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The second most widely-used language in the world, Spanish is definitely a useful language to pick up. As a seasoned traveler, I can confirm that nothing beats being able to communicate with locals in their native language. It also doesn’t hurt that Spanish, in my humble opinion, is one of the sexiest and most romantic modern languages in the world.
Thankfully, learning Spanish is a breeze, especially if you know what you’re doing. From casual apps to full-blown courses, there are a ton of awesome resources available to learn Spanish with.
Before we dive into the plethora of methods to learn, practice and perfect your Spanish, let me share my personal favorites just to get you started!
Primero, download this handy app called Babbel. Regardless of whether you speak a little Spanish or can’t even differentiate Papa (father) and papas (potatoes), Babbel is the perfect app to start your journey in learning Spanish. Once you feel like you’ve nailed down the basics, check out an online course on Pimsleur to increase your fluency.
From experience though, some aspects of Spanish (like subjunctive grammar) can be quite challenging. That’s why I also regularly watching YouTube videos from creators like Senor Jordan!
With that out of the way, let’s check out some of the best resources for learning Spanish online!
Top apps to learn Spanish
It’s safe to say that the average human spends a large chunk of time on their mobile phones these days. As such, one of the most convenient ways to learn Spanish is by using fun, interactive apps on your phone! Most of these apps offer a casual learning experience. This makes them perfect for beginners or even seasoned linguists looking for a quick refresher.
Here are my favorites:
Babbel: If you’re looking to learn Spanish more holistically, Babbel is the app of choice. Offering both introductory and intermediate level courses, the app’s main draw is conversation-centric learning, which helps users retain information much better. While Babbel isn’t completely free to use, it more than makes up for it with its awesome content.
Busuu: Of course, just learning conversational phrases isn’t enough. You’ll also need to understand the context behind each utterance! Busuu is an app that you can access, even when offline, to learn more about the nuances of Spanish conversation. Plus, it also helps you pronounce Spanish words more accurately. You can choose to settle for the free version or upgrade to Premium for more content.
FluentU: While it is indeed important to nail down the basics, I always feel that learning Spanish becomes much easier (and more fun) when you’re learning from real-world material. This means leaving behind the nitty-gritty textbook stuff and learning from commercials, speeches, and more! These fun videos will definitely keep you excited about learning Spanish!
Duolingo: For me, among all the Spanish learning apps, this is the best for total beginners. It uses casual, interactive ways to introduce vocabulary and fundamental grammar concepts to users. Even those who already have a basic grasp of Spanish will find this free app extremely enjoyable.
Memrise: As with any language, one of the most important aspects of learning Spanish is familiarizing yourself with day-to-day conversation. Memrise offers learners a vast collection of videos showcasing daily conversations between native speakers. This can help you master pronunciation and conversational phrases efficiently.
LingQ: Another handy app beginners must have to learn Spanish is LingQ. Much like Duolingo, the app separates its lessons and courses into different levels of progression. However, my favorite feature on LingQ is the ability to use the app as an audiobook player. This allows you to read along to books, interviews, web articles and more! I tried it out myself and it really helped in improving my pronunciation!
Best Spanish online language courses and programs
As much as I enjoy learning Spanish through mobile apps, many of them don’t necessarily progress beyond intermediate level lessons. If you’re looking to speak like a local, you’re gonna need the help of some of these online language courses. My top picks are below, but dive into this full list of the 18 best Spanish courses too!
Rocket Languages: As my professor used to say, to truly master a language, one must also understand the local culture. Rocket Languages is an extensive platform offering audio lessons that also incorporates interesting bits of info about Hispanic culture. Not only can you learn Spanish, you’ll also be able to appreciate the cultural nuances of the language!
Pimsleur: Like Rocket Languages, Pimsleur helps users learning Spanish to improve by focusing on audio lessons. Using mainly audio clips from real-life conversations, it is an interactive Spanish online course that can help you greatly improve your conversational skills quickly. To make it easier to navigate, lessons are segregated into three different levels.
Rosetta Stone: Easily the most well-known online language course on the market, Rosetta Stone offers a comprehensive online Spanish language course. It combines both audio and visual lessons that keeps learners motivated and interested in the language. It also features several other nifty features like an accessible phrasebook, an audio companion, and speech recognition to help improve your pronunciation!
Coursera: The free online Spanish courses on Coursera actually contain course material curated by universities and companies around the world, including the University of California! These self-paced courses touch upon grammar, vocabulary, cultural experience, common phrases, and more. You can even obtain a professional certificate by completing some of the courses!
