So, how are you going to learn Spanish?
Easy, just immerse yourself, right?
But what do you need in order to achieve immersion?
If traveling to a Spanish-speaking country is out of the question, then you’ll just have to get your hands on a set of tools to rival even the most seasoned of carpenters. Ahem… Spanish learners…
Yet the sheer abundance of Spanish learning tools out there can sometimes feel overwhelming.
And some promise one thing and deliver another—or worse, don’t deliver at all!
How do you find which ones are right for you?
Be disappointed no more.
Without pomp or circumstance, here’s a guide on where to look for the best online and offline Spanish learning tools that’ll hopefully save you from an endless, painful search… and even get you away from that screen from time to time!
9 Flexible Spanish Learning Tools for Your Online and Offline Existence
Online Spanish Learning Tools for Your Toolbox
Listen Up: Podcasts and Audiobooks
The beauty of podcasts and other audio-related resources is that in just a few clicks, an interesting discussion or lesson can be downloaded onto your tablet or smartphone and taken anywhere.
Better yet, you’re doing a good thing for the environment by saving on paper resources. Good for you!
When it comes to searching for a good Podcast, you’ll be glad to hear that FluentU has already done all the hard work for you with the provision of 9 great Spanish podcasts for you to explore and some of the best Spanish audiobook courses.
Chat to Learn: Skype
Skype is not only good for a free phone call to family and friends, it’s also a great tool for learning Spanish.
For instance, if you’re among the many who find a good Spanish teacher when abroad in Spain or Latin America, the good news is that with Skype, there’s no need to let go of a good thing. Continue your lessons online and close that distance between you!
Or, you can always join a language exchange community and brush up on your Spanish skills while meeting some awesome new people!
Tune In: Radio
Tuning into a Spanish radio station—be it a football match, a random music station or the news—is always a good idea.
If anything, the background noise will enable you to become accustomed to the Spanish accent and pronunciation and who knows, you might even absorb a few words and phrases along the way.
A site like Radios-on-line is fantastic for picking up the airwaves from whichever Spanish speaking country interests you the most.
For example, a good station to follow in Argentina is Radio National to keep up with national news.
And although a bit cheesy, Vale 97.5 is good for listening to Spanish songs rather than international hits.
As you might figure, go ahead and try Spanish ESPN for sports.
Memorize This: Flashcards
Flashcards are a given as a traditional method of learning but thanks to this brilliant age of technology, it’s now possible to use virtual versions such as Anki.
Compatible with both iPhones and Androids (the phones, not the AI bots), this popular online flashcard tool allows you to choose specific vocabulary or verbs to test yourself in a straightforward and efficient way, with the added benefit of “decks” of flashcards that are handily shared between users.
This tool is a perfect way of testing yourself on your daily commute, when you’re waiting at the doctor’s or possibly waiting on a late friend!
Quick Fix: Dictionaries
First of all, it’s worth mentioning that Google Translate may not be the most reliable tool out there, but when it comes to a quick and easy way to get the gist of something then it does come up trumps.
It may not be 100% accurate but when you’re struggling to pull together a simple sentence or translate an obscure word (that not even native speakers can explain the meaning of), it’ll become one of your most trusted aids.
Just make sure you don’t become too dependent on it.
Word reference, in a similar way, is not totally foolproof. However, it can be equally (if not more) useful when you’re trying to get that word on the tip of your tongue.
For more ways to grab hold of that word, see the “dictionaries” link above for our post on this!
Watch and Learn: Online Videos
It’s amazing what is now available online for free that would historically cost a fortune to access either online or offline.
Take, for instance, YouTube, where there are now a wealth of tutorials, films and TV series that can be easily watched by viewers for absolutely free.
For example, a series of tutorials by Professor Jason—an American-based Spanish teacher—will take you from the basics to more complex aspects of Spanish right in the comfort of your own home. His down-to-earth approach and handy whiteboards make videos like these a very appealing option for learners.
Add to this a string of subtitled and dubbed movies and TV shows that can be found with a simple search, and you’re off to the races.
Netflix, too, has an endless list of viewing material whether you’re looking for Spanish-made media or movies and TV shows that offer Spanish subtitles and audio. Master the power of Netflix for learning Spanish thanks to FluentU’s guide to using Netflix subtitles to learn Spanish.
Speaking of FluentU… Want to learn with YouTube videos but wish they were better suited for Spanish learners?
Then you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic content and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU videos are one-of-a-kind when it comes to drawing Spanish learning tools all into one place.
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.
Check out your favorite Spanish videos, with interactive Spanish subtitles, from which you can pick up new vocabulary to add to your interactive flashcard deck for later quizzing.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s adaptive quizzes. 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.
Whether it’s a Shakira music video or a trailer for a classic Spanish movie, you’ll eventually be reciting the lines, singing theme songs, and at the same time, becoming much more acquainted with the Latino culture.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU App from the iTunes or Play stores.
Offline Spanish Learning Tools for Your Toolbox
Get Social: Board Games
For some of us, a bit of healthy competition may be just what we need to get going when learning Spanish, and that’s when a board game comes in handy!
Here are some of our favorite options for offline learning:
- “Battleship” is often a favorite among Spanish teachers looking to spice things up in their Spanish lessons. For example, use verb conjugations or phrases instead of coordinates. By doing so, each person playing is learning how to say them out loud as they play.
- Spanish “Taboo” can be found in local department stores if you’re in a native Spanish-speaking country or, naturally, online. Taboo is a great game to increase your confidence in speaking Spanish out loud and to have some fun with the language at the same time.
- Spanish “Banagrams” is another great option. It’s very helpful for learning the right spelling of Spanish words–definitely a good option for those long road trips or for playing with family and friends on a night in. And how social!
Read All About It: Newspapers, Magazines & Books
Although there’s a ton of great audio and virtual materials available, you might prefer to do things the old-fashioned way and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with that.
The next time you’re in a Spanish speaking country, why not try sitting down in a cafe and having a go at reading the local paper or a magazine.
In Argentina, for instance, a magazine like “Hola” or a newspaper such as “La nacion” will provide endless reading material in just one edition (and some local gossip if you’re interested in it too!). You may not understand all of it, but at least you’ll be picking up some vocabulary and of course, looking ever so sophisticated at the same time.
Of course, local newspapers and magazines also make great online tools for learning: Just visit the websites for instant access, no plane trip required.
In terms of books, in addition to your local bookstore, Amazon is a quick and dependable way to order great new or second-hand books. Just a tip: the reviews from previous users are always good to go by but take a quick look at our recommendations in the link above.
Once you’ve gotten the basics down, reading Spanish print is going to be a well-deserved refuge from the screen for you hardcore Spanish learners!
Let’s Talk: Conversation
That’s right: One of your greatest tools is your own voice, and the more you use it (in Spanish, of course), the better you’ll get at reeling off those phrases like a pro.
An obvious option is to take a class or find a conversation partner that will allow you to practice all you’ve listened to or read. For offline conversation practice, sites like Meetup will connect you to a local group.
Or, you could go one step further and try some proper immersion within a Spanish-speaking country by staying with a local, sparking up conversation with a taxi driver or chatting with a server while you sample local cuisine.
No matter where you are, make an effort to get outside and into the community—you’re bound to find that there are potential Spanish-speaking friends near you at this very moment!
Whatever you choose to do, you’re now sufficiently armed with the tools for conquering Spanish, so take matters into your own hands and get cracking!
And then get up for second and go outside…!
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