I have a specific learning need I am trying to address, and I suspect many others have a similar need. Namely, I need to learn a little Spanish. More accurately, I need to re-learn a little Spanish. I actually studied it as a kid, but well, that was quite a while ago. Now my own kid is starting to learn Spanish, and I’d like to able to keep up and help out.
You may be in a similar situation. Or maybe you just recognize that there are now more than 43 million people in the U.S. who speak Spanish as a first language (that’s more than in Spain, folks), so learning a little might be a good idea. (And if you are reading from somewhere other than the U.S., there is a good chance the Spanish-speaking population is growing in your country, too.)
Naturally, type “Learn Spanish” or some variation of it into Google and you will come up with more resources than you could ever really use. It’s overwhelming. And I don’t find long lists of sites for learning Spanish all that useful either. In this case, I just want a handful of good sites that meet my specific criteria, which are:
Easier said than done, but with a little searching, I came up with the following sites. If you, like so many people, are out to learn a little Spanish or brush up on your Spanish and share the criteria above, I recommend checking these out.
Here are a few sites that offer a good range of general resources in the form of lessons, vocabulary lists, audio clips, etc. While you may have to sign up for certain features or to move to a higher level, a wealth of good basic material is available on each of these sites for free
The BBC offers good resources for learning a number of languages. A couple of things I like about this site is that it offers a “gauge” to help you determine your learning level and it also offers a 22-episode “drama” called Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life) that helps situation the language learning in the context of engaging, life-like situations.
About.com is usually a pretty good first stop for learning just about anything, and Spanish is no exception. One of the reasons I like this site is that the navigation clearly divided into Start Learning and Continue Learning, and there is also a separate Culture tab – a navigational approach that shows up less often that you would think it would on the vast quanitities of Spanish language sites out there.
The free parts of this site are lighter weight than the other two – you have to pay to get to the real meat – but it’s Learning A Little Spanish section offers some nice quick tutorials for pronunciation and basic travel Spanish.
Naturally, hearing a language is an important part of learning a language, and the some of the best resources out there are free podcasts. Here are two worth checking out.
The “Coffee Break” series for learning languages has been around for a while now. I tried out the French podcasts before a trip to France last year and found them to be very good. There are 80 podcasts, each 15-20 minutes in length, that cover Spanish from the most basic up to the intermediate level. There are also add-on materials available for extra cost.
This is a video podcast series accessible through LearnOutLoud. I am not as familiar with it as the CoffeeBreak series, but based on viewing a few lessons, it looks quite good – particularly if you prefer visual and audio content together when learning. (By the way, LearnOutLoud offers a great audio and video learning opportunities – some free, some paid – across a wide range of topics.)
Flashcards are a mainstay of language learning, and the Web now offers some great options accessing and creating flashcards. Here are two options for Spanish:
You have to sign up to create your own flashcards on this site, but the featured sets of cards created bu others are accessible without handing over your e-mail. Topics include things like food, travel, sports, and numbers.
As with SpanishDict, you have to sign up to create cards here, but there are a wide range of pre-existing sets that you can access without registration. I particularly like the 501 Spanish Verbs set.
So, that should be a good core set of resources to get me started – and you too, I hope. If you decide that you want to move on beyond these, register for more resources, and possibly spend some dinero, you might want to have a look at Visual Link Spanish for a complete, in-depth Spanish language curriculum. And consider Myngle for real-time Spanish lessons with a native speaker.
I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.