How to start learning Spanish?

If you have been asking yourself this question for quite some time now, do not worry, you came to the right place to find the answer. Learning a new foreign language is usually quite a difficult task. 

However Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn on your own. It wont be so easy at the beginning but after a few weeks you will see great initial results and progress.

The Spanish Lanugage Guide you will find below will show you a lot of fun and great resources to learn Spanish online. It shows you the resources where you can easily access content and knowledge that cover all 4 key learning activities, which are Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. 

Most of the resources in the guide are free to use online with some premium features that are cool but not really necessary for your Spanish adventure.

The Guide is split in 3 Phases. Each phase introduces you to a new learning activity and gives you a proven weekly schedule of activities that will get you closer to becoming a Spanish speaker. Let’s dive in shall we?

Spanish Language Guide Structure:

Phase One:

The beginning of your Spanish Journey

In this stage of your Spanish journey you are a complete beginner with little to no knowledge of the language. You just heard how it sounds and you fell in love with it but that is about it. If you are in this stage of your learning path, the easiest way to get some new words in is to download a language learning app. 

Thankfully we are living in a digital age and there are many options to choose from. I would recommend that your first step should be to pick a mobile app and start there. This will give you new Spanish words and grammar in small chunks that will not overwhelm or intimidate you into quitting. 

I would advise you to pick one of these three apps: Duolingo, Memrise or Busuu. I have used all three of them and my first contact with Spanish was on Duolingo. After that I discovered Memrise and Busuu. 

Here are some details about the apps: 


Duolingo

This app was my first encounter with Spanish. When I started using Duolingo, the app did not exist yet, it was only a website. What I liked about their courses and levels was that they are structured like a mini game and the lessons were short and sweet. Here I learned my first Spanish words like “Hola!”, “Mucho gusto!” and basic sentences like “Luis come manzanas.”

This part was great for motivating me to continue learning but after a while Duolingo’s lessons become  really repetitive and dull. In the mobile app they push you to get the Premium version but trust me, there is no need for that because it is not really worth the money, unless you really hate the advertising videos inside the app.

I will share more info about my experience with Duolingo some other time but the main reason why Duolingo becomes kind of useless in the later stages of your learning Spanish online journey is because the lessons are too repetitive, the content is too simple and they don’t really cover the language expressions part that well. 

For these reasons you will quickly move to a different app like Memrise or Busuu. 

Memrise

I discovered Memrise several years ago, right after I got bored with Duolingo and when the app started terrorizing me with their notifications and emails. The Memrise program really impressed me with their way of teaching you vocabulary. This is the place where I discovered that Duolingo has been teaching me Mexican Spanish and not the original version. 

I have been using Memrise not only for Spanish but for German and French as well, and I found it pretty useful for learning new words and expressions the right way while getting your ear accustomed to the sound of a native speaker. 

Their official courses start off with basic expressions but they quickly build up your vocabulary. The courses use the spaced repetition method to get the words into your long term memory. So after a few weeks of doing these exercises on Memrise you will be able to read and comprehend some basic texts and stories in Spanish. 

A big plus is also that they have sections where they teach you popular slang and expressions that Spanish people use a lot so you will not be caught off guard when you start speaking to some native folks for your first time. 

Their team has announced some interesting updates to the app mentioning some AI powered tools and stuff, therefore I am eager to try that out as well. 

Busuu

When I discovered Busuu, I said to myself “Damn that’s a weird-ass name for a language app” and I was skeptical at first because their ad sounded too good to be true and we all know that overpromising on something always leads to big disappointments. 

Even though I was guarded a bit when I was trying Busuu for the first time, the first lessons have surprised me in a really positive way. First I took a quick placement test to see where I am at and It landed me somewhere around A2 level. Then the site guided me to the first lesson. 

I was impressed a bit how well the lessons at Busuu are structured. They use videos, short stories, audio materials and exercises and they really package it in a short well composed and useful lesson. The lessons have a really nice structure for Spanish lessons, the people reading texts and conversations have clear pronunciation and really engaging voices so you won’t get bored listening to it. 

 

These 3 apps/websites are not the only options for learning Spanish online. There are quite a few of them like Pimsleur, Falou and many others that might be even more interesting for your Spanish journey.

 I have just picked these three because i know they work and they gave me a good start with my learning of a couple of languages. My recommendation is to start out with a mix of these apps, not just one.  

