Welcome to 2015. Now, where’s my rad hoverboard?
We might not have levitating skateboards yet, but we do have some pretty kickass technology.
And thanks to this ever-evolving technology, online language learning is more effective than ever.
This is especially good news for advanced Spanish learners.
I know, I know. You’re so close to fluency, you can taste it.
You’re almost offended that I’m calling you an “advanced” speaker and that you haven’t attained “fluent” status yet.
But do you know about the true key to blasting out of advanced level Spanish and reaching fluency once and for all?
You need to attain total familiarity with the Spanish language.
That’s it. That’s the key: familiarity.
Familiarity is what allows your brain to form Spanish sentences effortlessly and fluently.
It’s what you need to speak mile-a-minute Spanish without missing a beat.
Now we’re going to explore how studying advanced Spanish online will help you gain that level of familiarity.
21st Century Learning: How to Study Advanced Spanish Online
To create an online Spanish learning routine, let’s first establish where you’re at.
What Defines an Advanced Spanish Learner
If you’re an advanced Spanish learner, here’s what you’ve already got to brag about:
- Abundant and diverse vocabulary
- Mastery of basic grammatical structures
- An ability to communicate effectively with spoken language
- Can string together ideas with complex sentences in writing
- Can understand and produce informal and formal writing
- Extensive knowledge of tenses and moods, and ability to use them in communication
- Excellent comprehension when discussing general topics
- Some advanced vocabulary related to specific topics of interest
Yeah, you do sound pretty awesome.
Here’s what’s missing for you (and most other advanced Spanish learners) to become fluent in Spanish:
- Slang words
- Understanding of language in broader context
- Speaking with natural rhythm and accent
- Very specific vocabulary across a wide range of topics
- The ability to infer the meaning of any unknown words from context
- Total confidence in all areas of communication
- Gut sense for incorrect and correct language usage
That last bullet point is perhaps the most important of all. As intangible as the idea of having a “gut sense” might seem, that’s exactly what you’ll need to work on developing.
It’s like having a little guardian angel on your shoulder, who’ll poke you when you start to say something incorrect and whisper correct language in your ear.
Believe it or not, this isn’t all that abstract of an idea. It just all comes back to that notion of familiarity that we were discussing before. The online language routine we’re about to create is specifically designed to get you there.
Determining Your Spanish Learning Needs
Learning online is easy, free, mobile, entertaining, social, engaging and constantly fresh. It’s also second nature to us these days, when practically everything we do is somehow connected to the internet. You don’t need to learn how to study Spanish online. You’ve already got all the tools and know-how at your disposal.
All you really need to assess your language needs.
Which of the following three areas do you most struggle with?
1. Knowledge of technical linguistic elements (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc)
2. Ability to switch brain into “Spanish mode” and stop thinking your native language
3. Producing smooth, natural-sounding Spanish; fluid, fearless communication with native speakers
We’re going to create a schedule which tackles the obstacles standing between you and fluency, by rotating between formal study, immersion and fun.
Formal study will target #1, immersion works on #2 and fun improves #3.
Plan to give yourself about 30 minutes online per day for this plan to work. That’s not too bad, right? You’re probably going to spend at least that much time online doing recreational activities—this plan won’t cramp your style, it’ll work with it.
The first night you’ll do your formal study (yup, get the hard work out of the way first), the second you’ll jump into immersion and the third you’ll just have fun, fun, fun.
If there’s one area that gives you more trouble than the others, spend 2-3 nights in a row using relevant online resources before moving onto the next area. If you really enjoy some of these resources (which I’m pretty sure you will!) then feel free to use them daily!
Methods and Top Online Resources for Advanced Spanish
1. Formal Study Mode
This study mode is focused on practicing the basics of Spanish and hammering grammar, syntax and vocabulary into your brain. This will help you establish a solid framework for speaking and writing correct Spanish.
