StudySpanish.com is a resource that lots of Spanish learners come across, in large part, because they offer a ton of free materials – much of which is quite good.
However, they also offer a paid membership subscription and a premium audio course, called Camino del Éxito. These aren’t cheap, with the membership costing $9.99 per month and the course costing $199 for all three levels, or $99.99 each when purchased separately.
I’d strongly advise people not to spend money on either of these products.
The course is a near exact carbon copy of the FSI Spanish Basic Course that’s available for free to anyone online. As far as the membership goes, the material that’s included is simply not very good.
The only benefit to using StudySpanish instead of the FSI course is that the audio has been rerecorded, the formatting might be a little bit better, and there are a few more sections that have been recorded where there isn’t audio for the FSI course.
I’m sure, for a few students, these benefits would make the course worthwhile to purchase. But, I suspect nearly everyone who purchases this course has no idea that the same thing is available for free.
Most people would be much better off using either the free FSI course or any number of other online Spanish courses – some of which are great. For example, with Baselang, you could take as many online Spanish classes as you can handle in one month for less than the cost of StudySpanish’s course.
For this review, I purchased level 3 of the Camino del Éxito course, which came with a subscription to StudySpanish. I tried out the materials and simultaneously looked at the FSI course to see how similar they are and which differences are present.
Let’s take a closer look.
Although the FSI Spanish Basic Course was published in 1959, it actually holds up pretty well with how they teach Spanish. Albeit, it’s not the most exciting course, nor visually appealing, but it’ll work.
Camino del Éxito did make some slight improvements to the course but not enough to justify paying $200, in my opinion.
The audio in the original course has a bit of static, which makes sense considering its 60 years old and the text was typed with a typewriter instead of a computer. You can clearly feel the age of this course, but it really doesn’t take that much away from its usability.
The FSI course consists of longer audio files, around 30 minutes or so, and a very long PDF file. The StudySpanish version is chunked into smaller sections and put together a little nicer. So, you’ll be able to listen to a short audio clip and read that part of the lesson right next to it, instead of needing to find the page in the PDF (not that it’s much work to do so).
The lessons for both courses are nearly identical, with only tiny differences. To better demonstrate these similarities, and give a better idea of how these courses work, let’s look at lesson 41 together.
To start the lesson on Camino del Éxito, you’ll listen to a short dialogue, in this case, it’s about one minute long. You’re meant to listen and follow along with the transcript.
The FSI course doesn’t have the full dialog at the beginning, instead, it dives right into the second part.
The dialog is read again with pauses for you to repeat chunks throughout. It’s basically identical in both courses, though the formatting looks nicer in Camino del Éxito.
After that, you’ll listen to the dialogue, this time one line at a time. You’re meant to repeat after each line. Both courses are the exact same.
This section practices a grammar pattern. It’s not terribly exciting but is useful. Both courses are exactly the same, word for word.
Here you’ll practice the grammar by changing the sentence structure. The audio is identical, but the pdf of the FSI course is actually much clearer and easier to follow.
Pretty simply, the translation drills give you a sentence in English and you’re meant to translate it into Spanish. There seem to be some more example sentences in the FSI course compared to the Camino del Éxito course.
Afterward, the FSI course also has a written discussion of the grammar pattern which isn’t included in the Camino del Éxito audio course. StudySpanish does, however, have quite a few free grammar lessons.
The sentences in this section each come from the previous sentence. They’ll prompt you to change a word from that sentence and form a new sentence. This is one of the longer sections and both courses are identical.
In these drills, you’ll see a phrase used in a different context. The sentences are the same in both courses but the audio is a bit different in Camino del Éxito course. They’ve added in translations in English after each sentence, which is only shown in the written section of the FSI course.
You’re given a sentence in English and are meant to say it in Spanish. Like the previous section, this part includes English in Camino del Éxito but is only spoken in Spanish in the FSI course. Besides that, the sentences are the same.
Here, both courses are identical.
There are a few more sections to finish out the lesson that don’t have recorded audio in the FSI course (at least in the lessons I tried). The text is still the same, but StudySpanish.com added the audio for a few more sections.
This includes a couple of narratives and dialogues for further practice.
Finally, there’s a fairly long section for reading practice, which has audio only for Camino del Éxito but the text is the same for both courses.
Following that, there are some questions about the text, but no answers in either course.
The FSI course has a second reading selection with accompanying questions that aren’t included in Camino del Éxito.
The best parts of StudySpanish are available for free. You can find grammar explanations, verb drills, vocabulary practice, and more that don’t cost any money.
The Premium subscription only includes a few extras. These are…
- Full access to all quizzes and tests
- Longer vocabulary lessons
- Audio podcasts
- Record grades and monitor progress
None of these features provide enough value to justify paying for.
For free, you’ll have access to grammar explanations, a basic quiz, and a mini test. The subscription adds on three more quizzes, a second test, and then a final test.
These quizzes are, for the most part, pretty useful. But, the quizzes and tests included in the paid plan are essentially the same as those available for free users. You’re just getting more of the same.
I’m sure I’d get sick of the format before making it all the way through all of these tests and quizzes for each unit.
I personally see almost no value in these longer vocabulary lessons. They’re the exact same as the free lessons, but there are just more words included in each. The free vocabulary lessons aren’t particularly good either, and I wouldn’t recommend learning vocabulary in this manner.
In these lessons, you essentially learn vocabulary from word lists split into various themes, in isolation. It’d be a lot more useful to learn from within the context of a sentence by reading or listening to a lot of Spanish material, similar to what you’d find in an app like LingQ.
The free version of these lessons already includes quite a few words on each topic, but the words included in each plan don’t seem to follow any logical order. For example, the free vocabulary lessons for the human body includes words like shin, nipple, and calf while leaving nose, tongue, and hair to the premium lesson.
The lessons include two oral parts, two flashcard parts, two matching parts, a quiz, and a test. The two parts for the oral, flashcards, and matching sections are because one uses a speaker from Latin America and the other a speaker from Spain.
The oral section is pretty dumb. You basically hear each word and see in written in English and Spanish.
The flashcards aren’t any better, unfortunately. You’ll be given a word and hear it spoken in Spanish. On the front of the card is the word written in Spanish, or you can change it to an image, then you’ll flip the card over. If you want to use flashcards, an app like Memrise would be much better.
The next part is slightly more interesting, though still not very good. It’s a matching exercise where you match the English and Spanish words. These activities are fine enough for a free resource, but not at all worth paying money for.
The vocabulary quiz and test that follow are rather boring as well, consisting of multiple choice and written translations of individual words.
The audio podcasts are found in the grammar section but are only available for the first two units. So, in total there are 27 of these podcast lessons. I’ve found one as short as four minutes, and the longest one I saw lasted fifteen minutes.
They’re pretty decent but hardly worth paying for. You can find far superior podcasts for free from Coffee Break Spanish.
StudySpanish.com is a nice resource for Spanish learners with a lot of useful free materials such as their verb drills and grammar lessons.
But, for the vast majority of people, neither their premium membership subscription or their Camino del Éxito course is worth paying for.
Their audio course is a near exact replica of the FSI Spanish Basic Course. Some users may be willing to pay for the improved audio quality, but I’m sure most would have no interest if they knew the FSI course exists and is free to use.
In short, don’t bother unless you really like the course and recognize that you’re basically paying for better quality audio and not much else.