Oh, so you’ve just finished your basic Spanish course?
After all the hours you’ve put in, flipping through your beat-up flashcards, leaving the folks at the Mexican restaurant blinking clueless because you’ve unintentionally mangled their language… you’ve done it!
Misión cumplida (mission accomplished).
Give yourself a pat on the back, grab a cerveza (beer), and know that you can write “Spanish” as a skill on your resumé.
Cue the exuberant mariachi band and let’s see you strut that Step-Aside-I-Know-Spanish walk that you’ve practiced in your room.
Okay, maybe not just yet.
Believe it or not, the fun is really just beginning.
And when I say “fun,” I’m not being sarcastic. I really mean fun!
There are a couple of intermediate Spanish courses online that not only bolster and fortify your basic Spanish skills, but also take it to a level where good ol’ you can have really meaningful conversations with native speakers.
I mean beyond just asking where the bathroom is, telling the time or expressing that you’re happy today.
You can take it to a level where you can talk about real opinions, not just about canned ones given as examples in the basic course. (Aren’t you tired of always talking about the weather?)
Want to talk about recent events and abstract concepts, where native speakers aren’t forcing themselves to slow down or enunciate clearly?
Yes, today I’m going to introduce you to six intermediate Spanish online courses that stand ready to assist you in moving forward.
But before doing that, let’s have a look at what the Spanish intermediate level really is.
What Is the Spanish Intermediate Level?
According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), an intermediate user of Spanish, or any other language for that matter, is an independent user of the language.
If a learner of Spanish is in the B1-B2 levels, they can then be called intermediate, independent users of Spanish.
But what does “independent user” even mean?
We’ll explore this in the next two sections.
How Do You Know if You’re at the Intermediate Level?
“Independent user” is just a fancy way to say that you’re able to use a language to a certain extent without depending on a book, a dictionary or your Spanish-speaking best friend.
Still not sure if that’s you?
OK, then. You know you’re at the intermediate level of Spanish when:
- You can talk easily about simple topics like your family, your school, your hobbies and your free time (B1) or about other abstract and technical topics that you’re interested in (B2).
- You can read and write about your personal interests, your opinion and your dreams (B1) or about practically any topic where you’d be expected to give your personal opinion or a list of pros and cons (B2).
- You can successfully survive almost any everyday short interaction in Spanish (B1) or you can hold a simple conversation with a native Spanish speaker with ease (B2).
Depending on where you are in the B-level continuum, you’ll either be classified as a B1 user of Spanish (this is what’s normally called simply “intermediate learner”) or a B2 user of Spanish (normally called “upper-intermediate learner”).
There are two questions a lot of my Spanish students love to ask:
- How many Spanish words do I need to know to be an intermediate learner?
- How much grammar is necessary?
The first question is very easily answered: The CEFR estimates that you need 2000 words to be at level B1 and 4000 words to be at level B2.
Now the grammar question, that one takes a bit more than one line.
Let’s answer it in the next section.
How Much Grammar Do I Need at the Intermediate Level?
It’d be impossible to answer this question by giving you a number.
Can you imagine? You need “45% of grammar, or 67.9 grammar points.” What?
Instead, I always tell my students to ask about Spanish intermediate grammar with this question:
- What grammar should I be studying at the intermediate level of Spanish?
Now that’s a question I can certainly answer.
If you’re at the B1 level of Spanish, you should be learning:
- The preterite (pretérito indefinido), the imperfect (imperfecto), the present perfect (pretérito perfecto), the pluscuamperfecto and the perfect conditional (condicional perfecto) tenses of the indicative.
- The relative pronouns and the relative clauses.
- The present subjunctive (presente de subjuntivo) tense.
- The imperative mood, both affirmative and negative.
- The first conditional, if you don’t know it yet.
If you’re at the B2 level of Spanish, you should be learning:
- The imperfect subjunctive (imperfecto de subjuntivo), the present perfect subjunctive (pretérito perfecto de subjuntivo) and the pluscuamperfecto subjunctive tenses.
- Spanish verb periphrases (perífrasis verbales).
- The Spanish passive voice.
- The imperative mood with object pronouns.
- The second and third conditionals.
