So you know you want to begin learning or improve in Spanish, but finding the right tools and approaches to help you can be overwhelming. You’re looking to develop the best way to learn Spanish that’s right for you, and not take a cookie-cutter approach.
If you’re like me, you took some Spanish classes earlier in your life. But once you tried to apply your Spanish skills to having conversations and becoming fully fluent, you ended up scratching your head with how to master the language.
Whether you’re just starting to learn Spanish, or want to take your abilities to the next level, how do you get in the ideal mindset, know which resources are worthwhile, and keep momentum with your learning? There are lots of awesome support systems out there, but also plenty of people claiming to be experts who aren’t. Customize your Spanish game plan with an education that will be impactful. There are hundreds of routes you can take with free apps to learn Spanish, paid services, books, and websites.
The best methods depend on your level of Spanish and personal style. They will naturally evolve as you progress. In other words, there’s no universal formula for becoming fluent in Spanish. Some resources are stronger than others though, and there are some general insights that can give you a big boost in learning Spanish. Here are some tips and resources for mastering all components of Spanish, from reading, writing, listening, to speaking, as well as strategies to go from beginner to fluent.
Best Way to Learn Spanish Reading
Posttest results after eight months showed that pupils exposed to many stories progressed in reading and listening comprehension at twice the normal rate…
Beginner Spanish Reading Tips
Make reading an active pillar for learning Spanish. It’s about much more than memorization. Sure, you can have grammar tables and vocab lists ingrained in your mind. But if you don’t have a real understanding of how they are used in different contexts, it’s unlikely that they will stick.
Reading Spanish will build your vocabulary while expanding your grammar knowledge, and will translate into other learning areas. To make reading Spanish more accessible, it’s best to break it down into segments:
Learn the 100 most common words in Spanish:
Having a base of familiar words is incredibly useful in learning a language. Explore this list of the top 100 Spanish to build upon. Instead of just trying to memorize them, find examples, read them out loud, and test your reading comprehension before moving onto bigger batches of new words. This approach is one of the most effective ways to learn basic Spanish fast.
Find reading materials for beginner Spanish readers:
In learning to read Spanish, you will have to focus on straightforward forms of expression to start with. You will probably be in over your head if you try to read a Spanish newspaper and need to use a dictionary or app to help you through almost every word as a beginner. There’s no shortage of resources aimed at developing beginner Spanish reading comprehension. But consider reading things like picture books, comics, and transcripts of basic conversations that are for native speakers as well.
Beginner Spanish Reading Resources
- Duolingo: One of the most popular tools for learning languages, with web tools and a mobile app. Duolingo allows you to set weekly goals, learn vocab by categories like “phrases” and “food,” and test your knowledge. Through game-like quizzes that ask users to pair English words with Spanish translations as well as complete sentences, it targets your weak areas to practice more.
- Memrise: A collection of digital flashcards including audio and images for language learners, with some additional interactive tools. Memrise breaks beginner Spanish into 19 categories to test your knowledge of specific vocab words.
- Anki: A useful flashcard tool, with an extensive selection of user-submitted decks to master Spanish vocab, including words and phrases.
- Learnpracticalspanishonline.com: A nice collection of passages for beginners. It’s best used for its questions and answers organized by topics.
- Spanishdict.com: Includes words of the day, quizzes categorized by grammar topics, and more.
- BBC.co.uk/spanish: A series of lessons that surround traveling vocabulary for beginners.
Intermediate Spanish Reading Tips
The hurdle from beginner to intermediate reading in Spanish can be significant for many learners.
Suddenly a world of new vocab is opened up. Grammar that you are unfamiliar with will be all over the place. Intermediate reading moves away from focusing on things like greetings, noun genders, and pluralizing nouns. You may be confident in your understanding of more complex grammar structures like “ser” and “estar” or conjugating verbs in different tenses. Reading can still easily come to stand-stills when you reach intermediate Spanish.
The key to retaining all of this new Spanish is to make it relevant. If your mind isn’t able to connect unfamiliar concepts to what you already know, it’s unlikely that much of your learning will stick.
Read dual-language materials:
Now that you have some of the basics under your belt, you should feel more comfortable in seeking reading materials that fit closer to what you normally read in English.
You can start to transition from flipping through things like children’s books, and start moving towards reading your first novel. If that seems intimidating, you can always read a book in Spanish that is dual language (Spanish and English) edition. “Hermanos Grimm” is a perfect example.
