Is it better to focus on Vocabulary or Grammar when you start to learn Spanish?

vocabulary or grammarThis is a very good question that a lot of beginner learners of Spanish and other foreign languages ask themselves when they start studying. Should they work on learning more words for things or should they be focusing on putting the words together in the correct way?

This is what we will discuss in this blog post to help beginners work out what they should be concentrating on in the first few weeks and months of learning a language.

Communication is key

To be able to communicate in any language you need to know the right word for what you want to talk about. Is it necessary to put the words in the right order or in the right tense in a sentence in order to be understood by a native speaker?

The answer is, no it is not essential.

How often have you heard a foreign speaker use the right word but in the wrong tense or in the wrong order with parts of the sentence missing? Have you still been able to understand what they are trying to say? Yes, normally you do understand them.

You have surely heard things like, “Speak English?” instead of “Do you speak English?”

Or, “Where bank?” instead of “Can you tell me where the nearest bank is please?”

When you first start talking in the target language your main aim is to get your message across in the best way that you can so that your meaning is understood. Accuracy comes with time. It is okay to make mistakes when you first start using the language.

It does not matter if you miss out the article (a, some, the) as long as you have used the correct word for the item you are asking about.
It isn’t important if you used the verb in the simple present tense when you really needed the past tense of the verb. As long as you got the right verb, the person that you are talking to will still be able to work out what you mean.

Don’t worry about making mistakes

You might feel a bit embarrassed that you are not talking in 100% correct Spanish but at least you are able to communicate and be understood.

As you know yourself when you hear a foreign person trying to speak English, you know it is not their first language but they are making an effort to be understood so you are sympathetic towards them and are just trying to understand what they want to say to you.

Focus on learning vocabulary first

Therefore it is plain to see that the more words you learn at first on different topics, the more easily you will be able to talk about different things. The grammar and correct structure can be worked on later on. The more words you know, the more confident you will feel about being able to talk about different things.

Focus on grammar later on

Obviously if you want to become fully fluent in the language you will need to work on grammar later on as you will eventually need to speak in the correct tense; present, past, future. Once you get to grips with the key words in the language and the pronunciation, you will then be able to start seeing how the language fits together and how sentences are formed correctly.

Tips to grow your vocabulary

1) Learn in context

Study a dialogue and pick out the key words used. For example, find a dialogue in a shop and pick out the question words, the items being bought, the colour, the size and so on.

2) Associate words with other things to make them more memorable

By finding funny links with other English words this will really stick out in your mind.

3) Group words into topics

Study one topic area at a time; foods, colours, animals, jobs, family. This makes it easier to memorise words if you learn in a logical order.

4) Use a flashcard app such as Ankiapp or Memrise

An excellent way to build your vocabulary is to get an app on your phone or tablet that helps you create your own vocabulary set. You can have these on your smartphone so that you can go through some whenever you have a spare 5 or 10 minutes during the day.

To conclude, you can see that when you first start learning Spanish or any language it is much better to work on learning the most important vocabulary for what you need; holidays, work, communicating with family or colleagues.

To start with it would be a really good idea to learn the “200 Most Used Words in Spanish”. You can request a list from the following link and by quoting “Send me the 200 most used words in Spanish”.


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