- Spanish most commonly used prepositions (por/para/a/en/de/con/desde/hasta).
- Spanish linking words.
If you’re just starting, I’ll be cheering for you to reach the B2 level in no time! Remember that practice makes perfect, and 15-20 minutes of Spanish every day are better than four hours in one sitting.
If you’re at the B2 level, it’s possible you’ve reached a point where you don’t feel you’re making any progress (or you’re about to reach it).
The good news is that you’re not alone. This is so common that it even has a name: The intermediate plateau.
What Is the Intermediate Plateau?
Simply put, the intermediate plateau is that moment during the B-level journey when you get “stuck” and don’t seem to make any progress.
Although this can happen at any time during the language learning journey, it’s been proven to happen more often during the intermediate stages of learning.
The culprit for the intermediate plateau has nothing to do with you or the language you’re learning. If that were the case, why does almost every student of every language get trapped by the intermediate plateau?
As a teacher, I believe the method of learning is to blame.
In other words, you can’t pretend to learn a language at the intermediate language by doing the exact same things you used to do as a beginner!
It’s time for a change in perspective, for a new method.
So, let’s have a look at six useful tips you can easily implement to finally break free from the dreaded intermediate plateau.
6 Practical Tips to Get Past the Intermediate Plateau
1. Keep Learning Vocabulary and Grammar
The fact that you’ve reached the intermediate stage doesn’t mean your work with Spanish grammar and vocabulary is done.
In fact, it’s just getting started!
Learn intermediate Spanish grammar at least twice every week, and try to learn a few new words every day.
To help you with the former, the best thing you can do is to get hold of an intermediate or upper-intermediate Spanish grammar book.
Ideally, it should come with a separate workbook or include grammar exercises you can use to practice what you learn.
To help you with the latter, download a Spanish flashcard app, get a monolingual Spanish dictionary and try simple tricks like changing the settings of your electronic devices to Spanish, using social media in Spanish and labeling your house with post-it notes.
2. Listen to and Watch More Spanish Content
Even though Spanish content can be used from day one, this is one of those tools that’s a better fit for intermediate and advanced Spanish learners.
As soon as you can, start listening to Spanish content that was created for native speakers.
This means you should seek out Spanish podcasts, radio shows and Spanish audiobooks catered to native speakers of the language.
Granted, it’ll be challenging at the beginning, but if you really want to get past the intermediate plateau, “challenge” should be your middle name from now on.
Apart from listening to Spanish content, start watching it, too.
Start with Spanish series and Spanish movies that are available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO or Disney+, or whatever your streaming platform of choice is.
Watch them in Spanish (of course!) with the Spanish subtitles on. When you feel comfortable enough, leave the subtitles out of the picture.
You can also use YouTube to learn Spanish.
Apart from tons of native YouTubers who you can learn Spanish conversation from, you can also have a look at FluentU’s Spanish YouTube channel, where you’ll find videos containing everything from vocabulary and grammar to Mexican cuisine and (my favorites!) deep analyses of the trailers of movies like the following one:
If you want to leave the intermediate plateau behind while you improve your Spanish in a fun and engaging way, subscribe to FluentU’s Spanish YouTube channel today and hit that notification bell so you don’t miss out on any of the new content!
3. Practice Reading and Writing
Reading and writing are two basic language skills that get most often ignored (or, at the very least, overshadowed by speaking and listening).
Try to add reading in Spanish to your daily routine, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes.
There are plenty of different reading resources for intermediate learners you can choose from, so be picky and enjoy your reading.
Additionally, you can give reading out loud a try. It’s been proven to improve pronunciation, rhythm and intonation, so it’ll get you ready for your conversations in Spanish.
As for writing, you may be surprised to learn this, but it’s actually one of those things that’ll get you out of the Spanish intermediate plateau the fastest.
Adding writing to your Spanish study sessions won’t only help you remember word spelling better but it’ll also help you memorize new vocabulary, put new grammar constructions and rules into practice and, most importantly, find your Spanish voice.
Writing is like speaking in silence, so it’ll also be a great tool to break the shyness barrier and start talking like a native.
4. Speak Spanish as Much as You Can
This should be obvious, but just in case you were living under a rock, let me say it again: The more you speak Spanish, the better you’ll get at it and the faster you’ll get past the Spanish intermediate plateau.
