How to Study Spanish for Free
Today, learning how to speak Spanish as a second language is doing yourself a major favor. Good Spanish skills can expand your range of work opportunities, make it easier to make friends at home and abroad, and give you a new way of understanding the world around you. Best of all, you don't have to spend lots of money to learn Spanish — there are a variety of cheap and even free options available, so there's no reason not to start becoming anhispanohablantetoday!
Getting Free Digital Help
Use Fluencia from SpanishDict.A quick search engine query for "free Spanish language" should bring up literally dozens of relevant results — in this section, we'll discuss some of the most popular, highest-quality options. For example, the Fluencia program from Spanishdict.com is a great resource for both beginners looking to learn Spanish basics and more experienced speakers looking for a refresher. Fluencia customizes its lessons based on the user's level of experience, making it a very versatile tool.
- In addition, the main Spanishdict.com website provides one of the best, easiest-to-use Spanish-English dictionaries available online, making this a great site to bookmark for quick fixes.
Use Duolingo.Another Spanish language resource that's gotten plenty of online press recently for its effectiveness and ease-of-use is Duolingo. Duolingo allows users to start from the absolute basics or take a placement test to determine how well they know the language, making it a good choice for people at every level of Spanish profficiency.
- One of the best things about Duolingo is that it uses a game-like experience points system. Completing exercises and answering questions earns you points. As you accumulate points, you'll eventually gain "levels" that correspond to your proficiency in the language you're learning.
Use the BBC's Spanish lessons.The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) may not be the first organization most people associate with Spanish education, but its Spanish lesson program is no slouch. With lessons for Spanish-learners at every level and options to learn Spanish through Facebook and play Spanish games like crosswords, there is a wealth of resources available via this route. A downside of the BBC's Spanish program, however, is that it is no longer being updated.
- One great feature of the BBC's lesson program is calledMi Vida Loca("My Crazy Life.") This interactive story allows you to participate in an interactive story over 12 weeks, learning Spanish vocabulary and grammar as you go.
Use Veintemundos for real-world knowledge.Unlike the other options in this section, Veintemundos allows users to learn Spanish skills while simultaneously learning about the actual Spanish-speaking world. In addition to a wide variety of lessons, Veintemundo offers news, travel articles, human interest stories, and investigative pieces written for people with sub-fluent Spanish knowledge. These written pieces come with the option to listen to an audio recording of the text so that users can follow along.
Use Spaleon for verb quizzes.For many, learning to correctly conjugate Spanish verbs in every tense can prove to be a major difficulty — even the single most difficult thing about learning Spanish. Getting a grip on Spanish verbs is easiest when practicing with online quiz programs like Spaleon. Spaleon allows you to quiz yourself on Spanish verbs in every tense, including irregular verb constructions.
- The site also offers a Spanish conjugator — simply type in the infinitive form of any Spanish verb, and it will automatically conjugate it into every form of the verb (with irregular forms conveniently highlighted in red.)
Look for other online lessons that suit your needs.There are an enormous variety of other free lessons and Spanish-learning tools available online, so don't be afraid to branch out and try something not mentioned in this section. Below are just a few more online tools to help you learn Spanish — there are many more besides even these.
- Skype Language Learning Forums (see below)
Learning Spanish in Your Free Time
Read an easy Spanish book.Reading is a great way of advancing your Spanish language skills (though not necessarily your pronunciation.) For beginners, simple children's books can offer an easy, entertaining way to get accustomed to basic grammar and sentence structure. For intermediate speakers, on the other hand, books for middle-schoolers and teens offer greater challenges.
- As you read, try to avoid looking up every new word you come across it in the dictionary. This will slow you down and also make it impossible for you to discover the words' meaning on your own through contextual clues. Consider looking up words that appear repeatedly and are crucial to understanding the context.
- A good way to find Spanish books easy enough for non-speakers to read is to use reading list sites like Goodreads.com. Here, a quick search can find you dense lists of Spanish books for children and young adults.
Listen to Spanish music.Singing along with Spanish songs is a great way to have fun while learning new Spanish words and phrases at the same time. There's no single song or genre that's best for this, but if you're unsure where to start, try checking out the "Latin" category on the Billboard charts to see which Spanish songs are popular today.Below are just a few popular Spanish-language musical artists who are popular today or have been popular in the past — there are many, many more:
- Ricky Martin
- Los Lobos
- Buena Vista Social Club
- Selena Quintanilla
- Esperanza Spalding
Listen to Spanish Radio.If you're looking to brush up on your ability to understand spoken Spanish, try tuning your home or car radio to a Spanish language radio station. Listening in to a Spanish talk show is a great way to train your ear to pick up common words and phrases at the rapid pace that most Spanish speakers actually use in conversation (plus, you can do it during your daily commute.) Most major metropolitan areas in the United States now have at least one or two Spanish stations on the air. In areas with a large Latino population, like California and the Southwest, there can be lots to choose from.
- If you're listening online, try tuning into theRadio Nacional de España(Spanish National Radio) at rtve.es/radio. This online station is easy to connect to (though not all programs may be available globally) and can give you valuable practice listening to the Castillian form of Spanish spoken in Spain.
