Is Spanish Hard to Learn?

July 7, 2023
7 min read

Is Spanish hard to learn? How long will it take to learn? Can you learn it on your own? All of these questions, and more, will be answered in this guide!

Whether  to earn foreign language credits, become bilingual or make traveling more interesting, learning a new language is a popular goal for students. 

One of the most common languages students choose to learn is Spanish! Not only is Spanish the second most widely used language in the States, but it is also spoken by millions worldwide. But you may wonder “How hard is it to learn Spanish?” Read on to find out!

How Hard Is It to Learn Spanish?

Based on the average time it takes to learn Spanish, its grammar, pronunciation, and linguistic distance from English, Spanish is not considered  particularly difficult to learn. On the language difficulty scale that ranks from Category I to IV, Spanish falls into Category I

It takes about 24-30 weeks of consistent practice to reach professional proficiency in Spanish.

Factors That Can Make Spanish Hard to Learn

Knowing that Spanish ranks so low on the language difficulty scale may make you more inclined to learn it, but you should be aware that this doesn’t mean it will be easy to learn Spanish! Learning any foreign language requires dedication, patience, and persistence! 

Aside from the general challenges people face when learning a new language, Spanish poses the following specific difficulties:

It’s Gendered

Spanish, like French, is a gendered language. This means nouns are assigned genders; and you must ensure their articles and adjectives match the gender. This can be challenging because English words are not gendered. 

While there are some patterns to determine which words are masculine and feminine, most of their genders must be memorized!

It Has Various Irregular Verbs

Spanish can be challenging for learners due to its irregular verbs. Unlike regular verbs that follow predictable patterns, irregular verbs in Spanish have unique conjugations that need to be memorized. 

The numerous verb forms, irregular stem changes, and variations across different verb tenses can overwhelm English speakers, but understanding them is necessary to becoming fluent in Spanish!

It Has Challenging Verb Tenses

Spanish has numerous verb tenses, including the present, preterite, imperfect, future, conditional, and subjunctive, each with specific usage and conjugation patterns. 

Learners must memorize these tenses and know which context to use them in. Distinguishing between tenses when speaking to someone in Spanish can be particularly perplexing, as many of these tenses can sound the same when heard at the fast pace Spanish is spoken.

The Pronunciation Is Difficult to Master

Spanish has distinct sounds and pronunciation rules. It has unique phonetic characteristics, including rolled "r" sounds, vowel sounds that differ from English, and subtle variations in consonant pronunciation. Pronouncing these sounds accurately requires consistent practice; even then, it can be difficult to master.

Additionally, Spanish has different stress patterns and syllable emphasis than English, making it crucial to understand and apply the correct word stress to convey meaning accurately.

It Shares Many Words With English

Although Spanish and English sharing numerous words may make it easier to learn the vocabulary, it can also confuse learners! You may see a Spanish word that looks similar to an English one and misuse it thinking they have the same meaning. These words are often called “false friends” and can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. 

It Requires Significant Oral Practice and Exposure

students practicing spanish

Learning any language does not only entail memorizing vocabulary and perfecting your written communication! You must learn to speak Spanish; to do so, you’ll need to converse with a Spanish speaker.

Having consistent access to a Spanish speaker can be difficult if you do not have someone within your family or friend group that is a native speaker. You should also be exposed to Spanish outside your regular lessons or study periods.

Some students do this by listening to Spanish podcasts, music, or TV shows, but having limited exposure to the language can slow down your progress.

It Can Be Difficult to Stay Motivated

As you learn a language, it is easy to get discouraged. You may fail your first Spanish test, find it frustrating when you can’t string together a complete sentence, or feel utterly lost when listening to your Spanish teacher speak. 

All of this is normal and simply part of the language-learning process! Although, these challenges tend to make students give up!  To become fluent in Spanish, you need to remain motivated and disciplined!

Fortunately, you can overcome your lack of motivation! Setting clear goals, finding personal reasons to learn Spanish, celebrating small milestones, and incorporating enjoyable activities into the learning process can help reignite your motivation and make the learning experience more enjoyable!

FAQs: Is Spanish Hard to Learn?

In this guide, we’ve gone over the main question, “is Spanish hard to learn?” and related questions, such as “What makes Spanish difficult?” 

For any other questions about learning this language, read on to find your answers!

1. How Long Does It Take to Learn Spanish?

Although Rosetta Stone claims it takes 24-30 weeks to learn Spanish, the timeline depends entirely on the  time you dedicate to studying and practicing, your learning style, and your immersion in the language. Languages come easier to some people than others, so you shouldn’t set a rigid timeline for yourself!

Plus, learning a language is an ongoing process! It requires life-long practice to maintain and continue to improve your proficiency. 

2. How Hard Is It Really to Learn Spanish?

Spanish is considered to be one of the easier languages to learn, but it still has its fair share of challenges! Among difficult and irregular verbs, tricky tenses, and “false friends,” mastering Spanish will take time, persistence, and consistent practice.

3. Is Spanish Easy to Learn for English Speakers?

Spanish is often regarded as one of the more accessible languages for English speakers to learn. Spanish and English share a significant number of cognates, which are words that have similar meanings and spellings in both languages.

This linguistic similarity allows English speakers to recognize and understand many Spanish words from the start. Furthermore, the basic sentence structure in Spanish is similar to English, which provides a familiar framework for constructing sentences. 

While there are still grammatical differences and new vocabulary to learn, the overall structural resemblance is helpful for English speakers.

However, it's important to note that while Spanish may be relatively easier than other languages, fluency still requires time and effort!

4. Is French or Spanish Easier to Learn?

French and Spanish are Category I languages, meaning they generally take the same  time to learn. As such, they are typically regarded as being equally difficult to learn. However, many speakers argue Spanish is easier to learn because of its similarity to English and  more consistent pronunciation and grammar rules.

The good news is that if you know one of these languages, it will be much easier to learn the other since both are Romance languages!

5. Can I Learn Spanish on My Own?

Absolutely!  Many resources are available for self-study, such as textbooks, online courses, language apps, and language exchange platforms. However, joining a class or finding a language partner can provide additional support and opportunities for oral practice.

If you do choose to self-study, try to find platforms or online groups that allow you to converse with native speakers or other Spanish learners!

Final Thoughts

So, as a final answer to the question “is Spanish hard to learn?” It will be the most difficult initially. You may stumble over some verb conjugations or struggle with pronunciation at first, but by keeping consistent and motivated, you’ll master Spanish in no time!

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