Top 5 Ways to Learn a Language: Pros & Cons

5 Best Ways to Learn Spanish for Travel: Pros & Cons

In Tips & Tricks by Sheena16 Comments

Do you want to learn a foreign language? Find out the 5 best ways to learn Spanish for travel including resources, apps & software to help get you started!

Best Ways to Learn Spanish

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

Here at DIY Travel HQ 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 top methods to become fluent in Spanish or any new 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!

* If you want to learn Spanish for travel to Latin America I recommend getting started with a Spanish phrasebook.

Me studying at San Pedro Spanish School

Taking the plunge & learning Spanish for travel? 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.

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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.

For many travelers in Latin America, top of the list of practical things to know is how to say ‘Cheers’ in Spanish!

  • 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 one of the more expensive ways to learn Spanish or a new language.

  • 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 traveling in Guatemala & this is one of the best countries in which to learn Spanish.

One-on-one classes at Spanish schools in Guatemala start from Q30 / $4.00 an hour but you can find local teachers from Q25 / $3.45. 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 school than I have learning Spanish for travel on my own so for me this has been worth the investment, even for a short time.

* Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before any trip to abroad. I’ve been using World Nomads for over 10 years. It’s the best-value provider we’ve found but there are other important things to consider. Check out my post and find out which of our claims were successful or denied.

 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.

It’s all done 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. Duolingo

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.

It’s definitely one of the best apps to learn Spanish for free.

Duolingo

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

 Pros:

  •  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.

  • Convenience

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

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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. You can use it to learn Spanish or any language for free but think of it more as a supplement.

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 and it’s one of the top free apps to learn Spanish.

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

Free Language podcasts

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 as a great way to study Spanish.

 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

SpanishPod101 is one of the most effective ways to learn Spanish

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!

Did you enjoy reading our list of ways to study Spanish?!

Pin it and help others find it too!

Colourful Central America fabrics

*** The Final Word – With some self-motivation, these methods of learning Spanish or any new language can take you very far! ***

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

Feature image courtesy of Supermarket.Webs

 

Comments

  1. I use an app call Memrise. It’s pretty useful. But the best way is by being among the speakers themselves. Tried and tested 😉

  2. i’m learning Spanish right now too, but at an extremely slow pace since I spend most of my time writing and emailing and skyping in English for my marketing projects, and then teaching English. Outside of that I can’t afford the $25/hour prices for good classes (in Spain) so I am at the point where online programs are the only option. I agree with your pros and cons. Though I would say with Rosetta, not having any translations is definitely a Pro not a con. The point is to immerse and learn. Howeve,r it’s better for those who really want to do a long term journey in a language and learn ALL of it not just conversation. It’ s not good for a quick intensive learning program before travel for instance.

    I like your verb conjugation tool-will use it I’m sure! 🙂

    1. Author

      Are you using Rosetta Stone too? I do see the benefits of not having any translations & I can often guess the context but I like having the certainty! I agree, it takes a long time to move through but I like that you can study it at your own pace. Thanks for the feedback, buena suerte! 🙂

  3. I learned German through Duolingo. I think it’s great for quickly picking up basics, phrases, and reading skills. But yeah, it doesn’t have offline access, which isn’t great! It does make learning super fun, though.

    1. Author

      Yeah I love Duo lingo too – I used to be able to use it offline, or at least have access to a few levels. I don’t know what’s happened to that, now I use it a lot less. Good luck with the German!

  4. As someone who has tried to learn several different language with varying success, I can certainly attest to the honesty of this post, particularly in reference to Language Schools. It is a sad fact that many of these just aren’t up to standard and are quite content to accept students’ money without giving much in return. Just one thing to add however, I was actually able to get a lot of benefit out of simple Youtube videos. These obviously vary in quality but before my first in-person Spanish class, they did equip me with a few words of vocabulary and consequently, the confidence to try and converse in those initial stages

    1. Author

      I’ve never thought of learning a language through Youtube, I’ll try it, thanks! It makes sense as videos should really help with speaking, listening & pronunciation. Cheers!

  5. Wow, great comprehensive list! I studied Spanish and French in school which I hardly remember now. Korean for fun so I still remember how to say a few basic lines and now learning German out of necessity! Haha! I believe that to really learn a specific language, you must first have the interest or a real motivation. Otherwise, it will be hard to get in your head. 🙂

    I suggest Memrise and iTalki, too! Cheaper than going to language classes and a private tutor! Most are effective and qualified teachers,too!

    1. Author

      Wow, that’s a lot of languages up your sleeve, impressive! I completely agree that motivation is the key & making it a priority in your life will determine how far you go. I use Memrise for Chinese but I’ve not heard of iTalki – will check it out, thanks!

  6. I would love to learn a second language but it just seems so daunting. Lots of great info here to look into.

  7. Very useful information indeed. Particularly when you travel to places where your native language or English is not spoken, it gets really difficult to communicate. I would love to apply some of these tips to learn a second language quickly in order to be able to use it while I travel

  8. These are some great pointers on learning a new language. But I agree with you that this needs to be adapted to ones’ personal preferences and style. But the best way is to start communicating with the locals.

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