As one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, there is no shortage of options for those who want to learn Spanish.
When it comes to the most popular of the romantic languages, the problem is actually that there are so many Spanish resources and learning methods out there that it can all seem a bit overwhelming.
In this article we’ll take a look at seven of the best ways to learn Spanish, share our recommended resources, and answer common FAQs that Spanish students often have.
1) Immerse yourself in a Spanish language course
The best way to learn Spanish is to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. This means learning vocabulary and grammar rules in the context of daily situations or larger conversations. This helps you learn Spanish quickly and effectively than with other language learning methods.
Immersion doesn’t necessarily mean throwing yourself into a full speed conversation with the first native speakers you meet, or turning on a telenovela and expecting to magically absorb Spanish. This is what typically comes to mind when people think of language immersion, but for the complete beginner it’s unproductive and overwhelming.
You want to gradually immerse yourself in Spanish based on your level in the language. A good Spanish course will allow you to do this through speaking practice, or listening and reading. One of the best courses for learning Spanish this way is the Story Learning course, which takes you from a beginner to intermediate Spanish speaker by using real Spanish stories.
2) Download a language learning app
One of the biggest factors for success in language learning is consistency. You want to interact with the Spanish language as often as possible to help reinforce what you’re learning. This is what makes language learning apps so powerful. They allow you to learn Spanish wherever and whenever you want!
Pimsleur is a great app for learning Spanish because it uses a special call and response technique to teach you conversational Spanish. It’s a great way to practice speaking Spanish anywhere using just your phone.
3) Subscribe to a Spanish learning podcast
Podcasts are a great way to learn Spanish because they are essentially bitesized language lessons. They also help take the pressure off of the language learning process with quick, fun, and engaging Spanish practice sessions.
Spanishpod101 is one of our favorite podcasts for learning Spanish because it uses actual conversations to help you study Spanish.
4) Practice with native speakers
Sooner or later you have to take the leap and start practicing Spanish with a native speaker. This could take the form of a language exchange partner or maybe a Spanish conversation club. Check meetup.com for local Spanish clubs. My Language Exchange is great free online language exchange. There you’ll find a lot of Spanish speakers looking for native english speakers to practice with!
5) Watch Spanish movies and tv shows
Listening to Spanish music or watching a Spanish movie are both fun and effective ways to use your target language. It’s also a great way to dip your toes into Hispanic and Latino culture. Depending on your language level you may want to watch movies with Spanish subtitles or read along with the lyrics of a Spanish song.
FluentU is a great resource for learning Spanish through video. The app lets you easily switch between Spanish and English subtitles. You can even click on a word and instantly see its definition and pronunciation. Lyricstraining is another great tool you can use to practice Spanish using music.
6) Visit one of the many Spanish speaking countries
For many Spanish students, visiting a Spanish speaking country is one of the main reasons why they want to learn a foreign language. Visiting a country like Spain or one in Latin America can help solidify your Spanish speaking skills in a way that no course or program can.
We recommend traveling abroad to a Spanish speaking country only after you have a solid foundation in the language. This will make your trip more fun and effective!
7) Hone your Spanish skills with online lessons
One on one lessons with a Spanish teacher will help you with more difficult grammar rules and vocabulary. A good teacher will help you identify your weak points and provide you with practice and assignments to address them.
If you ever feel stuck while learning Spanish, then consider booking an online lesson with a Spanish tutor or teacher. Baselang is a great site that connects language learners with teachers from across the Spanish speaking world.
What no one told me about learning Spanish
It wasn’t that long ago I was sitting where you are now, glued to google searching for the best way to learn Spanish online. And like you I was overwhelmed with ads and reviews all claiming to be the best way to learn a foreign language.
Taking the bait, I downloaded language apps, listened to Spanish podcasts, and forked over my hard earned money for an expensive language course or two. I even started taking virtual lessons with a few Spanish teachers online.
The end result? Besides burnout and the fact that I used less than half of all the resources I bought or downloaded; after several months I discovered that despite my best efforts I still couldn’t speak Spanish.
I felt frustrated and discouraged. I spent money, and I practiced Spanish as much as I could. But at the end of the day I struggled to understand even short Spanish expressions. I definitely couldn’t come up with any Spanish sentences on my own.
My language learning journey hit a brick wall and I started to wonder if it was even possible for me to learn a foreign language at all.
Then I realized that all the methods I was using to learn Spanish were essentially the same. They all used a translation first approach. These courses taught Spanish vocabulary by simply giving me a list of words or phrases in Spanish, and then giving me the English translations.
There was no context for the vocabulary I was learning. If grammar rules were taught they were taught solely through example sentences. Most of these sentences were so basic and odd that they were pretty much useless when it came time to talk in real life situations.
I went back to the internet and searched a little deeper than the flashy ads and dime a dozen review sites. It took some digging but I discovered that other Spanish learners shared my experience. Even better, I found some Spanish language resources that deviated from the traditional translation first approach.
These language courses emphasized Spanish immersion. They taught Spanish in an effective and practical way. The end goal of these courses was to get me ready to interact with Spanish speaking people in the real world. Here’s a quick list of the effective resources I found and used to learn how to speak Spanish.
