The Best Ways to Learn Spanish
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Tagged: lifestyle, beginning spanish, best way to learn spanish, how to speak spanish, intermediate spanish, learn spanish software, spanish language courses, way to learn spanish, advanced spanish, spanish learning
Tools to learn Spanish effectively. For every level.
Learning Spanish could very well be the best investment you’ll ever make. So stop wondering what the best ways to learn Spanish are! From business Spanish-language courses and learn Spanish software to watching movies and having a language exchange on the phone, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways to learn Spanish efficiently. Using a variety of these methods will help you exercise the different language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) and help you build up your fluency and confidence in Spanish with ease.
Note: For simplicity, we use the terms beginning, intermediate, and advanced. These roughly correspond to the A (1 and 2), B (1 and 2), and C (1 and 2) levels of the European Union’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Language-learning software: Perfect for people who like to learn Spanish at their own pace in the comfort of their own home or who can’t attend regular classes, language-learning software gives learners the flexibility to set their own pace. And since you’d be using a computer instead of a teacher, you could tell the computer to repeat a phrase or a lesson 10, 20, or however many times you’d like until you get it right. You can use the software when the spirit moves you or religiously set aside some time each day; the choice is up to you. But if you lack self-discipline, this method is not for you.
Language-learning software most commonly falls into two types: immersion and the translation method. Immersion software only uses the target language (Spanish in this case), employing pictures (and previous knowledge of the language in later lessons) to “immerse” the learner and simulate native-language acquisition. One example is Rosetta Stone Level 1 (Spain) (PC/Mac) or Berlitz Spanish Premier (PC/Mac). Software that teaches by the translation method gives words or phrases in Spanish, as well as the equivalent or approximation in the student’s native language. One example is Talk Now!’s Learn Spanish: Beginning Level available from Amazon.
Games: When learning as a family, using games and fun incentives can help keep children and their parents motivated to learn Spanish. One option is Comprendo, a board game whose aim is to teach you Spanish.
Reading selections from the Instituto Cervantes: To build your reading skills, try your hand at the Centro Virtual Cervantes’s reading selections (provided by the Instituto Cervantes, Spain’s official institution to promote Spanish language and culture). Every selection in the beginners’ section (called inicial in Spanish), like the other levels, has optional pre- and post-reading exercises and information about the book and the chosen selection. Within the reading text itself, many words have links to definitions.
Group classes: For Spanish-language students who need the structure of a class and enjoy a community setting, group classes are a good way to go.
Group classes are usually of the traditional or conversational type. Traditional classes generally follow a textbook, which is supplemented by other activities, such as taped conversations, songs, games, and worksheets. Grammar is an important topic. Conversational classes, on the other hand, shy away from grammar (and often textbooks) and focus on oral expression. Learning with others can be fun, but having different levels within the same class can make it more difficult.
Private classes at a language academy: For Spanish-language students who need the structure of a class but desire the personal attention a private teacher offers, private classes at a language academy are a good, but certainly not a cheap, way to go.
Private classes for free: It may be possible to get private classes for essentially free. Put up an ad on a bulletin board (virtual or not) or approach Spanish-language teachers about a skill swap: Spanish classes for English conversation or piano lessons or babysitting or whatever it is that you’re willing and able to do.
Listen to the news and podcasts in Spanish: To build up your listening comprehension skills, try listening to the news. Radio Exterior de España (RNE) offers news and radio programs, including interviews, on current events, sports, science, and music. And if you’re in Spain, you could try the local news on TV.
In addition, Notes in Spanish has interesting free podcasts for different levels, and they sell useful optional worksheets to go with them.
Watch TV: How can watching whatever you want on TV (including trashy talk shows) be educational, you might ask. Well, watching TV is learning as long as it’s in Spanish! Watching TV helps build up your listening comprehension skills and introduces contemporary cultural concepts. A telenovela (essentially a soap opera) is a good place to start, as they often repeat words. Try the popular Amar en Tiempos Revueltos. Otherwise, comedies like Stamos Okupa 2 are more challenging for intermediate students, but they can also be more fun.
Self-study books: Now that you have a solid foundation of the Spanish language, go to your local bookstore and get a self-study book. Whether it covers Spanish vocabulary, verb conjugations, grammar, writing exercises, or whatever tickles your fancy, you have the power to direct your Spanish-language learning exactly where you want it to go (if you’re disciplined enough). The only question becomes: What do you want to learn today? Try Instant Recall Spanish Vocabulary too.
Read the newspaper: Besides helping to make you an informed world citizen, reading the newspaper in Spanish strengthens your Spanish reading skills and can give you a different media perspective. Are some subjects covered more or less than in the newspapers you usually read? Try reading the liberal El País or the conservative ABC. To practice your writing skills, try summarizing articles, expressing your opinions, or analyzing current issues and events.
Get a penpal: For most of us, snail mail has gone the way of the horse and buggy and email is the preferred method of written communication now. That doesn’t mean that the practice of writing to a penpal has disappeared though. Email has just made it easier. To improve your Spanish writing skills, you can exchange emails just in Spanish or part of the time in Spanish and part of the time in English. If you decide to mix two languages in one email, just be sure that you’re not writing all the difficult stuff in English and the easy stuff in Spanish; it’s hard to improve your writing that way. And depending on the arrangement you have with your penpal, he or she may correct your grammar and spelling, helping you to learn from your mistakes. This, in addition to becoming a more practiced and proficient writer.