Q & A: Advice For Learning Spanish

I’ve been getting more and more questions lately and have decided to start a Teaching Yourself spanish Q & A series. I’m no Dear Abbey but hopefully I can help you along your path to learn Spanish.

Chris asks…

What are good sites to learn Spanish?

“Do you know a good free site where you can learn Spanish? Podcasts are good too.”

Teaching Yourself Spanish answers:

There are tons of sites for learning Spanish. Most of them aren’t going to get you very far ‘though. It also depends what level of Spanish you’re at and what you want to get out of it.

Chris, I’ll assume you are at a beginner level. For beginners, I always recommend starting with the basic pronunciation. You want a site that has audio examples that you can mimic. I usually recommend the pronunciation page on the popular StudySpanish.com site. After learning the pronunciation, this site has tons of free exercises and grammar lessons which are well explained.

Here are two other excellent free options for beginners, or for those who want to learn a few basic phrases to get by on a trip. You can sign up with one of these sites:
Here you’ll find what is basically an online version of the Rosetta Stone methodology. I don’t recommend this for getting great at Spanish but, for starting out and learning some basics, it’s quite helpful.

Another excellent resource can be found in the grammar lessons on SpanishDict.com. They have a video course with a teacher that explains everything well.

Be sure to sign up for my free newsletter as well to get tips on making the most of your Spanish studies.

Mandy asks…

What’s the best way to self learn Spanish?

“I have already had 2 years of Spanish in high school (like 3 years ago) but am wanting to become fluent. Traveling is out of the option as I am in school and I don’t really have time to take a Spanish class (plus I don’t know if that’s the best way to learn). Do you have any other suggestions on teaching yourself and becoming more fluent in Spanish? I downloaded some learning Spanish podcasts but any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.”

Teaching Yourself Spanish answers:

I found myself in a similar situation. With one year of high school Spanish, two years of college and a long period of no study, I wanted to re-learn it. At the time I wasn’t able to do an immersion study abroad and I was on a budget. Still I wanted to become fluent.

You might appreciate my book Teaching Yourself Spanish. In it I write about the process I took to improving my Spanish. From this expereince I made mistakes and learned what not to do. In other words, my book could save you time and money by helping you to become more efficient in your own process. There is no benefit to wasting time and money on methods that are ineffective. With a basic foundation of highschool Spanish, you’ve got enough to get you started learning on your own without the need for a class or tutoring. Eventually you may want to invest in private lessons or find a language partner online. But there’s quite a lot you can do on your own, without spending too much money or taking formalized classes.

Sandra asks…

How and what are the best and easiest ways for me to learn Spanish?

“I want to learn Spanish, just like to be able to have a basic conversation with people and understand the meaning of songs etc, nothing in-dept. What is the easiest way? Apart from going classes, because in classes they teach you the ways that make it harder, rather than teaching you sentences and answers etc.

thank you!”

Teaching Yourself Spanish answers:

Hola Sandra,
It’s impossible to say what the easiest way is for any individual, as everyone has a unique learning method that works best for them. I would say that learning a language, for most people, is never easy. It takes some time and effort. If you want to learn the basics and nothing in-depth, the sites I mention in question #1 will be of help to you. I have to mention that understanding the lyrics to most music definitely requires much more command of the Spanish language. That is, unless you only want to listen to Sesame Street or childrens songs.

Ruth asks…

Whats a good podcast to listen to when learning Spanish?

“I’m learning Spanish and need to find a podcast that’s in Spanish but is not instructional. I’m looking for something that is more learner friendly, and where they don’t speak superfast…”

Teaching Yourself Spanish answers:

Hola Ruth,
A while ago I wrote an in-depth article about my favorite Spanish learning podcasts. I refer you to it: Learning Spanish With Spanish Podcasts.

Lizzie asks…

What are some resources to learn Spanish?

“I would love to learn Spanish. Really, I would (I just can’t). I cannot speak fast or comprehend on the fly, but I can read and write nearly perfectly for my level. I am in Spanish II and learning past tense, which is evil. My classes go skyrocket-fast, I mean breakneck speed, and I already talked to my teacher about it 20 times or more; a couple times flat-out saying “hey, at this rate I’m going to fail”. It’s not the written parts of the language which deter me, it is the oral parts; and they hit me hard. I am like a wall made of tempered steel when it comes to listening to Spanish. I fear that I’m starting to drown. My teacher absolutely FLIES through the lessons like everyone in my class has an IQ above 200 and here I am feeling completely out of place. It’s infuriating that I’m the only person in my class who doesn’t immediately go “yeah, uh-huh” when my teacher babbles on at the speed of normal Spanish. Also, the rules are becoming much too numerous. So, my questions are:

1) List all the free Spanish resources as possible. My favorites are conversations, movies, and podcasts in Spanish. I refuse to listen to Spanish music (it’s mostly rap or Shakira, which I strongly dislike).

2) Can you supply a list of all the linguistic mumbo-jumbo? I mean “present participle, past perfect, interogatory form, conjugative” and all those other 100% frivolous words that my teacher expects me to put up with. I’m looking for a huge database.

3) How do I keep up with a language class that moves at velocidad suicida? How can I make sure to remember every single tiny rule I come across, now numbering in the hundreds? (Hundreds!) How can I become better, if only a little, at understanding spoken Spanish? And, as it does seem relevant, how can I keep my self-esteem when I get pulled under?”

Teaching Yourself Spanish answers:

Hola Lizze,
Yikes! The problem with taking a Spanish class through a university, is the teacher is trying to cram so much grammar and rules down your throat, and you don’t have enough time to absorb it at your own natural pace. That’s NOT the way we learned English, and it’s not the most effective way to learn Spanish, if you want to get good at it. How many times do I hear from people, “Oh, I took 4 years of Spanish in high school, and I don’t understand anything a native speaker says.”?? I have a good friend who majored in Spanish in college, and her Spanish is horrible! I can’t understand WHAT she’s saying when she speaks it. It’s sounds like really bad gringoish.

It sounds like you really want to learn REAL spoken Spanish, but that takes time and it probably isn’t going to help you pass the quizzes and tests in your class. However, if you do have time, or for anyone reading this who is looking for help learning real spoken Spanish, I know exactly what will help you. I had the same problem a few years ago, where I understood the grammar, but I couldn’t barely comprehend what real folks were saying. So I buckled down and focused on my aural skills. It does take time and effort, but I created a very exact method to do this. I will refer you to my video course, Hear and Understand A Foreign Language , which shows you the steps I took to HEAR Spanish fluently.

I would try to find a tutor who can help you on the side, so you can be sure to cover what you will be quizzed on, for now. And then when you want to really learn Spanish in the future, you will have some framework to do so. What you are learning now will come in handy, even though you may not understand it all. Think of it as an overview and you will absorb some of the information, and you’ll be able to build upon it later, at your own pace. Suerte!

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