Are you interested in studying a foreign language? Find out the 5 best resources, apps & software to help get you started!

There are so many language learning materials available on the internet that it can sometimes seem overwhelming. Where do you start?

I think it’s important to streamline your learning so these are the 5 resources I am currently using to study Spanish – you can apply them to learning any language.

Some of these sources are free, some you need to purchase. I will list the prices & free alternatives to each one.

So are these the absolute best ways to learn a language? I don’t know but they work for me now & they’ve worked for me in the past when I was studying Chinese & French.

The key is to find methods that work for you.

Buena suerte! Good luck!

Me studying at San Pedro Spanish School

Taking the plunge & learning a foreign language? Buena Suerte! Good luck!

#1. Language School

You can take classes at a language school or with a private tutor.

Lessons are flexible in duration, time & location and they can be in groups or one-on-one.

Blackboard classroom at San Pedro Spanish School

Don’t be shy to go back to school to learn a new language!

Pros:

  • Forced into learning

If you’ve paid for classes, you’re more likely to be committed to learning a language. You’re likely to complete your homework each night, want to impress your teacher & keep up with your classmates.

  • Learn practical things you need to know

Language classes can be personalized to your needs, especially one-on-one tuition. A good teacher knows what you want & need to learn, based on your level & interests.

  • Real-life speaking practice

Grammar & vocabulary is important but having the confidence to speak is essential. Language classes give you the opportunity to speak, without fear, in a supportive environment. A good teacher will have patience & speak clearly, correcting your mistakes when necessary.

Cons:

  • Cost of lessons

These days there are a lot of free language learning resources online so taking class is obviously more expensive.

  • Group classes not always beneficial

Group classes can either slow you down or feel too fast, because most of the time, not everyone is on the exact same level.

My Experience:

I was studying Spanish by myself for a long time before I took the plunge & signed up with a Spanish School.

I’m currently in Guatemala & this is one of the best countries in which to learn Spanish. One-on-one classes at Spanish schools start from Q30 ($4) an hour but you can find local teachers from Q25. The cost of living is also very cheap, so you can afford to study for longer.

My favourite aspect of taking classes if being able to clarify queries I have & being able to ask my teacher anything at all.

I’ve progressed a lot faster attending a Spanish school than I have learning on my own so for me this has been worth the investment, even for a short time.

 More Information:

Price: from Q30 / $4.00 per hour in a Spanish school in Guatemala (1-on-1 tuition)

* Free alternative: find a language exchange partner!

 Website: San Pedro Spanish School (my school in Guatemala)

San Pedro Spanish School

Nothing beats one-on-one lessons to learn a language fast!

#2. Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is a software program that uses text, images & sounds to teach grammar & words, without translation – a method it calls “Dynamic Immersion”.

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is the world’s #1 language-learning software

Pros:

  • Study at your own pace

You can study with Rosetta Stone at any time, without needing to leave your home or have an internet connect. Your studying sessions can be as little or as often as you like.

  • Full immersion

With Rosetta Stone, you practice speaking, listening, reading & writing. There’s a lot of repetition to help you consolidate new words & grammar. You can repeat exercises as often as you like.

Cons:

  • Cost

Rosetta Stone is an expensive software program to purchase.

  • No English translations

There are no English translation on Rosetta Stone so you have to make guesses & hope it becomes clearer later in context or go to other sources for clarification.

  • No verb conjugation

Rosetta Stone doesn’t teach verb conjugation, which is obviously very important in learning many languages, such as Spanish. Because it is a very visual program, you can make good guesses & learn patterns without knowing any of the grammar or structure. So you need to learn verb conjugation elsewhere to get the full benefit from Rosetta Stone.

 My Experience:

I love using Rosetta Stone, but that’s because I got it for free… if you have the money for it & are seriously about learning a language, I would recommend it.

Rosetta Stone has speaking, listening, writing & reading exercises so you become a well-rounded language learner. However it can’t replace interacting with real people so you still need to practice speaking in the real world.

The disadvantages to Rosetta Stone can also be seen as its advantages. For example, because you have paid a lot of money for the software, hopefully you will be more motivated to use it. And having no English translations offers you full immersion, which itself has its benefits.

More Information:

Price: different subscription levels available, a 12 month subscription costs $179.00

* Free alternative: find a way to download Rosetta Stone for free…

Website: Rosetta Stone 

Rosetta Stone software

#3. Duo lingo

Duolingo makes learning Spanish fun by gamifiation, such as point-scoring & competing with others.

Learn words & phrases by themes, unlock new levels & pass checkpoints before moving on to higher stages.

Duolingo

Duolingo lessons are short & practical, perfect for the beginner language learner!

 Pros:

  • Convenience

Duolingo is free, mobile & online. You can sometimes use it offline too, which offers great opportunities to practice when you’re travelling.