 

Now that you have the right resources to start your learning, let’s talk about other important factors that will get you through the first phase of learning Spanish. 

 The recommended learning schedule which you will find below will help you build good learning habits and consistency without spending too much of your free time.

 

Phase One Learning Schedule

Your study plan for the first few weeks of your Spanish is going to be short and consistent. It is divided into 4 short learning activities which are 10-20 minutes long and you can do them while commuting or during your breaks at work.

  1. Start your morning with Duolingo:
    Do 1-2 lessons per day. That will take you approximately 10 minutes. Many people spend their morning coffee/tea time with their phones. So instead of scrolling through some crappy news articles or social media go on and activate your brain with Duolingo lessons.
  2.  Grow your vocabulary with Memrise:
    You can do this during the daily breaks you have from your job or while you are commuting. You can do like 5-10 new words and expressions per day easily. This activity will take you around 15 minutes tops. Especially the beginner levels.
  3. Write down your learnings and recap:
    Find some free time in the evening, take a pen and a notebook and write down all the stuff you have learned during your day. After you write that down, go ahead and read it out loud a couple of times.
  4. Bonus Activity: 
    When you are done with the 3 things mentioned above, you should use the words and expressions you have learned and try to form a few sentences on your own. This short exercise is a powerful tool


You have all the tools and resources to get started. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a ton of new things at first, build a daily habit of doing these mini learning lessons and when you get comfortable doing them almost every day, you will be ready to progress to the next stage of your Spanish journey. 

Phase Two:

Ramping up your studies

You should be ready to advance to this next stage of your learning path as soon as 3-4 weeks. If you followed the learning plan from stage one you will have 200-300 words in your Spanish vocabulary. Which is quite enough for you to continue with your studies and take it to the next level. 

Phase One was easy and simple. You got yourself familiarized with the sound and words of the beautiful Spansh language, now you are ready for more. in Phase Two you will expand your learning plan to stronger learning activities. All new things you will be doing in this stage do cover the 4 key learning activities mentioned earlier. Do not forget them! (Reading, Listening, Writing & Speaking)

In the second phase of your Spanish adventure, you can continue doing the lessons on the apps you have used before. If you are into keeping score and competing with others, then go for it. Kick ass! I will support your extra effort!

Unfortunately, just pounding lessons on these apps will not get you to the next level. Memrise will definitely help with expanding your vocabulary but the apps have a hard time to teach you other things well. 

Instead of focusing on apps, you will place them in the backseat and take on new challenges. First thing you will need to do is, to add new listening, reading and writing activities. Let’s jump into these activities right now!

Listening to Spanish Podcasts

Podcasts became popular in the past several years and they are the Internet version of the Radio. You can listen to almost anything today and at any time that fits your schedule, just by using your phone that has an internet connection. That is a beautiful thing when we talk about learning Spanish.

Just open up Spotify, Deezer or any other listening platform on your phone, do a quick search for Spanish language and you will find yourself surrounded by fresh content in Spanish for you to listen to just a few clicks away.

No matter which level you are, you will find podcast episodes specializing from beginner levels to the most advanced levels and native stuff. 

By listening to different podcasts you will get familiar with different Spanish accents and ways of speaking. When I first started learning the language I had no idea that there are so many differences between Castilian Spanish and the other Spanish speaking countries like Mexico, Cuba, Argentina etc. 

The differences are quite notable and you will get confused at first, which way is the right way to pronounce something and I must tell you there is no definitive answer. It all depends which Spanish you want to learn. But that is a topic for a later stage of your learning journey.

Picking the right podcast can be a subjective choice therefore it is important for you to find the right fit for you. You must find the speaker interesting, engaging, informative and not annoying. If the voice of the speaker annoys you, then you should not listen to it trust me. These things cannot be forced.

In order for you not to get lost in this overwhelming abundance of choice, I have discovered a couple of really good podcasts that I am still loyal to. I had the fortune of checking out many of them but only a couple of them stuck with me for a longer period of time.

1) Spanish Language Coach Podcast: 
This podcast is about a Spanish guy from Valencia that is currently living in the UK, his accent is proper Spanish and really clear to understand and he offers a ton of listening content for all speaker levels. Check it out and see if this one fits you well. I am currently listening to his advanced Spanish podcast and I am pretty satisfied. The guy also provides the text transcripts of his episodes so you can read and see the explanations of the words and expressions you did not understand.