Best way to learn Spanish fluently
Of all the ways for learning Spanish, StoryLearning is one of the most unique and effective. Spanish learners should be warned before taking this course, it’s way different than traditional Spanish courses or apps. There are no tests or quizzes. True to its name, StoryLearning focuses on teaching through stories, not Spanish grammar lessons or vocabulary lists.
The main idea behind this course is that learners immerse themselves in a Spanish story before diving into the nuts and bolts of the language. These stories are carefully crafted at each level to be difficult enough to stretch your skills but not so difficult that you feel lost or overwhelmed.
In StoryLearning you read and listen to a story in Spanish multiple times to immerse yourself in the language. Only after your brain has been wading in the story do you start to learn the grammar and vocabulary being used.
This kind of contextual learning is powerful because you learn Spanish words in the context of the story. Your brain has a lot more info to latch onto when trying to recall what a particular Spanish phrase or word means.
The images your brain crafts as you imagine the plot, and the emotion you attach to the characters, all of it plays back into helping you understand and remember Spanish more effectively than you would with traditional classroom learning.
StoryLearning leverages the human brain’s natural inclination to remember and interact with stories to full effect. The full course will take you from absolute beginner to an intermediate level, including reading skills, Spanish comprehension, and most importantly speaking skills!
Olly stands by his course so much that he allows users full access to the course for seven days for free. Even after you purchase the course you can request a no questions asked full refund within a full 365 days. No other language learning course offers such a long money back guarantee.
See our Super-Detailed StoryLearning Review
Easiest way to learn Spanish
Pimsleur takes a similar approach to immersion as Story Learning. But where Story Learning uses stories, Pimsleur uses role play to teach Spanish. Pimsleur is largely an audio course. Each 30 minute lesson introduces new Spanish words and phrases. In the beginning of the program you learn Spanish words solely by listening and repeating them syllable by syllable, word by word, and eventually whole phrases at a time.
Once you have some basic Spanish vocabulary to work with, Pimsleur turns up the immersion. You are then prompted to answer and ask questions using the vocabulary you’ve practiced. You have a short amount of time to respond before the correct response is given.
This kind of approach essentially reprograms your brain to think in Spanish versus simply translating from English in your head. Pimsleur is one of the few Spanish audio courses that does this.
Pimsleur is our first choice for the easiest way to learn Spanish because all that’s required of you is to listen to a lesson and respond to the prompts. No other program for speaking Spanish features such a simple and effective layout to walk you through a new language step by step.
But make no mistake, your brain will feel tired after a Pimsleur lesson. Each lesson replicates the same pressure and difficulty you feel when talking with native speakers in real life. This makes the program more exciting and memorable than your average Spanish course. Pimsleur is easy in the sense that everything is laid out for you, but the lessons will stretch you (as any good Spanish lesson should).
See our Super-Detailed Pimsleur Review
GET 1 WEEK FULL ACCESS TO PIMSLEUR FREE
Best way to learn Spanish online
Spanishpod101 is both a language learning app and website. It’s less a Spanish course or program, and more like a massive library of Spanish podcast lessons and learning resources.
There are over 1000 Spanish podcast lessons available on the site. Each one covers a dialogue between real Spanish speakers. They’re sorted by difficulty level and each lesson comes with full transcripts, pronunciation training tools, and the ability to easily add new words to the site’s online flashcard system.
Every podcast also has two hosts, who are essentially your personal Spanish teachers. They introduce each dialogue and help explain any new material. They often share cultural facts about Spanish speaking countries too. The hosts speak English in the beginner level episodes. As you work through the lessons they start to use more Spanish until finally the entire podcast is in Spanish.
In addition to the podcasts you’ll also find a Spanish to English dictionary, grammar guides, conjugation charts, and tons of monthly free downloadable resources.
GET A FREE SPANISHPOD101 LIFETIME ACCOUNT
See our Super-Detailed SpanishPod101 Review
Best way to learn Spanish for free
FSI Spanish courses
The US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute(FSI) released its language learning courses into the public domain. This means these materials are free to download and use for anyone. These programs were used to teach State department personnel foreign languages before they were stationed to work abroad for the US government.
The FSI Spanish courses follow an immersion style method for learning. Every lesson covers reading, listening, speaking, and pronunciation. There’s a lot of parroting at first, a speaker will say a word or phrase and you will repeat it. Then you’ll be prompted to answer and ask questions from the phrases you know (similar to Pimsleur). The lessons are dense and take awhile to work through (for me it was about 1.5 hours per lesson).
The only drawback of these courses is that they are very dry and dull. Lessons are long and you’ll have to stick with the course for a while before you see any results. That being said, the results will come. These are effective ways to learn Spanish if you’re willing to stick with it.
See our FSI Review
Best way to learn conversational Spanish
One of the hardest parts of learning languages is picking up slang and informal speech. Ask any Spanish learner and they will tell you that there’s a big difference between what you learn in a course or textbook and the Spanish spoken on the street in everyday life.
