The Best Ways to Learn Spanish

¿Habla español?

Before moving to Spain, I figured it would be a good idea to brush up on my Spanish (no duh, Gen). In order to do this, I had to think about how exactly I could brush up. After doing a lot of research, I came up with the following ways that really helped me and I hope will help you too!

DuoLingo

Duolingo is by far my favorite way to learn a new language for FREE. I actually downloaded it in 2013 to help me with learning some basic German before I went and visited some friends over there! Back then, it wasn’t quite as popular as it is now. If you haven’t already downloaded it, I’m sure you’ve at least heard about it. Basically, Duolingo helps users learn a new language. There are tons of languages to learn, and more are added all the time!

Basic Info: Duolingo is available to do over the web but it also has apps available for FREE for both iOS and Andriod! Create your profile and sign up right away. You can learn Spanish, German, French, Italian, and many other languages. Best of all, you can learn multiple languages at once! Languages are taught as a fun game style of learning where you are encouraged to complete each lesson to earn lingots. These lingots can then be used to “purchase” all kinds of things within the app. My favorite lingot purchases are bonus lessons, including flirting and idioms in other languages! (Ojala fuera bizco para verte dos veces: I wish I were cross-eyed so that I could see you twice – thanks for that useful line, Duolingo!) Duolingo will also said you daily language reminders if you haven’t logged on yet, to help keep you on track (don’t worry, if constant emails bother you, you can turn this setting off).

Cost: Free! Can’t beat that!

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is probably the best known language software out there — and for good reason! It’s incredibly interactive and covers everything! From grading you on your pronunciation, to live classes with an instructor, you can’t beat the quality of at home language learning that Rosetta Stone offers. I wanted to also talk about a website powered by Rosetta Stone, Livemocha here, but it seems that they will be shutting that site down at the end of April 2016 (sad face). That being said, there was a link provided that could get you an incredible discount on Rosetta Stone ($189 instead of $499)… Not sure if it’s still active, however.

Basic Info: Rosetta Stone, while great, is also very pricy. My dad got it for Christmas in 2015 and absolutely loved it! He was able to learn a lot of Spanish in a fairly short amount of time. Included were a lot of varying lessons involving reading and writing (typing) as well as speaking. You can use your webcam and mic to speak with a professional who will help you with your language, a kind of 1 on 1 lesson (I guess sometimes there can be 2 or 3 other people with you). It’s pretty cool, but that feature is only available for a while (6 months I think) before you have to pay a monthly subscription to use it… You can also download their app, “Learn Languages: Rosetta Stone” on both iOS and Andriod. It’s similar to Duolingo, but more interactive. That and you have to BUY the language you’re interested in learning (in app purchases of around $199/language). Needless to say, if you’re not 100% serious about learning a language, don’t buy Rosetta Stone, go with a free option.

Cost: Online = $499 (there are always discounts and promotions, though, don’t pay full price!), In-App = $199/language (free demo of language). I would highly recommend getting the online free demo version before you actually pay for Rosetta Stone, however!

RIP Live Mocha!RIP Livemocha!

BUSUU

BUSUU has a lot of the features that I really liked about Livemocha. Mainly, my favorite is that you can go through the lessons and have native speakers help grade your lessons. You can also grade the lessons of those learning to speak English! It’s a cool factor to the program.

Basic Info: Busuu is available to do online or as an app on your smartphone. You can select your language level from A1 (beginner) up to B2 (upper intermediate). Scroll to the bottom of this post for information on European Language Levels. The lessons are more flashcard based, where you see the word and listen to it pronounced in Spanish (or your language of choice). You then do a memorization sort of game and finally a quiz, but the quiz is only available to premium members. While the lite version of Busuu is free, the best features are ones you have to pay for (of course). You can also do more written types of lessons where you submit your results and have a native speaker grade them. That’s a pretty cool feature, in my opinion! If you’re pretty active and helpful in grading others, I’ve found that it doesn’t take too long to get your results graded (sometimes done in a matter of a couple minutes!). I really like the “Practice” tab as well. It pairs you up with a native speaker to have a kind of web chat!

Cost: Basic version is free. You can download the app and use the website for free, but certain features are considered “premium.” You can try premium out for a week for free, but then you’ll have to pay. This is a good option if you decided you really like the premium features! The cost of premium is $9.99 for one month, $7.99/month for 6 months, $4.99/month for 12 months, or $3.99/month for 24 months. Personally, I’m fine with the free version, but test out premium and you can decide for yourself! 🙂

Spanish Lessons

One of the first things I did after applying to the Auxiliares Program was sign up for Spanish lessons! Don’t underestimate the value of a good teacher! I took 4 years of high school Spanish and another year in college, but let’s be honest… If you don’t use it, you lose it. To really keep up with a language, you need to use it just about every single day. I personally like classroom classes because I like learning the foundation of a language. A lot of these apps will teach you quickly, but I want to learn how and when to conjugate the verbs, not just memorize them in sentence patterns. A classroom setting with a fluent speaker helps so much for practicing speaking, learning the foundations, and listening to the language being spoken.

Basic Info: Obviously this varies a lot depending on where you go to take your classes. There are tons of options. You can do a 1 on 1 kind of class or go with a more traditional classroom setting. You can even sign up for Spanish lessons on Skype! I haven’t personally done Skype lessons, but seeing as how I teach English online to children, I understand that it can be a great way to learn! I prefer learning in person, however. So I would start with Googling local adult language classes (or tutors if you want the 1 on 1 experience). Even in my small town in Montana, we had a Lifelong Learning Center where you can sign up for all kinds of language (or cooking, nursing, exercise, art) classes. Any decently sized city will most likely have something like this. That, or take a look at a local community college schedule!

