So, there’s this crazy myth that you must be rich to learn a language fluently.
Crazy though it may be, it’s worth addressing. After all, it’s everywhere.
And it’s known to cause the very serious problem of foreign language paralysis.
There are still people claiming you must attend accredited courses with an experienced teacher in a qualified—in other words, expensive—language center.
Others argue that the only possible way to learn fluent, native-level Spanish is to quit your job, buy a plane ticket and live in Spain, Mexico or Peru for a year.
Yup. Probably not going to happen for all of us.
And it’s just plain silly to think that this myth is true.
It’s as silly as the myths that you must be young or an extrovert to be able to learn a language.
If you’ve ever felt unmotivated by the thought of joining an actual Spanish class, purchasing manuals or traveling to a Spanish-speaking country like some of your pals in order to get a deeper understanding of the language, then you may have been paralyzed by the false idea that learning a language requires a big, fat investment.
So, you put off learning Spanish.
You told yourself, “once I save a little more cash, I’ll buy that nice program or travel abroad.”
But now you can officially take Spanish off the back burner. This guide will help you get a quick, cost-free start to learning Spanish like a boss.
You don’t need to drain your bank account trying to learn Spanish! Rather than having to navigate through endless resources, wasting precious time you could be using for practice, start with these free resources below.
Just keep in mind that what you’re gaining in money, you’re losing in structure. You’ll need to be in charge of your own studying. You’ll need to create a routine and stick with it. Use these resources to start applying Spanish to your everyday activities and hobbies, since they require nothing but access to the internet.
Easier said than done? Keep reading! If the idea of a routine sounded like a challenge, we’ve got you covered.
The Penny Pincher’s Guide to Learning Spanish for Free
We’ve introduced the resources in such a way that you can use them to cobble together your own daily language learning routine. Work with these seven strategies:
1. Warm up
2. Learn a lesson
3. Practice on the go
4. Learn passively around the clock
5. Turn relaxation time into study time
6. Practice conversational skills
7. Take a free Spanish course online
Try to employ the first two strategies every day. By doing the quick warm up, you’ll build a daily habit and train yourself stick to it. The daily lesson is the foundation of your Spanish learning, so be sure to make this happen—even if you do the same lesson every day for a week, you’re still building that foundation.
The remaining four strategies are fantastic ways to clock in additional Spanish learning time all day long, and they’re flexible enough to fit into even the busiest schedules.
The more often you can work on all seven things, the faster you’ll notice your Spanish is improving.
We’d recommend devoting at least 20 to 30 minutes working with the above each day for maximum progress.
Ready to see what free Spanish learning resources we have in store for you? Let’s get started!
1. Warm Up with Free Spanish Learning Apps
Mobile phone applications have come to revolutionize the way we learn languages, and Spanish is no exception. Apps allow us to learn from anywhere at any given time. They’re frequently designed to be time-saving, focusing on providing short exercises and quick interactions rather than full, one-hour classes.
Plus, apps tend to come free or very, very cheap. When the full app isn’t free, there’s usually a demo mode or a free version that’s quite generous in terms of the content offered.
All of this means that it’s much easier to squeeze in some Spanish practice every day and to do it without spending a cent.
Whether you’re at a beginner’s level or are already able to speak fluently, you’ll always have the opportunity to face a new challenge and practice your skills. Whether you prefer the flashcard method or want things to be gamified, we’re sure this list can help you take the next step. Shall we?
By now everyone has probably heard of Duolingo. It’s practical, visually clean and intuitive to use, providing a variety of exercises for beginners to upper-intermediate language learners.
The entire learning app is free and organized by modules, allowing you to progress at your own pace and unlock more special features as you conquer the language.
Very much like a game, Duolingo will allow you to score points for what you accomplish. You’ll learn interactively, from typing what you hear to tapping word pairs, repeating a word into your microphone and translating to and from Spanish.
What I love most about Duolingo is how it tries to instill a sense of accomplishment in Spanish students, keeping track of their success. In fact, it even resembles a social network, in that it allows you to connect with fellow language learners and keep track of each others’ progress.
However, do try to supplement the application with sources that provide a better representation of native Spanish, since Duolingo’s voices are often a bit robotic, arhythmic and not the most accurate example of what you’d hear in everyday life. Many native Spanish speakers express themselves with fast-paced speech, and often with a considerable amount of slang in the mix! It’s always a good idea to combine different resources to learn a diversity of language lessons, anyway.
