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Best Tools for Learning Spanish for Free

By Anthony / December 3, 2016

If you have made the decision to start learning Spanish, you probably have done a little research and discovered that paid learning courses can get expensive. Not everyone can afford to take a college class, and thanks to the internet, you don’t have to. There are a lot of FREE language learning websites and applications that can help, but researching all of them can get daunting. This is where Spanish Hackers steps in. We did all the research for you! We put together a list of the best FREE language sites to help you successfully learn Spanish.

1. Duolingo

Duolingo is an awesome free website (and app) that allows you to personalize your learning. The site offers practice in reading, writing, and speaking for all types of learners. Think of as speed dating for language learning. The lessons are quick and easy to understand and you move on once you are done. Whether you are just starting out or just want to brush up on your skills, Duolingo offers engaging lessons for everyone.

Game Like Format

Duolingo is great because it presents the lessons in a game like format. Even as an adult, I don’t want to just read information from a screen and try and memorize it. I need some engagement! If you are competitive, you will really enjoy this site, because you have to set goals to commit to a certain amount of time a day to practice (5-20 min/per day). If you fail to meet your daily goal there are consequences.

Every day that your goal is met, it tallies how many days you have been active on the site. Trust me, this will keep you logging back in everyday to complete more lessons. If you fail to meet your daily goal, the tally resets to zero.

Earning Rewards

The first thing you will do is look over the main ideas of the lesson via a “cheat sheet” of learning points. After that you start the “game” by answering questions to unlock the levels. Levels are grouped by topic and progressively get more difficult. Once you unlock a level you earn a reward.

The reward system is super easy to figure out. You are rewarded with Lingots (Duolingo’s online currency) that can be used in the virtual store. You can buy “Power Ups” or practice activities. There are also other ways (like inviting friends to join Duolingo) to earn Lingots to enhance your bank.

The “Power Ups” add to the game like format by allowing you to stay motivated to continue your learning. You can even buy one that freezes your level so you can take a day off and skip your daily goal. If you are the betting type, you can bet against yourself that you will step up your game and exceed your goal.

Immersion

The immersion option takes your learning up a notch and gives you a place to practice. You have the opportunity to work with other Duolingo members to translate articles/documents into Spanish. So, what does this exactly mean? Well, let’s say Joe (a Duolingo member) needs to translate an advertisement for his restaurant in Spanish, but needs help. You could use the immersion option to help him out and practice your skills at the same time.

The down side of Immersion is that it is not available to everyone. The Immersion tab must be present on the blue bar at the top of the screen for you to access it. If it isn’t there, unfortunately, there is no other way to access it. Don’t take it personal, it appears that development for Immersion terminated in June of 2015. Duolingo is in the process of deciding whether or not to keep it.

Text Translation Services

Maybe you are just starting out on your Spanish language learning journey and need some help translating documents. Duolingo can help. As a member, you can upload noncommercial text (documents for personal use) and have it translated for free.

Need something for commercial (copyrighted) use? Duolingo can still help, but there is a fee associated with it. You also have to apply for this service, which is not hard.

If you don’t have the Immersion tab on your page, simply search (in Duolingo) for “translation.” On the right, click “Can I upload immersion documents to be translated?” Finally, click the “upload content” link and it will take you to the proper page to get you started.

Why Duolingo?

Other than the unbeatable price tag, Duolingo is actually well researched and proven effective. They use and analyze the data gathered from their site to tailor the learning to each member. Schools nation wide use this site to aide in learning a language.

On average 34 hours of Duolingo is equal to 1 semester of a college level course. In essence, after you finish, you could hold our own in a college level 2 Spanish class. Keep in mind that the number one factor of student success actually hinders on the student. Student motivation is a key factor.

How Can I Use Duolingo to Aid My Learning?

Since Duolingo has a mobile app, you have the ability to learn Spanish anywhere, anytime. You can complete your lessons on the subway, waiting in line at the DMV, or in your pajamas at home. It’s your choice when and where you learn.

If you are just starting out, or speaking Spanish like a native, you can use this site to learn new vocabulary or brush up on what you already know. It is also a great site to practice all of the grammar you learn right here on Spanish Hackers! Trouble with the preterite? Head on over to Duolingo and practice using the tense!

No matter what your Spanish language goals are, Duolingo has something to offer. The fact that it is used in schools elementary through college is proof that this site knows what it is doing. With the added benefits of game like lessons and the possibility to earn rewards, Duolingo can keep you motivated and wanting to learn more.