This website is impeccably organized, easy to navigate and provides clear explanations for every Spanish language topic you could possibly want or need to learn about. You can use this website to go back to grammar points you’ve already learned and brush up a little, or you can teach yourself new topics using their thorough step-by-step lessons.
Everything is text-based, so it’s ideal for visual learners in particular.
This is a great day-to-day formal learning experience. It’s multifaceted and dabbles in multimedia, hosting an online magazine, community forum, daily video series, podcasts, transcripts of content and more. A basic monthly membership will allow you to access everything, but you can enjoy the podcasts online or on iTunes, anytime, for free.
The podcasts are really what you should be looking at here, anyway, because they aim to delve into the nitty-gritty of Spanish grammar, all while allowing you to listen to fluent and naturally spoken Spanish. This is a great way for Spanish learners who loathe reading and text-based instruction to learn about grammar concepts.
They also manage keep things upbeat and entertaining even while discussing topics that aren’t typically that thrilling, so no more slogging through textbook lessons for you!
You’ll have to check back in with this website now and again, as the course offerings rotate and advanced Spanish isn’t always available. But when it is, you’ll be happy you noticed! Reddit users interested in teaching and learning languages have joined forces to teach languages for free online through the University of Reddit. Advanced Spanish courses will be offered again soon!
2. Immersion mode
This study mode is all about losing yourself in the language with authentic materials, integrating Spanish into your daily routine, focusing on absorbing the language naturally and switching your brain into “Spanish mode.”
Make Your Technology Speak Spanish
This is a classic immersion method for denizens of the internet. Change the interface language to Spanish on your smartphone, tablet, computer, home television, camera, gaming systems and any other technological devices. You spend tons of time on these gadgets, so now you’ll turn every minute of it into language learning time.
But don’t just stop there—change your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and Gmail accounts to Spanish as well. If you’re thorough, you’ll find yourself constantly looking at Spanish text. Plus, you already know how to navigate your devices and profiles like the back of your hand, so you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with Spanish commands and notifications easily.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. You’ll be able to create your own ideal immersion experience here, because there’s video content for every interest, learning style and Spanish skill level.
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. 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 it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
Enroll in Spanish-language Courses with Coursera
Coursera, another big name in online education, also maintains a Language Learning section under its online catalogue. The courses offered on Coursera are run by professors from world-renowned institutions, and it’s even possible to earn a certificate from many of the courses. The offerings and prices vary, so check out what's available now by following this handy link!
First, there are straight-up courses taught about the Spanish language, from basic Spanish vocabulary to culture and writing skills. But what else do you love to learn about besides Spanish? What skills would you like to develop?
On Coursera you’ll find free Spanish-language courses from accredited international universities. Topics range from scientific thinking to pre-calculus, business management, programming, sexuality and Egyptology.
You’re not just going to study the Spanish language anymore. You’ve graduated and officially become a full-blown Spanish university student. Whatever you find here, it’s coming from a respected university or educational institute, and if it’s not on offer now, sign up to get an alert when it is!
3. Fun Mode
Every one of you guys out there has different interests and your own personal opinions of what qualifies as “fun.” For some, playing cheesy flash games in Spanish might get the job done. For others, that eventually grows boring and you’ll soon be clicking over to Reddit to waste time in your usual way.
In order for online Spanish learning to be sustainable, you have to pick things that you really, genuinely enjoy doing. That’s why I’m offering you a small smorgasbord of fun online activities that can be channeled into Spanish language learning.
Watch People Hurt Themselves
Everyone knows about funny YouTube videos. That’s YouTube’s unique allure. It’s all too easy to get lost down the YouTube rabbit hole while procrastinating, because YouTube videos are bite-sized and there are always really interesting recommendations on the sidebar to keep you clicking.
