At times Spanish just seems to fly by so fast.

The average is 4 words per second and sometimes it seems like some people speak even faster than that.

rat at tat tat

A machine gun volley of Spanish words flying at you so fast you start to feel lost.

What can we do?

Can anything be done?

Yes, there is a lot that you can do. The most important factor is the approach you take to learning.

Just like any skill, it’s how you learn that makes all the difference.

Let me explain…

I almost pulled my daughter out of her ballet class after watching her teacher chastise her and her little friends.

He’s Ukrainian, has lived in Mexico for 10 years, speaks great Spanish and English and perhaps more languages, he is a professional dancer in San Diego and looks like a ballet god.

so he has some gifts.

But teaching isn’t one of them…

Like many teachers, he blames the student for not learning.

I have taught language to students of all ages, social levels and education background, from factory workers to directors of big companies to PHD university students. While some people just don’t want to learn, most do want to get the thrill and reward of the result of learning how to do something… and its a shame when they aren’t able to learn because of a flawed approach.

Instead of complaining about the students as many teachers do, fixing the system, the approach or the method would be a better use of time and energy.

The ballet teacher’s approach may seem like it has nothing to do with learning Spanish, but it actually has everything to do with learning Spanish.

Here’s his approach to a problem, which is unfortunately quite common

1) chastise 3 and 4 year old girls with comments like;

pobre piso (poor floor)

bailen como elefantes

muy mal, niñas

2) Instead of fixing what they were doing wrong, go onto the next part of the lesson (because we have to do all the things in the lesson list in the allotted time).

I could have taught them better myself… There’s an image for you, me teaching ballet.

I could have taught them to improve what he was complaining about in a few minutes. Here’s what I would have done

1) I would have got them to slow down the movements

2) I would have broken the movements into pieces.

lift knee

step forward with same knee

lift other knee

step forward with same leg

3) Then all the parts in one movement, slowly.

4) Then speed it up.

Do you think that may have worked better than doing it full speed every time?

Instead of looking like they had some kind of muscular disorder, I guarantee within five minutes they would have made plenty of improvement and his pobre piso, wouldn’t have had to suffer las niñas elefantes anymore.

Why the long story, and what’s it got to do with understanding Spanish spoken quickly.

I hope you can see the parallel, learning any new skill, dancing, music, martial arts, driving a car… it doesn’t matter what it is…you need to first start slowly.

You didn’t learn to drive in the Indy 500 or the Monaco Formula One.

You learned to drive first, slowly, one gear at a time and without distractions (other cars).

To develop your ear for Spanish you need to do the same.

Break it into smaller pieces.

Slow it down

Learn in steps.

Clarify the confusing parts.

Then when you are comfortable with the theme, put it together in longer combinations

Speed it up

and get involved

Well what do you know… That blur of words is not such a blur anymore. You can actually start to make sense of it all.

I am very close to finishing the first installment of my new Spanish ear training audio newsletter, which will help you develop your ear for Spanish in an easy to follow systematic approach.

If you think your ear could do with a tune up, and you’d like to be able to keep up with people when they speak quickly, you can get on the audio newsletter list by adding your name and email below.


I’m very excited about this project, as it is something that has never been done before. This bottleneck that gets in so many people’s way and stops them advancing their Spanish has never been addressed until now.

I look forward to helping you advance in your Spanish in ways that significantly improve your ability to interact in the real world with real native Spanish speakers, which is the point of learning Spanish in the first place, isn’t it?

I’d be delighted to hear your comments. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment below.