Search for what excites you online:
Google is your friend in finding customized reading materials that match your interests. With some basic vocab, you can begin searching for articles that address a broader range of subjects. Search “News” results for something like, “Nominados a los Grammy’s” or whatever current events interest you.
Intermediate Spanish Reading Resources
- Openlanguage: A mobile app that is focused on listening and reading comprehension. Users listen to conversations, read transcripts, and are then quizzed on their understanding. If you are interested in sticking with international accreditation standards of Spanish levels, Openlanguage can be a solid option.
- Asihablamos.com: Increasing vocabulary shouldn’t be dull. Who doesn’t like learning some slang or idioms to pepper their Spanish writing abilities? Asihablamos is a collection of unique Spanish words submitted by speakers from around the world.
- Spanish Short Stories for Intermediate Learners (Book): In addition to full dual-language books and novels, short stories are great because they make it easy to maintain focus and momentum. This book by Spanish expert Olly Richards is an excellent collection for intermediate learners to dive into.
- Conjuguemos.com: An extensive archive of exercises that will test your writing, grammar, listening, and more. It can be useful for learners of all levels but is more useful for intermediate learners and above.
Advanced Spanish Reading Tips
Being an advanced Spanish reader can be exciting. It’s especially rewarding to be able to read a book in Spanish without stumbling through the text.
As an advanced reader, you should understand grammar that often holds people up. Conditional tenses (“yo caminaría”), future tenses (“yo caminaré”), and the unpopular subjunctive (“yo camine”) are some examples of grammar that you should be close to mastering.
Your level of vocabulary will be different from many other advanced Spanish learners, and you will start to learn words that are unfamiliar to even native speakers. Advanced Spanish reading is about understanding main ideas, but also grasping the supporting details.
Focus on full-length Spanish books:
Full-Spanish novels should feel within reach to complete. As you read them, don’t put away the dictionary, and keep steadily building that vocab! Seek out readings books about topics that aren’t as familiar, have an academic focus, or include some technical aspects. Want a break from dense readings? Mixing long-length books with poetry is a nice change of pace and can provide a unique cultural lens.
Reread intermediate materials:
Revisiting books that you have already read may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ways to improve your advanced reading. Go back to novels, articles, and passages that you struggled with as an intermediate reader. This will ensure that you have mastered the roadblocks with grammar and vocab from earlier. It can also be empowering to tackle what used to make you want to throw your book at the wall or turn your computer screen off.
Advanced Spanish Reading Resources
- Clozemaster: Completed Duolingo or are you about to? Clozemaster is an incredible supplement for advanced Spanish learners who have completed Duolingo. Its web and mobile app are built around its sentence completion game. Perfect to fuel Spanish vocab learning and comprehension through thousands of phrases.
- New York Times in Spanish: Catch up on current events and explore unfamiliar topics that are almost always geared towards advanced Spanish learners.
- Medium in Spanish: Expose yourself to a broad range of blog entries on everything from politics to food.
- Classic Spanish Literature: Read Spanish lit classics from authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and Roberto Bolaño to fully immerse yourself in the language and expand your cultural horizons.
Best Way to Learn Spanish Writing
Beginner Spanish Writing Tips
Reading in Spanish will surely make writing easier. But unfortunately, writing doesn’t come automatically just because you’re comfortable with your reading and comprehension. You’ll make plenty of mistakes with writing every day before you become a Spanish guru, and that’s ok.
Step away from the keyboard now and then:
Is it more efficient to learn how to write in Spanish through technology, or should you go old school and pick up a pen and paper? Some studies have shown that students who type out their notes have stronger conceptual understandings of their materials. At the same time, using apps for writing is powerful because of the level of customization, portability, and smart learning. It’s helpful to balance Spanish technology-based tools and typing with writing by hand.
Start a journal:
You don’t have to be far in your Spanish learning journey to start practicing writing. Begin by writing about your emotions in a simple way, your favorite pop-culture references or describe what you did each day. Personal journaling is also a great way to make a note of new vocab words and grammar structures that you struggle with. You can also use it to plan what you will learn next.
Beginner Spanish Writing Resources
- languagetool.org: You are probably familiar with Google Translate. LanguageTool is similar web-based translation tool. While its translation abilities for single words and even longer passages continues to improve, it’s not perfect by any means. Still, LanguageTool is a good reference point for proofing your basic Spanish writing.
