There are many different ways to speak Spanish, especially for learners. The question at hand is: what is a good level of Spanish to have in order to be considered fluent or conversational in the language?
One is proficient enough to be considered fluent or conversational in Spanish once having reached a level of C1 or higher. To do this, one must be able to think, communicate, clarify missing context, translate between their native and second language, as well as engage with media in Spanish.
Comparing the process of learning Spanish to building a tall structure with many levels. This article will serve as a step-by-step guide on how to become fluent or conversational in the language. Ultimately, it will explain how one can know when they can be confident in their competency of the language and have become fluent in Spanish.
The Levels of Spanish
The Common European Framework of References for Languages system, which is usually referred to as the CEFR, is a widely accepted approach in Europe for teaching languages.
There are six CEFR levels separated into three different categories, as can be viewed in the following columns:
Can recognize basic phrases and expressions as well as communicate basic conversation related to personal identity and everyday life.
A1: Breakthrough or Beginner
A2: Way Stage or Elementary
Can understand most contexts and communicate commonly relatable ideas clearly with others via different forms of media and spoken formats.
B1: Threshold or Intermediate
B2: Vantage or Upper Immediate
Can understand contexts and interact with others in various settings as well as express ideas fluently via different forms of media and spoken formats.
C1: Effective Operational Proficiency or Advanced
C2: Mastery or Proficient
Foundational Knowledge & Spanish Immersion
The foundation of learning Spanish- or any language for that matter- is dependent on understanding the basic structure and outlines of the language and its rules. These include the alphabet, grammar rules, basic vocabulary, and more.
The way one obtains this knowledge is best done through immersing themselves in the language. As they do this, they will gain a greater understanding of the language, the people, the structures, and the culture, and their levels of understanding will automatically improve.
The more one learns and practices, the better they will become at Spanish. Not only are the basic structures the foundational materials of the language, but they are fortifications of it as well. So, the more you understand the basic principles of Spanish, the more fluent you will be in the language.
Obtaining Foundational Knowlege
Rules and Tools
Before a person can begin to build their language learning abilities, they must first have the rules and tools to work with. In order to qualify for fluency in Spanish, one must first be familiar with and eventually understand the basics. This entails the structural outline, or the building blocks, of the language itself. Without these, there wouldn’t even be a way to practice or learn! Accessing ways to understand the basics of Spanish is critical in finding the building blocks of learning the language.
There are many different types of resources that can be used to access the basics of the language that will help in building a foundation and then fortifying one’s building. Knowing what building materials are used to construct the foundation of one’s structure as well as fortify their skill levels down the line will help in knowing what resources they could utilize and would be beneficial to them personally immerse themselves in their learning experience.
Potential resources include the following:
- Online Courses
- Latin History
- Local Activities
- Study Abroad
- TV Shows
- New Recipies
- Host and Exchange Student
- Social Media
- Latin Stores
- Practice Hobbies in Spanish
- Move to a New Country
In theory, that’s it. The more a person utilizes their tools and building materials, the higher their language structure becomes and their skill level in Spanish becomes.
So, the rest of this article will focus on how a person can recognize when they have arrived level considered good enough to be called fluent after immersing themselves enough in the Spanish language. Once someone sees themselves able to utilize all of these in their day-to-day lives, they are more than likely at a level of C1 or higher and can take a CEFR evaluation.
Thinking in Spanish
Fluency is defined by one’s ability to accurately communicate in a foreign language smoothly and without effort. While not a part of the definition, if an individual finds themselves thinking in Spanish, they have become very familiarized with it and its surrounding culture, and it has become a natural and relevant part of their daily lives.
Communicating with Others
Thinking in Spanish and being able to communicate those thoughts are completely different things. When a person finds themselves able to communicate with others it is a huge victory in because it reflects a much larger accomplishment than simply being able to hold a conversation.
It shows one has reached impressively high levels of proficiency and understanding of more than just vocabulary, rules, and basics of the structural outlines of Spanish. It also indicates that they have worked to be able to:
- Increase ability to comprehend
- Formulate thoughts and responses
- Be a good listener
- Understand more than the words being spoken and the situation, but the person they are speaking to and what they are feeling; and they are able to express these same sentiments with whomever they are interacting.
Communication is more than conversational. It also encompasses social cues, lingo, cultural norms, emotions, art, music, and human connection in general. If one can communicate with ease in Spanish, they would be able to consider themselves fluent. It is also a two-way door, so to speak. Others would be able to understand the learner, and the learner them.
Clarifying Missing Context
One does not need to know everything about a language in order to be fluent. It would be reasonable to assume that the majority of native English speakers do not know all of the rules within their mother tongue, nor do they use proper grammar all of the time. Many people who speak English struggle with writing and have to ask for help in order to pass their classes, and English speakers sometimes attend speech therapy.
