Situational Approach for Learning Spanish: A Natural Way to Talking Spanish in Real-Like Situations

This method is an improvement of the direct method, through applying a scientific concept in it. It is very widely used in self-learning tutorials, mostly books.

Many years ago it was discovered that every language has a set of “core vocabulary” which represents a set of about 2500 words most often used in that language.

What is more, the knowledge of these words is a key to a fast progress and language mastering. “Core grammar” was defined as the most frequently used grammatical structures.

Description of situational approach for learning Spanish

  • The combination of “core grammar” and “core vocabulary” was embedded in a number of lessons each one out of which represents a real life situation, with real and plausible characters.
  • The Spanish lessons could be interrelated to each other (i.e. centered around a common plot – a story with many parts) or not interrelated.
  • What is different in comparison to the direct method is the idea of a careful and targeted selection and arrangement of specific combinations of words and grammar. Again in comparison with the direct method, the keywords here are “situation” and “context”. 
  • Learning Spanish words and phrases in situations and context helps both to memorize the grammar and vocabulary more quickly and acquire a solid basis for contextual learning after the Spanish beginner’s course is over. 

Benefits of situational approach for learning Spanish

  • The approach is well balanced between vocabulary and grammar. What is more, it’s always possible to put a stress onto either vocabulary or grammar.
  • The approach is easy to implement in a learning program. For this reason often you could get best value for the price.
  •  Again the attention is paid on everyday situations and real life spoken Spanish. What is more, in general things seem to be easier for adults, in comparison to the direct method and language immersion.
  • Suitable both for beginners and intermediate; it gives a good base for developing habits for contextual learning
  • Very convenient for self-teaching 

Disadvantages of situational approach for learning Spanish

  • The situational approach is less effective both than audio-lingual approach (about learning Spanish grammar) and language immersion (about developing listening and talking skills in Spanish).
  • If the Spanish lessons are not interrelated, this might pose a problem for memorizing certain amount of words. 
  • The exercises and drills for Spanish vocabulary and grammar memorization should be enough and carefully selected.
  • The grammar per lesson/situation can easily be overdosed, especially if there is a limit of the volume of the Spanish tutorial.
  • Situational learning can cuts both ways. It could make the process of memorization Spanish words and phrases more interesting and easier. 

As we know however, learning Spanish is not just a memorization. After memorizing a word or a grammar rule, we are supposed to successfully implement it in practice.

So, in order to be effective, the process of situational learning is expected to show you the shortest possible way to implement what you’ve learnt so far.

 Otherwise all the situations and context pose just a delay, and distract you from the real practice. Lessons are lessons, you are expected however to adapt all of them to your needs.

An interesting lesson with interesting characters might stimulate your ability and wish to learn but this lesson is not the target, your end goal. It’s just the way leading to it and the significance of an interesting lesson should not be overestimated.

Recommended level of Spanish Language Fluency

  • Beginners 
  • Intermediate 
  • Advanced 

The situational method is a worldwide popular approach successfully used to teaching Spanish conversational skills.

Moreover it is based on the idea of balancing between vocabulary and grammar material.

What it makes it really attractive is that it might be effective for acquiring not only conversational, but also reading and writing skills. To be effective enough however it has to be completed with sufficient amount of audio, so that you train both your listening and Spanish pronunciation at the same time.

The situational approach is universal and embedded in various Spanish language learning programs – books (the Teach Yourself Spanish textbook), audio recordings (Rocket Spanish, Synergy Spanish) and software platforms (Tell Me More, Visual Link Spanish, Spanish Uno). When applied alone