Spanish Uncovered: For a more unique Spanish online course, you’ll want to check out this innovative course by Olly Richard. Instead of conveying lessons through conventional means, this program uses a fictional Spanish story to help users learn Spanish through a guided discovery method. While it is a little pricey, it’s certainly an innovative online Spanish course!
Fluent City: Of course, even as you scour the web for an online Spanish course which can cater to you, you might discover that you prefer learning Spanish from an actual person compared to just pre-written programs. Fluent City offers one-on-one sessions with qualified tutors via Zoom which can definitely help you greatly improve your language skills. However, if you’re a little shy, you can take part in a small group course too!
Best websites to find Spanish tutors
Speaking of one-on-one sessions, it is inevitable that, at some point on your journey to learn Spanish, you’ll hit a bit of a plateau. That’s when you should consider looking for tutors on these websites to help you reach that next level of fluency. If you need more options than those below, check out the full list of websites to hire Spanish tutors online.
Italki: Italki is undoubtedly the gold standard in terms of finding the perfect Spanish tutor to help you in your Spanish lessons. There are hundreds of tutors that are registered with Italki. Taking place over platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts, sessions on Italki can be arranged to cater to your specific needs. You can choose to take part in a formal lesson or simply practice your Spanish with a native speaker! Having personally used this app, I can say with confidence that Italki is my favorite resource to search for Spanish tutors. But don’t take my word for it. Read our review of Italki and sign up here!
Preply: If you’re looking to simply improve your Spanish through structured online lessons, then you’ll want to search for a Spanish tutor online via Preply. Tutors who are registered on Preply will focus mainly on helping you nail down the basics like grammar and conjugation. While small talk is sometimes part of the tutoring process, don’t expect too much in terms of casual conversation!
Wyzant: What makes Wyzant an incredible resource for online Spanish tutors is the fact that you can use it to locate certified Spanish teachers in a location close to yourself. Of course, you can also opt to be tutored completely online. Before pairing you up with your tutor, the website will also ask you some questions to get a grasp of your current level of proficiency. This ensures that you’ll be able to get the most out of your private sessions!
Rype: Another great website where you can find one-on-one tutor sessions in Rype. Tutors on this website are mostly teachers by profession so rest assured that together with them, you’ll be able to come up with a lesson plan that suits you perfectly regardless of your current level of proficiency! Que bueno!
Baselang: This Colombia-based website not only helps you find the perfect online Spanish tutor, it also doubles up as an online Spanish course! Almost everything is customizable to fit your needs, from whether or not you prefer a structured guided course or a more self-paced learning experience to how often you want (or don’t want to!) change your tutors. It is simply one of the most highly-rated resources for learning Spanish and it’s easy to see why!
Best podcasts to learn Spanish
Once you’re comfortable conversing in Spanish, the best way to help you improve further is by tuning in to podcasts. The auditory experience of listening helps you pick up certain nuances that you would otherwise fail to notice. Not sure where to start? I’ve got some recommendations for you here, but dive into our list of 20 Spanish podcasts for more!
Coffee Break Spanish: This podcast-centric online language course is my favorite podcast to learn Spanish. Suitable for both total beginners and intermediate learners, Coffee Break Spanish boasts over 80 exciting lessons. Each lesson is about 20 minutes long and is hosted primarily by Mark and Kara (a student-teacher duo). And like an actual classroom setting, the podcasts cover a wide range of situational scenarios.
Audiria: While Coffee Break Spanish is one of the most popular online Spanish podcasts, Audiria boasts having the most extensive archive! With well over 800 podcasts (as of May 2020), it caters to Spanish learners of all levels. The podcasts themselves revolve around real-life situations and are marked with the level of complexity. That way, you will know which ones are more suited to your level.
SpanishPod101: As any Spanish speaker will tell you, the language sounds a little bit different depending on which part of the world the speaker is from. One distinct advantage of SpanishPod101 is that it offers podcasts from native speakers around the world. Each episode is exciting and depending on where you plan to travel to, offers a sneak preview of what life would be like in those places. For avid travelers, this is definitely one of the must-try Spanish learning podcasts!
Language Trek: If you’re just starting out in Spanish, then this podcast series is perfect for you. The podcasts primarily focus on beginner-level lessons delivered at a relatively comfortable pace. There are multiple pauses at certain points of the podcasts that allow you time to repeat certain words and phrases too. What’s more, each lesson is only about ten minutes long, which makes it ideal for those who like to listen in while on the move.