Looking for a taste of more real-world Spanish, complete with slang, accents, jokes and idioms?
While other Spanish learning apps generally offer scripted lessons and robotic, tediously unvarying voices, FluentU gets you listening to authentic material—videos made by native Spanish speakers for native Spanish speakers.
That’s because FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. The topics of the videos are diverse as well, as you’ll find video titles such as, “What is Brexit?”, “Paraguay before the great war,” “The nervous system,” “Awkward social situations” or even “Curing ear pain naturally.”
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 like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, 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 recommends examples and videos for you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
The free version of Busuu has one great feature going for it, making it a positive supplement to other applications: conversation practice with native users! Here, you can actually seek out native speakers, converse with them and get feedback in real time—in a matter of minutes!—especially with popular languages like Spanish.
If you’re likely to learn more effectively from vocabulary organized by themes rather than difficulty level, then you’re also likely to enjoy Busuu. I particularly love the way Busuu has grown as a brand, and how it interacts with its users with the goal of improving itself.
The app was initially criticized for its weak flashcard-based courses, pricey options, unimpressive review systems, bugs and a rather demanding system insisting speakers were always wrong, but has developed immensely from the beginning and its team is pleasantly responsive.
In a nutshell, Busuu is great if you consider socializing a must for improving your Spanish abilities.
Anybody up for some fun?
Memrise is all about flashcards, but goes further than other flashcard apps. It gives you the option to choose between basic and advanced Spanish, as well as between regional varieties like Castilian Spanish, Mexican Spanish and Argentinian Spanish.
Perhaps the best Memrise has to offer is an awe-inspiring diversity of flashcard-based courses with fun themes, such as “Argument Vocabulary,” “Free Time,” “In My Backpack,” “Football Spanish” and “Nicaraguan Slang.”
Guaranteed to provide entertaining and meaningful content for each user, Memrise also teaches through repetition, trial and error, experimentation and correction, allowing you to practice listening and reading skills. Similarly to Duolingo, you may define a daily goal, define your starting level and earn points.
Prepare to turn Spanish learning into a game, for free!
2. Learn a Daily Spanish Lesson for Free on YouTube
From young, lively Spanish enthusiasts to new tutors and experienced teachers, Spanish-speaking YouTubers provide digital alternatives to the traditional classroom, bringing along some unexpected perks!
YouTube lessons allow you to pause and rewind whenever you need to, focus on a particular topic of your interest, play with different levels of fluency and choose a teaching style that best suits your needs. However, finding high-quality content on YouTube is never an easy task, particularly when it comes to language learning.
The below selections all have high-quality video and audio only. Never fear, YouTubers are here!
Whether you’re just starting to grasp the complexities of Spanish pronunciation or feel like the language is already an indispensable part of your world, Butterfly Spanish is the most adorable channel to motivate you on your quest for fluency.
Ana will guide you with her charming lessons about topics as different as travel vocabulary, how to tell time in Spanish, how to order food and how to talk about the weather. Her lessons are incredibly helpful for daily usage of the language.
She frequently focuses on particular Spanish letters and syllables, with the goal of teaching you how to pronounce them like a native Spanish speaker.
Need more reasons to join Ana? She also publishes content related to Spanish-speaking cultures and traditions, like Cinco de Mayo and other noteworthy celebrations. A must-see for any Spanish student!
The channel Practiquemos (meaning: let’s practice) is definitely the way to go if you love the traditional classroom vibe.
The somewhat motherly touch Professor Catalina Escobar brings to her distinctive Spanish channel is warm yet professional and polished. She’s got more than enough video content here to get you interested and keep you around long-term, from beginner to advanced topics.
She produces some very interesting videos rarely seen on other Spanish-teaching YouTube channels, such as “5 errores cómicos durante las clases de español” (5 funny mistakes during Spanish class), which let you loosen up and laugh while you learn!
Perhaps the coolest aspect of Professor Maria’s YouTube channel is the fact that she categorizes classes according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, meaning you can choose content from levels A (beginner’s level) to C (fluency), rather than wasting your time searching through content you may or may not understand.
She also provides a variety of lesson styles, from dialogue translation to listening exercises, vocabulary lessons, everyday expressions, conversation for advanced students and even reading practice for beginners.
Her conversation practice videos for intermediate and advanced Spanish learners are absolute gems. You can start getting familiar with what Spanish sounds like outside of the classroom, while learning how to break that comforting wall of monosyllabic responses and start seriously developing your conversation skills.