2) Hoy Hablamos:
This podcast is completely in Spanish, and it has a free version available on Spotify. It has over 1000 lessons and their length varies from 10 to 45 minutes, depending on the lesson. These guys release new episodes on a daily basis. The only thing is that the transcripts for the lessons are not free. But I guess they have to earn for a living somehow, right?

 3) SpanishPod101
The SpanishPod 101 is also a nice place to listen to podcast episodes in Spanish. They have a ton of lessons which cover all kinds of topics. They are not focused solely on the Spanish accent, but they also have episodes in some Latino accents like Mexican, Peruvian and Costa Rican.

There are also a couple of more podcasts in Spanish that are worth listening to. Check out the full list of high quality Spanish Podcasts. 

Why should you start listening to these podcasts? There are several reasons you need to include them in your study plans.

First, it is a great way to get your ears and brain accustomed to a variety of Spanish accents. You will familiarize yourself with the sounds of it and you will start noticing the differences between these accents. Which will help you in the future when you start speaking to native speakers. 

Second, you will learn a lot of new slang words, day to day expressions that real people use, not just the phrases that are covered in the official textbooks. 

And third, you will get a better understanding of the Spanish culture, your vocabulary will expand where you will be able to hold a conversation in various different topics be it fitness, politics, economy or literature. 

Now that you know the why and how to incorporate podcasts in your learning plan, we will move to he learning activity that awaits you in Phase Two. 

Reading Short Stories in Spanish

As you continue progressing in your Spanish journey, you will have to start reading and translating various materials in order to expand your vocabulary and improve your language comprehension. 

This can be done in many ways but the best way is to start reading stories and news in your target language. There are some free short stories online that are a great way to start doing this activity, however I had difficulties finding the one resource that has it all in one place. 

While I was looking for short stories that can help me improve my Spanish, I discovered several places where you can find stories to read online. 

My advice to you is to start with the stories for kids with simple grammar and sentence structure and build your way to more complex stories and before you know it, you will be able to read whole books in Spanish without any problems. 

There are two handy learning tricks that will make your knowledge stronger and more efficient and those two things are: 

  1. Reading the stories out loud 
  2. Writing down in your study notebook. 
 

Reading out loud will keep you focused on the content and it will improve your pronunciation. It will also give you a small confidence boost so later you will be able to speak the language without any embarrassment in front of other speakers.

Writing down what you have read makes your brain memorize the new content more effectively. In that way the things you have read in a story will stay longer in your memory because you have engaged your brain and your body at the same time. 

SnappySpanish and ArbolABC have some good beginner friendly short stories in Spanish, most of them are for kids but I found them pretty useful to improve my vocabulary and comprehension. 

These websites contain all the popular stories that you have read in your childhood and more so I would advise to start there and when you feel confident you can move on to more advanced stories and news portals such as El Pais or El Mundo

With reading activities your understanding of Spanish will improve rapidly and your vocabulary will expand to a level where you will be able to hold conversations with natives on all levels.

Check out the list of places you can find some free online reading material. I am sure that you will find something to get you started with this activity. 

Now you have two new activities that you will add to your current study plan. You are getting used to reading and listening to the Spanish langauge. Now you are ready to move to one of the more boring parts of learning a language, which is grammar. 

Spanish Grammar

Do not worry, grammar and sentence structures in Spanish are not very complex like in German for example, so it will be fairly easy to learn these things over time. 

Learning grammar should not be a cramming exercise where you pound on the rules and textbooks for hours and hours during the day. Thanks to Spanish Dictionary we have a great grammar guide with good lesson structure, exercises and short explanations.

You can start with  SpanishDict (A pretty awkward name right?) one lesson at a time, and it will take you around half an hour to read through a lesson and complete their interactive exercises. 

The lessons are split per level from beginner to advanced and they also have some extra lessons that are not a must but are interesting to go through, such as the Regional Spanish section at the bottom of the guide. 

You can start off by doing 2 grammar lessons per week and finishing all the exercises related to the topics you went through. This would be a great start and with that tempo you will reach the Intermediate level in less than 10 weeks. 

When you get warmed up with grammar you can even increase the frequency of this to, let’s say 4 times a week, you will be progressing much faster and you will master the language in no time. 