Cost: Again, varies. You’re going to be paying much more if you do a 1 on 1 kind of lesson than you are if you sign up for a classroom setting. Personally, I paid $62 for my 10 week Spanish course. It was 2 hours once a week. I thought this was a great deal as the other private tutors were charging around $20/hour for their lessons. Just do some quick research and you should find something suited to your needs.

Periscope

Ok, so Periscope isn’t really a language learning app… That being said, I love using it to go to Spanish countries just to listen to the speech patterns! It’s definitely not a traditional way to “learn” a language, but to really become fluent, you’ll need to acclimate yourself to the normal ebbs and flows of conversation. Parents be warned, while all of the previously mentioned apps are PG, Periscope is certainly more of a PG-13… or more, depending on whose feed you’re watching!

Basic Info: Periscope is an app you can download on your phone or tablet and watch people just giving live webcam recordings. The idea is pretty cool! You can “view the world through someone else’s eyes” from just about anywhere in the world. If you find someone really interesting, you can follow them and get notified when they’re giving a live feed. That being said, it’s pretty obvious that it wasn’t developed to learn language. However, I find it really helpful when watching feeds from Spain — just listening to the conversations between people or reading the questions that people ask. Especially if you’re moving to another country, listening to pace at which the people speak is important. Periscope helps a lot with that! You’re not going to be getting grammar lessons (unless that’s someone’s feed), but you will be able listen to (all sorts of) conversations!

Cost: Free!

Spanish TV & Music

Don’t discount the power of Netflix! Or Hulu! Or Amazon Prime! Or Pandora! Or Spotify! Or any sort of free streaming service! (Wow, that was a lot of exclamation points…) Seriously though, listening to the language on tv or in music is really helpful. Personally, I think that watching shows is a bit more beneficial than music, but more than once at work, I would play a Pandora or Spotify Spanish station to help listen to the language.

Basic Info: Self explanatory, really. If you already have a streaming service, look up some of the Spanish shows that are available to watch! There are a lot of Spanish movies and television series available on all of those platforms. Click here for a list of great Spanish shows on Netflix. My personal two favorite Spanish tv series on Netflix are “Grand Hotel” about a guy who goes undercover at a hotel to find out what happened to his sister (kind of Downton Abby-esque but in Spanish), and “Rebelde” a ridiculous over-the-top telenovela definitely aimed for the younger, high school audience (hey, I was in high school when it aired!). I’ve also heard that Velvet & El Tiempo Entre Costuras are pretty good, but I haven’t seen those yet! On Hulu, you can visit hulu.com/latino to find a ton of different Spanish shows. If you use Amazon Prime, try going to the “Foreign Films” section and searching different Spanish options. Of these, I think Netflix has the best Spanish options, but hey, that’s just my personal opinion. For music, type in a Spanish artist into Pandora and create a station for them. It’s a great way to discover other Spanish artists you might also like! On Spotify, I listen to the Latino Playlists pretty frequently.

Cost: Depends on what you use. Basic Netflix and Hulu streaming go for $7.99/month, Amazon Prime is $99/year ($49/year for students – though I’m not sure if this includes tv/movies or just shipping) which ends up being about $8.25/month. Not a bad deal if you also shop on Amazon! Free 2 day shipping is pretty nice. Pandora and Spotify are both free if you listen to the ads. You can purchase a monthly subscription to Pandora for $3.99/month and no ads and more skips, or $10/month for Spotify Premium. Spotify has a lot more to offer, letting you pick almost any song you want (sorry T-Swift fans) and create downloadable playlists. Personally, I’m fine with the free version, but everyone I know who has Spotify Premium seems to like it.

Spanish Books

Reading in Spanish is a great way to develop your vocabulary! Think about it, as a child you learned new words from pictures and vocabulary in books. Learning a new language is basically the same thing as learning your first language as a child! Start with the foundations.

Basic Info: If you don’t have one, go get a library card! I had one as a kid and then got another after I graduated from college. A public library is a very underrated thing. My library uses the OverDrive app to download ebooks as well. Some libraries use other apps, but almost all of them have a way to download free ebooks! You’ll be able to check out books about learning languages, but you can also probably find children’s books in the language you’re learning! I know there are plenty of Spanish books at my local library. For beginners, check out this list of Children’s books in Spanish. For intermediate learners, check out this list of novels to read and here is a list of some wonderful Spanish novels that are a bit more complex.

Cost: Free with your local library card! Otherwise I’m sure you can purchase any books you’re interested in online or at your local bookstore.

Your Language Level

As I mentioned above with the Busuu app, Europeans use language levels to classify your knowledge of a foreign language. This ranges from A1 to C2, from total beginner to expert. A lot of foreign applications will state that you need at least a B2 level to apply to something, and this is what they mean:

Language Levels

If you’re not sure what level you’re in, I suggest taking a look at the chart to get an idea. If the chart is a little hard to read, you can download this PDF to get a better view or print. Hopefully some of the above ideas of learning a new language will help you move from A to B and eventually C! Good luck Spanish (and other language) learners!

Do you guys have any other tricks to learning a foreign language? Do you use any other resources that I didn’t mention? Are you excited to try any of the resources I mentioned? Let me know!

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