Ready for your daily dose of Spanish insanity?
If you think you’ve seen everything there is to see on YouTube, think again.
While the channel Holasoygerman is far from offering traditional lessons, the hilarious Chilean YouTuber German Garmendia will take you for a ride with topics such as “Como encontrar trabajo” (how to find work), “El gimnasio” (the gym), “Los matapasiones” (the passion-killers) and “Los vecinos” (neighbors).
Needless to say, his content focuses on comedic situations of daily life, feeling more like entertainment rather than education.
And guess what? All of it is in a fast-paced, slang-filled, super-challenging Chilean Spanish! It’s perfect for students who feel they’re reaching an advanced level of the language, and would like a new challenge to spice things up.
3. Practice Spanish on the Go with Podcasts
Immersion is the best way to learn a language, and that means keeping contact with native source material, from music and movies to postcards and literature.
Podcasts align perfectly with this strategy. They’ll help you start blurring the line between Spanish learning and your interests, hobbies and daily activities.
You stop being a student and start being a common listener; you also stop obsessing over grammar and spelling to start realizing how Spanish is used to talk about your favorite topics. How awesome is that?
We’ve collected some podcasts with different levels of difficulty, countries of origin and topics of interest, so you can start listening right away.
Audiria was created by two brothers from Málaga, but is nowadays supported by other members of the same family living in Madrid. Hanging out here is a nice way to support a helpful family business, all while developing your Spanish vocabulary related to various topics.
This podcast is perfect for the eclectic Spanish student, meaning you’re interested in a wide range of topics and want to learn how to talk about pretty much anything.
Here you’ll find discussions about the economic crisis, Christmas gifts, trips to the pharmacy, meal recipes and even the Spanish constitution.
Attention, science enthusiasts!
The title is the Spanish for “on the shoulders of giants,” and this podcast addresses big topics such as the evolution of the human race, the science of earthquakes, the universe and the relationship between science and the internet.
All recordings are presented by a native Spanish speaker, author and science connoisseur Manuel Seara Valero. If you’re at the intermediate and advanced levels of Spanish, your ears will be thankful you found this podcast!
Ready for tougher material? If you’re concerned with society and politics, Futuro Abierto (open future) is the podcast for you, discussing matters related to education, sexuality, mental health, marriage and divorce, animal rights and even digital economy.
This podcast is the place to be if you’re approaching an advanced level of Spanish and want to study the ways in which you can express political views and perspectives on society.
Diana Uribe, a Colombian journalist, guides you through the major events in world history, with a particular focus on the chapters of Latin American history.
What’s your choice of favorite Spanish-speaking country in Latin America? No matter what it is, you’ll find episodes dedicated to their history and culture. You’ll also have access to topics of international relevance, including the history of Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, world literature, dictatorships and particular cities around the world, such as New Orleans.
Get 45 minutes of pure education in your favorite language!
4. Learn Spanish Passively Around the Clock with Free Music
Music makes the people come together, and not just in the way Madonna says it does.
It’s now scientifically proven that some parts of the human brain are responsible for processing both music and foreign languages, two extremely effective means of communication—so, just imagine combining both on a daily basis!
Not only can you start becoming familiar with the diversity of accents and music genres in Spanish-speaking countries, you’ll be better able to reference key artists, musicians and songs in Spanish when interacting with native speakers. Music is always a great topic when getting to know somebody else.
Needless to say, listening to music in Spanish while on your way to school, the gym or work allows you to save both time and money, all while taking advantage of the way your subconscious starts registering new sounds, repetition upon repetition.
Into rap and hip hop? Start with Calle 13 or Los Chikos del Maíz, for instance.
Up for some alternative music? Bebe, Orishas, Lila Downs or Manu Chao.
If you love some regular pop music to cheer up your mood, get yourself some Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Juanes, Pablo Alborán, Guaraná or even Don Omar for a few dance numbers!
And speaking of dance, why not try some electronic music, just in case you want to explore the scene in a Spanish-speaking country? Anna Tur is now one of the most influential DJs performing regularly in Ibiza, her place of origin.
Spanish will start coming naturally to you once your playlist starts growing!
5. Turn Relaxation Time into Study Time with Free Spanish Games
So, you’ve had your fun with podcasts, songs and some YouTube lessons, but you feel the level of interaction is still pretty low.
And because language learning is all about interaction, any additional resources would be welcome when you feel the need to practice grammar and vocabulary.