  • Relevance

Lessons are divided into themes so you can learn & practice a lot of relevant words & phrases. Duolingo also lets you hover over words for additional meanings & conjugations.

  • Easy & fun

Duolingo is easy & fun to use! It incorporates speaking, listening, reading & writing but each lesson is short – it makes you feel like you are progressing quickly, especially with the bright colours & sounds.

Cons:

  • Unreliable offline access

Duolingo is excellent for travellers, to be able to practice Spanish on long bus rides. However its offline service is hit or miss. At best you can do a few lessons before you need an internet connection to unlock more levels.

  • Casual learning only

If you’re serious about learning Spanish, you can’t just rely on Duolingo. Think of it more as a supplement to another to your language studies.

My Experience:

I love using Duolingo, especially as an offline app, but unfortunately this rarely works so that’s frustrating.

When I’m connected to the Internet I have other distractions so I don’t use it as often.

 More Information:

Price: free!

Website: Duolingo

Duolingo App

Duolingo is a fun & easy app to use to build your language skills!

#4. Spanish Dictionary Conjugator App

The verb conjugator/feature from Spanish Dictionary provides full Spanish conjugation for almost every Spanish verb.

You can conjugate verbs in tenses including preterite, imperfect, future, conditional, subjunctive, irregular & more.

Spanish Dictionary Verb Conjugator

Supplement your learning with the Spanish Verb Conjugator app

Pros:

  • Supplementary learning

Love it or hate it, conjugating verbs is absolutely essential in learning Spanish. Use the Spanish Dictionary conjugator to supplement other resources like Rosetta Stone & Duolingo that don’t teach verb conjugation.

  • Conjugate any verb

You can conjugate any verb, in any tense. The app asks you to conjugate verbs & submit your answers – it will then make corrections & give you a score.

  • Offline use

You an use the Spanish Dictionary conjugator app offline to practice, kill time or just to brush up on your verbs – whenever you have the time or need.

Cons:

  • Verb conjugation only

The Spanish Dictionary conjugator app only allows you to do just that. Spanish Dictionary has plenty of other learning resources but they have to be downloaded separately.

 My experience:

Once I reached the intermediate level on Rosetta Stone, it started to get into past & future tenses. I needed something else to help me with this since Rosetta Stone doesn’t – that’s when I discovered the Conjugation app from Spanish Dictionary.

While Spanish Dictionary has other resources like translation, flash cards & grammar, I use them solely for conjugation to supplement what I’m learning in classes, Rosetta Stone & Duolingo.

 More Information:

Price: free!

Website: Spanish Dictionary

Spanish verb conjugator

Study verb conjugations online or with the app from Spanish Dictionary

#5. Free Language Podcast

Free Language Podcasts feature a short dialogue, which is then gradually broken down & translated into English.

The topics are useful, interesting & up-to-date.

The presenters are charming, easy to understand & the lessons take on a light-hearted tone.

Free Language podcasts

Listen to podcasts with Free Language!

Pros:

  • Flexible & convenient

Once you subscribe, you can download any podcasts to your mobile & listen to them anywhere, anytime.

  • Supplementary material

You receive a broad variety of other resources with each podcast – these include PDFs with dialogues and translations, vocabulary lists, games, videos & review exercises.

Cons:

  • Different subscription levels

Limited access to Free Language Podcasts are free but to access their full library of resources, you need to buy a subscription: Basic, Premium or Premium+

 My Experience:

When I first started learning Spanish, I listened to SpanishPod101 from Free Language Podcast all the time – at home, in the car, on the bus, walking to work, etc. I did this with new & old lessons. Repetition can help you to progress rapidly – combine Spanish music, Spanish movies & telenovelas with Spanish podcasts for full immersion! I don’t listed to SpanishPod101 as much now that I’m travelling around Central America but I still highly recommend it.

 More Information:

Price: Free, Basic, Premium & Premium+ subscriptions available. A Basic subscription costs $8.00 a month or $96.00 per year.

* Free alternative: if you’re not satisfied with the Free subscription at Free Language Podcast, try to find another service

 Website: Free Language Podcast

SpanishPod101

Learn Spanish with SpanishPod101!

Honourable Mention

  • Conversational practice

Immersing yourself in a foreign language is easy when you’re travelling in its native country: you have opportunities to interact with local people everyday.

When you return home, it’s easy to continue studying but you have less chances to practice speaking.

So consider joining a Language Meet-Up group in your home city, finding a language exchange partner or other ways to continue speaking Spanish!

Meet-up language group

Join a Meet-up group for conversational practice!

*** The Final Word – If you’re serious about learning a foreign language, with a lot of self-motivation, these top 5 methods can take you very far! ***

Do you have any other recommendations for learning a foreign language?

Feature image courtesy of Supermarket.Webs