We all know about language classes and programs like Rosetta Stone. But, for some people, classes can be too expensive or inconvenient, and self-directed study can get lonely. Even worse, when you study alone, it’s hard to measure success and you can forget why you’re trying to learn the language in the first place. Luckily, there are plenty of learning options out there, especially for Spanish. Remember, the most important thing is to have fun – learning a new language should be a challenge, but not a nightmare.
- Skype lessons
Obviously, I’m a fan of this method. Not only do you get one-on-one lessons, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Not to mention, you can learn from native speakers from around the world. Language is all about communication and studies show that we retain the words we use in conversation more quickly and more easily than those we just memorise. Use personal Skype lessons or tandem partners to get speaking right away. Getting comfortable speaking a foreign language will also give you more confidence in your language abilities.
- Tandem partners
Having a tandem partner is like having a coffee-date that also helps you practice Spanish. Usually, a tandem partner is someone who is fluent in the language you want to learn but needs help improving their abilities in your language. In this case, half the conversation would be spent in English and half in Spanish. Put up wanted flyers at your local college or university, or check out on-line language exchanges such as Itaki, Speaky, or The Mixxer.
One of the best resources for Spanish-learners is telenovelas. These over-the-top soap operas come in all kinds of scandalous subgenres and can be found on YouTube or, more recently, on Netflix. Telenovelas are a great way to learn conversational Spanish and get used to hearing several people talk at once. If you’re unsure where to start, Betty la fea is a funny, warm-hearted telenovela from Columbia, Maria la del barria is a classic Mexican telenovela featuring everything from vicious gossip to staged deaths, and, for something steamier, Mujeres de Lujo is a Chilean telenovela following the lives of upscale escorts.
- Language-learning apps
If all you want is to build basic grammar and vocabulary, there are a ton of apps out there that offer fun games aimed at strengthening your vocabulary. Download one you like to your phone and play it on the bus, waiting in the doctor’s office – wherever you have a few spare minutes. Duolingo is probably the most well-known and is great for starting out, but Memrise offers a wider variety of “courses” and you can choose your level and even your dialect.
The most important thing is to keep yourself interested and motivated. If you make the process as fun as possible and involve other people such as online tutors or tandem partners, you will make your language learning experience more rewarding and ensure that you stick with it, even when the going gets tough.