10 things to help learn Spanish

I have been learning Spanish for a couple of years now. At first it was a side interest rather than necessity but here are 10 things which have helped.

  1. Duolingo This easy app was the first thing I used. It’s free and slowly builds vocabulary for a range of situations. Because you learn by trial and error it can be a bit irritating (so you may want to use it alongside other techniques) but the trick is to not worry about making mistakes and simply guess. I have long since completed all the lessons but still do the revisions each day, they only take a couple of minutes but the repetition is good for learning.
  2. Wlingua For the last four months I’ve been using this web / phone based learning course. There is a fee (£30 for 6 months). Unlike Duolinguo it has structured lessons (420 of them) where you learn and revise vocabulary, learn some grammar, read a short passage and answer questions as well as some other exercises. This course (I’ve not yet finished it) has improved my language enormously. There are other web based programs but I liked this because of the structure and variety. It also has two different plans depending on whether you want to learn Spanish for countries in Latin America or mainland Spain.
  3. Easy Spanish. These are a series of short videos that help you get used to hearing native speakers. They have subtitles which help you to learn to recognise the words being spoken.
  4. Collins easy learning Spanish Grammar. Is not as easy learning as you might hope but it contains a summary of grammar rules and the conjugations of verbs. Collins also produce a dictionary with much of the same information in it and a whole range of other books and resources. When you get frustrated with Duolinguo not teaching you grammar this book is invaluable because it explains the rules.
  5. Spanish Lessons with Professor Jason. These are a series of YouTube videos which aim to teach grammar and other aspects of learning Spanish. I’ve used them to cover ground I’ve learned elsewhere but learners who prefer video might want to use these as the primary way of learning grammar. 
  6. Teach Yourself Spanish Grammar: a practical course. I’ve added this book more recently and am using it as a means of revising and reinforcing material I ought to know. I find it helpful just to having a different method to the others which I use as my primary learning tools. Like the Collins language program there are a whole range of Teach Yourself learning resources.
  7. Watching and listening to Spanish. You can live stream TV from many parts of the world and several news outlets (eg: CNN) have videos and news stories in Spanish. If you have Euronews on your TV (Sky channel 508) you can set the language preference to Spanish and listen in Spanish; be warned they speak really fast. We listen to contemporary worship music in Spanish in the car, with several Hillsongs albums (to the extent that many of the songs are more familiar in Spanish than English). But the internet is full of Spanish Language music in an enormous variety of styles – there will be something that suits your tastes.
  8. Podcasts. I only used a few of these in the early days, but because they teach phrases and get you to repeat them, they help get to speaking the language and not just listening. They also tend to focus on practical areas with the language you need for travel, booking into accommodation, ordering food etc. I used ‘Coffee Break Spanish’ which was free but is now a paid for service and ‘Discover Spanish’ which remains free.
  9. Spanish Lessons. Since Christmas I’ve also been having Spanish lessons at La Academia in Cheadle. I primarily use my lessons to practice conversation and to focus on areas that I need to improve. While you can learn without a teacher, and I did, you need Spanish conversation if you are to speak the language. Also, Tannia picks up on my bad habits and tries to correct them before they become too ingrained.
  10. Keep practicing. Obviously Lori and I are both trying to learn Spanish and our daughter did GCSE Spanish so we try to practice at home. Yesterday we went round Aldi together and did all the conversation in Spanish (except I couldn’t remember the Spanish for leeks). When I’m at the gym I count reps in Spanish not English.

Learning another language is hard work but it can be done. I got a U at French O level and my knowledge of English grammar is woeful and yet, I am slowly managing to communicate. If you just want to see how you get on I’d start with Duolingo and the Discover Spanish Podcasts, adding either Professor Jason’s YouTube or the Teach Yourself Grammar book as you get into it. If you are more determined I’d use Wlingua as the prime learning method with some other free resources to help build on that. But at some point, if you want to learn properly, you will probably need to find a Spanish Teacher.

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