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How to become fluent in Spanish – A bilingual speaker’s tips

How to become fluent in Spanish – A bilingual speaker’s tips

I took the long way around to become fluent in Spanish. In my case it wasn´t a quick process. I began speaking my first few words of Spanish around the age of 12 or thirteen. I didn´t consider that I was fluent in Spanish for many years later.

My goal initially was to be understood. Becoming bilingual didn’t even cross my mind. After getting a grasp on basic Spanish, I wanted to work using the language. Step by step I improved.

I´m hoping to encourage you by sharing my experience. Maybe some of the tips could help other students.

Become Fluent in Spanish

Learning Spanish and Flamenco

Adopt a Spanish Family

Before I took my first Spanish class, I was thrown in at the deep end. I took part in a Spanish exchange with a Catalan school. My local school had an exchange program with English students in Olesa de Montserrat. So at the age of 12 I found myself arriving in a Catalan village, desperately hoping the Spanish girl I was staying with would have a good level of English. Luckily she did. All these years on we a still good friends.

Learning Spanish doesn’t have to be seen as something stressful. It all depends on the goals and objectives you set for yourself and method used during the process.
Remember, the key to success is always consistency and positivity.  Some days will be harder than always, so make sure to check for resources to assist you with any difficulties. If you don’t know where to begin, click here

In hindsight being exposed to Spanish life on that first student exchange really helped with my learning. It was a huge challenge at 12 to be alone in a foreign place but I learnt a lot. Staying with a Spanish family is a great way for language immersion.

Learning Spanish in Albaicin

Spanish School

My comprehensive school taught GCSE Spanish rather than German or any other second language. This wasn´t the norm in the eighties in fact it was quite rare.After passing GCSE Spanish easily, I continued onto do A Level Spanish. This course was dull. Spanish literature made up a large part of the syllabus. I found it very boring. At that time I didnt know that IQ test insights can help you explore your linguistic aptitude or that learning another language can help brain health and improves cognitive function. 

It was talking to Spanish people that motivated me. Not reading Spanish classics. Nowdays there are lots of different ways to learn a language.

Books about Spain piccavey blog

Travel to Spain

Being able to travel to Spain once or twice a year was a huge motivator. Speaking to real Spanish people was the whole point for me. When I was younger I visited Olesa de Montserrat (it´s actually an interesting Day out from Barcelona)

Back in the 1990´s Skype didn’t exist, nor did podcasts. Even without travelling to Spain now you can find resources to improve from anywhere at all. Make use of all those things I didn’t have then. You can take classes over Skype, Online Spanish courses or even meet Spanish people working in the UK.

Plaza de Toros Ronda Spain Bullfighting

Become an Expat

Moving to a Spain (or another Spanish speaking country) made cultural immersion far easier. I become an Expat in 1998 when I moved to Barcelona. I wanted to improve my spoken Spanish and use my new language in the workplace.

When I left the U.K my impression was that my Spanish was already good. On arrival I found that it wasn´t the case. It took me just under a year to get a good clear level of spoken Spanish.

It is not an easy process. You need to be determined and focused. It is worth it when you put in the effort.

fluent in Spanish

Make Spanish friends

Being in Cosmopolitan Barcelona it would be easy to make lots of International friends immediately. However I made a point of avoiding the Expat crowd. I was keen to make local friends. I didn´t do Spanish lessons so it was important to make the most of every opportunity to speak to Spanish people. One point which is very often overlooked when learning languages is the cultural side of things.

Observing the Culture of a city or country can help you progress far more than reading textbooks.

Learning Spanish and Flamenco

If you are new in a Spanish location, why not try an Intercambio? Many cities and towns cross Spain have these events. You get to practise your Spanish with a native speaker. Then you listen to their English.  A low cost option and a way to make friends too.

You can even have classes online from a Spanish person. Such as this Spanish course

This talk about broadening your perspective through language explains how learning about other cultures can refresh your ideas. Being fluent in Spanish or another language has other advantages too.

If you have chance do watch the video:

Listen to Spanish

Have fun while learning Spanish. I didn´t enjoy grammar or Spanish literature so I avoided it. I listened to Spanish radio. You can now find lots of Podcasts to download or stream online radio from anywhere in the world.

I used to go to the cinema along to watch films in Spanish. I’d choose films where the plot was uncomplicated. So it didn’t matter too much if I missed a few phrases. Hearing Hugh Grant dubbed in Spanish was painful (but far better than boring grammar classes in a stuffy classroom.) 

I forced myself to read novels in Spanish. Earlier on with basic Spanish I would read short newspaper cuttings. Looking up the trickier words and working out what had happened.

If you are learning by yourself do make sure you cover all four aspects of learning: Speaking, listening, reading and writing.


