

Last week we sent out a survey to our Rocket Spanish members asking questions about their Spanish study habits. In particular, we asked about the perceived effectiveness of the different methods that people use to learn Spanish. Basically we wanted to know what people thought worked for them (and what didn't) when they spent time learning Spanish.

I think the survey has some really interesting findings for all language learners, not only Spanish learners. In the future we may run similar surveys across other languages to see if the findings hold true.

The response to the survey was fantastic, with over 2,500 responses coming in. So, a big thanks to all those Rocket Spanish members who took the time to tell us about their methods for learning Spanish effectively.

To set the groundwork we asked the question; What is your current level of Spanish?

Somewhat unsurprisingly, 78% rated themselves as having a beginner to beginner/intermediate level of Spanish at this point in time.
Spanish learners level
We also found out that the average study time per week for ALL Rocket Spanish members is 2.78 hours per week (Note that this was for all forms of learning Spanish, not just using Rocket Spanish).

Interestingly, and again somewhat unsurprisingly, the Rocket Spanish members who rated their Spanish level as being at an Intermediate level spend an average of 3.56 hours per week using some method to learn Spanish.

And for members who rated themselves Intermediate/Advanced or higher, they spend an average of 5.27 hours per week learning Spanish!

Spanish learners study time per week

Of course this isn't a scientific study but I feel the conclusion can be drawn that for those that really want to improve their Spanish, it's quite likely that spending more time learning will help!

Where this survey gets really interesting is when we look at the perceived differences between the techniques and methods that people with a Beginners or Beginners/Intermediate level of Spanish use compared to those with an Intermediate level or higher.

The table below shows the perceived effectiveness of different learning methods and habits for these 2 groups (Scores are out of 5).

Spanish learning methods

As you can see private (one on one) tutoring, closely followed by immersion classes, are considered the most effective by those members who rated themselves as having an Intermediate or better level of Spanish.

Of course, the top 3 options are generally expensive and not within the means of all. However, there are plenty of other methods that you may not have tried that could work for you!

Also, a few people left comments about other effective methods they used that weren't on the original list. The most common ones included;
  • Talking with Spanish speaking co-workers (if you are lucky enough to have them!)
  • Audio books during commuting
  • Listening to Spanish radio stations while at work
A final point of interest... those who rated themselves as Intermediate or better, on average, used 24% more methods than everyone else. While it's likely that the more advanced Spanish learners have been practicing longer and hence used more techniques, it is worth considering trying out as many methods as possible to see what works for you!

All the best with your language learning

Jason Oxenham
Rocket Languages
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Dan-H24 July 31, 2015, 11:22 am
Jason: thank you for sharing the results of this survey. I take three things away from it:

1. The more time you spend learning a new language the faster you learn it (no surprise here.)

2. Not relying on a single method or program, but rather using as many different things as possible, even passive things like listening to music, podcasts, and other audio, is important.

3. Learning in a classroom setting is not a very successful way to learn a new language. I assume most of us are adult learners and not "typical" high school or college students. It also reflects the experience of my granddaughter:  she took 3 years of high school Spanish, could really do nothing more than conjugate verbs, got bored and quit.
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
jason-oxenham-ceo August 1, 2015, 3:47 am
Hi Dan - Totally agree. From my experience with a classroom setting you tend to be saying things in unison, hence making tutor/teacher feedback difficult, or when there is one on one interaction everyone else misses out.

It's just like the old saying "variety is the spice of life (and language learning)"!
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Steven-W15 August 3, 2015, 7:36 am
Did I get stiffed on taking this survey? I file all my RS messages and didn't see anything related to this over the last 3 weeks. Anyway, my two bits...

There is another way to interpret the data. My experience is that as my language proficiency has increased, so has my capacity to spend time in the language. Initially, spending 30 minutes studying Spanish was exhausting. Now I can - and need to (in order to attain conversational fluency) - do multiple lessons at a time (different courses), listen to music, read, converse over Skype, etc. without it being excessively draining.

For those who rated themselves as Intermediate/Advanced or higher, if you are approaching or are at conversational fluency by studying only 5.27 hours a week, you are a lot smarter than I am...
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Dan-H24 August 3, 2015, 11:19 am
Steven: don't feel bad. I got stiffed as well.

Also, I agree with you. Including studying a new and reviewing an old RS lesson once per day, studying my verb "flashcards," reading, and writing daily, Skyping, and speaking with a native speaker twice per week, I would estimate I study 12 to 14 hours per week. And I rate myself only at an intermediate level of fluency, on my best days.
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
jason-oxenham-ceo August 3, 2015, 8:41 pm
Hi Steven - From our records, you should have received the survey email! Not sure what happened there as it was sent (apparently)! And I would totally agree with your statement re capacity to learn increasing with proficiency.

Hi Dan - It looks like you aren't on our mailing lists . Please let me know if you want me to add you back in.

The time spent question was an interesting one. There were a lot of ways to slice and dice it. One thing that I didn't mention is that people who rated themselves "advanced" were pretty much all at 10+ hours. That may well be because their environment is more conducive to learning Spanish. e.g. have work colleagues or family and friends who are native speakers.
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Robert-C7 August 3, 2015, 10:55 pm
I didn't get a survey either and I was one of those people who beta tested "Play It".  I also get the weekly "Rocket Fuel" emails.

As for learning, a lot depends on one's motivation.  If I am now being assigned a job in Mexico, I will be very motivated to learn Spanish.  My intensity of study will be higher and every day I will have opportunities to practice it.

Also, the more advanced you get, the better you become at learning.  You start asking the right questions.
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Dan-H24 August 3, 2015, 11:51 pm
Jason: please add me.
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
jason-oxenham-ceo August 4, 2015, 12:15 am
Hi Dan - Done! You should be receiving weekly Rocket Fuel emails from here on.

Hi Robert - You should have received the survey email, depending on your email provider perhaps it went into your junk folder.

And, yes, external motivation can play a huge part. I certainly put the hours in studying and refreshing before our recent trip to France! Good luck with the Mexico job!
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Steven-W15 August 4, 2015, 8:34 am
Cool. It is weird though that 3 out of the 4 (Ricardo?) people that I considered the most "advanced" didn't receive the survey. Are there a lot of RS Spanish aces out there that don't participate in the forum?
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
jason-oxenham-ceo August 4, 2015, 7:37 pm
Hi Steven - Yes, it is odd, although email deliverability is a big
issue filled with many variables that we don't control. We are
looking into whats happened!
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Diana-dep1 August 6, 2015, 1:02 am
I missed the survey but glad to see the results.  I consider
myself intermediate and usually practice 5 or more hours a week
using a variety of methods. (Lately, I've been slacking up due to
the amount of time I spend at work staring at a computer.)  I
am going to show this survey to my 22 year old son who is in
college and can't pass his Spanish classes because he doesn't
commit enough time to them.  Maybe he will take these survey
results to heart. He passes all his other classes without extra
effort so he thinks Spanish should be easy as well.  It takes
a lot of hard work and time but it is well worth it.
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish
Brittany--107 August 10, 2015, 7:02 pm
Hi guys, I didn't see the survey if it was sent to me. I've been
listening to some Hispanic music on a couple of Radio Stations and
reading Spanish subtitles on some of our movies. But can't seem to
find any Radio Stations where people are simply speaking
spanish, instead of screaming, yelling, and singing it to
music. Will someone please tell me of an American Radio Station
which has people speaking the Spanish language normally? I would
greatly appreciate it. Adios for now, amigos
Learning Spanish: the best methods for learning Spanish

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