- Fluencia: An web or mobile app that provides common conversational questions in Spanish through audio, images and text. Users type responses to questions and progress of areas needed to review is saved.
- Babbel: Another one of the most popular language learning tools, Babbel’s tools surround mastering conversational Spanish using real-life dialogue with a large collection of idioms, vocab, and categories of language topics.
Intermediate Spanish Writing Tips
As an intermediate Spanish learner, it’s a good idea to rely mainly on structured lessons as your base. Your grammar and vocab are solid enough that you can mix these lessons with more open expression. You don’t have to rely strictly on textbooks or app-based lessons. Start to have some fun with your writing!
Exchange through social media or chat forums:
People usually respect when someone wants to learn about their language or culture. Some people even seek out opportunities to help others without any expectation of being paid or receiving something beyond a “¡Gracias!” or a chance to learn a few words of English. Mylanguageexchange.com is an excellent example of a site to connect with people through language, with over 550,000 global members.
Turn your usual writing routines into Spanish practice:
As your vocabulary increases, it will seem more natural to express yourself in Spanish through day-to-day activities. Next time you’re going to the grocery store, writing a to-do list, or doing whatever small writing tasks you have on-hand, try them in Spanish! You may need a dictionary, making it a practical way to learn new words.
Intermediate Spanish Writing Resources
- Clozemaster: A perfect web and mobile tool to supplement Duolingo. It can also be used to complement Memrise and Anki flashcard based learning. Clozemaster gamifies learning Spanish and helps people overcome comprehension obstacles in a simple and expansive way. With over 157,000 sentences, there’s no shortage of practice. Users are asked to complete deleted passages of text in sentences, and can easily configure the game to type correct answers.
- Takelesons.com writing prompts: A strong little collection of writing prompts to motivate your Spanish writing, with topics for intermediate learners.
- Practice Makes Perfect: Intermediate Spanish Grammar (Book): What’s great about this workbook is that the explanations and prompts are concise and clear. It’s easy to take on activity at a time.
- The Great Translation Game: A great way to practice writing skills in Spanish by translating sentences from a text of your own choice. The game gives you instant feedback on your writing and lets you learn in context with native-level content.
Advanced Spanish Writing Tips
Once you are writing at an advanced level, you will be focusing more on the details of expressing yourself. Colorful language, idioms, and technical vocab come into play. Learning to write well in Spanish takes discipline at every level, but especially when you are an advanced learner. Your weak points will be less obvious than when you were in lower levels of Spanish.
Dive deep into the dictionary:
You may find that you relied on a dictionary more heavily as a beginner than in intermediate Spanish. You don’t need to read the dictionary cover-to-cover, though you will probably find it helpful to go out of your way to communicate beyond with your “go-to” phrases and words. Make pocket-dictionaries or translation tools your friends.
Write in-depth essays in Spanish:
Writing as an advanced Spanish learner is a perfect chance for you “nerd out.” Focus on academic or professional topics, reviews, or maybe even writing some skits. Writing for yourself can help you improve. But also make sure you get some high-quality feedback or proofing from a person or at least through software.
Advanced Spanish Writing Resources
- Advanced Spanish Step-By-Step: Master Accelerated Grammar to Take Your Spanish to the Next Level (Book): Complex verb tenses and other advanced Spanish concepts are intimidating. This book is very dynamic in its writing exercises and even gives examples of things like idioms to include in your writing.
- Lang-8.com: It’s hard to get feedback on your Spanish writing, especially when you don’t have any advanced level speakers to share your writing with. Lang-8 is an incredible free tool that allows you to share your Spanish writing with native speakers and receive corrections. In turn you can share your feedback on people’s English writing.
- Bussu: A paid service that allows users to couple language exercises (to identify weak points and track progress), and then have real typed conversations with native speakers and get feedback.
Best Way to Learn Spanish Listening
Beginner Spanish Listening Tips
Learning to listen well in Spanish will involve soaking up many sounds that you aren’t familiar with. Hearing things like the rolling of Rs and the use of the enye (ñ) are just some examples that you will face. Gaining comprehension skills requires finding speakers and audio that will sloooooow things down. Repetition of phrases is crucial as well.
Watch Spanish movies and TV shows with English subtitles:
Bilingual shows, like Narcos, provide decent exposure to hearing native speakers. Watching things from different countries will help you get insight into different accents, and hear how Spanish changes within contexts like casual street vs. formal settings.
