Why learn Spanish? 6 reasons to try it
Spanish is a language spoken by millions – and you can pick it up, too. Let's take a closer look at the language and why learning Spanish is worthwhile.
When it comes to second languages for native English speakers, it’s easy to argue that Spain sits right at the top of the tree. Spoken by millions worldwide, it’s a language with considerable influence – and learning it can be advantageous for a whole range of reasons.
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Where is Spanish spoken?
As with most globe-conquering European languages, the spread of the Spanish language correlates firmly with the spread of the Spanish Empire. It’s the official language of twenty different countries, including Spain itself. You can find the full list of countries below.
- Costa Rica
- The Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
As you might expect, there’s considerable regional variation in dialect and accent across the Spanish language. So, someone in Madrid might struggle to understand someone from rural Nicaragua. But if you learn the language thoroughly, you should be able to get by in just about every Hispanic country.
It’s the fourth most widely spoken language worldwide. As we’ve explained in our blog post on deciding which language to learn, it’s just behind Hindi, with more than half a billion speakers worldwide.
It’s by far the most widely spoken romance language – these being languages which descend from Latin. In fact, around three-quarters of the language is borrowed from Latin. This is why it sounds a bit like French, Italian and Portuguese.
Once you’ve picked it up, you’ll be able to pivot easily into other Romance languages. This, along with its ubiquity, might explain why Spanish is also the world’s second most popular choice for those seeking a second language (with the first being English).
What are the benefits of learning a second language?
In general, picking up a second language confers a range of overlapping benefits, all of which apply to Spanish.
When you can speak with the people you meet, you’ll have an easier time travelling from place to place. This is particularly beneficial with Spanish since the language is so widely spoken. If you intend to travel through Central or South America, speaking the language will mean you can communicate with the locals and easily find your way.
Fluency in a second language can also help advance your professional life. You can’t work as an interpreter or a translator, for example, if you aren’t able to speak both languages when you’re acting as an intermediary. But it can also be beneficial in jobs that aren’t directly related to language.
Suppose you want to work in a Spanish-speaking country. In that case, familiarity with the language will help you establish yourself faster. On the other hand, if you’re simply working in a company with offices in Spanish-speaking countries, the ability to speak Spanish will be useful and remove the potential for miscommunication.
If you’d like to learn how to speak Spanish in a professional setting, the Open University’s course in Spanish for Education and Work is a great place to start.
Speaking another language will help to broaden your perspectives on a foreign culture. You’ll have an easier time empathising with people, understanding their behaviour and being able to participate in cultural activities.
Let’s be honest: being able to seamlessly shift from one language to another is impressive. It’ll mark you as well-travelled, intelligent and open-minded. Whether these assumptions are faulty or not is something that you don’t need to worry about. It’ll reflect well on you – as polyglotism (that is, being able to speak many different languages) correlates with a whole host of positive qualities.
If you can write ‘fluent in Spanish’ on your CV, you’ll stand a much better chance of securing that interview. Even if the job you’re applying for has very little to do with Spain or the Spanish language.
Learning other languages
As we’ve mentioned, learning a second language will enable you to easily pick up a third. This is especially true when the languages are closely related, so learning Spanish can also help you to more easily pick up another Latin-based language like French or Italian. Even for tonally dissimilar languages like Mandarin Chinese, already having learned more than one language means you’re more able to pick up another.
Top six reasons to learn Spanish
We know that being able to speak many languages is desirable. But what is it that’s so compelling about Spanish, in particular? Let’s look at a few reasons to learn Spanish.
1. Spanish is easy to learn
In comparison with, say, Arabic or Japanese, Spanish is pretty easy for English speakers to pick up. You’ve already got a good understanding of the alphabet, and the subject-verb-object sentence structure is also the same. Plus, you might already have picked up a few simple phrases and terms from popular culture.
Moreover, many of the Spanish words and phrases you’ll encounter are exactly the same as in English – because the two languages borrow from one another. Mosquito, vigilante, piña colada, tomato: they all come from Spanish (though the word ‘tomato’ ultimately comes from “xitomatl” from the Nahuatl language in Central America, where the tomato originates).
2. Spanish will advance your career
Spoken in more than twenty countries, Spanish is a language that will make you more employable. If nothing else, it’ll look good on your CV. Recruitment website Indeed ranks Spanish as the fourth most sought-after language, behind French, German and Mandarin Chinese. If you’re planning on living in the Americas, it sits easily on the top of the pile.
3. There are plenty of materials available
Aside from its similarity to English, Spanish is an easy language to learn because there is such a wealth of learning materials available. Especially with access to the internet, it’s easier than ever before to find high-quality Spanish learning materials.
If you’re an absolute beginner, the best place to start is at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana’s Spanish for Beginners ExpertTrack. There’s also the Foundations of Spanish for Global Communication at King’s College London; a shorter course covering some of the essentials.
As well as the educational resources, you might also consider the wealth of entertainment and informational material targeted straight at a Spanish-speaking audience.
Exposure to Spanish literature will make the process of learning the language that much more enjoyable. Spanish literature is fascinating, with great stories, myths and tall tales. If you enjoy reading stories and essays in Spanish, it’ll help you learn the language faster. Plus, it’ll unlock the opportunity to read books and literature that aren’t normally translated into English.
Perhaps the best example of Spanish literature is arguably the first novel ever written: Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Of course, it was written four centuries ago, meaning that the Spanish used by Cervantes is vastly different to the Spanish spoken today. It’s responsible for revolutionising literature and introducing the well-known term ‘Lothario’.