From Spanish language exchanges and Spanish tutors to speaking to yourself in front of the mirror and practicing Spanish shadowing if you’re still not brave enough to get out there, the possibilities to practice Spanish speaking are huge.
Take advantage of them!
5. Use FluentU
As you’ll see later, FluentU is a language learning program that uses content created by and for natives and turns it into superb Spanish lessons you’ll never forget.
FluentU is a powerful, comprehensive tool you can use from level A1 to level C2 and still not exhaust the whole list of Spanish videos it offers.
Many of my students found in FluentU that last push they needed to overcome the stagnation they sank in during the intermediate level.
Give it a free try and take advantage of it, as well!
6. Take an Intermediate Online Course
Last but not least, you can take an intermediate Spanish course to fire those neurons up and rise above the intermediate plateau like a Spanish phoenix.
Intermediate courses, especially if they’re taken online, are an easy and often cheap way of getting your progress restarted.
There are a gazillion Spanish intermediate online courses you can take, but I want to make things easier for you.
That’s why I’ve gathered six of the best Spanish intermediate courses you can find online and have added them here, so you just have to click on their link and start learning.
But before doing that, have I ever told you about the reasons why it’s finger-lickin’ great to take intermediate Spanish courses online?
Okay, let me do just that before we get to the goodies.
Why Take an Online Intermediate Spanish Course?
You Can Tailor the Course to Your Interests, Intentions and Weaknesses
You may have forgone online courses in your basic Spanish and have turned to secondhand books or private tutoring. And you may have done fine.
But going forward? Where the lessons are more advanced and more nuanced?
I really think you can’t afford to miss an online course.
With the great number of offerings online, you can actually choose one (or many) that are perfect for you and reflect your state of Spanish, because not all “intermediate” learners are the same.
You have different areas of weakness that need work, as well as different interests.
Books are unilaterally set in stone and scarcely interactive. Online courses, on the other hand, allow you to actually decide what you want to learn and how you want to learn it.
You can take advantage of your unique learning style and choose the pace that suits you best.
Online Courses Are More Engaging and More Effective
Online courses are proving more effective than other methods of instruction.
Yep. You read that right!
A study from 2009 shows that online learning is more effective than traditional learning methods. And we’ve only gotten better at online instruction since then!
Oh, I know hard-nosed academics have been giving online education a bad rap, saying they’re child’s play and don’t really measure up to centuries-old institutions.
But the truth is that online courses are just more engaging.
All those fancy graphics, eye-catching colors, crisp audio and humorous texts are really doing the job.
Because of these elements, students are more motivated, they spend more time with the lessons, remember them better, become excited about their progress and are more reflective about what they’re learning.
All these work together to make the lessons stick and stay with the student.
Mobile Access, 24/7 Availability
With an online course, there’s no running through campus or through traffic because you’re already late.
Just whip out your laptop inside a comfy coffee shop (or at the park, the beach, in your room, in your bed, at one a.m., etc.!).
Wherever and whenever.
Imagine waking up your teacher for a lesson because you just feel like it.
Can’t do it, huh?
Okay, imagine telling him to do the exact same lecture all over again, for the fourth time, because you want to review and make sure that you didn’t miss anything.
Or telling your teacher to pause the lesson because you have to go to the bathroom.
Are you feeling me now?
Many Online Courses are Either Cheep or Absolutely Free
And here’s the kicker. Not only are online courses more effective, more engaging, allow for more control of your program, give you total access any time of day—but many are absolutely free!
How’s that for weighing the pros and cons, huh?
Online courses lower the costs of education by obliterating the concept of tuition fees. They also bypass commuting expenses and time!
Of course, there are online Spanish courses that do require a fee. These tend to offer even more content and learning opportunities and are quite often worth every cent. In the end, it’s up to you to set a budget that works for you!
6 Intermediate Spanish Courses to Help You Climb Beyond the Intermediate Plateau
Coffee Break Spanish: Season 3
The award-winning Radio Lingua network has created two courses that are perfect for intermediate and upper-intermediate learners.
Seasons 2 and 3 are natural extensions of the first 40 lessons that introduced Spanish in its most basic form.