Write as you listen:
It’s hard to absorb much of the Spanish you hear as a beginner just by listening to it. Taking notes of things like new words and conjugations will help with retention and identifying patterns.
Beginner Spanish Listening Resources:
- Spanishpod101.com: A very comprehensive archive of over 1,800 audio and video lessons with plenty of beginner-focused materials.
- Coffee break Spanish podcast: Podcasts are great because you can listen at your own speed and they are often targeted towards your level of Spanish. This award-winning course surrounds conversational lessons between a teacher and a student.
- Pimsleur: Paid software that many people rely on to increase their comprehension, grammar and vocab. This tool really demands some focus, but its slow pace will allow you to master common vocab and comprehension, especially at early learning levels.
Intermediate Spanish Listening Tips
Listening to Spanish for intermediate learners is not all that different from the beginner levels. Finding the right pacing of audio and resources targeted to your skill level are still crucial. A major difference is that as your Spanish comprehension and vocab increase, what you listen to can matter even more.
Surround yourself with Spanish speakers:
Listening to Spanish from non-native speakers can be valuable. You don’t need to be a native speaker to have a great accent, expert knowledge of the language and be a great teacher. That being said, native speakers are often able to provide more insight into accents, slang and contextual use of Spanish. No matter who you are listening to speak Spanish, there’s value in doing it in-person in addition to screen-time. That way you can ask clarifying questions and make it interactive.
Intermediate Spanish Listening Resources
- FluentU: An online tool that uses video learning to quiz users on their comprehension. While it’s not free, it has an extensive library that has everything from interviews, commercials, to music videos.
- Spanish Obsessed: A great collection of podcasts and audio lessons. This couple’s lessons are great for taking Spanish beyond the classroom and applying it to engaging conversations.
- Cuevana: A big archive of Spanish movies and shows that help will you enhance your listening skills in a fun way.
Advanced Spanish Listening Tips
Advanced Spanish listening is about fine-tuning your ears. Eventually, you will get to the point that your brain doesn’t need to process every word one-by-one to follow speech. You may be able to listen to faster dialogue with a broader range of subjects. Still, it’s best to stick to sources that aren’t too far outside of your comfort zone.
Listen to dialogue that’s targeted to native speakers:
It’s time to start listening to lots of dialogue that isn’t aimed at Spanish learners! Being able to follow audio or conversations targeted to native speakers is an important part of advanced Spanish comprehension. Open you up to a broader world of Spanish.
Advanced Spanish listening resources
- Radio Ambulante: If you like NPR’s Radio Lab, you will probably love Radio Ambulante, which is their Spanish show that’s very similar to it. It usually has transcripts in both Spanish and English.
- SUNY video archive: This collection of videos is awesome because of how many different directions it points for media like documentaries, online TV, and short films.
- Werevertumorro (Youtube): While it’s not a good idea to rely solely on Youtube to learn Spanish, it’s a fun methods of boosting your Spanish. Werevertumorro is a comical collection of vlog entries and sketches from one of Latin America’s most famous YouTubers.
Best Way to Learn Spanish Speaking
Beginner Spanish Speaking Tips
Start small with your Spanish speaking. Trying to conquer fluency too quickly can lead to developing bad habits that may be hard to break. Stringing sentences together using the 100 most common words will create excellent building blocks.
Start with mastering basic Spanish phonics
Most letters generally make similar sounds in Spanish as in English. However, there are many distinctions, so study Spanish phonics from their most basic roots. Understanding the sounds that individual letters make is a good first step to take. Then moving onto sounds of common letter combinations will give you the power to push confidently into speaking Spanish.
Speak out loud in Spanish whenever you can
There’s only one way to become truly confident in speaking Spanish, and it’s practice, practice, practice. It can be done alone to an extent! You might sound a little bit like a crazy person talking to yourself, but it’s totally worth doing. You should even think about recording yourself and playing it back to analyze your pronunciation.
Beginner Spanish speaking resources:
- University of Texas: Phonics Worksheets and Exercises: This is a great collection of Spanish phonics information, and making words, with downloadable sheets.
- Rocket Languages: Arguably one of the most comprehensive paid software tools for learning Spanish, Rocket languages combines audio lessons lessons, quizzes, and flashcards with their Rocket Record tool. Rocket Record allows users to record themselves saying thousands of words and phrases to perfect their pronunciation.
