I’d like to talk about a topic I’m often asked about, the “best way to learn Spanish”, or, as I often hear it, “So what do you think of Rosetta Stone?” So let’s take a look at the top five best ways to learn Spanish – and you might be surprised, but Confidence Learning Services isn’t number one!
#5 – The Best Way to Learn Spanish? Free apps and online resources aren’t bad.
Many websites dedicated to the study of Spanish have emerged in the past few years, and the best part about using these sites is that they provide mucha instrucción for nada. These sites offer a dynamic learning environment, and they can be especially effective for people who already enjoy learning new things online, or playing online games like Candy Crush. A few popular online resources are:
- Busuu.com: The actual instructional materials on Busuu aren’t all that impressive. However, it has a feature that allows you to chat with native speakers of your target language, making it an exceptionally effective practice opportunity that otherwise might cost you a lot.
- Duolingo.com: Duolingo is a social learning platform that emphasizes co-learning and motivates students with badges, points and awards for completing milestones. The platform is free, and the app is especially loved by my clients.
- Livemocha.com: Livemocha takes a unique approach to learning languages, in which you can exchange help teaching others English, for help learning Spanish.
- Local library resources – most libraries have access to some type of language learning software. The quality varies greatly by library, with larger cities offering better programs like Transparent Language or Rosetta Stone, and smaller cities offering programs with less features like Mango or PowerSpeak, which is available in Knoxville. Contact your library to see what online resource you have access to from your home via your library card.
Of course, these resources are often limited in scope, and aren’t very helpful past a beginner stage.
#4 The Best Way to Learn Spanish: “Repita Después De Mi” Audio CDs
Could that old-school, Audio CD (or MP3 in this day and age) really work? Will you be speaking Spanish in just the amount of time it takes to drive from home to work every day? There are pros and cons.
- Cost effective, most available for less than $40 from websites like Amazon, which can then be resold when you have finished the course. Many local libraries, like the Knoxville Public Library, offer these programs for rent.
- Time effective. The average American commute time is 25 minutes, about the length of many of these audio lessons.
- Great for pronunciation, not for reading and writing. Audio CDs don’t focus on literacy, (unless you’re getting a textbook/CD combo) which can have pros and cons. Many English learners of Spanish get distracted by the alphabet, which looks the same as the English alphabet, but isn’t. Removing that distraction can do wonders for your pronunciation and listening skills, but won’t help you read or write.
- Quality counts. Some programs do a great job contextualizing useful information, others are mere vocabulary lists. Stick to trusted brands like Pimsleur and Berlitz.
Your investment is important as well. I consider these programs a very effective use of commute time, and have used them in the past to study another language. However, you have to be able to pay attention, and speak aloud, so they’re not ideal for the subway, and unless your carpool buddies are fellow students, you might want to save it for home. But then, if you’re at home already, why not use….
#3 So, is Rosetta Stone the best way to learn Spanish?
Rosetta Stone, and other online language programs, can be an effective way to learn.
These programs (either software installed on your computer or hosted online and accessed via subscription) boast Interactivity, large peer communities, and relatively low cost – but you still want to pay attention to the price tag. These programs usually offer:
- Interactive Lessons: Interactivity increases engagement with the lesson and keeps students interested in the process. Some programs incorporate games, puzzles and stories. However, as we all know, there is a limit to a computer’s interactivity.
- Self-Paced Learning: Lessons can be stopped, paused and repeated until you are comfortable.
- Support Communities: Many programs have support communities accessible, which boosts the interactivity of the program, but still doesn’t have face time with a native speaker.
- Mobile Apps: Many software programs are also available on mobile and smartphones as dedicated apps, which is convenient, but again has limitations.
#2 The Best Way to Learn Spanish: Personal Lessons
I promised we wouldn’t be #1! It’s important to recognize the value of interpersonal interaction, which none of the previous methods offer. Private lessons from an actual native speakers ensures that you not only understand the rules governing the language, but also the many inflections and variations present in it.
Personal lessons are often a more expensive way to learn Spanish, although it can be comparable to some of the more costly software programs. It is definitely one of the most effective methods. Advantages include:
- One-to-one Interaction: Having a coach who can correct mistakes, improve pronunciation and relate cultural contexts is crucial to complete mastery of a language.
- Group Interaction: Group lessons are particularly beneficial as you can learn from others who will more or less share your proficiency. Interacting within the group will help you practice Spanish in a ‘living’ environment. The peer group can also be a great source of motivation and competition.
- Immediate Feedback: Mistakes are pointed out immediately in a private lesson, and questions can be answered to your satisfaction, something that also isn’t available in many software programs. Feedback is especially important for learning pronunciation and intricate grammar rules.
Personal lessons can cost anywhere from $20 to $125+ per hour depending on the location and expertise offered. Be careful about the quality of service you can expect. Hiring a tutor, who essentially expects to help you review Spanish homework and go over vocabulary lists, can be very different from hiring a language professional with experience planning individualized curriculum and courses for students that feature various interactive opportunities, like Confidence Learning Services Provides. You should look for an instructor that will listen to your goals, design a course to help you achieve them, and get you interacting with other speakers in the community.
Group lessons are a cheaper, but equally effective alternative to individual lessons that still provide that great human interaction.
#1 – The best way to learn Spanish: Get out of Knoxville
No offense to Knoxville of course, but the best way to learn Spanish is to go live in a Spanish speaking environment. Spend a few months in Monterrey, Mexico, or a summer in Barcelona. There you can volunteer in Spanish, take a photography course in Spanish, attend worship services, doctor’s appointments, social events, all in Spanish. Grocery shopping, searching for a new apartment, or getting on the subway are suddenly all learning opportunities.
You can be sure with an immersion experience that you won’t miss out anything. Every topic is covered and more. You’ll also get great cultural experience.
- Consider your destination carefully. The largest Spanish speaking country is Mexico, not Spain, and you are much more likely to encounter Mexican speakers when you get back to Knoxville than you are to encounter speakers from Spain. Each country has its nuances, but in general, Latin American Spanish will serve you well and often offers more cost effective opportunities. Unless you have a specific reason to study in Madrid, consider whether or not a few months in Costa Rica would be more effective.
- Plan before you go. Spending a few months preparing with methods 1-4 will drastically improve your actual immersion experience.
- Alternatives to foreign travel do exist: Consider spending time in Miami, Los Angeles, or San Antonio, where you can do all of the activities mentioned above in Spanish as well. Or visit Puerto Rico, no passport required. In addition to the activities of foreign travel, these locations require no visa, and a few months working and living in a Spanish speaking environment will do wonders for you even in the US.
Ready to get started? Contact Confidence Learning Services today and we’ll set you up with a free 20 minute consultation to help you consider your language learning options. There’s no obligation to pay for our services if you choose something else. Call us today. 1-865-226-9477