False friends in Spanish

Make mistakes. You cannot learn anything without making a fool of yourself along the way. Making mistakes is just part of the learning process. I have a long list of Spanish anecdotes and food anecdotes which I have collected over all these years. Don´t worry about it. Just move on and make a mental note of the word to avoid repeating the same mistake over again.

Learn how to politely excuse yourself just in case you need it sometime!

Perdona, me equivoqué de palabra 

Learning Spanish in Ronda Spain

Work in Spain

If you get chance to work in a Spanish company you will require a good level of Spanish. Not only that, you will also need to relearn work culture. Office environments in any two countries vary. Spain isn’t the same as in the UK. The banter at work varies and that´s a whole new subject to study. What you find amusing probably may not be funny to your colleague. The jokes you know off by heart are untranslatable.

It takes a while to actually gain character in your new language.

Mujumaps Home Office Desk Map Granada Spain

Teach English Abroad

Get TEFL Certification

Many people who move to Spain teach English. Being an English teacher requires a TEFL certification. The course can be done online so that you are all set before travelling abroad. More details at MyTefl

Accredited Online TEFL

Study at Spanish University

Studying abroad at a University in Spain is another option to fast track your Spanish and live abroad. In 2010 did a Postgraduate course at Granada University. This course help me to perfect my written and spoken Spanish. Currently the city of Granada is the most popular Erasmus destination.

Each year 2000 students travel to Granada to study and learn Spanish.

Become fluent in Spanish

How did I realise that I was actually fluent in Spanish ?

It sunk in the day I was asked to lecture at the University of Granada. I was flattered to be asked but also very nervous. Since that first 2 hour class back in 2011 I have had other Public speaking opportunities in Spanish. Recent examples have been a Local TV interview and a interview on local Radio. 

Becoming fluent in Spanish was a long process with a few steps back and lots of steps forward. Keep on learning…

It´s worth it in the end.


Public Speaking in Spanish

My tip to be able to speak confidently in another language is to know the subject in depth. That way if you get distracted or tongue tied, at least you will know the details and facts well.  If there are any questions you will know how to answer confidently. I also learnt several ways of saying the same keywords to not sound repetitive.

How to become fluent in Spanish: Takeaways

  1. Try a Student Exchange with a Spanish Family
  2. Take Spanish at School or College or even a Spanish language course
  3. Travel to Spain or South America
  4. Live abroad (temporarily or permanently)
  5. Make Spanish friends in person or online
  6. Listen, speak, read and write as much as you can.
  7. Remember common false friends and know how to apologise
  8. Work in Spain or in an International company
  9. Study in a University in Spain
  10. Observe the culture of the place you visit. It will help with language learning too.



This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. All thoughts, feelings and opinions shared on this blog and in this post are my own.
  1. Aman singh says:

    Since last five years i was planning to learn a foreign language and my first priority was Spanish. Happy to see a blog on Spanish language. You keep it very interesting through out the story. I am deeply inspired by your writing skill. Thanks for sharing.


    Any advice on finding reliable tradespeople in Granada – English speaking?

    • Molly says:

      Hello Melissa

      Thanks for reading

      I would suggest asking your neighbours for reputable companies and contacts and use them.
      it can be tricky to find professionals at a reasonable price that have availability.

      If you wish to find english speaking ones you will limit the search greatly. I think it is best to find the best person for the job rather than a person who speaks good english who may not know the local area

      Hope this helps

  3. Jamie says:

    This is EXACTLY what I needed! I have a Spanish exam in a few months that determines a great deal of my degree so it was destiny for me to find this!!

  4. Kyntra Strickland says:

    I have been working on learning Spanish on my own. Visiting Spain definitely helps! I have found a couple of apps that I love as well. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips!

  5. How interesting. Honestly I should say you kept very motivated into spanish after your first experience. Basically because learning spanish in Catalunya isn’t as easy as in Madrid. Because we are already bilingual and Olesa de Montserrat (very close where I do live) it is very catalan spoken.
    Your post is excellent. It has got all the keys to learn a language properly without missing the efforts you have to make such as “avoiding” international friendships and make spanish ones.

    P.S: La foto con Chiquito de la Calzada es BRUTAL! Si has conseguido entenderle, chica, tienes un español de NIVEL! 😉

    • Molly says:

      Yes, since living in Andalusia (now 9 years) I have gained a good understanding of the different accents. Cadiz is the most difficult one by far.

  6. Freya says:

    I learnt Spanish in school a long time ago but I lost it all.
    If you cannot immerse yourself in it (by living in the country or having a partner speaking the language), it is really hard to keep it up.
    These are all really good tips, make me decide to try another Spanish language course.

  7. Ruth says:

    I would looooove to learn Spanish. I was able to pick up a small amount traveling purely by conversing with waiters and asking them questions – after a couple weeks I could get around ordering food and drink and paying the bill in Spanish but that was about it. We had some success with iPad apps like ‘Duolingo’ but I definitely think the best way to learn is to just immerse yourself in it. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  8. noel says:

    These are all excellent tips, total immersion and being in the environment really gets it off with a bang and I love the sink or swim aspect of being there and trying all the combinations that you have given. Excellent post!

