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Spanish Resources

Español Automatico
Price: Freemium, Courses cost between $23 -$347
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Español Automático supports Spanish learners to dive into real-world Spanish. Their content seems well organized and high-quality, despite some of the courses being quite an investment. They have a free podcast with purchasable transcripts in addition to some online courses. As all of the content is entirely in Spanish and at a relatively natural speed, it is most suitable for intermediate or advanced learners. Nevertheless, the hard-core beginner may benefit from it as well.

The podcast covers various topics, such as grammatical nuances and tips to advance your learning. The creators might explain (in Spanish) the difference between ‘the four porqués’, or they might help you overcome your fear of making mistakes. You can get the transcripts for a small donation on Patreon, but you are encouraged to listen to their videos and podcasts without a transcript in order to increase your listening comprehension.

Español Automático has a couple of courses — in particular, Piensa y Habla en Español seems quite promising. Each unit comes with a text accompanied by an audio narration, plus vocabulary explanations, challenges, and comprehension questions. Similar to Oscar’s Point of View lessons in Unlimited Spanish, the narrators in Español Automático will summarize the text in various verb tenses in order to help these tenses become more intuitive. You can test out the first unit on their website to see more about this course.

Caption Pop
Price: Free, Premium subscriptions start at $10/mo
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With CaptionPop you can use YouTube videos to pursue your language learning endeavours using subtitles in both your target language and native language. Tap a single key to repeat the last caption, slow down the playback speed, and bookmark subtitles to study with SRS interactive flashcards. The flashcards will not just have you memorize words, but practice dictations with immediate feedback on your accuracy. Unfortunately there are currently some bugs in the programming, and you may only hear part of the caption you are being asked to transcribe.

You can search for Youtube videos in your target language within the CaptionPop platform, but only those videos with subtitles in both your target language and your native language are available. This means that you will rely on captions translated and transcribed by the video’s creators, which improves your language learning experience but restricts the amount of available Youtube content. Nevertheless, there is a good amount of content from popular channels in more common languages.

The free version of the platform combined with self-made Anki cards may be a better option than subscribing to the premium version, as the bugs in CaptionPop’s programming may not be worth the monthly payment.

Butterfly Spanish
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Butterfly Spanish is free, but it relies on donations to keep the channel running. Ana, the founder, has a dynamic personality that inspires enthusiasm to learn. She covers topics for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students (although the videos seem most suitable for beginners), supporting you to build vocabulary, understand grammar, and improve pronunciation. Ana’s goal is to teach you the Spanish that native speakers use every day, not the textbook-style conversations you find in class.

Unfortunately, Ana does use a lot of English in her lessons, but this shouldn’t dissuade the immersive learner from checking out her channel. Ana will ensure that you fully understand the topic she presents — she provides lots of examples to reinforce what she teaches and uses a giant whiteboard to keep all the information in one place. If you have a topic in mind (such as how to use the verb ‘dejar’ or ‘me gusta’), check out her channel to see if she can help — there are over 100 videos available, with more on the way.

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Cooljugator is a free online verb conjugation dictionary for over 40 languages, with special attention to languages without existing free resources. Besides conjugated forms, the website also provides examples, English translations, pronunciation hints, related verbs, and more. On each page, you can also read the translation for your chosen verb into every other language available on the site. Unfortunately, there are no audio files to help you with pronunciation, but maybe that will change in the future.

You can directly search for conjugations, or if you’re looking for inspiration, every language has a list of the most common verbs to choose from. On that same page, you can read some facts and a brief overview of what verb conjugation looks like in your chosen language.

Although Cooljugator is 100% free, you can purchase the creator’s other project, Interlinear Books, to learn languages through stories.

If you would like to practice verb conjugations for some common languages, check out Conjuguemos, another free resource with verb conjugation games. Also, SpanishDict is probably more appropriate for Spanish learners because of the extensive resources and activities that accompany their sections on verb conjugation. 

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iTranslate is a dictionary, thesaurus, and phrasebook. At first glance, it seems similar to Google Translate’s free app, but a couple of extra paid features make a big difference.

Like with Google Translate, you can take pictures of text in your surroundings, such as signs or newspapers, and receive instant translations into your native language. It differs in that you can also take pictures of objects in your surroundings and receive translations into your target language (although it’s not clear what the boundaries are on this function).

