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Old Jan 24th 2012, 9:29 am   #1
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Default How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

Hi all

I am going to start learning Spanish with a view to moving there as soon as I can.
How long did it take you? I can speak fluent Italian so hoping it won't be too much of a shock, but would be good to find out how long each of you took, and how good is it now?

Thanks!
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 10:21 am   #2
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

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Originally Posted by MaryM79 View Post
Hi all

I am going to start learning Spanish with a view to moving there as soon as I can.
How long did it take you? I can speak fluent Italian so hoping it won't be too much of a shock, but would be good to find out how long each of you took, and how good is it now?

Thanks!
the Italian will help, there are similarities - I can't speak Italian nor have I ever studied it, but find I can often make sense of written Italian & sometimes spoken, too


I couldn't speak Spanish when we moved here just over 8 years ago - I started teaching it about 4 years ago & I'm happy to admit that I'm still learning & probably always will be
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 10:35 am   #3
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

It depends to what level you see as having "learnt" a language. Also a huge variable will be the amount of time and effort dedicated to it, part time at home or some full time education at a language school. Personally I think it's a never ending process,(well, it is for me!) I'm nowhere near the level I would like to be at. Some claim to be fluent in a language, I would never say I'm fluent in the language, fluent to me means being able to speak as well in your chosen language as your native language, there aren't many that get to that stage. Others see "fluent" completely differently, being able to hold a limited conversation is seen as "fluent". You should be at an advantage with one language already under your belt, but I think anyone starting from scratch, unless they attend full time courses or are totally immersed in the language, at least a couple of years to get to the competent stage. Or unless they are kids, doesn't seem to be a problem for them.
Edit. Just seen lynnxa's post, agree, you never stop learning! A friend of mine that has the same Spanish teacher as me is also learning Italian, and she finds the speaking side of it quite difficult. She's quite shy, seems you need to be a lot more confident, outgoing, to speak Italian.

Last edited by agoreira; Jan 24th 2012 at 10:40 am.
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 1:08 pm   #4
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

I think I share Agoreira's definition of fluency, and I'm nowhere near it!

When I came to live in Spain just over 5 years ago, I knew a little bit of Spanish, entirely self-taught from audio tapes and books. I could order drinks and meals, buy things in shops, knew my numbers, that kind of thing. I didn't know any grammar at all, couldn't respond to anything other than the simplest question and my pronunciation was awful.

After we moved here permanently, I started off by doing a 4-week course, with a one hour lesson every weekday morning (plus homework every day). After that I carried on with a two-hour group lesson once a week at a local language school, again plus homework. After about a year I started an intercambio with a Spanish student at the same school who was learning English, we met for an hour twice a week to practice conversation and that was really helpful. After I started the group lessons, every few months my teacher would say that she wanted to move me up to another group, and I would have a few one to one lessons with her as well, to catch up on the bits that the others in the new group had already covered.

I went through the course that she taught from Basic to Advanced level in just over eighteen months, and after I stopped going to lessons I began another intercambio with a Spanish neighbour who is learning English, which we still keep going as we have become friends.

My biggest problem is still, as it always has been, with listening skills, not helped by the fact that I live in an area where most people speak with a very strong local accent, quite different from the Castellano we learn in classes. When I travel further North, it's so much easier!

I didn't really "speak" any other languages (apart from English!) when I began. I learned French at school to 'A' level but never had to speak it apart from the occasional holiday, also Latin and Greek which might have helped with the discipline of learning grammar but being dead languages, not with anything else! If you already have fluent Italian, you have done better than me! Good luck with your move and your studies.
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 1:20 pm   #5
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

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seems you need to be a lot more confident, outgoing, to speak Italian.
Or you can raise your voice and wave your arms around a lot and throw in the odd word here and there
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 1:30 pm   #6
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

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Or you can raise your voice and wave your arms around a lot and throw in the odd word here and there
Yes, I nearly put the arm waving bit! The Spanish can do the loud bit, put a few together and it's deafening!
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 1:45 pm   #7
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

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I think I share Agoreira's definition of fluency, and I'm nowhere near it! .....

