The internet has made it possible to access a wealth of Spanish learning resources online. There are websites, podcasts, games, revision tools, vocabulary collections and much more, all with the purpose of helping you to learn Spanish quickly and easily. I have written this article as a basic guide to help you bring all these excellent resources together into an organized structure for your Spanish learning.
Building your Spanish Vocabulary
There are a great many different ways to learn and expand Spanish vocab on the internet. If you search for Spanish vocabulary on Google for example you will come up with millions of search results. It is however important to use these as efficiently as possible and starting with the very basics (eg numbers, colors etc.) is a good place to start. When you come across long lists of the vocab you want to learn remember that it is simply not enough to read through them once and move on – the new words will just leave your brain as quickly as they came in and you will not learn.
I would highly recommend finding a site with Spanish flashcard collections which you can use to practice and come back to. There are also sites allowing you to input vocab into your own flashcards – this is useful to help master the vocab you collect while reading and also those long lists you come across on many Spanish vocab sites online.
Furthermore there are other useful tools available such as interactive mini quizzes and games – Real Spanish and Spanish Dict are excellent sites for these sorts of tools. The problem with these is that often you don't have control over the words you are actually practicing but Rocket Spanish offers its MegaVocab software which solves this issue.
Once you have a basic knowledge of Spanish vocabulary it is important to build on this by reading, reading, reading. There is so much interesting content to read such as newspapers, magazines (online and paper), blogs, short stories, novels, non-fiction etc. – in my opinion it is best to read anything you enjoy, this will keep you interested and give you the vocab around the topics you are most likely to talk about. I'd also recommend building up slowly because there is nothing more disconcerting than reading Spanish material which you find very difficult to understand at all.
Don't Ignore the Grammar
Learning Spanish grammar is also extremely important and you can't avoid learning all these new rules or anomalies that come with any new language. As with practicing Spanish vocab, Spanish grammar requires a lot of practice and will improve more quickly if you are using a variety of media. Don't jump in at the deep end but build your knowledge from the bottom starting with the most simple sentence structures – just as a young child would learn English. Again sites like Study Spanish offer good mini quizzes but it also helps to be writing and taking note of different tenses in the reading you should be doing.
I believe by writing using different tenses and Spanish sentence structures you gain a far better working understanding of Spanish grammar than by simply conjugating into a known tense – if your aim is to reach written fluency it is absolutely essential to be writing on a consistent basis. In the same way by speaking more your grammar will improve very quickly and in time your speaking will also improve as a result.
It is also useful to keep refreshing your knowledge of all the different rules you have learnt until they become second nature. I kept all my worksheets (which were available online) which helped me to keep my learning structured and ensured I did not neglect any certain areas. Don't avoid the difficult stuff (like the subjunctive for instance) but stick at it and eventually you'll get there-there are also good grammar guides which provide a good learning structure and practice exercises.
Developing your Listening Skills
Listening to Spanish is another important part of the learning process. At the beginning it is good to learn by watching Spanish lessons online – these are widely available and will start you listening to how Spanish actually sounds. My favorite way to do this was by using the Notes in Spanish podcasts – these provide conversations between a couple about different aspects of life in Spain. These are the best way, in my opinion, for a Spanish beginner to have some fun while listening to conversational Spanish. The other advantage these Spanish podcasts offer is that they build up in difficulty, all the way to advanced level, so you can monitor your progression in listening ability.
When you become more confident you can start to listen to, and watch, the Spanish news and television programs and hear how Spanish sounds more naturally. These materials are a lot more difficult so don't rush – commit to listening to as much as possible and you will improve very quickly. One good resource for Spanish listening is the Spanish national television website RTVE – there is a really excellent supply of Spanish TV and radio, from trashy soap operas to daily news broadcasts. I find it easiest to start with the news and interesting documentaries where the conversation is far clearer and also slower.
Speaking is always the hardest part of your Spanish to practice and improve online. At the beginning especially this is why I'd recommend learning in the classroom or at least with a friend. If you can do this, and then talk to yourself out loud or in your head as often as possible, your speaking will advance very quickly. For advanced speakers a website like Live Mocha allows you to speak with natives online although you are expected to speak with a partner in your native language too. I actually find this really interesting and you can meet new and interesting people with similar personalities.
I always found that what improved by speaking to a level close to fluency was when I actually visited Spain. Living in Madrid for a year with other students for example meant I was totally immersed and constantly communicating in Spanish. I also saw it as a great reward for my hard efforts learning Spanish at home so I'd recommend at least planning a holiday to a Spanish speaking country – this is the only way to really recognize the fruits of your labor and I found gave me renewed encouragement.
And finally I'd like to say good luck and I hope this article has been of some use. Don't ever get disheartened, stick with it and you will find learning Spanish to be a richly rewarding hobby.
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