Gritty Spanish is one of the Spanish courses I know of that specifically teaches informal conversational Spanish. It uses lifelike dialogues to teach you useful Spanish words that you’re unlikely to learn anywhere else.
True to its name, Gritty Spanish even teaches Spanish curse words. But there’s also a family friendly version that simply focuses on informal phrases and less offensive slang.
What I like most about this course is that you are working with long Spanish dialogues that take place in true to life situations. A lot of the phrases you learn work perfectly well in actual conversations. Just be careful if you decide to start using the bad words!
GET 12 GRITTY SPANISH DIALOGUES FOR FREE
See our Super-Detailed Gritty Spanish Review
Tips on the Best ways to learn Spanish
Practice with native Spanish speakers
Once you have some basic Spanish phrases under your belt I high recommend you try using them in the real world. Talking with native speakers for the first time is often one of the most nerve-racking steps when learning Spanish, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
Nothing cements a new Spanish word in your brain like using it in a conversation. Practicing with native speakers also adds a relational (ie human) element into the learning process. At the end of the day Spanish is a language, and languages are used to connect people.
No matter how many words you do or don’t know, get out there and start making some human connections in your new language. You won’t regret it!
What is the fastest way for me to learn Spanish?
Consistent study using an immersion based method is the fastest way to learn Spanish. Your Spanish skills will develop faster the quicker you can speak in your new language without having to translate from your native language.
Can I become fluent in Spanish in a year?
The Foreign Service Institute estimates that a native English Speaker will need 23-24 weeks to learn Spanish proficiently. This assumes 575-600 hours of study during the 23-24 week period, which comes out to around 25 hours of study and practice each week.
Long story short, yes it’s completely possible to become fluent in Spanish in a year. It could take as little as six months depending on how much time you dedicate to learning Spanish.
How much Spanish can you learn in a month?
This largely depends on how much time per day and week you are able to spend learning Spanish. Assuming that Spanish is your first foreign language, and you’re able to consistently spend at least an hour a day learning the language, you could expect to have simple conversations by the end of the month.
Don’t try cramming in your Spanish learning by spending 8+ hours a day studying and expect to be fluent in a month. That’s nothing but a recipe for burnout and discouragement. It’s much more beneficial to think of learning Spanish as a lifelong hobby or adventure, and not simply a task to master as quickly as possible.
How can I learn Spanish by myself?
There are tons of language learning tools available for those who want to learn Spanish by themselves. Many of them have already been discussed in this article. If you’re a self learner just make sure you’re using an immersion based approach and getting a healthy does of grammar and vocabulary.
Keep in mind though that if your end goal is to speak Spanish you will have to eventually practice speaking with other people.
Is Babbel or Duolingo better for learning Spanish?
When it comes to the Babbel versus Duolingo debate I tend to opt for Duolingo because it’s free (mostly). Both apps follow a similar method. They teach you basic grammar rules and vocabulary through translation exercises and then quiz you on what you know.
Neither is my first pick for Spanish learning due to the fact that both Babbel and Duolingo follow a translation first approach. It’s also important to note that these two apps do little to prepare you for Spanish speaking.
Is Babbel or Rosetta Stone better for learning Spanish?
Rosetta Stone on the other hand follows a completely different approach. With Rosetta Stone you learn a new language entirely through pictures and audio. There are no grammar lessons or explanations in Rosetta Stone. The idea here is by learning through pictures you pick up the language in the same way that native speakers learned Spanish when they were children.
By using only pictures you cut out the translation step and immerse yourself in the language. While this method sounds good on the surface it stops being practical the moment you start learning intermediate Spanish. You’re not likely to pick up difficult concepts like verb tenses or the difference between ser and estar by using only pictures. Sooner or later you will need an explanation for how Spanish grammar differs from English.
Is Duolingo good for Spanish?
Duolingo Spanish is good if you want a quick or novel way to learn or practice basic words and grammar. Even if you work through their entire Spanish course, you won’t be fluent if your only Spanish learning tool is Duolingo. There’s very little pressure in Duolingo to produce your own phrases in Spanish. Which means that if you want to speak Spanish you’ll still have a long way to go after working with this app.
Duolingo also isn’t the best way to practice listening comprehension. While there are some listening exercises in each lesson, they are short and pretty easy to guess. These exercises to little to prepare you to understand fast spanish speech.
All that being said, Duolingo is still a nice way to learn the basics, and it will also help you learn to read and write in Spanish.
Am I too old to learn Spanish?
If you’re alive and breathing then you aren’t too old to learn Spanish. It’s true that small children have some language learning advantages that adults don’t. Small kids don’t have much to worry about in their day to day lives so their minds are a lot freer to learn a language.
Kids also aren’t afraid to learn mistakes and the people around them are constantly speaking with them at their level of understanding and giving positive feedback.
But adults also have some advantages that the younger Spanish learner doesn’t. Adults learning Spanish as a second language have at least one language (their native language) already under their belt. Adults also have more information about the world around them and will have an easier time understanding situational conversations.
So don’t worry if you feel like you’re past your prime when it comes to language learning. The most important parts of learning Spanish are consistency and enjoying the language for its own sake. Cover those two bases and you’ll be speaking Spanish before you know it!