You don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to appreciate Spanish cuisine – but you’ll undoubtedly have an easier time understanding what’s in each delectable dish. Cuisine from Spanish-speaking countries varies greatly – from topped bread pintxos to Mexican tacos, there really is a flavour for everyone. Consequently, you might find yourself being a bit more adventurous and ordering with confidence on your travels through Spanish-speaking countries.
The Spanish have, over the centuries, had an absolutely enormous impact on world culture. Without their influence, the Americas as we know them today simply wouldn’t exist. Granted, this is true of other languages too, like French. But the unparalleled spread of the Spanish language and the diversity of the Hispanic World, make Spanish a very attractive language.
You can learn about the World’s Hispanic cultures with the help of The Open University’s intermediate course on the Worlds of Spanish.
How to learn Spanish
So, you’ve decided to take up a language and decided it should be Spanish. Where’s the best place to start? For most people, a combination of several different methods is appropriate. That way, ideas and concepts that aren’t quite getting through from one angle, might have more success coming in from a slightly different one. Here are a couple of ways to start learning Spanish today.
For modern foreign language students in British schools, Spanish is fast displacing French at the top of the pile. It’s already the more popular at A-level – but it’s also closing the gap at the GCSE level. In 2021, Spanish entries were up 74% over a decade, while French and German had declined 14% and 37% over the same period. There are also many courses available at a higher education level, too.
Learn Spanish online
Even if you didn’t take Spanish at school, it’s not too late to pick it up. In fact, it’s never too late – especially when you have access to remote-learning courses on FutureLearn. You don’t need to be in a physical classroom to learn Spanish.
With online courses, you can study the written form of the language and the spoken one, too. You can even hold conversations with fluent speakers, who’ll be able to offer you bespoke feedback. This is the fastest way to learn just about any skill, whether it’s a language or something else. It’s also one of the primary advantages of traditional education. Thanks to the internet, you can study anytime, anywhere — without leaving your home.
Live in Spain
If you decide to live in Spain for a short stretch, then you might be amazed at how quickly you progress. This is especially true if you’re speaking regularly with the locals. On-the-ground experience of Spanish will help to acquaint you with the fast-moving world of the spoken language, including slang and regional variations.
The distinction between Mexican Spanish and Spanish Spanish might be subtle, but you might find it easier to pick it up if you’ve lived in both countries.
How long does it take to learn Spanish?
It’s difficult to put a precise timeframe on the process of learning any language. Spanish is no exception. As ever, the key is consistency. If you’re committing time to practise Spanish every day, then you’ll learn it quickly. If you’re not, then you won’t.
Spanish is one of the more approachable languages for English speakers. In our blog on the French language, we cited the US Foreign Service Institute, which claims that French takes around 30 weeks to learn if you’re committing to 25 class hours per week. The good news is that Spanish is even easier: you can achieve fluency in about 24 weeks at this rate.
For most people, this is an impractically short timescale. But you can simply dial back the class time according to your availability and adjust the length of time it’ll take. With flexible online learning, this is more practicable than ever.
How to learn Spanish fast
There are several things you can do to accelerate the process of acquiring the language. We’ve explored them in detail in our blog on how to learn a language – 8 top tips and advice. But let’s run through some of the highlights.
Set out a goal
Before you get started, it’s worth coming up with a plan of action. You want to have at least a rough idea of your milestones along the way. That way, you can assess your progress and perhaps tweak your approach when needed.
It’ll also help you to settle on a level of challenge that’s appropriate to your current proficiency. If you’ve moved past the basics, it’s time to try an intermediate course, like the Open University’s ExpertTrack in Intermediate Spanish.
Learn the vocabulary
Once you’ve built up your vocabulary, you’ll have a much easier time reaching for the words you need. There are nearly a hundred thousand words in Spanish, but most of them are very rarely used. Building a reliable set of core words to draw from is something that takes time – dedicate at least a portion of your daily practice to vocabulary-building.
Find other students
When you’re learning a new language, practising conversation with fellow students can be invaluable. Practising frequently will be important to learn faster, so having a couple of people to hand happy to practise with you will make it that much easier — and more fun!
Talk to Spanish speakers
Native Spanish speakers are a valuable resource for students. Try to hold a conversation with them. You don’t have to do it often, but you’ll get an idea of where your weak points are every time you do. From there, you’ll be able to work on them!
Once you get through the basic hello’s and how-are-you’s, you’ll have a sturdy platform to build from. This is covered in the first chapter of The Open University’s Spanish for Beginners course, “Meeting and Greeting”.
Spanish television, music and film will expose you to the language. There are entire genres of music, like Flamenco, which are rooted specifically in the Spanish language and culture. Give them a try! Watching Spanish TV and films will keep you exposed to the language and entertained along the way.
Actually living in Spain may provide you with the best way to quickly learn the language. If you don’t have the means or inclination to move there permanently, though, you can get a smaller dose of the same benefit by simply visiting.
Before you head out, it’s worth having at least a passing grasp of the language. This is where The Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana’s course in Survival Spanish for Beginners comes in handy: it’ll give you the basic tools you need to get by.
Start learning Spanish today
FutureLearn offers would-be students of Spanish an incredible opportunity to learn the language – from just about anywhere in the world. You’ll get access to world-class tutors and resources, and you can learn at a pace that suits you.
If you’d like to get a taster of the introductory King’s College London course in Spanish for Global Communication, then check out the first chapter, ¡Bienvenidos al curso de español!; it’s available as an open step. Good luck!