Here are some quick tips for grammar in the Spanish language: 

  • There are a ton of irregular verbs without any patterns to recognize, the only way to learn them is to memorize them. 
  • Know your accents and tildes because one of these tiny things above a letter can change the meaning to the whole sentence. 
  • Don’t skip the lessons where you learn the differences between Por & Para, Ser vs Estar and Indicative vs Subjunctive. These topics are really tricky to learn and understand but it is doable. 

 

The Spanish Dictionary is a pretty useful grammar learning resource but it is not the only one out there. During my studies I have stumbled upon many of them such as “Lawless Spanish” and “Hola Que Pasa,” 

Both these websites have good content teaching you grammar lessons in Spanish so if you choose to learn from there you won’t be making any poor choices. 

If none of these three fit your needs, you can check out the list of Spanish grammar resources that I compiled during my own learning journey.

By covering grammar alongside the other two activities, you are ready to start doing one of the most rewarding learning activities out there which is Creating your own content. We are going to talk about it in the next section. 

Creating your own Spanish content

This activity is probably the hardest one to do, however it is probably the strongest learning activity you can do for yourself. Of course you will have a lot of fun doing it as well. 

The key here is to start doing this as soon as possible no matter how basic your initial sentences and writing is. It will improve gradually over time so it is important to start doing these exercises early on. 

This thing will force you to learn to use all the new things you have been learning to produce your own thoughts and ideas in a foreign language. It will train your brain to think in Spanish as well which is a huge step closer to reaching your desired language fluency. 

Creating your own content can include the following: 

  1. Writing a daily journal 
  2. Writing summaries about what you have learned
  3. Writing short stories about your life
  4. Writing made up stories and fiction

 

Writing your daily journal is the easiest thing out of these four suggestions above. At the end of your day, take your notebook, write down a couple of sentences about the day you had. Imagine that you are talking to your partner about your day, just in Spanish. 

Write about what you had eaten that day, how was your workday, describe something interesting that happened to you or to your kids etc. 

If a daily journal is not your thing, try writing short summaries about the things you have learned in Spanish. For example, you can write that today you have learned about the past tense and you memorized 10 new Spanish verbs that are regular and 3 new irregular verbs.

Then you write down example sentences that contain conjugations of these verbs in order to fortify them in your memory. 

Write about the story you have read or the podcast you have listened to, make short recaps in your own words and thoughts, make your mind to use the newfound knowledge you obtained. 

Once your vocabulary expands enough and you have enough words and expressions under your belt, start writing short stories from your life in Spanish. 

Write about your big work project you have been working on with your colleagues, your travels, your pets, kids, friends. Write about your dreams if you remember them of course. 

I prefer  to write about my recent travels and the country/city I have visited. I like doing it and I find it pretty useful because the memory of that trip with my girlfriend or with my friends becomes even stronger after I do that. 

In case you have an imaginative mind and you love to tell made up stories, this is a great way to do this. Of course it is not everyones cup of tea but if you are that kind of a person you should start writing fictional stories in Spanish. 

This is a great way to exercise your mind and it will push you to use a ton of different words and expressions since you will be writing about stuff that is only limited by your own imagination. 

I have given a shot at this a few times and I liked it in general but my produced material was kind of bland if you get me. So I tend to try again from time to time but I am mostly sticking to writing about something that happened in my life. 

Once you get started, you will figure out what works for you the best. Give all these things a try and see how it goes. 

Now that we covered the main activities that you need to start doing after you warmed up in your Spanish language journey with apps in phase one, let’s take a look at a learning schedule that covers these activities on a weekly basis. 

Phase Two Learning Schedule

In the second phase of your Spanish adventure your aim should be to dial down the easy learning activities on apps and shift your focus to consuming a wider range of online learning content. 

Your weekly schedule for learning Spanish online should contain the following activities: 

  1. Reading short stories and writing down new words and expressions – 3x a week 
  2. Listening to stories and podcasts – 5x a week
  3. Grammar lessons – 2x a week
  4. Creating your own content – 5x a week (or everyday if possible) 
  5. Learning with apps 10 min a day (Optional) – every day if possible

 

Most of these activities may take up less than an hour per day so it is definitely manageable with all the other things you have to or plan to do during your day. 

You will find stories that take up maybe 10-20 min to read and another 15 min to write down the new stuff you learned from them. This activity requires you to sit down on a desk and focus on this one thing therefore you need to find dedicated time in your day for it.

