On this page I’ve collected some of the best resources available for learning Spanish, and most of them are free. I’ve divided them up into the following categories:
The strategy guide goes hand-in-hand with this resources list, and maps out what I think is the best way to approach language learning, as well as how to optimally use the resources on this page.
A few key points from the strategy guide:
- These resources, along with the strategy guide, can benefit people of any skill level.
- Start with one or two from each category–don’t overdo it.
- Create a schedule for your study and practice, and put in a little time every day, or as often as possible.
- Try to use all your senses by reading, writing, talking, listening, and moving your body.
- Don’t be scared to make some mistakes.
- Every little bit will help, and chances are you’ll progress faster than you expected.
So without further ado, here is my curated list of the best resources for learning Spanish. Enjoy!
Why books? Of all the learning resources, books tend to be the best organized and most comprehensive, and provide the fundamentals you need to grasp the language. If you love books, great. If you hate books, pick one anyway, and then work your way through it a little at a time, while simultaneously using other learning methods.
There are many books available, but here are a few that I would recommend (click on the links to read reviews, or to peruse the first several pages by clicking “Look Inside” on Amazon):
- Spanish Basics in a Week. A concise and well-organized grammar review, includes a good pronunciation guide at the beginning. A fairly short book (~120 pages) you can get all the way through in a reasonable time-frame.
- Getting Started with Spanish. This book is designed for “homeschoolers” and other self-learners, and takes a more relaxed, gradual approach to learning by using fairly easy lessons with longer explanations. The lessons build on one another and include exercises for practice. Lengthier than the first option at around 200 pages.
- Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish, A Creative and Proven Approach. This book promotes a more intuitive approach to learning, and teaches principles that are supposed to make you self-sufficient and adaptable as you continue to learn. For example, you’ll learn patterns to convert English words into Spanish based on the word-type. Grammar also addressed, but focuses a lot on vocabulary and word roots. Quite long at about 400 pages.
- Easy Spanish Step-by-Step. A good and concise grammar review that includes workbook-type exercises, adding some length for about 300 pages total.
- Here are two more books that are both very inexpensive and would work well as supplements to the others above, but I wouldn’t recommend them for your primary resource: See it and Say it in Spanish includes visual aids, helps you build small sentences and answer simple questions, and also reviews some grammar. The Easy Spanish Phrase Book has a lot of helpful vocab and built-in pronunciation help.
There are many other books available, of course, but I think any of the first four on this list would be a great place to start.
Why podcasts? Not only is active listening an essential part of learning a language, using a podcast means you can learn on the go, such as while driving or working out. Pick one or two podcasts to start, try them out, and you can always switch to a different one if you get bored or run out of episodes.
(Note: If you’re not already listening to podcasts, you’ll need an app for your phone or tablet. Technically you can also download episodes on the computer, and even burn them to CD’s, but most people just use smartphones these days. Many apps are available: Apple has “Podcasts”, and on Android I prefer “Podkicker” (free version), or “Podkicker Pro” using a setting called “classic mode”, but there are plenty more podcast apps you can try out.)
Here are a few podcasts I’ve listened to that I think you’ll find very helpful. All of them can be used on both Android and Apple, but may take a little digging to find in some cases.
- Discover Spanish. “Johnny Spanish” and Cristina teach words and phrases and help you practice them, starting very basic and progressing gradually. Energetic, motivating, and lots of chances for practice. Includes pronunciation tips. A good place to start your Spanish podcasting. How to get it: For Android, search “Discover Spanish” on your podcasting app. For Apple, while it didn’t come up for me on a search, you can use this link and select “RSS” near the top of the list of podcasts, and subscribe that way. Or use this direct link to the feed.
- Notes in Spanish. Ben (from England) and Marina (from Spain) are a married couple who share Spanish dialogues and break down vocabulary and concepts from the dialogue, as well as riff on related topics. Conversational, pleasant to listen to. They have a separate podcast for each skill level, including “inspired beginners”, intermediate, and advanced. Worksheets and other supplementary material are available on their website for a fee. How to get it: Type “Notes in Spanish” into the search function on your favorite app.
- Learn Spanish with Comentarios. This “nuts and bolts” Spanish podcast is delivered somewhat dryly by a man with a very low voice. But the content is excellent, and includes many opportunities to practice while listening. How to Get it: Search for the exact title on your podcasting app. I was able to find it this way on both Podkicker and the Apple podcasts app. But here’s the direct Apple link, as a bonus. 🙂
- Lightspeed Spanish. Gordon (from England) and Cynthia (from Spain) discuss how to use different words and phrases, then apply them in a dialogue, and break it down. They are very insightful about some language nuances that you otherwise may not grasp right away. How to get it: Search the name on your podcasting device. It took a little more effort to subscribe to this one due to a couple technical issues, but it’s worth it if you can get it.
- Coffee Break Spanish. (website) A Scottish gentleman explains how to use different words and phrases, and often uses sample dialogues for practice. Various guests. His philosophy is to introduces concepts gradually for less stressful learning. The style is typically conversational. He does frequently advertise the paid version, but there are plenty of free episodes that you can learn from. How to get it: Search for the name, or use this Android link or this Apple link from your mobile device to subscribe.