- Glossika: This software’s “listen and repeat” approach to learning Spanish is perfect for beginners. More advanced learners may find it too repetitive, but their spaced repetition method is proven to be effective.
Intermediate Spanish Speaking Tips
When you’re starting out speaking Spanish, it’s likely that you will be doing lots of reciting. As you move into intermediate level Spanish, you’ll need to have real conversations with people to get better at speaking. Practicing Spanish near you may be more accessible than you think.
Expose yourself to Spanish immersion
If you have friends who are native Spanish speakers, hopefully it won’t be hard to practice your speaking with them. If this isn’t an option for you, there are still opportunities to dive into settings where you can practice Spanish. Explore whether there are local cultural events, concerts, Latin dance nights, or language meetups that you can join.
Intermediate Spanish Speaking Resources
- Wespeke: In addition to providing mini language lessons, this web and mobile app service matches users with native speakers around the world. Their WeSpeke Chat tool can match you with someone to chat at your skill-level.
- Itranslate Voice: A mobile app that allows users to speak Spanish phrases, and the app will convert it into text. If transcriptions and translations are off, it means that your pronunciation could use some work.
- Italki: A service that connects language teachers from around the world with students through videos. Pay by the lesson, and create a customized learning plan with a native speakers and expert teachers for advanced concepts.
Advanced Spanish Speaking Tips
Speaking for advanced Spanish learners is somewhat straightforward. It’s really about diving into settings where you can practice it regularly and get continue getting feedback.
Thinking of traveling to Latin America? If your goal is to better your Spanish as an advanced speaker, it’s seriously worth heading to a Spanish speaking country. It’s about as deep of an immersion setting as you can get if you do it right, and is considered by many to be a best way to learn Spanish. It might not make sense for you financially, but it’s something worth working towards. Resort style traveling is unlikely to provide meaningful ways for you to interact with Spanish speakers. You’ll want to put you in situations where you’ll need to practice to get by, like asking for directions or meeting locals out and about. Consider staying with Airbnb hosts, homestays, or even signing up for a reputable Spanish course abroad.
Advanced Spanish Speaking Resources
- PractiSpanish: Getting expert feedback on your speaking can have huge impacts on your fluency. This service provides Spanish learners with individual tutors, who give simple assignments.
- The Mixxer: An awesome free tool for pairing language learners through Skype to get conversational practice. Having advanced skills when you use this service will allow you to ask nuanced questions about Spanish language and your chat buddy’s culture.
- Language immersion programs: There are a growing number of programs that have structured language courses in Spain and Latin America. Not sure where to begin? Look into Common Ground International (Nicaragua and Costa Rica with volunteering opportunities), or the more off the beaten option of Sol Education Abroad (Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Spain with rich cultural opportunities).
Best Way to Learn Spanish from Beginner to Fluent
If I could go back and relearn Spanish, I would definitely do it differently from the approach I took of trying any and every tool that I thought would be helpful. Hindsight is 20/20 right?
Say I were starting to learn Spanish with no experience, and could barely muster up an, “hola.” If I hoped to reach full fluency down the road, below is the game plan that I would create for myself. This is truly what I find to be the best way to learn Spanish for my style and interests. It’s unlikely that every resource will be best for you, but hopefully this will help you think about customizing your own Spanish learning.
A sample selection of resources & tools
It’s realistic to spend an absolute minimum of three to four months moving through each level of Spanish before you reach an advanced level. I recommend pairing resources by using two different tools at the same time, and even more as you move beyond beginner levels.
|Beginner||Reading||Read basic materials with dictionary|
|Beginner||Listening||Podcasts for beginners (Spanishpod101)|
|Intermediate||Listening, Speaking, Reading||Italki|
|Intermediate||Reading||Read advanced material like novels with dictionary|
|Intermediate||Listening||Watch shows and movies with subtitles|
|Advanced||Listening, Speaking||The Mixxer|
|Advanced||Reading||Read advanced materials with no dictionary|
Phew, that was a lot of information! Think of these resources as buffet of options to help you pick andchoose what’s appealing and works well to you. No plan that you follow is set in stone. Be flexible in your approach, practice like crazy, and don’t lose sight of your goals when learning Spanish gets tricky. “Buena suerte” (good luck) with your “viaje” (trip) into Español.