Our first post on Cheap & Useful Resources for Learning Spanish was written before we came to South America and since then we have learned a lot. Our approach to language learning has changed considerably, and we have discovered many more useful resources.
Language Hacking Guide
Our first Spanish resources post recommended Benny’s Fluent in 3 Months blog, and since then he has released the very useful Language Hacking Guide outlining his unconventional approach to language learning. The focus is on communicating in the language from Day 1 and it is packed with tips on exactly how to do this. The guide has become our Bible and is a huge inspiration. Many of the tips below originally came from Benny.
When you are fed up with studying using music is a fun way to practice your pronunciation, learn new vocabulary and immerse yourself in the language and culture. We have continued our exploration of Spanish language music and our current favourites are Manu Chao and Juanes. Any more recommendations are always welcome!
A great place to start is the Bueno Entonces You Tube videos. There are a number of Spanish music videos that feature lyrics in Spanish and English, plus their unique symbol system to label different verb tenses. My favourites are Clandestino and El Rey.
Lyrics Training is another useful site where you can sing along to the lyrics in Spanish, get English translations and play games to fill in missing words to test your listening skills.
Once you’ve gone through these you can find more videos by searching in You Tube for the name of a song + lyrics or karaoke.
Update: we have now written a detailed post about how to sing your way to Spanish fluency.
I love to read and as the key to language learning is immersing yourself in it, it makes sense for me to read in Spanish. I recently finished reading my first book in Spanish, which was much easier than I expected. I underlined some words to look up later, but mostly it was obvious from the context and not necessary to understand every word.
It helped that Vagabundeando en el Eje Del Mal (Vagabonding on the Axis of Evil) by Juan Pablo Villarino was a book I really wanted to read. It’s the true story of an Argentine guy hitchiking his way around the Middle East including Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan on a budget of $5 a day. Thanks to our porteño friend Juan (not the author!) who gave us the book as a leaving present.
I’ve also been reading the Argentine version of the Lonely Planet magazine. The key is to read things you are genuinely interested in and would usually read in English.
Project Gutenberg has nearly 300 free Spanish ebooks to download.
When writing if you are unsure of a grammatical point then just type the word or phrase into Google and you’ll see if that is how it is used. Google even corrects your mistakes with the ‘Did you mean…’ feature.
Word Reference Dictionary
Our small Oxford Spanish dictionary is pretty good but for more detail and obscure words I love the Word Reference online dictionary. It’s very comprehensive and even if a word isn’t listed in the dictionary you can usually find the definition in the forum. One of the most helpful things when you are getting your head around the many Spanish verb forms is that you can search for a conjugated verb, and it’ll tell you which form of which verb it is.
I listen to a number of free podcasts aimed at Spanish learners including Show Time Spanish, Notes in Spanish and Voices en Español. Benny wrote a useful post on how to find podcasts aimed at native speakers, so that the language would be more natural and not slowed down for learners. By changing your country in the iTunes store to Spain (I couldn’t get Argentina to work for some reason) you can search for podcasts around areas that interest you. I searched for viaje and found some interesting travel podcasts. Yes, the material is more challenging but it’s the best way to improve and be able to understand native speakers as they actually talk.
Anki is a free programme that is basically an up to date version of flashcards. We use it to input new vocabulary we learn and spend 10-20 minutes a day testing ourselves. It uses a spaced repetition system so that the words stay fresh in your mind.
There are many sites out there that can put you in touch with native speakers for speaking practice. We used Conversation Exchange to meet up with a local guy in Buenos Aires, and have had people contact me to talk via Skype as well. There seem to be more people on My Language Exchange, so we might try that in the future.
Although we haven’t used couchsurfing to stay with any native Spanish speakers (yet), many cities have active couchsurfing groups with lots of events you can attend to practice speaking.
There are so many Spanish verb tenses that getting your head around them all is quite a challenge. I find Verbix a useful site for checking verb conjugations and Spaleon is great for testing you in each of the main tenses.
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