Let’s waste time watching people get hurt and perform stupid stunts in Spanish. It’s actually a surprisingly great way to learn slang, exclamations (like the Spanish equivalent of “Crap, that hurt!”) and the everyday Spanish spoken by native speakers. Here are a few ridiculous videos to get you started:
The Spanish humor site El Rellano has tons of fun video content, but much of it’s only titled in Spanish and has foreign language audio (it’s basically a grab bag of funny international clips from around the internet). The audio section, however, has plenty of Spanish language comedy gold.
Follow Famous YouTubers
TIL that some of the highest-grossing YouTube channels actually belong to Spanish-speaking YouTubers. If you love to subscribe to hilarious or intelligent YouTubers’ channels, be part of their community and follow their online discussions over time, check out the following channels. I promise, they’re YouTube channels you’re actually going to want to watch, featuring fun topics, video game action, rants and raves.
Let Humor Be Your Guide
BuzzFeed Español is a thing. Seriously. You’re welcome. You probably know that BuzzFeed is tons of fun—an outstanding guilty pleasure, really—but Spanish BuzzFeed is about to open some new doors to you.
You’ll get to enjoy that same sarcastic, snarky, pop culture worshiping, over-the-top fluff that you already know and love, but you’ll also get to learn Spanish internet expressions (falló = fail, jajaja = hahaha) and you’ll get a dose of the humor that native Spanish speakers entertain themselves with on the regular.
For example, we gringos love to gush about the beauty of Latin America—seriously, we love it all—but Latin Americans themselves tend to gripe about their homelands while supporting vaguely racist international rivalries. Like, you’ll often read insights into the phenomenon where Ecuadorians hate Peruvians and Peruvians hate Chileans and Chileans hate Argentinians and Argentinians hate Brazilians.
Since we’re talking about Latin American sass, you should definitely try out Revista Barcelona online, the Argentinian version of “The Onion.”
Continue Being a Couch Potato
There’s really no shortage of Spanish language television online. You’ve got Netflix, of course, where you can watch your favorite television shows and movies with Spanish audio or subtitles.
Then, there’s Hulu. Most people underestimate Hulu because it stands in Netflix’s shadow. I’ll be honest—until just last month I hadn’t thought to visit Hulu since college. However, it turns out that it’s a great resource to track down Latin television programming. Not to mention, tons of it can be viewed there for free—though some series and movies do require Hulu Plus membership.
You’ll find Latin American Discovery channel programming like “Puertas al más alla,” Spanish NatGeo shows like “La Ciencia de lo absurdo” and “UFC Latino,” a ton of deliciously terrible telenovelas and translated childhood favorites like “Bob Esponja” and “Pokémon.”
Eat your heart out, Netflix.
For Morbid Thrill-seekers
Love to freak yourself out by reading scary stories and looking at creepy pictures in the middle of the night? I do too. My fellow horror fans, I present to you: Creepypasta in Spanish.
This is the best place on the internet to find user-generated horror stories. The fact that they appear out of thin air, from the keyboards random internet surfers, makes things all the creepier. I mean, what if one of these stories is true?
This colorful, entertaining app is a true Google Play superstar, having garnered more downloads than any other educational app for two years in a row. If you’ve never tried Duolingo, install the free app and take their initial Spanish proficiency test to see where they place you.
Don’t let your ego be hurt if they drop you in intermediate.
Either way, you should start a few levels behind your current proficiency level to brush up on previously learned material. Whenever you get a question wrong while playing, be sure to scroll down to the forum below. There, users interact with native speakers and fellow learners who are further along in their studies to figure out where they went wrong and how to get the answers correct in the future.
Set your daily goal to 5, 10 or 15 minutes, and their friendly owl mascot will remind you that it’s time to train your brain!
A brand new arrival to Spanish learning online, Fluencia still has that nice, new car smell. The app takes the Duolingo learning model and builds on it. You’ll still get to play fill-in-the-blank, word ordering and other little games, but these are interspersed with clear, concise miniature Spanish lessons.
Ready to get online and start learning Spanish? I know, I’ve won your undying gratitude for supplying with hours of online fun—you can thank me when you’re fluent.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.