Grammar is the backbone of language. It gives it shape and definition, boundaries and rules.
So trying to form Spanish sentences around the English grammar in your brain is like dressing a cat in a tuxedo. Cute, but pointless.
The common mistakes that we all make while learning to master a new set of grammar rules are natural and unavoidable. You have to flail a bit before you can swim like an olympian. The good news? You will get there eventually.
How can you learn to work with the new grammar without just translating new vocabulary into your native grammar?
#1 – Listen to Native Speakers
Aren’t native speakers so frustrating to listen to? Especially if they’re bilingual too. The way they just effortlessly produce such complex grammar. It can be downright nauseating.
But one day you’ll be doing it too.
To get there, pay close attention to the way native Spanish speakers form sentences. What words do they combine to create ideas? Chances are you would do it differently. Not that you would be wrong necessarily. Just foreign and unnatural in the context of Spanish grammar.
These little details form the key to natural language. You cannot learn them in a textbook – you must patiently assimilate them by listening carefully and taking notice.
#2 – Identify the Big Differences
The good thing about learning Spanish as a native English speaker is that a lot of the language really isn’t all that different. There are longs lists of cognates – words that look very similar and have similar meanings in English and Spanish. In fact, some sentences can be translated word for word between the two languages and stay grammatically correct.
But then there are the big differences, the ones that melt your brain and twist your tongue.
- Gendered nouns and adjectives
- Reflexive verbs
- Irregular verbs
- Subjunctive tense
- Two types of past tenses
The best way to face the challenge of learning these especially difficult features of Spanish grammar is nothing new. Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.
Once you’ve identified the grammar points that are most distinct from English and hardest for you to grasp, you’ve got to make them your priority.
#3 – Practice, Practice, Practice
You can listen to native Spanish speakers ramble on all day and night. You can read every textbook there is on the complexities of Spanish grammar.
None of it will matter if you are not practicing Spanish on a daily basis.
It does not have to be verb drills and essays. You can:
- Watch your favorite TV shows and movies in Spanish (I recommend The Simpsons, great Spanish voice acting)
- Listen to Spanish music
- Watch the news in Spanish
- Write an email to a Spanish speaking friend
- Spontaneously introduce yourself to someone you hear speaking Spanish in public (bonus points for bravery on this one!)
If you make practice a daily priority, progress is guaranteed to come along with it.
Have you embraced Spanish grammar yet or is it still your worst enemy? Have any suggestions for creative ways to get daily practice in?