2. Spanishdict

SpanishDict is a website that provides an online Spanish-English and English-Spanish dictionary, translation, and language learning tools. It also offers a Q&A Forum for Spanish learners to ask questions to other users regarding the Spanish language.

Online Translator & Dictionary

I will be completely honest when I say that this is the ONLY online translator I will use. It gives the most accurate information as well as 3 different sources for each translation. All you have to do is type in an English (or Spanish) word and it provides you with a translation, audio on how the word sounds, dictionary definitions, multiple ways the word it is used, and sentence examples. It’s so much better than looking the word up in a paper dictionary!

The best part about this site? It gives you a conjugation table for any verb you look up. That’s right, all the tenses and how to conjugate the verb for each subject. Life as a Spanish language learner just got better!

Not only do you get a verb conjugation table, but it also provides you with examples of common expressions used with the verb. If you are more of an auditory learner, there is a video option (on the tab bar right under the verb) that gives you a brief video of how to say the word and how it sounds in a sentence.

Free Grammar Lessons

On the menu tab of Spanishdict, you can find free Spanish grammar lessons to suit your learning needs. The lessons are neatly organized by grammar topic and easy to navigate. There is a free practice quiz at the end of each lesson that allows you to test your new knowledge. This is a great feature because you will be able to determine if you mastered the skill or need more practice.

Why Spanishdict?

I am not joking when I say that this is the BEST online translators ever. It gives you the most accurate translation, even if you use if for a short sentence. I love that the site not only translates, but provides you with so many different types of information as well. So, go ahead and throw away that paper dictionary! This site has everything you need for all of your translating needs.

How to Incorporate This Website into Your Learning

Spanishdict is an amazing all around reference tool. It is a great site for looking up words and phrases, as well as verb conjugations and grammar rules. As you continue to learn and practice your Spanish, you can also use this site to reference any vocab or grammar that you feel needs reinforcement. The practice quizzes can further enhance your learning by giving you an idea of what you need to work on.

3. Forvo

Forvo is a website that offers users the ability to listen to words pronounced by native speakers. Simply search for a word in Spanish by typing it into the search bar. From there, you will have the option to choose what type of native speaker you would like to hear pronounce the word. It gives you their name, gender and where they are from.

Being able choose where a speaker is from is huge bonus of this site. You can tailor your learning to where you are traveling to or the Spanish dialect you want to learn. You can also download the speakers’ voices as audio files OR download the app so you can learn on the go.

Users also have the ability to vote on the pronunciation of each native speaker. You can use the voting information to determine who you want to commit to listening to. Once you find a speaker you like, you can use them as a pronunciation reference every time.

Why Forvo? Can it REALLY Help Me?

If you are learning Spanish on your own and don’t hear a lot of Spanish, this is the perfect site for you. Not only is it well researched, but it is proven effective as well. It gives you the opportunity to reference correct pronunciation of the new words you learn. Since you can download the files, you can practice your pronunciation over and over again at your own pace.

As I mentioned before, if you are learning Spanish to converse with native speakers, the option to choose a dialect in super valuable. Most courses teach traditional Spain Spanish, which obviously focuses on one dialect. Forvo allows you to hear how words are pronounced in dialect that suits your needs.

4. Memrise

Memrise is a website that prides itself in using scientific brain research to help users learn Spanish, and commit what they learn to long term memory. The site helps learners use the memories they already have and connect it to learning the Spanish language. You don’t have to already know Spanish to do this, they use techniques to help you make connects to what is already in your long-term memory based on your life experiences.

By using different kinds of tests, the site creates a “work out” for your brain that is tailored to you. According to their research, the more your brain works to recall a memory, the more likely you will remember it long term.

Using the Mems

Memrise uses memory cards, aka “mems” to help jog your memory for the vocabulary you are learning. Every time a new vocabulary word is introduced in Spanish, you select a new mem to help you remember that word. As you go through the courses, the mems will appear when the word is presented.

The mem cards are created by other users, or community members. Members can post a card for everyone to see and use. If you don’t like the mems available for your vocabulary, you have the option to create your own.

How the Program Works

Once you create a user login and choose the Spanish course, you will start by learning five vocab words at a time. As you are learning each word, you will select a mem that serves as a memory device. The new vocab words are presented about five times each by using reading, writing, and listening in a spaced repetition system. All audio is spoken by native speakers with different dialects. If you struggle to remember a word, you can reference your mem to trigger your memory.