The point is that if Spanish is a second language, not knowing a word or two isn’t an indication that a person isn’t at a good enough level to be proficient, even if they aren’t taken as seriously, because it is easier to see the errors in someone learning something new than who has a lifetime of experience speaking a language.
The way an individual can tell if they are conversationally fluent or not is if they:
- Understand the context and situation well enough that if they knew the missing piece, they would be able to grasp the entirety of what was going on.
- They have the ability and knowledge that they are able to clearly ask for the missing context so they can fully understand the conversation.
If a person has reached a high enough level to be called conversational in Spanish, they will be able to translate from their native language into Spanish, and from Spanish into their native language with enough proficiency to be understandable to someone who does not speak the other language.
In the building process of Spanish fluency, translating between the languages begins before one reaches the level of being able to think in Spanish with ease. The following things can help you do so.
- Movies & Shows with Subtitles
- Language Learning Apps
- Speaking in Front of Others in Spanish
- Speaking with Others
- Writing in Spanish
Giving Instruction to Others
If a person is able to teach or explain something confusing about any given topic to another person in Spanish, they have arrived at a proficient level of fluency. They have not only learned how to translate between their first and second language, but they have learned how to translate confusing concepts already explained in Spanish into simpler contexts within their second language.
This is a reflection of fluency and smooth idea flow and is an indicator that the transition of wording is easy for the person of interest.
Engaging with Media in Spanish
When a person can truly engage in Spanish media and enjoy it (or be attentive enough to develop an opinion and decide that they dislike it), it shows that their fluency levels have reached a point that allows them to understand the vernacular enough that they don’t need to exert their energy on linguistics. Instead, they can focus their attention on the culture and find out what is being communicated.
Immersion into the language is very useful in being able to do this, and some resources are more useful than others. Again, the more these are utilized and practiced, the better one will become at Spanish, and the faster they will become fluent.
- Getting a familiar book in English (or whatever a person’s first language may be) and one in Spanish, and reading them side by side is extremely useful and can be a fun way to learn! Doing this same activity but with an unfamiliar book could add an extra challenge!
- Using a Spanish to English or English to Spanish dictionary and carrying it around is a good way to increase vocabulary.
- Writing in Spanish can utilize a dictionary and exercises memory usage. It encourages making mistakes which is actually a good thing, as this sends signals to the brain that it is okay to not be perfect. It can even be fun and rewarding to look back and see progress.
- Keeping a journal in Spanish enforces a habit of using the language daily. It also provides an opportunity to improve the grammatical structure and a visual place to see how the language looks from one’s own perspective.
- Simply beginning with the words one knows or thinks they know is a good place to start; the words will improve. Eventually, the pages will be filled with perfect, comprehensive Spanish. Writing in Spanish allows one to think intentionally in the language as well. This will help the language ruminate in their mind and improve flow and fluency
- Watching movies and TV shows in Spanish with subtitles, both in English and in Spanish allows a person to put context, visuals, sounds, and words together; making connections in an enjoyable way for extensive periods of time. This can be done with media that is familiar and unfamiliar.
- Exercising this habit immerses one in proper pronunciation, culture, spellings, and relatability to the language alongside making it relevant to their own personal life and connecting them to more people outside of themselves.
- There are also many different kinds of media one can watch. People can find great enjoyment and open their world to new experiences by viewing new types of media.
- Listening to music and podcasts in native Spanish is an excellent way to hear proper accents and dialects, pick up on lingo and slang, as well as find new interests.
- Listening to media in Spanish can also deepen one’s connection to relevant global events and give a person more topics to think about and contribute to during conversations and strengthen fluency skills.
Mass Social Content:
- Engagement with social media created for mass audiences such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and others is a fantastic way of Spanish immersion.
- By following Spanish-speaking content creators who specialize in topics an individual is already interested in, the process of learning and building their language structure will come much more naturally and be easier to understand.
- People can also utilize these forms of media for more than just pleasurable content, but also as informative and instructional tools. Many creators make provide free courses that teach Spanish in simple ways that can be followed at one’s own pace. These can be found in video, written, and visual formats!
- Mass social content is additionally an excellent way of finding support and community from other language learners from around the globe
Quite the View
Using basic building blocks and immersing one’s self in the Spanish language can be enjoyable, and the hard work is worth the payoff.
When a person can participate, create, teach, and explain all of these topics without assistance, there is no question whatsoever that they have reached a good level of conversational and proficiency in the Spanish language and will be able to see all of the progress they have made.
When a person can see all of these traits in themselves, they are likely at a C1 or C2 level and are ready to be tested.