In this post: The Monarch Method to learning Spanish is a cycle that helps you see measurable progress while also staying balanced and being present in your life outside of Spanish.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
Have you ever felt like having a conversation in Spanish (and feeling like a competent adult) was as impossible as sprouting wings?
I ask because that was how I used to feel. Taking my awkward, hesitant, childlike Spanish and becoming the kind of person I wanted to be in conversations felt like an insurmountable task. It felt like I was crawling, and I couldn’t imagine flying.
If you’ve ever felt that way, today’s post is for you. I want you to know that I’ve been there. I remember how I felt in the caterpillar stage: Slow. Uncomfortable in my skin. Not likely to get too far.
But I also remember how it felt when I transformed into a confident, competent Spanish speaker. I grew wings and started to fly.
Today, I’d like to take you on a journey, a migration, a transformation.
I want to share my Monarch Method for learning Spanish. Because just when we think something is impossible, nature is there to tell us another story. Life tells us another story.
Today we’re going to talk about how you can take your Spanish level to new heights.
Maybe your motivation for moving from an intermediate to a more advanced level is to be able to travel with confidence. Or maybe it’s to feel at home with the Spanish speakers in your life, your work, or your community. If that sounds like you, I think my Spanish learning struggles (and transformation) can help you find your way.
The Monarch Method is my personal philosophy and strategy for learning Spanish. It’s inspired by the beautiful Monarch butterfly. A creature just as incredible as you are. Yes, there is work involved. And incredible transformation.
But the Monarch Butterfly has some important things to teach us about traveling a long way. And doing seemingly impossible things.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou
The Momentous Monarch Butterfly Migration — and your Spanish.
Monarchs are some of the most amazing creatures. Not only do they make their start as caterpillars, but they also go on to complete a migration that you wouldn’t believe.
They start North to South, where they fly all the way from Canada to Central Mexico. They gather in the forests of Michoacan for the winter. It takes multiple generations of butterflies to make this southbound trip.
A typical adult monarch only lives for 2-6 weeks, and their one goal during migration is to fly as hard as they can to the next place to lay eggs and pass on the baton to the next generation.
I know, I know. That sounds incredible enough. But then, they go on to do more.
When it’s time to go south to north, the females lay eggs for a single generation of super monarch butterflies. Rather than living and traveling for 2-6 weeks, these super butterflies live for up to 8 months, which is why they are able to make the whole journey to North America in one trip.
To reach your destination in Spanish, you are going to learn to travel like a Monarch. In sprints and rests.
And when you get where you are going, it will feel like you’ve accomplished the impossible. And you’ll know what it feels like to grow wings.
Your Monarch Migration in Spanish
Now it’s your turn to become the butterfly. Don’t worry if it still seems like an insurmountable task at first. Feeling like a caterpillar is exactly how you know you’re undergoing a big transformation.
Here’s your first lesson from the Monarch butterfly:
In ‘normal times’ you’re going to be your usual (incredible) self —and keep a sustainable pace.
You’ll keep working toward your Spanish goal. Showing up and practicing for 30 minutes a day. Listening to your favorite podcast, reading your book. Watching a high-quality video lesson.
This will be your long game. Like the generations and generations of normal Monarch butterflies.
Once in a while, you’ll go on a Spanish sprint that really challenges you.
You gather your forces, and you do something extraordinary. You work more intensively and deliberately for a specific period of time.
Your very own Monarch Method for transforming your Spanish — and yourself.
Today I want to share my own method with you. It’s the one I used to go from beginner to advanced in just a few years.
I want you to know what it feels like to start off as a beginner too hesitant, embarrassed, and afraid to speak…And then get to a place where you start feeling, “Oh! I can do this.”
It’s your road map — your migration plan. Just like it works for Monarch butterflies.
It worked for me. It’s worked for 100s of people I’ve worked with. It’s also the same method I preach in my basic Spanish courses – ALAS 1
and ALAS II.
Here’s your migration map:
1. All year, keep a sustainable pace.
Have constant exposure to Spanish through your daily language learning habits (I like to think of this as having strong wings).
2. Sometimes, you sprint.
3-5 times a year, pick up your speed and do 4-6 week sprints of intense learning (i.e., migration).
3. When you sprint, course-correct.
Every time you are out there flying during these intense sprints, be intentional about “course correcting” your flight path to make sure you don’t go in the wrong direction. This ensures that you’re practicing the right things in the right way to reach your fluency goal.
4. Sometimes, become a SUPER BUTTERFLY.
When you have the extra time and motivation to really dive into learning, do a longer, intense sprint of 6-8 months before taking a break. Maybe you study for the DELE Exam, or maybe you take a Spanish immersion trip.
There are also weeks out of the year when you will go into planned semi-hibernations. You should always be following through with your daily Spanish habits, but there are times during the year when you won’t be studying intensely.
For example, taking a timeout during the holidays or spending most of July by the pool with your kids. Just make sure these break periods only come a few times a year and don’t last longer than a month.
This cycle helps you see measurable progress while also staying balanced and being present in your life outside of Spanish.
How to Use the Monarch Method to Improve Your Spanish:
To quote James Clear, the mastermind behind the book Atomic Habits, “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound and turn into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”
The foundation of the Monarch Method is habit. So, keep reading those Spanish short stories, keep listening to your favorite Spanish podcast, keep showing up to chat with your language exchange partner every week. That’s how you’ll keep your sustainable pace over the years.
And when it’s time to sprint?
Spend some extra time making sure you’re on the right path. Work a little more, but especially work smarter.
All of my courses and programs are designed to be one of those 4-6 week sprints where you are really focused on learning, using, and practicing certain concepts.
This allows you to see real progress in a short amount of time. These small wins in language learning help us stay motivated and to continue on with our journey.
Your key takeaways as a Spanish language learner who is ready to grow wings.
Remember, incredible things happen all the time. You can keep up your Spanish while you live your adult life and care for the people you love.
And you can go on the kind of super butterfly sprints that will change your Spanish in a way that is inspiring for you to see for a few weeks or a few months each year.
And I’m here with you. Flying on the breeze and ready to help you on your way. So that when you sprint, you get the most out of your migration.
≫ Feeling stuck at the intermediate level? Grab a copy of my FREE 12-Step Guide to Overcoming the Intermediate Spanish Plateau, which details exactly how to break through to the advanced level.
≫ Are you a high Spanish beginner? Jump into ALAS II, the next step in my two-part beginner series, where we refine your conjugation, vocabulary, reading, and listening skills before moving onto the intermediate level.
≫ Do you get tongue-tied when you try to say something in the Spanish past tense? Check out Polishing the Preterit, my self-paced course for intermediate Spanish learners to help you speak effortlessly in the preterit tense.
≫ Ready for a more immersion Spanish experience? Join Elévate Book Immersion Program - the community experience for intermediate learners to develop speaking and writing skills through a deep dive into a contemporary Spanish book.