The answer? Gaming!
If you already love gaming in your free time and sometimes find it hard to balance time between gaming fun and language learning, know that a good tip is to switch the language settings of your favorite game and getting familiar with the Spanish version.
How about replaying an old game or continue playing the game you love most, this time with Spanish settings or subtitles?
If you’re not a gamer but still need that additional dose of interaction, there are gamified websites designed to teach you Spanish the fun way.
While it’s far from showcasing the latest HD imagery and special effects, this platform is still one of the best resources for learning Spanish through games.
You may switch between Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish, as well as your level of fluency (from beginner to intermediate) in order to adapt the type of games, tutorials and topics that are displayed on screen.
From the nostalgic hangman to spelling games and mix-and-match types of games, you can practice Spanish grammar and vocabulary related to different topics.
A huge plus is the final option of taking a test at the end of game time here, in order to see where you stand on a particular topic like family, geography, body parts, holidays or colors. Definitely worth trying!
A great option for both Spanish learners and dedicated polyglots, this platform offers free games for a total of 80 languages and dialects.
Here, too, you may choose your page according to where you’re at with Spanish, selecting advanced vocabulary building games or simple exercises to start counting or greeting people in Spanish.
Additionally, you may choose between testing your reading skills or listening skills according to the game you choose to play.
An American publishing company for children’s books, Scholastic has launched an edition of “Maggie’s Earth Adventures” with a section for Spanish-language games only.
Limpia tu gramatica (“clean up your grammar”), for instance, is a great game to help you make a distinction between substantives and verbs, with a simple drag and drop system.
Sounds too basic? Realizing río (river), río (verb for “to laugh,” first person, present tense) and rió (verb for “to laugh,” third person, past tense) belong to different categories will make you think twice!
Although this platform targets children as its main audience, older Spanish students can also benefit from its challenges by refreshing basic vocabulary and solidifying foundational skills.
6. Practice Conversational Skills for Free on Spanish Forums
If you’re looking to practice your writing and reading skills in Spanish, apps aren’t your only options.
You can also learn how to write about your favorite topics and interests… from actual native Spanish speakers! Foros (forums) are incredibly useful for learning common idioms and colloquial discourse applied to your hobbies, along with writing questions and answering other users.
Takes notes on recurring expressions that you haven’t seen before and use them in your own messages when appropriate. You’ll start sounding like a native in no time!
Here’s a selection of useful forums for different types of interests.
Okay, we’re cheating a little. Hello Foros is actually a collection of other forums.
You may browse the forum you’d like to participate in by alphabetic order or by theme. From kitchen recipes to the latest news, chisme (gossip), fan clubs, religion or gardening, millions of Spanish-speaking users get together in this platform to share their opinions and stories.
You can register for free and start today!
Originally a forum dedicated to vehicles and inherent issues, it’s still the go-to place if you’re interested in discussing technical matters, mechanics, car and motorbike brands, vehicle insurance or even graphic design.
However, without a doubt, the largest amount of users will be found in the general category, where you’ll be able to find topics as distinct as politics, sports, internet phenomena, entertainment and even employment.
You’ll literally find a post named “Es Porsche el Ferrari de los pobres?” (Is Porsche the Ferrari of the poor?) next to a post titled “Tengo una pregunta para los ateos y me gustaría que me contestarais de corazón” (I have a question for atheists and I would like you to reply from the heart).
Need more reasons to join?
Spanish learners interested in politics and economy should head directly to Burbuja (bubble), a forum dedicated to discussion around real estate, investments, entrepreneurship, stock exchange and, of course, the way politics impact these areas.
If you study or work in the field of economics or finance, you’ll be happy to know there’s a particular group titled temas calientes (hot topics), where you’ll be able to put your Spanish skills to the test with the latest trends and news that affect economic growth and development, from wars and election results to social phenomena.
Although the name of this forum implies its target audience is feminine, and does use the female term usuarias for its users, we would advise your participation regardless of gender—and especially if you’re interested in topics such as make-up, shopping, beauty, romantic relationships and family.
Simpler topics such as beauty tips and tutorials stand side by side with more serious discussions around pregnancy, family dynamics, health and sexuality. Here’s your opportunity to blend your love for aesthetics, fashion and matters of the heart with your Spanish practice!
Internet lovers, unite! Whether you’re creating your own online business or blog, are interested in web development, are a social media aficionado, are attempting to specialize in SEO or can’t wait for particular software to be released, this forum is for you.
