Stop learning individual words in Spanish

Today, I want to talk about a little mistake that people make when they want to learn Spanish, so I will say this clear to you: Do not learn individual words, yes, I’ll repeat that: Do not learn individual words.

If you memorize words one by one, you will be making Spanish even more difficult to learn.

Let me tell you why…

Do not learn individual words!

When I was starting high school, I remember that in English class, they gave us some documents with a long list of verbs with the present, the past and past participle tense.

The goal was to learn all the verbs because the teacher was going to do a test later.

Someone could say that if I memorized all the verbs and their conjugations throughout high school, in the end, I would have had a wide vocabulary in English.

However, as I told you before when I finished school,I did not speak English at all.

How did I expand my vocabulary?

I want you to watch the following video in Spanish (Turn on the Spanish subtitles for better understanding on YouTube and then come back to this post):

The power of complete phrases

If you already saw the video, you probably realized that what I want to say is simple:

Learn complete sentences or phrases, not individual words.

For me, everything changed when I began to learn complete phrases.

When mycousins from the U.S came to visit me, I remember them saying a lot “I’ll be right back”, and they told me it meant “ya vuelvo”.

I did not study the future (will), nor the contractions in English (I’ll), I didn’t even know what “right back” meant, but for me, “I’ll be right back” was “ya vuelvo**”, and every time I said it, it worked.**

If I would’ve tried to learn only the word “back”, repeating it over and over to myself, it would’ve taken me a lot of work to learn it because it was just one word and it actually can have different meanings depending on the context.

It’s the same when you learn Spanish

if you want to learn the word “volver”, it’s going to be more difficult to remember.

In fact, its meaning can vary depending on the context, or even the region where you say it.

Learning just the word by itself would be meaningless.

Now, if you learn: “vuelvo enseguida”, this phrase will have an easier meaning to remember.

This is because you are specifically using the phrase to indicate that you will be back.

You will be conjugating the verb “volver”, without even thinking about thegrammar rules.

This is going to be a tremendous help for you to learn to use the grammar.

Here is why…

The phrase “vuelvo enseguida ” is conjugated in the first person.

However, in Spanish, the first person (yo), sometimes becomes implied, like in this case.

Now, the verb “volver” in the present tense and using the first person would be “vuelvo”.

Lots of things to think about, and for some, this could even be confusing, right?

Yet, if you just learn the phrase, you wouldn’t need to think about any of this!

Time to forget words!

Forget the grammatical explanation and concentrate on remembering that if you say “vuelvo enseguida”, you are indicating that you will come back later, keep things simple!

No more empty words, concentrate on meaningful phrases that you can use in real speaking.

You could get a notebook exclusively for writing down the new phrases you want to learn in Spanish.

Oh, hey! You could even share that notebook with me, just take a picture of it, and show it to me on twitter. @SpanishToMind.

Remember: Stop learning individual words, start learning complete phrases.

Diego Cuadros is a blogger and a Spanish online teacher. He uses stories to help Spanish lovers understand fast-speaking native speakers, so they don't freeze and panic in conversations.

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