Trying to learn a different language is
one of the most humbling experience of my life. I have always wanted to speak, and think, in another language, and struggled mightily with Chinese when I lived there. Studies have shown that speaking multiple languages not only gives one many advantages in life but even makes you smarter. In fact it even guards against Dementia and Alzhemiers. But for me, I simply love the romantic idea of having entirely different vocabulary and imagery with which to view the world.
To tell the truth when I was young I was always under the impression that Spanish might be an easy language because of how many words appear similar to English. Or course, that was before I met Spanish verb conjugations, or realized just how difficult those similarities would make remembering the correct Spanish pronunciation for me.
Regardless, I have vowed to one day think in Spanish and I continue to make daily, if achingly slow progress. As they say: nothing worth doing is ever easy. I have found that taking time out my day to study for a bit can be very therapeutic and relaxing.
I have also found that learning a language has been extremely helpful in my teaching. Not just in the obvious parallel of teaching ESL, but also in remembering what it’s like to be a student who knows absolutely nothing. I have explored a number of different learning approaches and tried tons of resources all in a quest to find something that would work.
Below are a list of resources I have found helpful in studying. I am always looking for more suggestions so please leave a comment if you have one.
Best Apps – I have so wanted to believe that the magic app is out there and if only I could find it then suddenly I would speak Spanish! Sadly that has not been the case.
Brainscape – This flashcard app is heads and shoulders above all the others. The app not only has a great selection of subject flashcards and even allows you to make your own, but most importantly you are able to rate them based upon how well you know the material. Then they will be repeated at intervals based on your rating. The app operates under the premise that it’s most efficient to be reminded of a concept right before you are about to forget it.
Sadly, there is no Android app so I have not been able to use them in my classroom–where most of my students have the cheaper smartphones. The other major negative is that it uses Latin American Spanish rather than the Castellano that is used in Madrid.
Spanish Class – This is a great app for practicing grammar on the go. It’s got other stuff too, but it doesn’t do those as well as other sources
Conjuverb – The
Best Podcasts – Podcasts have been invaluable in allowing me to practice listening to the sounds
Coffee Break Spanish – Despite the Scottish accents, I found this site to be the most helpful in really hearing the
Notes in Spanish – Ben & Marina are a super cute couple who are going to train you to practice so that you are ready for real intercambio conversations. It’s very enjoyable to listen to their banter. This is really an intermediate resource, not a beginner’s.
StudySpanish.com – Good introductory lessons with online exercises
Spanish Dictionary – I do enjoy getting the world of the day.
AboutSpanish.com – Great grammar explanations
BBC Spanish pages – Lots of videos, lessons, and exercises
My Favorite Journalism Sites
Muy Interesante – A great magazine that is what it claims to be.
El Pais – The Spanish newspaper of record
News in Slow Spanish – A brilliant idea and a show that is extremely helpful for me for following the week’s current events and learning new vocabulary in context. The only drawback, for me at least, is that I find the hosts efforts to overact sometimes distracting.
Destinos – “Travel the world with lawyer Raquel Rodríguez as she solves a mystery for a dying man.” This classic 1980’s introductory Spanish series designed for University students isn’t quite as good as a proper Tele-novela, but it’s online, free, and includes resources.