After all of the vocabulary is presented and practiced, you will take a short test to review what you just learned. The site is good about giving feedback after the test so that you can determine what vocab words you need to work on. As you progress through the courses, old vocabulary is intertwined with new so that you can commit it to long term memory.

Why Memrise?

Because of its format, Memrise is probably the easiest spaced repetition platform to use to learn new vocabulary. The website is really good at repeating vocabulary that you already learned into its new courses so you don’t forget everything once you have moved on. This site is really good at using different types of learning (visual, written, and audio) to capitalize on all learning styles.

How Can I Use Memrise in My Learning?

This is a great website if you are just starting out learning Spanish. It will give you a base of vocabulary words that you can build upon. and use as you move onto grammar concepts. Since you have the opportunity to hear, see, and write the vocab words repetitively, they are solid concepts in your memory, and can be applied to forming sentences and having conversations.

If you already know some Spanish, Memrise is the perfect place to test your vocab knowledge and get in a quick review. It’s fun to go back and revisit basic Spanish and, who knows, maybe you might learn a new word or two!

5. Wespeke

Wespeke is an online language learning tool that connects you to native Spanish speakers around the world. Once you fill out a profile and answer a few basic questions about your likes and dislikes, the site pairs you with a language exchange partner who shares similar interests. For example, a native English speaker who wants to practice Spanish would be paired up with a native Spanish speaker who needs practice in English. Both may be huge soccer fans and love to travel.

Chatting With Others

You are able to chat with your partner via text, audio, and/or video all through the website. If you would like to talk with someone else, simply browse through the member list, choose someone who speaks Spanish, and send them a message. When they respond, you can alternate between text, audio and video at your discretion.

Once you start chatting, there are in-chat tools that help you along. There is an option to look up words if you get stuck or don’t understand. This is super beneficial so you don’t have to leave the chat to access other sites for translation. This helps to keep the conversation moving and doesn’t leave your partner hanging.

Another great tool included in this site is access to your own personal interactive notebook. As you have conversations with others, you can “jot down” words or phrases to remember for future use. You may even want to ask your language exchange partner colloquial phrases native to his/her country and keep an ongoing list in your notebook.

How Can Wespeke Help Me?

This website is the perfect tool for someone that knows a little bit of Spanish, but needs to practice conversing with others. Wespeke is a great way to break out of your comfort zone and speak to native Spanish speakers as you continue to learn more about the language.

By speaking with a native, you are able to ask questions and learn vocabulary native to a specific country. This could not only help you during the learning process, but as you travel as well. As you develop, you can branch out and learn more about the culture, all while conversing in Spanish. It is a win-win situation!

6. HelloTalk

HelloTalk is a mobile chat app that allows you to practice your Spanish via text, voice messages or phone call. All you have to do is find a language partner within the app and chat away. You can find native Spanish speakers around the world that are ready to not only chat, but help you learn along the way.

How Does This Work?

Just like other mobile chat apps, HelloTalk has specific features that make it unique. You can voice chat, text chat, share pictures from your camera, and even send a smiley face (or two). By turning on the notifications (of new messages), you will never miss a messages from your language partner and can answer back quickly.

HelloTalk also has a feature that converts voice recognition into text. This is especially helpful if you are a little nervous about speaking to someone in Spanish over the phone. This way, you can still speak into your phone to practice, but review the text before you send it.

An in app translation feature is available, which is great for beginning learners who understand the main ideas, but still need help. Since the translation is built into the app, you don’t have to leave the conversation and hop on the internet. You simply press the translation button, and BOOM, the text is translated for you.

The app encourages language partners to help eachother out by correcting any mistakes there may be. All you have to do is highlight your partner's response, click the correction button, and it will show him/her the corrections in red. They can also do the same for you. This feature helps to keep the conversation flowing, since neither of you have to stop the conversation to correct each other.

If you do better speaking to someone face to face instead of on the phone, the app also has a feature that searches for Spanish speaking users that live near you. Just be careful, the app doesn’t do background checks and not everyone chooses to fill out all the information on their profile. It may be safe to stick to texting for the time being.

Premium Features at a Cost

HelloTalk does offer paid premium features which include the translation and voice recognition options. It is not necessary to purchase these features, but depending on your level of Spanish, you may want look into it. The app does offer a 3 month free membership, so you can try before you buy. All you have to do is sign up and text the HelloTalk TeamFI3M” to receive the three free months.