Notes in Spanish: For a more immersive podcast to learn Spanish, check out Notes in Spanish. Unlike the curated conversations used in most Spanish learning podcasts, this series uses real conversational phrases that are commonly used in real life. Each recording also comes with its own worksheets.
News in Slow Spanish: I must confess that, of all the podcasts to learn Spanish, I remember this one most vividly. After all, it’s not every day where you learn Spanish by tuning in to the news being read in slow Spanish! It’s a great way for beginners to experience what it’s like to tune in to the news like native speakers. Of course, as your comprehension improves, you’ll eventually outgrow the pace. But hey, until that happens, vamos a escuchar! (let’s listen in!)
Best books to learn Spanish
Apps, online courses and podcasts are all well and good but there’s just something inherently different about learning Spanish using a good ol’ fashioned book. There are plenty of quality books for learning Spanish on the market. In fact, here’s a list of the 15 best books to learn Spanish!
Having slogged through four years of Spanish class, let me help you pick out the essential ones you’ll need:
Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish: A Creative and Proven Approach: Search up Spanish books on the Internet and chances are this is the first book you’ll come across. Despite being a little dated, Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish remains one of the most popular Spanish learning books. Catered towards beginners, this book mainly covers the fundamentals of Spanish grammar, There are also plenty of exercises to help you quickly get the hang of it. As they say, the key (pun not intended) to learning any language, is a strong foundation in grammar!
Practice Makes Perfect (Spanish) Series: But maybe for you, mastering the basics of Spanish is as easy as cracking an egg. In that case, you’ll want to take a look at the tried-and-tested Practice Makes Perfect series. Covering all levels of Spanish, this series is widely cited as one of the go-to books for learning Spanish.
501 Spanish Verbs: One thing I quickly learned about learning Spanish (mostly because my professor would quite literally repeat this every time I made a mistake) is that the most important aspect of speaking it well is learning how to properly conjugate verbs! Spanish verbs can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t master the basics of conjugation. Thankfully, this book covers the 500-odd most common Spanish verbs and teaches you how to conjugate each of them! It even lists down their meanings in English! Trust me, if you want to sound like a true local, pick this up from Amazon!
Getting Started with Spanish: If you plan on mastering Spanish all on your lonesome from the comfort of your home, this is el mejor libro (the best book) for you. It is written and structured in such a way that makes it the perfect companion for self-teaching. It includes MP3 files and practice exercises that you can easily use to track your own progress. What’s more, each chapter introduces a different aspect of Spanish gradually, ensuring that you have sufficient time to digest the content.
Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish: If you want a book that empathizes with your journey to learn Spanish, this is it. Written from the perspective of an English speaker learning Spanish for the first time, Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish is a fun, enjoyable book that doesn’t feel like a textbook at all. It includes all the necessary fundamentals but also incorporates aspects of culture. So alongside common words like comer (eat), pantalones (pants), and libro (book), you’ll also come across slang words and colorful nouns. However, the one downside is that the book doesn’t contain practice exercises, so like the title suggests, it’s more suited for intermediate learners.
Living Language Spanish, Essential Edition: Personally, I think the best Spanish books are those that come with multimedia attachments (like CDs or links to online MP3s, etc.). The Living Language series does exactly that. While the Essential Edition contains only ten lessons in total, it also comes with audio CDs and online material that complement them, helping you master all ten lessons fully. Definitely one of the must-buy Spanish learning books en mi opinion.
Best websites to learn Spanish
If you’re anything like me, you spend most of your day in front of either your computer or phone. If that’s the case, you can definitely find some time to browse these awesome websites to learn Spanish! Plus, if you like to check your progress, you can’t go wrong with online quizzes!
Reddit/r/Spanish: I must confess that I spend an unhealthy amount of time scrolling through Reddit. However, if you know where to look, you can actually find a thriving Spanish learner’s community where you can engage with other learners, ask questions, and even pick up recommendations for more Spanish learning material. If you ask me, Reddit is arguably the best website to learn Spanish.
Cervantes: Mention the name Cervantes and any Spanish learner will instantly recognize it. A prestigious institution based in Spain, Cervantes is a reputable institution of learning and its website doubles up as a virtual learning center. There, you can browse through a wide number of books and reading material. Feeling confident about your Spanish? Take a quick online exam to find out just how far you’ve come. Fair warning: Cervantes exams are not for the faint of heart. They are extremely challenging!
