There are a ton of options when it comes to Spanish programs, and the sheer number of choices can be a mixed a blessing. With so many different tools and resources to choose from, how do you do which one will work for you?
In this post we line out our top 5 picks for Spanish learning programs, but before we start the countdown we should probably talk about what exactly makes a given Spanish course "good"....
What are the features of a great Spanish course?
Here are three aspects that make for a good Spanish program.
1) It breaks down the difficult aspects of Spanish grammar
There's an ongoing debate in the language learning world, as to whether or not beginning language learners should focus on grammar.
Whatever your view, you can't deny that sooner or later every Spanish learner is going to have to grapple with difficult concepts like the subjunctive mood, reflexive verbs, or the difference between the preterite and imperfect tenses.
A good Spanish course will help you understand the inner workings of the Spanish language: how and why the grammar works the way it does. Whether or not you start focusing on grammar right away is up to you, but a good course should give you the option of learning grammar when you're ready.
2) It teaches practical Spanish that you can use right away
Of course learning grammar by itself won't do much to increase your speaking ability. You also need to learn relevant vocabulary. After all it's a bit hard to speak Spanish if you don't know any words yet.
A good Spanish program should also teach you practical vocabulary. More then just learning how to construct sentences like "The girl has a ball" or "My shirt is blue"; a course that's worth its salt should give you the vocabulary that you can use to express yourself and understand native speakers.
The better learning programs give you new words and phrases in the form of building blocks. As you grow in your skills you'll be able to use these words and phrases together to construct your own sentences.
A bad course will have you mindlessly repeating a selection of stock sentences that you're not likely to use or need in the real world.
3) It teaches you all aspects of the language
If you think about it there are four aspects of learning a language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. You'll need to be proficient in all of these skills before you reach fluency.
A Spanish course or program should make an effort to teach you all four aspects so that you can be well rounded in your Spanish abilities. Learning all four aspects together also helps you puck up new words and remember them quicker.
It's a lot easier to recognize a Spanish word that you've seen, heard, read, AND spoken!
But enough on theory, lets take a look at our top five picks!
1) Rocket Spanish
Rocket Spanish is a comprehensive Spanish course that will take you from a beginner level up to the mid-intermediate level in the language. The course is designed around interactive audio lessons.
Each lesson will breakdown a Spanish conversation with native speakers into smaller parts so that you can pick the grammar and vocabulary and then use them yourself when you speak Spanish.
Even though the emphasis of Rocket Spanish is always conversation, the course also does a good job of incorporating reading and writing as well.
This program is our top pick because students will get a lot of mileage out of it, and the course strikes a great balance between teaching grammar and conversational vocabulary.
Spanishpod101 is a Spanish course in the form of audio podcasts. Each lesson is an episode and features a conversation between two native speakers, as well as lesson notes, and sentence examples.
Every episode is moderated by two hosts who help explain difficult concepts and share interesting insights into the language or culture.
The site features many extra resources like in site flashcards, slow playback and recording (for pronunciation), and vocabulary lists.
My favorite feature of Spanishpod101 are the lesson notes. Each lesson includes notes which review the grammar and example phrases from the dialogue.
They also provide extra example sentences and other grammar tips too. This way you can focus on becoming conversational while still picking up Spanish grammar!
Duolingo is probably the most popular language learning app on the market. Odds are, unless you've been living under a bush, you've probably heard of it already.
Duolingo uses a game like format to teach mainly grammar and some vocabulary.
While it's not as comprehensive as other courses, and the vocabulary you learn isn't always practical, Duolingo is still an effective way to practice and learn the basics of the Spanish language!
4) Pimsleur Spanish
Pimsleur Spanish is a completely audio based course. It uses a unique question and response technique to get you thinking in Spanish and using it the way you would in a real conversation.
If you work through the Pimsleur lessons, you will pick up Spanish grammar, but you'll do it in a way that's implicit rather than explicit. The emphasis with Pimsleur is always on being conversational.
It's the only Spanish audio course I know that effectively helps you prepare for real life Spanish conversations.
Glossika is a language program that teaches its users how to use a foreign language versus just repeating grammar and vocabulary.
With Glossika you will be given whole phrases and entire sentences so that you can learn the language in context, instead of learning words or grammar rules in isolation.
Glossika functions a lot like a language learning gym. It's built around successive training sessions which will require you to "work out" speaking and listening skills, as well as your reading and writing skills.
If you're looking for a practical way to improve your ability to create correct sentences on the fly, and speak your target language in a natural way, then this is a learning tool worth considering
One of the many great things about learning Spanish is that you can pretty much take your pick when it comes to tools and resources. Hopefully this article helped you find the program that's right for your language learning needs!