Watch Spanish TV and movies.If you spend hours in front of the TV each day, why not use some of this time for Spanish practice? Check your local cable TV provider for a guide of Spanish-speaking television stations, or search online for sites that offer Spanish programs like sitcoms, news, and soap operas. Note that popular streaming services like Netflix usually have at least a small selection of Spanish shows and movies available.
- One fantastic way of learning Spanish is to watch Spanish-language soap operas (ortelanovelas.) These shows are great for beginners because it's usually possible to follow the plot from visuals and the melodramatic acting even if you don't understand every word of the script. Just a few well-regarded telanovelas you may want to check out are:
- Marimar: Features a young Thalia, who would go on to become one of the most successful Mexican singers of all time.
- La Usurpadora: Telanovela based around a now-classic "good and evil twins separated at birth" plotline.
- Amigas y Rivales: Early-aughts telanovela aimed at a younger crowd which featured an abundance of teenage drama.
Frequent Spanish-speaking businesses.If you're aiming to build your Spanish skills, working interactions with actual Spanish speakers into your routine is practically a must. One easy way to do this is to start going to Spanish-speaking businesses for your weekly needs and attempting to make your transactions in Spanish. For instance, tasks like ordering at a restaurant, making a withdrawal at the bank, buying groceries, and taking your car in for regular maintenance can all be great practice if you speak to the employees in Spanish. Best of all, if you're lucky, this can even help you make new friends and connections in places you never otherwise would have.
- Even better than spending time at a Spanish-speaking business isworkingat one. Working with employees who don't know English well forces you to use your limited Spanish skills to solve problems — though it can be stressful at first, this is fantastic, effective practice in the long run.
Practicing Spanish in Your Daily Life
Move or travel to a Spanish-speaking country.Most language editors agree that the quickest, most effective way to learn a new language is through immersion (in other words, putting yourself in a situation where you have to use the language near-constantly in your daily life.) There's no better way to do this than to go somewhere where Spanish is spoken and stay there as long as possible. Spanish is the official language of 20 countries (plus Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory) — spending time in any of these countries is an invaluable experience for anyone attempting to learn Spanish.
- The problem here, of course, is that it's very difficult to travel or move to a different country for free. If you're young, the best way to do this may be to enroll in a study abroad program through your school and apply for financial aid to cover the cost. If you're out of school and work for an international company or organization, you might also try transferring to a branch in a Spanish-speaking country.
Make Spanish-speaking friends.You don't need to go to a Spanish-speaking country to meet Spanish speakers — try looking for new Spanish-speaking friends in your local community. Making connections with Spanish speakers at work, school, or elsewhere allows you to practice the sort of casual, everyday Spanish that the vast majority of Spanish speakers use in their daily lives (plus, it's always great to make new friends.) Once you know each other fairly well, many Spanish speakers will be more than happy to allow you to practice your Spanish, so don't be shy!
Find a foreign Spanish speaker who wants to learn English.Don't know any Spanish speakers in your local community?No se preocupe— don't worry! It's still possible to communicate with Spanish speakers from other countries and sharpen your language skills while learning about a different way of life. Though you won't be having in-person interactions, the practice you get from the experience can be quite valuable. See below for just two great ideas.
- One of the best ways to practice your Spanish with actual Spanish speakers from around the world is to participate in educational video chats. For instance, on the official community forums for Skype video chat, users can arrange language exchange sessions where two Skype users who speak different languages teach each other their languages from across the globe.In this case, if you want to learn Spanish, all you need to do is find a user from Spain or Latin America who wants to learn English and you're ready to start learning one-on-one!
- If you can't (or don't want to) use a video chat service, you can still use the old-fashioned method — getting a pen pal — for a somewhat slower-paced experience (but one that's still worthwhile.) Try using a pen pal site like Mylanguageexchange.com to connect with a Spanish-speaker from abroad via email or snail mail.
Get your hands on an old Spanish textbook.While communicating with actual Spanish speakers is generally the best way to learn the language, for some skills (like verb agreement and conjugation), it can be useful to take a more formalized approach to studying so that you can get the foundational knowledge necessary to carry on an actual conversation. In this case, Spanish textbooks can be a major help. Below are just a few places you may be able to find Spanish textbooks for cheap or free (as a general rule, the older the book is, the cheaper it is.) Don't be too worried about your textbook being out of date — while Spanish is continually evolving just like any other language, the fundamentals aren't likely to have changed.
- School book sales/fundraisers
- Used/recycled bookstores
- "Used" sections of online book retailers
- Friends or acquaintances who have purchased textbooks for past courses
- Public domain databases/ebook repositories
- If you can, try labeling things around your house with their Spanish names to help build your vocabulary.
- Try visiting the Spanish-language YouTube channel titledHolaSoyGerman. The name might SOUND like the channel would teach you German, but the channel operator speaks Spanish. If you want, you can put on the English subtitles as a guide.
- Avoid studying any other Latin/Romance languages at the same time as Spanish. Generally it's very tricky to learn two languages at once when they come from the same linguistic family. Other Romance languages include French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian.
Video: Basic Spanish | Lesson 1 | Introductions & Greetings
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