Using the App to Aide in Your Learning

Conversing in Spanish is by far the hardest part about learning the language. This app gives you the opportunity to incorporate Spanish conversation into your everyday life. You get better by practicing, and what better way than to connect, and talk, than with a native speaker?

7. Lingua.ly

Lingua.ly gives you the opportunity to read authentic text in Spanish in areas of your personal interests. The site offers tools to help you along as you read, as well as devices to help you learn new words and practice them. Lingua.ly can be accessed through your home computer or through an app on your mobile device.

Summary of features

After you register, you begin by browsing the articles in Spanish (by category) that peak your interest. If you get stuck on a word within the text, simply double click it and a box will appear. If you don’t know the definition of the word, there is a translation option in the upper right hand corner of the the box to help you out. Select the correct translation, and add the word to your word bank.

Practice Tests for Vocabulary

Once you add a few words to your word bank, you will be able to take a practice test so see how many of the definitions you remember. You must continually add words to your word bank in order to take a quiz. The site doesn’t allow you to continuously test the same words over and over.

Vocabulary Flashcards

Another feature of this site is the digital flashcards. The site uses images, audio, and text to create flashcards to help you remember new words. Simply click on a word in your word bank to see a picture of the word, hear how it sounds, and read it in a sentence.

Updated Articles

Lingua.ly is really good about keeping the articles fresh and current. They are usually listed on the site the same day they are published. Each time you login, you have a new set of articles to choose from based on your specific interests.

Translation Option

If you are reading along and start thinking, “I have NO idea what this article is about,” you can select the translation button to help you. Since you don’t have to translate the entire article at once, you can get the general idea of a section, and then continue reading in Spanish for the remaining portions.

Incorporating Lingua.ly into Your Learning

This site is a great place for intermediate and advanced learners to stretch their reading comprehension, while also learning about the Spanish speaking world around them. As you read the authentic text, you can discover new words in context that you may never been exposed to. It is also a great way to see grammar concepts in action and how they play out in the written form.

I personally would not recommend this site to a beginner just starting out. Reading articles can get frustrating without some vocabulary and grammar knowledge. They do have a beginner option, however, I would wait until you can string a few sentences together and know how to conjugate verbs.

8. Italki

Italki solely focuses on connecting with others to learn Spanish. There are no pre-set courses to follow, the site relies entirely on human interaction. You can connect with a native speaker via Skype or connect with other members in the “community tab.” Italki offers both free and premium paid features to assist you in your language learning needs.

Free Features

After you create a profile you can begin searching for native Spanish speakers by age, gender, and country to connect with. From there, your language partner and yourself will determine a time to Skype through the site’s message system. There is no way to video chat with your partner within the site, so you must be connected to Skype in order to do so

Notebook

The site allows you to post writing entries from your “notebook” to receive corrections and feedback from native speakers. You can also post questions or start discussion on their community board to practice writing in Spanish.

Community Blog

Both students and teachers can post on the blog about language learning topics. These topics can include articles about grammar, the best way to learn vocabulary, or tips for learning another language.

Premium Features

Italki offers members the ability to hire different types of teachers for Spanish lessons for a cost. The price varies depending on your needs, but they do offer trial lessons for a reduced cost so that you can find a teacher that works best for you.

Professional Teachers

These are lessons conducted by professional teachers that are certified to teach a language in the real world. These lessons are more expensive, but are of higher quality and tailored to your needs.

Informal Tutors

These are people who are passionate about helping others learn Spanish, but have little to no experience teaching off of Skype. This option is usually cheaper than professional teachers, but the lessons are less likely to follow any type of format. It is more about practicing with a native speaker who can correct your mistakes when appropriate.

Why Italki and How Can it Help Me?

Italki is one of the largest language learning communities that make it easy to connect to real human beings. By having the option to speak with native Spanish speakers around the world (via Skype), you can practice your Spanish is a comfortable learning environment. Conversing in Spanish is the best way to learn and practice. The more you practice, the better you will get.

You also have the opportunity to practice your writing on this site using the notebook feature. By receiving feedback and having your questions answered, you are able to correct your mistakes and learn from them.

If you are interested in learning Spanish (or have already begun this adventure), but are not interested in pay thousands of dollars to learn, you don’t have to. The internet has opened up the possibility of learning Spanish for FREE! You now have some of the best sites available at your fingertips. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for the site that suits you best!

About the author

Anthony

Coffee drinker, Spanish speaker, habitual traveler, taking life one beautiful day at a time.

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