There are many more podcasts for learning Spanish. I’d recommend starting with one or two of the above, but you can search for others in your podcast app, on iTunes, or with Google.
If you don’t have an iphone or ipad, you can still use iTunes on your computer to search and read reviews. If anything looks promising, download a couple episodes to try it out. Some help you learn grammar or vocabulary, others are more geared for listening comprehension or immersion.
Note on searching for podcasts: Sometimes it’s easy to find specific podcasts, other times it’s not. Usually, if all else fails, you can google the name of the podcast followed by “rss” or “iTunes”, and you’ll find a link to subscribe directly from your mobile device.
Why apps? Apps can be very effective for repetition, practice, and keeping things fun. And there are some great ones for practicing and reviewing Spanish. I don’t think any app should be your primary resource, but they can be an excellent supplement to the other types of resources.
Here are a few of the better ones that I’ve found:
- Duolingo (Android & Apple). This is the best app I know of. Choose your difficulty level and work through the levels, one exercise at a time. Feels a little like a game, and tests your reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Well-made, free, and continues to be improved through user feedback. An accompanying website of the same name lets you work on similar exercises from your computer if you prefer. Definitely try this one out. How to get it: Just search “Duolingo” from the appstore or playstore.
- Memrise (Android & Apple). Solid app, teaches words and then quizzes you, helpful for repetition and practice through various exercises. Includes some user-made mnemonics. A bit picky about spelling, punctuation, and word order when you write, but otherwise pretty fun. Includes a “pro” version that requires a subscription, but you can do a lot for free. How to get it: Just search “Memrise” on Apple or Android.
- Talking Spanish Translator (Android). Type or say a sentence in English, and the app will translate it into Spanish (or vice versa), and can also pronounce the phrase out loud for you in Spanish. Has been very accurate for me so far. Works great for translation, or for testing yourself on random words or phrases that come to mind. How to get it: Search the Google playstore, or use this link.
- Spanish Fun Easy Learn (Android & Apple). Has various categories such as food, people, home, or health, and lets you choose what type of practice exercise to do. Includes pictures, and pronounces words for you. Free with ads, or you can pay to remove ads and “unlock” further learning levels. Good for practicing and learning new vocab. How to get it: Try searching, but it has a slightly different name on Apple, so you can use this link if necessary. And here’s the link for Android.
- Learn Spanish (Android & Apple). Words and sentences in several categories, see it in English and then tap to see and hear the answer in Spanish. The first several categories are free, the rest require you to purchase the full app. Kind of like a list of flashcards, so good for reviewing. How to get it: This site has links for both platforms, or you can use this direct link for Apple, or this one for Android.
There are many more apps you can peruse, and I mainly focused on the free ones in this list. Feel free to search, read reviews, and look at related apps to the ones you like. Keep at least one of them handy for practice when you’re on the go or have a spare couple of minutes. And apps are kinda fun, which can help keep you motivated.
Why websites? Websites can great for practice, or as a reference, and have practically unlimited information. But like apps, I don’t think websites should be the primary learning tool in most cases.
Here are a few good ones I’ve found:
- Study Spanish – Reviews grammar, gives you prompts for practice, and provides tips for effective learning. This is the best site I’ve found for a broad coverage of grammar, and it’s free.
- The Spanish Experiment – Includes lessons on grammar or other topics. Good overall, but not as comprehensive as the first entry on this list. Includes audio pronunciation for some of the words and phrases.
- Indiana University Verb List – A full conjugation chart for any common verb, and links to explanations and practice exercises for several additional grammar topics at the bottom of the page.
- Babbel – Useful for practice; it’s kinda like some of the apps with interactive practice exercises, and not surprising it has its own accompanying app as well.
- Lingro – Read any website in Spanish and make all the words on the page clickable to conveniently see the definition. Great for reading practice. It does make the format of the web page you’re reading less pretty, but if you can deal with that it’s very useful.
- Let’s Go Spanish (Blog) – This blog delves a little deeper into some nuances of the Spanish language, such as sentence structures or idiomatic phrases. Useful if you know a little bit and want to wrap your head around the “why’s” and “how’s” a little more.
So now that you’ve checked out the resource list, what do you do next?
First, choose one or two resources from each category, and buy / download / bookmark them for convenient access.
The strategy guide goes hand-in-hand with this list and addresses how to best use the learning resources, along with providing numerous other tips and suggestions for optimal learning.
Here are some of the high points from the strategy guide:
- Regardless of your starting point, you can make rapid progress with consistent effort.
- Utilize all your senses while studying and practicing.
- Talk out loud
- Listening intently
- Move your body
- Get out of your comfort zone–don’t be afraid to mess up.
- Make a simple schedule using the resources you’ve chosen, and commit to the schedule.
- Put in a little time every day, even just a few minutes.
- Set reminders and have an accountability partner.
- Every little bit will help, and chances are you’ll progress faster than you expected.
Now you have everything you need (and more) at your fingertips. So take a moment right now to plan what you will do, and start learning Spanish today!
Note: I welcome any feedback, if you know of more great resources that should be included on this list, or have other suggestions for improvement, just use our contact page. Thanks!