self study spanish

How to Learn Spanish on Your Own: 7 Quick, Cheap and Easy Ways

Learning and practicing Spanish on your own is entirely possible.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to enroll in multiple classes or spend hundreds on apps to thoroughly learn a new language.

Taking this route can be as leisurely or intensive as you choose, wallet-friendly and specialized for your exact skill level. 

Check out the top-seven list below for a guide on how to learn Spanish on your own. With enough motivation, you’ll soon be prepared to order meals, converse and travel in Spanish!

Contents

1. Get your hands on some Spanish apps

Spanish app

We know you’re busy and always on-the-go. But with Spanish learning apps on your phone, you can make the most of those in-between minutes while you’re sitting on the bus, waiting in line, or bored on your lunch break

There are dozens of apps that were designed to be user-friendly, simple and efficient. Best of all, they can be yours for free or for cheap!

So pick up your phone, go to the app store and find the Spanish learning app that’s right for you. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a dictionary app while you’re at it. 

Recommendations:

  • Do quick Spanish lessons every day with Duolingo. With more than thirty million users every month and impressively high ratings, Duolingo is one of the most popular apps for learning Spanish. It aims to teach us languages in a way that is fun, easy and addictive.

    The app’s game-like lessons and quizzes keep users motivated while building a base in the language. Best of all, it’s available for free on both iOS and Android

  • Get the hang of verb conjugation with ConjuGato. This independently created app on iOS and Android tackles one of the trickiest aspects of Spanish: verb conjugation. It quizzes you on different tenses for each verb, from indicative to perfect subjunctive.

    You can even choose to study Spanish verbs based on frequency. This is helpful because a lot of the most common verbs—such as ser, estar and haber—are irregular.  

2. Form a collection of Spanish books

Spanish books

After enrolling in a Spanish class, the first requirement is to fork out a few hundred dollars for the latest edition of the textbook. On the bright side, the price of the previous editions falls drastically every semester, even though the differences can be very minor.

While course curriculums may change frequently, outdated textbooks are still valuable tools for learning the language. By visiting a local bookstore, or even by going online, you’re bound to find an abundance of past-edition textbooks selling for pocket change.

And if you can’t find that specific textbook, don’t sweat it. There are dozens of other textbooks that can be just as helpful and inexpensive.

So why not go all out and “splurge” on a dictionary, phrasebook and a few other cheap texts to begin with? They will take you and your money far on your language-learning journey.

Recommendations: 

  • Get a copy of Puntos en Breve.” This was once a popular textbook for introductory Spanish courses at many colleges, and it also has a workbook. A used copy of this text, which helped many students efficiently learn the language for years, can be yours for a very small cost.
  • Learn practical expressions with Lonely Planet’s “Spanish Phrasebook and Dictionary.” This is a must-have for anyone who’d like to know all the key phrases for Spanish conversation. Since it’s specifically for travelers, it will inspire you to go abroad and exercise your Spanish skills.

3. Watch movies and TV in Spanish

person watching spanish movies on netflix

By watching movies and television shows in Spanish, you will pick up on the language similarly to how you first developed your native tongue.

Exposure to the language is always helpful, so by watching a Spanish dub of your favorite movie or television program with English subtitles, you can make your television time a little more productive.

If you want to go a step further than that, there are quite a few video programs that were made especially for those learning Spanish as a second language.

Resources:

  • Check out the free episodes of “Destinos.” This is a soap opera that is used in college beginner-level Spanish courses. “Destinos” maintains the speech at a reasonable speed, provides subtitles and limits the vocabulary used.

    There are over fifty episodes currently available to stream for free. This series not only teaches the language, but also takes us on a tour through various Spanish-speaking countries. With recaps, vocabulary shorts and quizzes at the end, you can’t go wrong with “Destinos.”

  • Practice with authentic Spanish clips on FluentU. Instead of diving into full Spanish TV shows right away, you can ease into them with FluentU. As a language learning program, it features hundreds of authentic Spanish video clips from movies, TV series, vlogs, and more—all with interactive subtitles.  

    Rather than looking up the words on your own, you can just hover over the subtitles and see the definition right away. The platform also has post-video quizzes and flashcard checks so you’ll remember new words long-term. It’s available on both web and mobile (Android and iOS). 