Todo-Claro: Another website to learn Spanish (or rather, check your progress) is Todo-Claro. Specifically, I’d recommend this website to those who really want to perfect their Spanish grammar. The quizzes on this website are separated according to the six CEFR levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2), so it’s definitely a good and accurate way to gauge your progress.
Spanish Language and Culture: This simple and easy-to-navigate website curates articles and study topics centered on current issues in Spain and in greater Latin America. But it’s not just an archive of reading material though! Each piece of content is actually aimed at helping you improve on certain aspects of the language! There are also fun, interactive exercises to complete, making this one of the more holistic websites for learning Spanish.
Lengalia: Another all-in-one website for learning Spanish is Lengalia. Offering a diverse plethora of learning resources, it is one of the most widely-used websites by Spanish learners. In addition, it also provides reading and listening exams, which are essential markers in tracking your progress with Spanish.
Best YouTube channels to learn Spanish
As any tech-savvy netizen of the interwebs will tell you, these days, the best tutorials are all found on Youtube! The same goes for Spanish! There are many benefits when you learn Spanish on YouTube, primarily because it’s a fun way that keeps you entertained throughout. And to start you off, these are my personal favorite channels!
Learn Spanish Step by Step: As you might have guessed from the name of the channel, Learn Spanish Step by Step is best suited for beginners. Apart from entertaining videos that unpack the complicated rules of Spanish grammar, the channel also offers vocabulary sessions based on certain themes like animals, giving directions, and more.
Learn Spanish: Similarly to Learn Spanish Step by Step, this channel focuses on helping beginners (and intermediate learners) improve their grammar and expand their vocabulary. The videos are mainly made in English and Spanish so even if you’re just starting out, keeping up with the videos will be easy as pie!
Butterfly Spanish: One of my favorite channels to learn Spanish on YouTube is Butterfly Spanish. Ana, the main host and tutor, is well-versed in the many different versions of Spanish (Mexican, Latin American, etc.) and covers basically every topic under the sky in fun, engaging videos. And, as a bonus, her videos also teach learners how to speak exactly as natives would!
Senor Jordan: Even though I think Butterfly Spanish is the most extensive Spanish YouTube channel, the most entertaining one has to be Señor Jordan. He conveys his lessons in extremely entertaining ways and can engage even the most advanced Spanish learners! Often short but fun to the very end, his videos touch upon the many aspects of Spanish without making any of it repetitive or boring. I highly recommend this channel!
The Spanish Dude: The host of this particular YouTube channel is likely one who can connect with you on a deep level. That’s because, unlike many other of the content creators on this list, The Spanish Dude isn’t a native speaker. He’s gone through the struggle of mastering a foreign language in the same way many foreign learners experience. So you can bet that his content will keep you engaged!
Lirica App – Learn Languages With Music: Okay, to be perfectly clear, some of you might not find this channel all that helpful to learn Spanish on YouTube. However, for me, it’s one of those channels that keeps me immersed in an environment of Spanish, if you know what I mean. That’s because this channel often uses music (songs mostly) to help learners grasp more uncommon aspects of grammar and Spanish vocabulary. However to make full use of the channel, you’ll have to also download the Lirica app to gain access to the corresponding exercises.
Best FREE resources to learn Spanish
Of course, for full disclosure, some of the resources mentioned above come with a bit of a hefty price tag. That being said, there are also plenty of free resources that you can use to learn Spanish online!
Free apps to learn Spanish:
I’ve actually mentioned the two best free apps to learn Spanish already. Duolingo is obviously the go-to app for casual yet impactful learning. Memrise, on the other hand, can help you quickly grasp the fundamentals of daily conversation for free! To that end, Busuu is another free app that can help you hone your conversation skills.
One of the key pillars of learning a new language is community support. Thankfully, the best community support for learning Spanish online is Reddit! As mentioned, you’ll be able to engage with other learners, ask questions and even start discussions about Spanish for free!
You could also use apps like Tandem to find a language exchange partner. Not only will you be able to practice your conversational skills but you might also make a good friend in the process!
Free Spanish podcasts:
Most of the podcasts I’ve recommended are free. You can also find plenty of free podcasts on Spotify that teach you the basics of Spanish. Audiria (mentioned above) is especially great considering that it doesn’t charge a single penny for its podcasts!
Free Spanish classes:
Personally, I think the best free Spanish class/online resource you can find is Spanish Language and Culture. It covers a wide range of topics so it’s definitely one of those websites worth checking out.
