How to really learn Spanish in less than 10 minutes a day

Rob Ashby

Rob Ashby

The Spanish Obsessive

Let’s face it, if you’re an adult with a job, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. You’ve got all sorts of projects and plans for things that you’d like to do “one day”, but just can’t really get around to it – learn the violin, take up painting, learn Spanish… All of these ideas you have live and die in our imaginations as we just can’t find the time to do them. However, learning Spanish when you have no time is still possible, and in this article we want to show you how.

It’s not a big deal

You’ve decided to learn Spanish. At the start, it’s an intimidating prospect. You probably remember studying French in your school days, and if you’re anything like me that put you off learning languages for life. I faced hours of text books and exercises, and after 5 years my progress was laughable. That experience instilled in me the belief that learning a language is equivalent to the Labours of Hercules – a mammoth undertaking that requires years of devotion and reflection.

I wish someone had told me that it’s not really a big deal.

You can spend as much or as little time as you like learning Spanish, but if you are efficient and effective in your approach you’ll have something to show for it no matter what. It’s all about what goals you set for yourself, and how you most effectively use whatever time you do have available throughout the day.

We’ll look at ways we can best spend what little time you have learning Spanish, but first you need to set your own expectations. We’ll assume that you’re a beginner, but many of these principles can easily be adapted for more advanced learners.

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Be realistic

If you’ve only got five minutes a day to study Spanish, don’t expect to become fluent in a month or two. It’d be more realistic to say to yourself “I’d like to be able to understand basic Spanish in restaurants and shops, and be able to order my food in Spanish”.

Once you’ve reached that stage then you can re-assess your goals, and decide on your next mile-stone and time-frame. If you set yourself too big a goal at any stage, you’ll be disappointed with your progress.

So, what activities can we do which are most effective for people with little to no time?


Be aware

Actually, you’ve probably got a bit more time than you realise during the day. Do you commute to work? Take advantage of those dead minutes on the train. Taking the lift? Ditto. Waiting for the kettle to boil? Advert break? Toilet?! Cumulatively, you’ve probably got quite a few spare minutes in the day even if you aren’t able to set aside a specific time to get down to Spanish. As you go through your day, be aware of the little gaps you find, and start to use these mini-breaks for something more productive.

Cumulatively, we have more minutes during our mini-breaks than we realise


Be portable

With all this time that you’ve suddenly found, it’s not particularly practical to whip out a Spanish textbook and pen and start doing exercises while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. We need appropriate, portable materials. Flashcards, small notebooks and phrasebooks, and a whole host of mobile apps (I’m not making any specific suggestions) can all be used in these gaps in the day. Try to find something which can be a complete exercise in the time you have available – a nugget of Spanish with which to intersperse your day.


Be lean

Do your studying and learning in bite-sized chunks. As you’re only spending a couple of minutes here and there, you really need to pick and choose what you do. You could spend some time learning phrases out of your phrase book, or simply leafing through a few Spanish flashcards. Be aware of the “big” topics, and you can tackle those when you’ve got a slightly longer break. For now, keeping going is the most important thing – you need to get into the habit of using these mini-breaks during the day, so anything which helps you keep that going should be encouraged.



Look at what you’re learning, and decide what is the most important. If something’s too boring or detailed for you right now, skip it and come back to it later. Unless an article you’re reading grabs you, read another one. You’ve only got a few minutes each day – spend it doing things which you enjoy and are beneficial, and you’ll find that you can retain a lot more. This will also help you to keep going.


Immerse Yourself

There are plenty of ways to get more Spanish into your day without spending any additional time. Switch your Facebook to Spanish, check the news in Spanish before English, make sure the next novel you read is a Spanish one, and write your shopping list in Spanish. All of these activities are things you would do in a normal day anyway, but now you’re incorporating an additional Spanish dimension.

Once you start incorporating these tips into your daily routines as a habit, you’ll find that you’re making big gains, and that you’ve actually got more time than you thought. Remember, no matter how little Spanish you do, make sure you do something!

We’ll leave you with a video – “Eres mi sueño” by Fonseca. Enjoy!


5 Responses

  1. My aim is to get used to listen and understad spoken Spanish at the normal speed. My vocabulary consists of about 4000 words and I conquer the essential grammatic. I am retired and I have sufficiently time for studying this language.

    1. Otto, I use an app called Podcast Republic to listen to my podcasts. It has a feature which allows you to slow down the spoken word considerably where you can really distinguish between the words.

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