.....When I came to live in Spain just over 5 years ago, Good luck with your move and your studies.
You've done well, that's a lot of studying! You deserve to do well. Being in UK, due to the crisis, the numbers needed for an advanced class to run from the nearest university has increased, and we can't get that many, so no more classes. Also a friend and Spanish teacher has been off having a baby, so our meetings there folded as well, so getting rusty! She has now contacted me to say she will start some more meetings, hopefully next week, so I'll be back getting a severe grilling in Spanish soon. I still read the Spanish press online, blogs etc, listen to podcasts etc, all free, so no excuses for not studying. In that respect, it's easier nowadays, the amount of free learning materials online is immense.
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 2:01 pm   #8
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

I could hold a conversation, but only on limited subjects - for me the lack of vocabulary was my real problem and some of the verb endings and the vocabulary is going to take years

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Old Jan 24th 2012, 2:21 pm   #9
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

People have different abilities and different standards for evaluating their proficiency.

I've lived here 12 years and I still haven't learnt Spanish to a level I'm happy with although I run a business and converse in Spanish every day.

OTOH many can speak fairly fluently after a few months. Others think they can.

I also know of others who firmly deny they can speak Spanish but they actually can which is a bit odd
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 5:13 pm   #10
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

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I also know of others who firmly deny they can speak Spanish but they actually can which is a bit odd
I don't blame them. The complications that arise when people know you can speak to locals! They think you have nothing better to do than order their wood etc. speak to sevillana, ayuntamiento and ask locals allsort of stupid questions. Worse for me was translating in a dispute...that's all I did. completely neutral. None of them ever spoke to me again

I agree with others, you never stop learning a language. I think my spanish is quite old-fashioned as I don't use "street language" in everyday conversation. Not mixed much with young spanish people so it doesn't come naturally. Same with English, Grandson comes out with some strange words
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 6:43 pm   #11
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

I agree with whoever said it's the definition of fluency that's the nub. It took me a couple of years as a child to be fluent in swearwords, household items and numbers, but my current level - though adequate to deal with garage/servicing/etc including getting stroppy with them - is ok for day to day stuff, using more than one past tense (not always correctly), but where I fall down is attempting a 'real' conversation, with all the nuances of beliefs, feelings, distinctions between one meaning and another, and so on. I can do it - kind of - but the only way I can describe my feelings (and I have to many a friend/acquaintance along the way) is that I really can't show in Spanish that I've got anything very much between the ears..... (of course some would question if I have in English, whole other debate)
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 7:18 pm   #12
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

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I agree with whoever said it's the definition of fluency that's the nub. It took me a couple of years as a child to be fluent in swearwords, household items and numbers, but my current level - though adequate to deal with garage/servicing/etc including getting stroppy with them - is ok for day to day stuff, using more than one past tense (not always correctly), but where I fall down is attempting a 'real' conversation, with all the nuances of beliefs, feelings, distinctions between one meaning and another, and so on. I can do it - kind of - but the only way I can describe my feelings (and I have to many a friend/acquaintance along the way) is that I really can't show in Spanish that I've got anything very much between the ears..... (of course some would question if I have in English, whole other debate)
what I usually say to my students is 'how long did it take you to be fluent in English?'

the answer is anything from '20 years' to 'all my life & I'm still learning'


that's how long it takes to be fluent in a language when you are immersed in it - so how long if you're not?

I'm sure I will never be as fluent in spanish as I am in English - I might come close if I was totally immersed for the rest of my life - but I'm not
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 8:10 pm   #13
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

It's not so much speaking as knowing what you are talking about. Read Spanish papers, watch Spanish TV, immerse yourself in Spanish culture.
Start with El Mundo or El País .
I learnt (years ago) by going to the cinema every day.
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 8:52 pm   #14
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

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It's not so much speaking as knowing what you are talking about. Read Spanish papers, watch Spanish TV, immerse yourself in Spanish culture.
Start with El Mundo or El País .
I learnt (years ago) by going to the cinema every day.
yeah but that's when the trouble starts.

I know what the news is saying. I can read the papers and understand them. I can follow TV and radio stations.

That's how I now know that the news is almost all depressing, the TV programmes are totally shite and the radio DJs spout more crap than a field full of cows and a decent song every 30 minutes in between their warbling is a bonus.

It's easier to make up my own playlist instead of listening to the radio and the TV i-players have become a Godsend. I'd rather watch somebody else's life unfold on Coronation Street etc. than watch another Italian talk show or some no way funny so called comedy programme. As for the reality ones ........ give me strength. Even a film lasts for almost 4 hours due to the amount of crappy adverts and sponsoring "spots" breaking it up.
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Old Jan 24th 2012, 9:35 pm   #15
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Default Re: How long did it take you to learn Spanish?

30 minutes a day of studying will get you conversational within a few months depending how you learn. But with immersion you can become fluent within 2 years. You shouldn't need more than 4 years to become as fluent as your native language. 20 years is a bit steep like lynnxa says.
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