Season 3, in particular, is an excellent tool to push you beyond the upper intermediate level, and into the start of the advanced level. If you need help on your subjunctive and want to master your Spanish verbs and pronouns, then the 20-hour audio content, supplemented by hundreds of pages of notes and exercises should get you into your Spanish groove.
The whole course is divided into 40 lessons, and each lesson features a conversation between teacher Mark and native speaker Alba.
They talk about any topic under the sun: travel, current events, language learning, etc. That’s the first part of the lesson.
The second part is where teacher Mark dives deep into explaining the grammatical rules, idiomatic expressions and vocabulary used in the conversation.
In between the lessons, there’s some light-hearted intermission that involves some Spanish tongue-twisters, jokes and so much more.
Season 3 not only builds your grammar and elucidates on complex grammar issues or sticky idiomatic expressions, but it also deepens your understanding of the language.
Do you love learning with videos and movies? Do you wish there was a program that turned authentic videos into language-learning tools?
I’ve got some good news for you: FluentU is the program you’ve been looking for.
Let me explain.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
Notes in Spanish
The folks at “Notes in Spanish,” Ben and Marina, believe in teaching the right vocabulary, the right verbs and only the most useful grammar—leaving the esoteric Spanish words and finicky grammar points to the academics.
Thanks to their program, you won’t be an intermediate learner—you’ll be a soon-to-be-advanced learner!
With “Notes in Spanish,” you get carefully structured podcasts about the most useful elements of the language. Topics covered include Facebook, fast food, Harry Potter and other things you’d actually talk about in everyday conversations.
In addition to the free podcasts, they also have a paid “super pack” that includes a full transcript of the podcasts, a vocabulary list, a grammar list and some very useful exercises.
The advantage of video lessons over audio podcasts is that you have a visual connection with your teacher. You see how his mouth moves as he pronounces words, and any accompanying gestures. That’s why YouTube is an excellent source of Spanish instruction. I recommend, in particular, the Dreaming Spanish channel.
Dreaming Spanish is a YouTube channel that uses the ALG method and Comprehensible Input theory to teach Spanish in an engaging way that’ll stick.
It has plenty of lessons catering to beginners, intermediate and advanced learners.
Dreaming Spanish videos discuss current events, culture and tips for learning Spanish. But here’s the catch: Every bit of content is in Spanish!
Plus, different dialects are represented, depending on who’s presenting the video. Whether you’re learning Spanish from Mexico, Spain or somewhere else, you’ll find something here for you.
For even more intermediate Spanish content, consider supporting the channel on Patreon, where two new intermediate / advanced videos are uploaded every day.
Practical Spanish is a short overview of intermediate-level Spanish, making it perfect for those who need a fast and focused survey of the trickier aspects of Spanish grammar.
If you learn best in text form and are someone who needs to tame the present and past subjunctives, learn when to use por and para, or can’t wait to learn the many different ways se can be used, then this mini-program will give it straight to you—sans all the trimmings.
Though there are only a few sections, there’s actually a lot of information to take in. Every topic is explained in detail, with plenty of examples and audio readings of said examples.
I recommend giving this one a full read-through, then coming back in future sessions and really focusing on each topic one at a time to make the most of this resource.
Have you just completed your basic Spanish course and discovered that you still think it’s hard to understand native speakers? Do you find yourself translating in your head first before you actually speak?
Then this program is for you.
Study Spanish believes that a focus on communication is the way to get past the intermediate level. On their companion website, you’ll find a series of units for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners. Most units are supported by quizzes and a unit test to make sure you understood everything you learned.
To use the guided course, you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee. However, even without the subscription, you have full access to every lesson on the website, including pronunciation examples, detailed grammar explanations, over 50 themed vocabulary lists and conjugation information for all the tenses.
In other words, this is an amazingly comprehensive and indispensable tool you’re sure to come back to again and again during your studies.
And that, my friends, is how you learn intermediate Spanish.
I’ve just given you six intermediate Spanish courses that are completely at your disposal, right this instant. And the question I have for you is: Why are you still reading this?
What are you waiting for?
Go on. Off you go with your Spanish course!
Stay curious, my friends, and as always, happy learning!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.