Learning Spanish is a journey – it is definitely not a race, nor is it done solo! As part of my current Spanish learning ´viaje´ (journey) at Expanish Spanish School in Buenos Aires, Argentina , I have discovered a variety of tools that help make learning Spanish that little bit easier. Here are my top 10 useful tools to help you learn Spanish. And the great news is, almost all of them are free!
1) El diccionario – your dictionary a.k.a. your new best friend!! Don´t worry if you are particular about your friends – they come in so many variations. There is the petit “pocket” dictionary that perfectly slips into your purse or back pocket or the trusty Big Bertha kind that you will break your back carrying to school but has every word that was ever invented and vale la pena (it´s worth it)! Maybe you are more traditional and opt for the classic – not too big, not too small… but just right. But for those more tech savvy, there´s an app for that too! The one I love is Collins Pro Spanish-English Translation Dictionary. Or, if you are someone who thinks books are objects of the dark ages, online dictionary Word Reference is very popular in the Expanish office!
2) Flashcards – Yes the same tool you used to memorize your times tables when you were 8, will come in handy memorizing and expanding your new Spanish vocabulary. You can make your own, buy pre-made cards like Spanish Grammar SparkNotes Study Cards $10, download Flashcard Touch app for your phone or simply visit the website www.flashcardexchange.com, which lets you print out flashcards from an existing database. The wonders of technology!
3) El Diario (the newspaper) – not only will you learn about current events, but will increase your vocabulary so you can join in the discussion or debates with local porteños. Visit sites like www.lanacion.com to get your up-to-date news online, celebrity gossip or just to check out your daily horoscope!
4) Change your facebook or computer settings to Spanish! – Yes this may be a little daring, but you know what “me gusta” o “comentar” means. You probably don´t even read the words anymore after spending countless hours online! Give it a shot! (But I would remember how to undo if necessary!)
5) New words every day – Open up your inbox everyday to a new word! Sign up at spanish-word-a-day.com to receive daily emails with Spanish words, phrases, and sayings. This has to be one of the easiest ways to get vocabulary delivered to you!
6) Watch movies with the Spanish subtitles on! – You´ll be amazed at how quickly you will learn new expressions that do not directly translate. Remember to have a pen and paper close by! (Note, Expanish hosts free weekly Spanish Cinema Club where you can watch Spanish language films, with Spanish subtitles and then discuss the film in Spanish afterwards.)
7) Google Translate – TGFG or thank goodness for Google! They never seem to let us down in our search for more information, including www.translate.google.com. I mean what can Google not do?! Although Google translate is improving all the time, its definitely not fool proof… but is a great tool when used in moderation!
8) Online Verb Conjugator – conjugations have your mind muddled?! Have no fear – there is a website that can help! www.123teachme.com/spanish_verb_conjugation Type in any verb for a full conjugation chart. No longer will irregular verbs like poner, traer, or saber haunt you!
9) Intercambios – The best way to advance is by putting it to the test and interacting with native speakers. Whether you are living in a homestay, make friends in a bar, or sign up for a conversation exchange, the best tool is practicing. You can sign up a Spanish penpal, talk through skype, or meet someone in your own city. The more you put yourself out there, the better return you will receive.
10) Spanish Jargon Checker – Still trying to decipher the different expressions between Mexico, Spain, and Argentina? Well www.jergasdehablahispana.org/ can help! You choose the country and then research the word´s meaning. Spanish is always evolving and each country has it´s own jargon, but now you can understand too!