Hey there, fellow citizens of the internet.
I’m going to go out on a limb—you spend a significant amount of time surfing the net.
Don’t you? Let’s be really honest then.
Most of your daily mouse clicks probably aren’t for work.
Why not use that online surfing productively by clicking your way to Spanish fluency?
One of the benefits of studying the second most widely-spoken language in the world—apart from being able to use it in so many places once you do learn it—is that there are infinite resources online for learning Spanish.
Like everything on the Internet, these resources can be hit or miss. But luckily, there are many out there that are fantastic for learning across the board—vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, expressions—and what’s more, many are absolutely free.
Learn Spanish Online: You’re 8 Quick Clicks Away from Improving Spanish Fluency
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1. Change your social media settings to Spanish
How many hours a day do you waste endlessly refreshing your Facebook wall?
This step is the perhaps the most simple thing you can do. Most social media sites have an option to change the language, now that social media has permeated even the far corners of the globe.
By changing the language of sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, you can absorb new vocabulary unconsciously. This process feels natural too, since you already spend a significant amount of time on the page.
For Facebook, you can change your preferences to Spanish by clicking the drop-down arrow at the top right of your home screen, selecting “settings” and then editing the language.
Immediately, you’ll begin to pick up new words—ones you don’t even need to look up, since you’ll know their meaning directly from context. “Profile” is now perfil. To “tag” a picture becomes etiquetar. Your “wall” changes to your muro. Just like that, you’re one step closer to fluency. Check out this post for more in-depth methods of learning Spanish from Facebook.
On Twitter, the same option is also under Settings. You can also take Spanish acquisition via Twitter a step further by following prominent Tweeters in Spanish. A simple hashtag search using a Spanish word, or even #Spanish, can yield results of who to follow. If you like the sound of this, we’ve got a discussion of Twitter-based Spanish learning methods available for you here.
2. Read online newspapers
As print media slowly begins to fade and more and more news outlets turn to the Internet, getting your news sources online has never been easier. Set your homepage to a Spanish news source, and each day you’ll not only be a bit more informed about current events, but also be more inclined to practice your Spanish reading skills.
To start, check out these high-profile news sources from several Spanish-speaking countries:
El País, the largest news source in Spain.
El Universal, Mexico City’s daily newspaper
El Mundo, from Medellín, Colombia
Clarín, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Make sure to also check out these 9 resources to learn Spanish through news.
3. Read blogs about any topic that interests you
The great thing about blogs is how easy they are to create. This means that any person in any country can start a blog on any topic. They’re ubiquitous.
So, whether your passion is cooking, downhill skiing or astronomy, there’s bound to be a blog out there about it. And these days, more and more people are publishing in Spanish—perfect for delving deeper into a subject that interests you, while at the same time practicing your reading skills.
4. Use online translators
Online translators get a bad rap for producing incredibly shoddy translations and, sometimes, they deserve their reputation. Language teachers can spot a direct copy-and-paste from an online translator in less time than it takes to write “F.”
However, when used effectively, online translators can help you check your writing accuracy in Spanish.
Copy a paragraph you’ve written in Spanish into the translation box and choose the option “Spanish to English.” The computer’s automatic translation back to English will give you a moderate idea of how correct your original text was in Spanish. Does the resulting English translation make some modicum of sense? Or is it a jumble of words that don’t link together grammatically?
While you shouldn’t completely rely on these online translators to judge your writing accuracy, they’re a great jumping-off point.
5. Online music players
Online music players like Pandora and Spotify have popped up in recent years and are immensely popular. These sites act as online radios, and you can “tune” them to stations you want to listen to. In addition, they can also help you discover new artists.
If you already know and love some Spanish artists, great—just type their names in and listen to the playlists you find.
If, however, you’d like to listen to Spanish or Latin music but don’t really know where to start, these websites can help you. They can pull up new artists based on preferences, and you can narrow down your likes and create playlists as you go.
Basic subscriptions to such music services as Pandora, Spotify and Youtube are free, so happy listening!
6. Watch Spanish shows online
Most TV shows can be streamed online these days. Whether your affinity lies in original Spanish telenovelas (soap operas) or American TV series dubbed in Spanish, chances are you can find your faves somewhere on the world wide web.
If a show is widely popular in the States, it has most likely also been dubbed into Spanish to reach a much wider audience overseas.
As tempting as it may be to take the easy way out and watch the original version, viewing the dubbed version—or at the very least, watching with Spanish subtitles—will be much more beneficial to your language acquisition. Plus, you don’t have to feel guilty about wasting hours watching TV shows if it’s for as noble a cause as Spanish fluency!
7. Participate in online language exchanges
Online communities have popped up all over the Internet to fill a basic language learning problem: Distance between countries. How can a native Spanish speaker in Venezuela and a native English speaker in California mutually help each other? Online language exchanges, or intercambios de idiomas, work the same as in-person. Thanks to tools like webcams and Skype, thousands of miles are no longer an obstacle.
In an online language exchange, you’d generally spend half the allotted time speaking one language, and half of the time, the other. Language exchanges are normally free of charge, though you might pay a small fee to the company that sets you up with the person overseas.
Some native speakers or language teachers offer private one-on one tutoring sessions over Skype. These lessons are more typical “classes” than a language exchange, and aren’t free. Ads for these would be posted on Craigslist or country-specific websites. For example, Tusclasesparticulares.com in Spain is a listing for all private classes, and some are willing to do lessons over Skype. Payment is usually set up via PayPal.
8. Pronunciation videos on YouTube
Not sure quite how to pronounce that ñ or double r? There are plenty of online videos to help specifically with pronunciation.
YouTube is the greatest hub for such videos because, of course, the media giant’s policies make it easy for anyone to post things.
Check out a few different videos to get a feel for what’s reputable—page views, comments and official company postings should be strong indicators of a video’s credibility.
Of course, the internet is loaded with resources for learning Spanish, and it’s impossible to list them all here. Some simple Googling will yield you more results than you could ever use in a lifetime.
Each student has different learning styles. Some may learn better from more classroom-like lessons, with online modules that cover grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Check out Loquella (over 50 hours of free Spanish instruction) or Study Spanish or Que Onda Spanish.
Others (perhaps with shorter attention spans!) may stick with language learning if it’s more dynamic and lively, such as through online games and quizzes. There are sites for Spanish tongue twisters to help your pronunciation and jokes of the day to help you catch idiomatic nuances (and laugh in the process).
Lastly, if you ever have a question, there are plenty of Internet forums devoted to learning Spanish. Post your doubts, and the rest of the world will come to your rescue.
It’s all at your fingertips on the World Wide Web.
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