Two people who don’t speak the same language can use iTranslate Converse as a mediator between them, translating each sentence to create a transcript on their phone (with a slight delay). You can also use the iTranslate Keyboard in any texting app to receive instant translations.

To get the most out of your subscription, iTranslate includes five different apps that can support language learning and communication through text, voice, and games. Although iTranslate translates into over 100 languages, check the website to verify which languages are supported in the other apps.

iTranslate seems suitable for traveling and communication in different languages. If all you need is a dictionary to support your studies, try WordReference and Linguee, or Pleco for Chinese and SpanishDict for Spanish.

Mi Vida Loca
Price: Free
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Mi Vida Loca is an exciting 2009 BBC video course set in Spain. It takes you through 22 interactive 10-minute episodes, with everything filmed from a first-person point of view — this makes you, the viewer, a character in the mystery.

Unlike the video course Destinos, which is almost a Spanish immersion experience, Mi Vida Loca includes a human phrasebook that will interrupt to ask you questions in English and introduce keywords. Absolute beginners should feel a little more comfortable speaking Spanish if they actively participate in this series. Additionally, if you are about to go on a trip to a Spanish-Speaking country, these videos would help you to pick up basic phrases.

The videos on the BBC site have been archived and are no longer updated, so if you have trouble accessing them, there are several uploads on YouTube. You can combine the syllabus and printouts from the BBC website with the videos you find elsewhere. Unfortunately, the printouts don’t include recall activities, but they provide an overview of key vocabulary and grammar points. To retain more of the information, practice the vocabulary words and grammar through activities or flashcards on SpanishDict.

If you want a semi-vintage but comprehensive free Spanish course experience, try Mi Vida Loca, then dive into Destinos.

Price: Subscriptions start at $14.95/mo
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Pimsleur is one of the most popular and longest-standing resources out there for learning a foreign language. Its courses place a strong emphasis on aural and verbal communication skills, paying less attention to grammar explanations and reading or writing skills. There are over 50 language courses available with Pimsleur, and the bulk of the material is taught with audio lessons.

Price: Free
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YouGlish is a website that has indexed millions of video clips to put words in context for language learners. After searching for a word in your target language, you will see a YouTube video with subtitles and your target word highlighted in yellow. When you have heard the word, you can continue listening to the video or move on to the next example. You can also slow down the speed of the audio, click on a sentence in the transcript to replay it, or skip backwards 5 seconds to listen again. Sometimes you can watch over 1000 videos with your target word, other times there may only be a couple dozen available.

Some languages also allow you to choose between different regional dialects, such as: French from Canada or France; Chinese from Taiwan or China; and Spanish from Spain or Latin America.

You will need to search for the word in your target language, so you can check out WordReference or Linguee to get a translation. Forvo also provides audio clips of native speaker pronunciation, but with YouGlish, you can practice listening to these words in context.

If you want help with reading the subtitles, you can download Readlang for on-screen translations. The Zhongwen Chrome extension will be better for Chinese learners, as it provides the pronunciation of each character as well as a definition.

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Duolingo is a super popular free language-learning app. It’s available for desktop as well as mobile and offers over 90 different language courses in over 20 different languages — there are currently 35 languages with English instruction. The Duolingo approach is gamified and easy to use, but the bite-sized lessons don’t offer much in the way of in-depth practice. The Duolingo tag line is “Learn a language in just five minutes a day.”

Olly Richards Short Stories
Price: Kindle books start at $6.55
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Olly Richards, the creator of I Will Teach You A Language, has written a series of short stories for high-beginners to improve their reading skills in several languages. He also has a 101 Conversations series, but this review focuses on his Short Stories.

Most of the languages use the most common words in your target language, with natural phrases that you would overhear locals using while conversing amongst each other. In every language, the plot follows the same characters and adventures, with some adjustments for cultural differences.

The intro to each book provides a practical overview of how to maximize your learning. At the end of each chapter, you will see a summary of the plot, a vocabulary list of new words (that are also bolded in the stories), and comprehension questions. The comprehension questions are simple, allowing you to find the responses directly in the text.

Overall, the Kindle version of Olly’s short stories seems worth the investment for upper beginners to improve their language abilities. If you’re learning Chinese, check out the Mandarin Companion series. Also, A1 – A2 Spanish learners can enjoy several short novels in the ESLC and Read It! series.