December 11, 2014
It is true that the internet is playing a more and more important role in learning a language. In my opinion you still can’t beat the old fashioned way of learning with a teacher, but there are some great online resources available for learning languages, especially English and Spanish. I want to show you guys the best free resources for learning Spanish online. We will start with the free resources because many people are learning Spanish as a hobby and don’t want to spend money on something if they don’t have to. That being said there are many online courses, and teaching programs that are worth your money, but this article will focus on the free ones:
1. Spanish Programs
Duolingo is a really popular tool (available as an app too) that teaches you through translation. It is really well designed and set up like a game with points, leaderboards and competition. It has a placement test as well.
Memrise doesn’t have a placement test (it does have an app), but you can choose the level and activity you want to do. They have a great tool that allows you to review words and keep practicing with them so that they are more likely to stick in your memory.
Livemocha was created by Rosetta Stone and it allows you to practice all aspects of language learning including speaking. You can record your own voice and have it reviewed.
Busuu is another new program that I really liked but only the vocabulary, reading and writing sections are free. You have to pay for grammar, exams and speaking sections. That being said if you do purchase the premium version you will have access to some classes with native teachers.
You have probably heard of at least some of these language learning programs. Which one is right for you? I suggest you try them out and pick the one that works for you. Maybe Duolingo or Memrise is a good option for those who want to study on their phones on the way to work, maybe Busuu is a good option for those who eventually want to pay for a teacher. These programs are definitely worth checking out there are constantly being updated and the support you get from other users and staff is great. The only downside is that they are mainly designed for beginners and intermediates. Theses language learning programs make a great add-on tool to classes, but you won’t become fluent only using these programs. You need to use and speak the language in a natural way.
LingQ, in another language learning program but it is different from the others. It has lessons and allows you to create flashcards of words that you don’t know from the lessons. You can than download the lesson and listen to it. The idea is to read, listen and review to help you learn a language (they have an app too). I like how they say no one can teach you a language, you have to learn it.
StudyingSpanish.com has many free lessons in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, but they are detailed and really go into depth. They also have a ton of tests. This site a great resource for the advanced Spanish student.
2. Conversation Exchange
This leads us to the next type of resource: conversation exchanges:
All of these websites offer a similar service, conversation exchanges with someone from another country. Some of them connect through Facebook and others through Skype. There are a ton of websites GoSpeaky, NekoPlaza, CoffeeStrap, SharedTalk, ConversationExchange.com, Bindaloo, Easy Language Exchange Hodoyoudo.com, Interpals, HellTalk, and The Mixxer are some of the many conversation exchanges. Interpals is by far the most popular with more than 6 million users monthly. ConversationExchange and GoSpeaky are also quite popular.
3. Dictionaries and Other Online Resources
The BBC‘s Spanish page is amazing! There are lots of free resources here: links to public broadcasters all over the Spanish world, videos, crosswords and the BBC News in Spanish. They also offer various lessons and courses.
Not an entirely free site but 123 Teach Me does have free Spanish computer and phone games. The tank battle game is great for fans of Scorched Earth and Wake up the Box is similar to Angry Birds.
Readlang is an amazing browser extension that allows users to translate words and phrases while reading a text or website. The Readlang website allows users to share videos with the subtitles added by users as well as texts.
Lang-8 allows you to post some writing in Spanish and have it corrected by a native speaker. They encourage you to correct writings of others who are learning English. RhinoSpike is similar but with audio files, it allows you to post some writing in Spanish that you want read aloud and then have it read by a native speaker, in exchange you must return the favour and read something in English.
As for dictionaries of course there is Google Translate, but a better option is WordReference or SpanishDict which provide more detail than Google. I have also found Reverso‘s conjugater to be very useful as it allows you to see all the conjugations of a given verb. A great resource for me has been Reddit, especially the Argentina subreddit. If you use Reddit I would recommend that you subscribe to the subreddit of the Spanish country that interest you the most. Here you will find interesting things and news related to that country, so you can practice your reading, but also you can read and leave comments. This has proven to be a great way for me to practice my writing and learn some Argentine slang at the same time.
Lastly find out your Spanish level at Cervantes Escuela Internacional.
These resources are best used when combined. For example using Duolingo twice a week combined with a conversation exchange once a week or LingQ combined with videos from Readlang and a Spanish class. To learn a language you need to maximize your exposure to that language and you need to practice all four areas: speaking, reading, writing and listening. Also check out a list of Spanish podcasts I made here and I will add some Spanish video links soon too.