  9. Teresa says:

    Hi Molly!
    These are great tips, which actually apply to language learning in general. I have done some of them – I’m living and working in Poland, I’ve made some Polish friends, and I’m having Polish lessons. I am at the beginning of my journey when it comes to learning Polish, though. 🙂

  10. Meg Jerrard says:

    Thanks for these tips! We’ve just done a lot of travel throughout South America and even though I did a short language course, all of the Spanish I learned just completely became lost! I started listening to spanish and watching my favorite TV shows in SPanish and learned more from that that I did from the language course … I know every single episode of Friends off by heart lol so it actually helped 😀

  11. Living in less touristy/expat-free north of Gran Canaria has definitely improved our Spanish-language skills. Although, fluency remains some way off.

  12. Sarah Elizabeth says:

    Such good advice! I moved to Ireland and no new language was required, and I’m kind of feeling like I’m missing out. Maybe a new lingual country should be next on the horizon! haha xx

    • Molly says:

      It certainly adds to the challenge when you don´t understand what is being said Sarah!

  13. Josh says:

    Great tips Molly. I have certainly been helped by intercambios and living with Spanish people. I still don’t consider myself to be fluent. In fact the more I learn the further away total fluency seems strangely enough!

  14. Irene says:

    I can’t believe you bumped into Chiquito! Hilarious.

  15. And you had the added problem of living in Cataluña. Try arriving to work in a bar where NO-ONE spoke English. You soon pick it up. 10 years later I now do all the publicity where I work, and my Spanish compañeros ask me to check their spelling. Getting thrown inat the deep end {like the children at school) really works.
    And definitely avoid the ex-pat community.

  16. Joanna says:

    Agree with Lisa – this best way to become fluent in a language is to get a partner who speaks it! And to not be afraid of making a mistake even though it could be an embarrassing one. Good post, Molly. Thanks

    • Molly says:

      I know quite a few friends that are embarassed to make a mistake and it stops them from progressing. I find this sad as often their level of English or Spanish is actually better than they think. It´s so important that the person listening is patient and encouraging too, which isn’t always the case!

  17. Abigail R says:

    Spot on, however I agree…a Spanish boyfriend…and later husband, helped matters immensely 😉

    • Molly says:

      I find writing shopping lists very difficult, so my partner often finds himself doing the weekly shop and guessing what I have written down. We end up with random ítems in the cupboards. I try to write all in Spanish or all in English, but sometimes it just doesnt work out.

  18. Great article Molly! I’ve moved to Madrid and am getting to grips with the language.

    I found an amazing course online that I’d recommend to people called Shortcut to Spanish that I’ve used. It’s very intensive… but in the space of 30, 10-minute lessons you can understand so much more and get your needs met, without resorting to English. That’s been life changing for me and well worth the money spent on it.

    • Molly says:

      Thanks for the tip Alex, that will be helpful for other readers.
      I should say Hi next time I´m in Madrid.

  19. Chris Gamble says:

    I have lived in Spain for many years and my Spanish language skills are no more than basic. I understand the reason is that I spend mostof my time working and socialising in nearby Gibraltar where English is easilly spoken. Your article is a great as it remonds me of many different ways to learn and practice Spanish but I think there is little to beat total immersion within the indiginous communitiy…..something I rarely do these days.
    Finding a good Spanish friend or partner is something that would be a big boost but having a Spanish girlfriend just to pick of her language sounds a bit mean to me.
    An easy learning process and passage through the verbs is critical, I feel. I haven’t yet found any acute or simple learning tools that fit my learning style as yet.
    My kids were immersed into Spanish school the first day we arrived in Spain and, when faced with zero choice, you just have to learn to survive. There should be school places for Mum’s and Dad’s too….!
    The main thing is never give up the process of learning and engineer a way to spend more time immersed in Spanish language.

    • Molly says:

      Yes, it can be difficult if you have lots of English spoken around you. That´s what I was determined in Barcelona to try to keep away from the english teachers and translators and find Spanish friends. I found it very frustrating at the beginning but it made it worthwhile now as I can balance all my friends, English, Dutch, Catalan, Spanish and even Americans! ; )

  20. Lizzie says:

    This post has come at a good time for me! I moved to Spain a few months ago with a low level of Spanish and I’m finding it difficult to push forward. It’s frustrating and disheartening not seeing any quick improvement, but your post has shown me that it is possible if you persevere… So persevere I will!

    • Molly says:

      Yes, do keep perserving and make sure you have fun with it.
      I didnt enjoy grammar so I learnt things parrot fashion rather than from books!
      The more you go on the more things start to fit into place.
      ¡Mucha suerte amiga!

  21. Lisa says:

    You’ve missed the best one … pillow talk 😉

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