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I'm more or less capable of explaining my thoughts in English and I've recently started learning Spanish. Of course, there's a bunch of various articles/videos/posts on how to do it.

But one thing I truly can't understand. I used to read a lot of comments/opinions/reviews, not only related to Spanish, when a person allegedly managed to learn the language almost without studying grammar.

One of the quotes is:

I learned it without doing any lessons: I tried to read articles and books and listen to podcasts, look up words, and maybe occasionally looked up grammar but didn't worry about it too much. I passed the C1 without taking any classes.

And I can find a lot of things like this.

And I simply can't get how. When I tried to start any language through articles or anything similar, I ended up sleeping with the dictionary and hating the process on the day 2.

When I started trying to find people to talk to in Spanish, I felt a complete lack of means to express my thoughts.

When I tried to read what people messaged me, I could never get the exact meaning of the phrase without double checking in an online translator or dictionary.

I can't understand how people proceed to speaking because when I want to say something, I want to know what I'm saying, I want to understand the mechanics of the language, how it works, why I should put this word here but no there and so on and so forth.

Summing up, I would really love to read your opinions on that. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I'm just doing it wrongfully. Just wonder how people manage to get used to the language without studying grammar which is, as I think, exactly something that tells you how the language functions (though I don't say one should only stick to the grammar books and not use anything else, no way).

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Personal preference

Some people enjoy learning grammar and figuring it out. Others do not. This might explain some of your bafflement.

I would not use dictionaries too much

I would recommend reading and listening to stuff without a dictionary. Reading is probably easier to start with. You'll pick up the rough meanings of the words without a reference. Maybe, if some particular word occurs again and again, and keeps irritating you, check that.

Speaking?

I can't claim that this approach work for listening and speaking, as I have had some formal schooling in all the languages I can communicate verbally in. Hopefully someone else answers with relevant experience or references.

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  • Thank you very much for your message! "I would not use dictionaries too much" - okay, let's suppose so. What would you start reading from? Let's assume I'm learning... Spanish. I open a website of a popular newspaper, pick up an article that's nice to me visually. I start reading... and obviously understand nothing. How am I supposed to understand the meanings? Or when will I start getting more or less correct meanings of the words? Don't get me wrong, I'm not against your approach and I'm not asking for an instruction, I'm just trying to discuss it, I'm really curious – MGMKLML Apr 15 at 23:07
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    Start with children's books or books you already have read and know well in English. To get started you might also use some other tools like Ankidroid or Clozemaster or whatever. You don't need presice understanding, but you do want to figure out the rough meaning of the text. – Tommi Apr 16 at 10:16
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For me, the intuitive way has always worked better than the structured way (dictionaries, grammar books).

IMHO, our brain is very good in detecting and memorizing associations. So, find texts, videos, audios that you can correlate, where you know the content.

E.g. I found the first Harry Potter books in Spanish translation to be quite easily readable. When learning Polish, I was lucky to find dubbed version of my favorite Star Trek Voyager show being aired via satellite.

A few times, a structured analysis helped me, but the majority of language skill I acquired through "assimilation". Anyway, you have to get beyond the grammar rules at some point, or you won't be able to understand and talk with acceptable speed.

And especially, get your native language out of the way. If you translate back and forth, that'll not only be too slow for an effective communication, but will also result in clumsy sentences not sounding natural.

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