When I ask students what their goal is with Spanish, 95% of them say “to be fluent.” The reality is that being fluent (really fluent, as in being able to take college courses in Spanish, work in Spanish and live your entire life in Spanish) is 2 things:
1 – not necessary for most people
2 – a tremendous amount of work
I would like to address 2 things:
- The average person doesn’t need more than a high intermediate level of Spanish to communicate effectively in the majority of situations that present themselves in day to day life. If you are going to use Spanish to communicate when you travel, to meet new people, to chat with co-workers and clients, all you need is to reach a B2 – B3 level in both speaking and comprehension.
- Being fluent in a language is a lot more work than people realize. It’s not the years that it takes to get there that is the challenge, it’s realizing that studying doesn’t cut it. Being fluent means living a large portion of your life in that other language, in this case Spanish. It means choosing to read books in Spanish instead of in English, it means watching tv in Spanish instead of in English, it means trying to get a job where you will be using Spanish on a daily basis, or having at least 50% of your social life be in Spanish. It is a complete lifestyle change. The exception to this rule is living in a foreign country for 1-2 years and becoming fluent while there. When this is the case, you can cut down to 10-20% of your life being in Spanish to keep it up, rather than 40-50%.
I want to be clear that I am not discouraging anyone from having the goal of becoming fluent. I am simply asking you to ask yourself what your true goal is. Is being fluent what you really want or do you really just want to be able to use Spanish casually in common day to day situations? If being fluent is your goal, are you ready, willing and able to live 50% of your life in Spanish?
Food for thought…