I wanted to learn new languages, but the process can be difficult, slow and expensive (with the costs of books, classes and possibly travel). It can all seem a bit daunting. I decided to find a way to learn that wasn’t through the typical class setting.
I want to set-up a self-study system that easily integrates the study of the language into my daily routine like an at-home immersion. This is based on advice from great language learning sites like: Fluentin3months , Babel.com, Omniglot.com.
Spanish isn’t the only language that I want to learn so I focused on using tools that cater to other languages as well. For example, if there are two language speaking services available and one only focuses on Spanish, while the other offers language exchange in any language, I would choose the second one. It will be easier for me to keep the same software, accounts, and apps when I switch to learning another language.
My current learning objectives are:
- Identify current learning level of Spanish language in 4 key areas: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking and writing using the Common European Framework of Reference
- Identify two methods of easily integrating language practice into my daily routine
- Find two language learning partners that are native Spanish Speakers
Language learning is often broken down into 4 core knowledge areas:
oral comprehension (can you understand people that are speaking in the language?);
reading comprehension (can you understand what you are reading in the language?)
writing (how well can you write in the language?)
speaking (how well can you speak in the language?)
I find that the comprehension (oral and reading) are easier to develop that the ability to produce the language (writing and speaking). I find immersing myself in the language assists me in understanding the language (oral and reading comprehension). If I wanted to be able to speak and write well, then I had to practice these skills often as well. This strategy integrates learning in all of these knowledge areas and I encourage you to start trying to speak and write in the language as soon as possible. If you are practicing with someone (particularly a native speaker), ask them to correct you and you’ll only learn from your mistakes.
- Integrate: Learn the basics on the go – Download language learning apps
- Speak: Practice speaking by integrating it into social activities
- Play: Online Games & Lessons
- Read: Read in the language
- Listen and Watch: Watch TV and News in your target language
- Study: Lesson Books
- Prioritize: Prioritizing learning
Learn the basics on the go – Download language learning apps
- DuoLingo – an app that starts you with the basics in any language. It has audio, text and images to assist you in learning vocabulary. It can even check your pronunciation. There is a website to accompany the app so you can practice on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop.
- Busuu – a language learning tool that also let’s you connect with native speakers. An alternative to DuoLingo.
- Anki – download language flashcards – Spanish/English. You can also create your own once you have created a list of words that you want to learn or review. There is a website to accompany the app so you can practice on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop.
- Google Translate – There’s an app for that. Google Translate can be used online or through an app that can be downloaded to a tablet or smartphone.
- WeSpeke App – connects you with pen-pals that are native speakers in your target language that also want to learn your own language. I.e. I can learn Spanish from a native Spanish speaker, while I teach them English. I speak about this a bit more later.
- Libro-Movil – has a line of apps offer books and audio-books in target languages – i.e. Libros en Espanol (Books in Spanish). The books are for sale, but they have a section with books under $1.
- Kindle Reader with Amazon.es aka Amazon Spain
- Tip: download or enable your tablet or phone’s keyboard to include the target language i.e. I have the Spanish (Spain) amazon kindle on my iPad
Produce – Speak and Write:
Practice speaking and writing by integrating it into social activities
Use Social networking platforms
- Meetup.ca – MeetUp Groups for In-person Language Exchange. I’m based in Toronto, but there are likely meetup groups for language exchange in your area. If you can’t find one, start your own!
- Toronto Spanish Club
- Mi Spanish for Your English
- WeSpeke.com – connects you with pen-pals that are native speakers in your target language that also want to learn your own language. You can do voice and video conferencing through WeSpeke.com as well. I’ve got a few speaking buddies on Skype now, but as always use caution when sharing information online. There are lots of alternatives to WeSpeke. There’s an app and a website.
- GoSpeaky.com uses a matchmaking algorithm to introduce you to native speakers of your target language located around the world
- HiNative – forum for language learning, where you can ask questions and have them answered
- HelloTalk – focuses on voice conversations and allows you to call native speakers. (You can also send text messages or use voice-to-text and text-to-voice software)
Online Games & Lessons
- DigitalDialects.com offers language learning games in multiple languages
- OnlineFreeSpanish.com offers free lessons and integrates Spanish learning in to simple games.
- DonQuijote.org offers Spanish vocabulary and grammar learning games.
- PlayInFluent.com offers Spanish vocabulary and grammar learning games.
- Alternatives: You can find alternatives on the Fluentin3Months Blog
Read in the language
- OnlineNewspapers.com lists all of the online newspapers in a particular country
- Amazon.com or .ca ($) with Kindle Reader
- Search for Spanish books for Spanish language learners. Use keywords like “Libros para ninos” (Books for children). If you are using a smartphone, you can tap on words you don’t understand to get the translation.
- Kindle Reader with Amazon.es aka Amazon Spain
- Libro-Movil ($) has a line of apps offer books and audiobooks in target languages – i.e. Libros en Espanol (Spanish). The books are for sale, but they have a section with books under $1.
Listen and Watch:
Watch TV and News in your target language
- Wwitv.com World Wide Internet TV is an independent guide to streaming media available on the web. The site provide links to third-party sites.
- Netflix – Watch TV in your target language! Netflix offers TV shows in foreign languages and often offers the same TV show in multiple languages with captions offered as well. You can watch your favorite TV shows in Spanish and read along if you have trouble discerning words. Stop, rewind, and replay if you missed something. It offers many of their shows in several other languages. Language offerings vary depending on your geographic region.Many Netflix Original shows are offered in multiple languages regardless of your location.
- YouTube – type in words in your target language on YouTube and videos in the language will pop up
- HowlearnSpanish.com – a list of links to Spanish TV
- BBC Languages offers links to news in several languages
As with English different countries and even different areas of the same country can have different accents, colloquial terms (slang), and grammatical nuances. It’s useful to listen to the language in different countries. The benefit of listening to the news is that it is usually grammatically correct.
- BBC Mundo
- Spanish TV and Spanish news online
- TVE a la carta
- Spain’s iPlayer from RTVE
- TV Pública, Argentina
- Bolivia tv, RTP Bolivia, Red ATB
- TVN, Chile
- Señal Colombia
- Teletica, Costa Rica
- Televisión Cubana and its iPlayer: teveo
- República Dominicana TV
- rtv ge int, Guinea Ecuatorial
- Congreso TV, Honduras
- Ecuador TV
- Once TV México
- Viva Nicaragua Canal 13
- TVN Panamá
- TV Pública Paraguay
- TNU, Uruguay
- Venezolana de Televisión
- Barron’s Foreign Language Guides – I find Barron’s Foreign Language Guides to be useful and very well organized. The books focusing on verbs are particularly useful and often provide common phrases or ways in which the verb is used. It’s a great list for practice or creating some Anki flashcards!
- Practice Makes Perfect by Dorothy Richmond – Practice Makes Perfect has a great lineup of books for practicing use of grammar and prepositions in Spanish.
- Vocabulary of verbs – I personally have found focusing on building a vocabulary of verbs and understanding their conjugation to be at the core of of my language learning. verb conjugation and have a strong vocabulary of verbs, the grammatical rules for creating sentences are next.
- Grammatical rules for combining simple sentences
- Perfecting prepositions – Did you find the dog in the shower or on the shower? When you are trying to speak a new language, it’s common to want to rely on using the literal translation of the preposition used in your language. I find that lesson books, online quizzes, and reading are the best ways to master this aspect of language.
- Keep track of your language learning tools using bookmarking sites like delicious.com. Delicious allows you to share your bookmarked pages so you can help others learning languages.