I want to learn Spanish but… How do people learn anything?

Have you ever wondered what learning is all about? How do we go from not knowing anything at all about something to knowing how to do it perfectly? Let’s be practical and talk about the learning process and the 4 stages of learning, leaving aside the technical part of mental processes. Let’s focus on the common behaviour we all go through when we are in the middle of the learning process. 

During the whole process of learning a new skill or habit such as learning Spanish, we go through 4 distinct stages as we improve our results and change our behaviour in order to successfully achieve our goal. Below, we explain the process that allows us to go from being incompetent to someone capable of learning a new skill.


When we start the process of learning something new to us, in this case a language, we are usually in this first stage of learning in which we are NOT yet aware that we do not know how to do something correctly. We are completely unaware of it, usually because up to the moment when the learning starts we have not needed to put any effort into learning how to do it. We simply have not needed to think about it.

As an example to make it easier to understand, let’s give an example:

You are attracted to a Spanish boy or girl and she doesn’t speak your language, and until then you had never wanted or seen the need to speak another language. But when this Spanish girl catches your attention, you think about communicating with her. You think about starting to communicate in Spanish in order to get to know her.

 This is where the learning process begins.


Once we are aware that there is something we need to learn, we start to notice the details that we previously chose to ignore completely because they were not interesting or important to us. In this second stage of the learning process we become aware of the need that has arisen and that we need to address. We begin to devote mental resources to paying attention to the details related to the new activity that is presented to us.

In our example, the process of learning conscious incompetence starts when we want to ask the girl out on a date to get to know her better. Until that moment we were not aware of the importance of speaking Spanish, but from that moment our behaviour about that activity changes. Now we know that we are incompetent, we don’t know the uses of the language, we have no vocabulary and we are not ashamed to ask her on a date: You search in Google translator Do you want to come to dinner with me? you wouldn’t understand her answer and you realise that you wouldn’t be able to communicate with her on your date.


After practising many times we manage to develop our skills to the point where we are able to do it correctly. This part of the learning process is the conscious competence, we have not yet internalised the details that we have to take into account but if we pay attention to the activity we can perform it successfully.

 Now, when we are very concentrated and with full attention we are able to introduce ourselves, talk about our tastes, our goals for the future and tell past experiences and anecdotes that will help us to connect with the girl. In addition, we will understand her answers to our questions and we will be able to have a decent conversation in Spanish.


This is the last stage of the learning process. Once we have mastered how to do something we start to automate the process, as we practice we internalise and memorise the steps we have to follow until we achieve the desired goal. We need to pay less and less attention to details as we have memorised them through practice.

In our example, now the words come out by themselves, you are able to make jokes and you don’t have to pay too much attention to understand what the girl is saying, even while you are listening to her you are able to understand what they are saying at the next table without realising you are doing it.

You may not conquer that girl or man but you will be able to conquer any other Spanish girl, living and/or working in any Spanish speaking country.

Which stage are you in your proccess of learning Spanish?

If you read this, you are probably in one of the first 3 stages.

At Your Spanish Friend, we take these phases of learning very much into account and we accompany our students in their learning process to maintain stable emotional levels that allow them to progress every day in record time.

Do you accept the challenge of achieving unconscious competence in Spanish? You would like to speak Spanish so naturally that you cannot be distinguished from a native speaker. This is our mission and what we have achieved with many of our clients. Visit our courses page.