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Five Resources for Learning Spanish

Christina has studied Spanish for five years, including a year of IB Spanish SL.

I have been learning Spanish for five years, and I love every minute of it. It’s always intrigued me how history and culture gets interwoven into language and different dialects. It’s always fun to expand my vocabulary and grasp of grammar. In addition, expanding my Spanish speaking abilities has improved my English and enables me to communicate with more people. Unfortunately, outside of the classroom, I rarely have the opportunity to practice. Here’s a few of the resources I use to brush up and improve my Spanish skills.

Duolingo

This isn’t specifically for Spanish, but many different foreign languages. It’s still fairly new to me, but the vocabulary is a little more extensive than what I learn in the classroom. They split up the vocabulary by skills, like possessions or animals. Though I enjoy the exposure to new vocabulary, it annoys me that you have to do the skills in the order they have them. I don’t know all the vocab, but I understand a lot more grammar than I can access right now. It just gets repetitive when in each skill are simple sentences like La mujer bebe agua or El oso come pan when I’m passed that point. Another thing that bothers me is it encourages word-for-word translations. For example, the only accepted translation for “I write the letters” is Yo escribo las cartas, although the yo is not necessary because escribo already shows it’s in 1st person. There are many problems with only seeing word-for- word translations as correct. One, being there are many cases that the same sentences can be translated in different ways while still being correct. Two, that’s not how languages work. To learn a new language one must learn the rules of that language and how it’s formed and adapt to it, not translate word by word from their native language. That aside, this would be a great resource for beginners. My favorite things about Duolingo is it’s free and you can translate documents.

Barbara Nelson

This website has practice problems for basically everything. It has parts of speech, how and when to use different tenses, and sheets to practice common messed up words, like ser and estar. If you get it wrong, it explains why it’s wrong, as well. Also, it has activities that provide additional practice. These activities put all the sentences into a story, so you can practice using sentences you would use in a conversation. If there’s a specific skill you need to strengthen, this would be the perfect place to do so.

Netflix

There are quite a number of movies and shows available to watch in Spanish on Netflix. My favorite is Voltron: Legendary Defenders. Typically, I will watch the show with Spanish audio and English subtitles, or English audio and Spanish subtitles if Spanish audio is not available. From the shows I watch, I tend to grasp a better understanding of grammar; it’s easier to for me to comprehend a concept from seeing examples of it being used, compared to just having that concept described to me. The advantage of watching shows in Spanish compared to using websites or apps that teach beginners is you’re virtually thrown into the language. While it’s a little disorienting at first, the exposure will be significant and worth it. If you are watching Netflix on Chrome, you can download the Chrome extension Language Learning With Netflix to assist your language learning.

Beelingo

This mobile app, like Duolingo, is not Spanish specific, but it does provide audiobooks with the associated texts in both your selected target language and your primary language. While this app is great for learning Spanish one phrase at a time and provides a wide selection of children stories, there are many stories that require microtransactions to acquire. In addition to the audiobooks, Beelingo also provides news articles in Spanish; these don’t typically have English translations however.

Mango Languages

A great resource for beginners, Mango Languages is very similar to Duolingo in that there is one designated path to learn the language. Unlike Duolingo, there is a monthly subscription free of $19.99 after a two-week free trial. However, many public organizations, such as libraries, provide continual free access to Mango. In addition, there is an option in learning phrases to listen to a native speaker, record yourself saying the phrase, and compare the two recordings.

© 2018 Christina Garvis

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