Spanish-speaking users come together to discuss content management, SEO optimization, social media management and other topics of interest for those pursuing a web-related hobby or career.
Ready to bring a little language learning to your favorite hobby?
Video games—or video juegos, as you’ll come to know them if you start participating in this forum—are one of the best ways to learn a language. They’re interactive, fun, at times touching and always a great way to develop your memory, coordination and strategic thinking. Your best bet to start thinking about gaming in Spanish.
When playing in teams, you’re sure to develop your communication skills as well! No wonder Vandal is such a dynamic forum.
Perhaps its very best feature is that active discussions address a surprisingly wide range of topics, from actual soccer games and teams to gaming software, bugs, fan art, voice-over experiences, game design, game-inspired films and overall opinions and frustrations related to gaming—all written in Spanish!
7. Take a Free Spanish Course Online with MOOCs
MOOCs are “Massive Open Online Courses.” These online courses skyrocketed in popularity in the early 2000s because of their convenience and accessibility. You may already recognize some of the big names like edX, Coursera or Udemy. They’ve revolutionized education by allowing users to create their own learning experience!
Here are a few tips for how to use MOOCs effectively:
- Create SMART goals for MOOCs: SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Some MOOCs have a timeline estimating time for completion that lasts anywhere from six weeks to six months. Most will let users set their own pace. It’s important to set a time range so you can measure your own progress.
Of course, MOOCs can’t do all the work for you, but they make learning Spanish more achievable. Review course descriptions to get an idea of the concepts you’ll be learning.
- Join communities associated with MOOCs: Engagement makes a learning experience fun! Becoming a part of a language learning community will help you maintain motivation. It’ll also give you different perspectives on learning Spanish—Someone may offer a great language learning tip or maybe you can be the one to share your learning hacks.
MOOCs often have a designated area where you can post questions, or there might be a related group on social media. Aim to contribute to the conversations. It doesn’t have to feel forced. Remember, these are real people just like you who want to learn Spanish!
- Take notes that you can rely on: MOOCs don’t represent your typical classroom setting but that doesn’t mean that you should view them as “easy.” The factoids and knowledge you gain from MOOCs are extremely valuable and important. Don’t rely on memory to recall all the things you’ll learn.
Get a spare notebook or even create a document or folder on your desktop or phone specifically for MOOC notes. You’ll be setting yourself up for success when you can look back on the topics that you learned!
Reviewing your notes is also key. Schedule a time to go back over your notes. Set a timer if that’ll help you focus!
- Use MOOCs as a companion to other online Spanish courses: Even if you’ve already signed up for a MOOC, there’s nothing wrong with using supplemental material like free MOOCs to enhance your learning experience.
MOOCs are a great way to apply what you may already know about the Spanish language, or at least give you a refresher! If one MOOC is lacking in instruction on Spanish grammar, find another MOOC to fill that gap.
It’s also important to balance the number of MOOCs that you’re using. Like they say, quality trumps quantity!
Here’s a list of free quality MOOCs for learning Spanish:
Iversity is an online learning platform that offers a free Spanish for beginners course. What makes this course stand out is its approach to introducing you to the basics of Spanish. It’s playful but practical.
It’s worth giving a try if you’re interested in an easy-going learning experience.
Even though it’s connected to the edX site’s courses, MOOC.org gives you more specific topics for learning Spanish. You can browse the course selection for an online class that appeals to your interests. If you happen to prefer an edX site, you’re welcome to move over there, too!
This free MOOC from Rosetta Stone has visual modules to help you ease into speaking Spanish in practical situations. It starts off by introducing you to some useful phrases and steadily tests your knowledge as you progress.
For a free e-learning tool, it does a good job of establishing the fundamentals for having conversations in Spanish!
This site offers a variety of online lessons that pertain to specific aspects of the Spanish language.
It’s perfect for all levels of proficiency. Plus, if you’re interested in improving a specific area of your Spanish, there are grammar courses and vocabulary courses that you can focus on.
For more advanced learning, why not take a course in Spanish? Khan Academy has a variety of online classes taught in Spanish.
You’ve already immersed yourself in Spanish at home, now you can start challenging yourself, too!
Hopefully, this has provided all the resources you need to start speaking, writing, reading and understanding Spanish like a pro.
Next time you doubt whether you’ll ever be able to learn Spanish with an aching wallet, remember that we’ve got your back!
Now, go be free!
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