4. Plan a vacation in a Spanish-speaking country

caribbean vacation

With countless beautiful Spanish-speaking countries around the globe, one of them is bound to catch your fancy for your next trip.

Barcelona, Puerto Rico, Cancún and many places in the Caribbean are surely a sight to see on their own, so why not start casually planning a vacation to a place where you’ll absorb the Spanish language and culture?

A vacation in South America can be much cheaper than many other popular vacation spots, and will also be a good arena for testing out your mastery of the language.

Ok, so a vacation right now might break the bank…

But what you can do is start researching the countries online, where you can easily find out about their food, history, festivities and more. What better motivation to learn than to have a Spanish-speaking vacation on the horizon?

Recommendations: 

  • Prepare your house for a fully Spanish immersive experience. In the video below, you’ll be introduced to strategies to create an immersive environment whether you’re in a Spanish-speaking country or not! Getting familiar with having Spanish all around you is a great way to prepare for a holiday or long-term move to a Spanish-speaking region.

  • Browse through online brochures, menus, maps and travel blogs in preparation for your trip. Even if your next vacation isn’t any time soon, you’ll surely find some interesting and useful learning material in the process.

    I noted Lonely Planet before, and I’ll bring them up here again—their travel guides are super affordable, high quality and fun to read. They’ll ensure that you catch the travel bug!

5. Dive into Spanish learning websites

Spanish websites

Now this may come as a surprise, but there are countless helpful websites out there that can be accessed through your computer or phone for free.

Recommendations:

  • Explore the lessons at StudySpanish. As a pioneer educational website for Spanish, it offers a wide range of activities designed to help you improve all areas of Spanish learning. With tests, verb drills, vocabulary, audio clips and more, this website is more helpful than many.
  • Bookmark WordReference as a Spanish-English dictionary. Look up any Spanish word here, and you’ll get multiple definitions and example sentences that let you understand words through context. The website also generates related forum posts made by other Spanish learners (who might have the same questions as you!), and there’s a Spanish verb conjugator too.  

6. Look out for everyday items in Spanish

living room

I bet you wouldn’t have thought there’d be valuable Spanish learning materials in your house at this very moment, would you? And they certainly don’t come with a price tag…well, not really. 

Recommendations:

  • If you’re reading this in the U.S., try searching out the countless manuals included with various products in your home. These usually have both English and Spanish versions (as well as many other languages).

    Once you have a basic understanding of Spanish, seeing the manuals side by side will help to distinguish the similarities and differences between the two languages.  This will help you also give  you lots of practice with imperatives (commands)!

  • Download Google Lens and look around outside. Spanish mini-resources are not just inside the house… you might find that useful input is posted all over public signposts in your neighborhood, ready for you to take in. 

    A useful tool for this would be Google Lens. Simply aim your phone camera at a sign or notice in Spanish, then the app will automatically translate it into English. You can even extract the Spanish text from images to break it down word for word and pick up new vocabulary. 

7. Find a pen pal or study buddy

language exchange partner

By finding a pen pal or study buddy who shares the desire to learn English or Spanish, you will not only get a boost of motivation, but also get a chance to learn and practice the language in a more natural and casual manner.

A study buddy, ideally somebody who is also learning Spanish as a second language, can be more helpful than you could imagine. Having a study buddy means having someone near your skill level, who can help catch your simple mistakes, quiz you and exchange learning techniques and strategies.

Of course, having a connection with a native Spanish speaker can’t be beat. And you’ll be happy to hear that these native speakers are both easy to find and extremely valuable. 

Resources: 

  • Get a penpal or conversation partner at MyLanguageExchange.com. On this website, you can find native speakers who will help with your Spanish in exchange for helping them with their target language. Free, mutually beneficial and fun, having a native pal handy can teach you parts of the Spanish language and culture that you couldn’t have learned in your studies.
  • Try chatting in Spanish at HelloTalk. It’s one of the most popular language exchange apps, with thousands of native Spanish speakers, and there are options for text chatting as well as audio and video calls. A handy feature is that your partner can easily make grammar corrections to your messages, and you can even have access to translations and dictionary explanations while typing. 

 

With all of the free and easy resources available, you’ll be speaking Spanish like a champ sooner than you think, and with a full wallet no less!

Armed with these hacks, you’re off to a great start.

¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

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