Free Spanish books:
While Spanish textbooks are an invaluable resource in your journey to master the language, they can be extremely pricey. If you’re on a tight budget, simply look for free eBooks like An Elementary Spanish Reader. These books contain short stories catered for beginner learners.
Alternatively, you can try accessing online libraries or platforms like Audible to look for free PDFs.
BONUS: Best Spanish TV shows and movies on Netflix
Of course, books, apps and courses can only get you that far. To be able to truly master Spanish as a language, you’ll also need to consume Spanish media. And where else to look for engaging Spanish media these days than Netflix? Here are my favorite Spanish shows on Netflix you should check out. Be warned, they’re addictive!
Casa de Papel (Money Heist): Yes, I am aware that most of the words in the series are a little too colorful for a conversation with grandma (especially words concerning a certain character named Arturito), but it’s a fun series to watch that’s easy to understand. Plus, it helps you pick up certain words here and there along the way. This definitely helps you immerse yourself in a Spanish environment.
Vis a Vis (Locked up): Before you say anything, yes, I like these kinds of shows. Compelling, entertaining, a wee-bit unadulterated and plenty of fun. One thing you should take note of is the way some characters address those in higher authority. The conjugation (remember, it’s important!) is what you want to look out for.
La Casa de Las Flores (House of Flowers): La Case de Las Flores is a family drama that is enticing to the every end. You’ll be able to pick up conversational phrases and even enjoy a good laugh at some of the witty dialogue.
Gran Hotel (Grand Hotel): If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you’ll definitely fall in love with this Spanish drama. A gripping drama set in a 1900’s aristocratic hotel, Gran Hotel is a fun watch from start to finish. As you delve deeper into the plot, take note of how characters from different societal classes address each other. While some of the cultural nuances are a bit outdated in the 21st century, certain grammatical rules still apply!
Club de Cuervos (Club of Crows): Another fantastic Spanish comedy/family drama to tickle your funny bones! This series revolves around the struggle of a pair of siblings as they wrestle for control of their late father’s soccer team. Soccer is a major sport in Spain and Latin America, so learning some soccer terms isn’t a bad way to learn Spanish!
Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes): Disappointingly, this 1997 film starring Penelope Cruz ISN’T on Netflix. However, I had to include it anyway. After all, this was my first Spanish film! More importantly, a large part of the film also deals with (arguably) the most challenging grammatical rules of Spanish: the subjunctive (subjuntivo) and imperative (imperativo) forms.
The best way to learn Spanish
Let me just put it out there: there is no such thing as “THE” fastest way to learn Spanish. Everyone advances at their own pace. I found Spanish pronunciation to be super easy because I grew in Malaysia and Malay uses similar phonetic rules. But some of my friends from other countries found it exceptionally difficult.
Master conjugation ASAP: Friends, I kid you not when I say that once you get the hang of Spanish conjugation, you’ve already mastered about 50% of the language, just like that. Once you know how to use the proper form of a verb, you’ll be able to converse freely. What’s more, most of the grammatical rules in Spanish are also based on verb forms. So, if you can master conjugation, you’re already halfway there!
Find a method that works best for you: We all have different styles of learning. Some of us do well with Spanish learning books while others require more visual and auditory stimulation. There is a diverse range of resources to help you master Spanish. So, take some time and find one (or a combination of a few) that work for you!
Consume media in Spanish: My profesora always told us that the fastest way to learn Spanish is to constantly immerse ourselves in a “Spanish environment”. That means watching Spanish films, listening to Spanish songs, and even tuning in to news in Spanish. While these things may not seem effective early on, eventually you’ll begin picking up certain nuances along the way.
Speak the language: Whether it be finding someone to practice with on Italki or simply reciting something in the mirror, an important part of learning Spanish is speaking the language. The more you do so, the more confident you become. Even if you make some mistakes, push on and finish your sentences. Soon enough, you’ll be able to iron out those pesky little errors and speak fluently.
Finally, don’t turn it into a race. As mentioned, Spanish isn’t something anyone can learn overnight. It takes time and everyone progresses differently. Don’t compare yourself with others. Instead, set achievable goals (such as nailing down a particular form of verb conjugation) and slowly pace yourself. You’ll get there eventually. Por supuesto!
And there you have it amigos, some great ways to help you learn Spanish better! I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when I first started learning Spanish and I hope this article keeps you motivated too! What were some methods you used to master Spanish? Let us know!