Listening to podcasts and other types of audio content is fairly easy and simple. In these modern times, everyone owns a smartphone. You can do this activity while taking a walk, commuting to your workplace, working out in the gym or even doing house chores like cleaning or cooking.

Just get Spotify or something similar on your phone and pick the episode to listen to and you are all set to dive into the beauties of the Spanish language. 

Learning grammar will probably be the most tedious activity that you will be doing but it is kind of necessary for you to learn it in order to understand the language better. Luckily, Spanish grammar is easy compared to some other foreign languages. 

This activity will probably take up 45 minutes to an hour for a session and it requires you to sit down with your laptop and a notebook and write your way through the lessons and exercises. 

As mentioned earlier in the guide, you now understand the importance of creating your own content and this activity should be done as often as possible.

 I get that some days you wont be eager or motivated to work on this but spending even just 5-10 min per day to write down a couple of sentences in Spanish will get you so much closer to reaching fluency in the language. 

Learning with apps during the first phase of your Spanish studies was good in getting you in good shape to start on these more difficult activities but being enslaved by day streaks on Duolingo or Memrise won’t do you any good anymore. 

If you like the apps you can continue completing lessons and levels on them, I like to do it as well. It will take up only a few minutes out of your daily schedule and these lessons can be done almost anywhere. (I do memrise on the toilet or while smoking a cigarette on the balcony)

I know these activities seem a lot at first but if you re doing this by the book you will spend less than 10 hours a week learning Spanish. You can rearrange the schedule and activities to fit your own taste of course. 

Now you know the schedule and the most effective learning activities to get your Spanish to a respectable level of comprehension and fluency. 

Stick to these activities for the next 2-3 months and I assure you that your internal vocabulary will grow to more than a thousand words and expressions, you will understand and be able to speak about many topics. Forming your own sentences will become a breeze and you will be ready to move to phase three of your Spanish journey.

Phase Three

Total Spanish Immersion

Congratulations! You are progressing really fast! This phase is the final stage of your learning process. Your earlier activities have enabled you to be ready to immerse yourself completely into the language. 

The goal of this stage is to expand on your current activities, start consuming more advanced content in terms of longer, more complex books, reading and listening  to news in Spanish every day, talk with other Spanish speakers and get to know all the fun and interesting aspects of Spanish culture. 

In order to reach the maximum level of fluency in a foreign language, you must learn to understand the cultural topics, jokes and popular references. Without this you can’t really become close to a native speaker. 

You will achieve this in the third phase of your Spanish language journey by doing the following activities: 

Speak with other Spanish Speakers

When you start speaking to other people in Spanish, you will shake off the initial feeling of embarrassment and your confidence in the knowledge you acquired will grow rapidly. 

This activity is a bit harder to do online than in person but it is very much doable therefore you don’t have to worry about traveling to Spain or Mexico in order to practice your speaking skills.

When you search the web for speaking Spanish online, you will find a lot of options to learn Spanish by talking with an online tutor; however, these options are not free of charge. 

Which is understandable because it requires a person that speaks Spanish to devote a certain amount of time to speak with you and teach you the language. 

Preply and Italky are the most popular places that provide this kind of service. I have tried both of them and both do the job fairly well. 

PREPLY

Preply has a large base of Language tutors and speakers for the Spanish language. Their site is pretty well designed and it shows you a list of people available in their database that can provide live Spanish lessons for you. 

Each tutor has a short description about them, a profile picture, prices and lesson length. 

The prices vary a lot but it can cost you  from 6$ up to 65$ per lesson. This can become quite expensive depending on which tutor you choose. 

The good thing is that it offers a variety of people and topics to choose from so you will most definitely find the right person for you.

ITALKY

The other option is to engage in Spanish speaking lessons on Italky. It is a language learning platform like Preply and it also offers a huge variety of Spanish teachers not just from Spain but from other Spanish speaking countries as well. 

The platform structure is similar to Preply. It displays online tutors and speakers with an option to book a trial lesson for a lower price then, if you choose to go forward with the tutor, the prices increase slightly depending on the tutor you have chosen. 

All tutors have a short description about them, reviews and numbers on how many students and lessons they have on them and their trial price. 

When you click on a specific tutor you will see more info about the pricing and the topics the tutor usually covers which is pretty useful. 

The pricing per lesson also varies a lot just like on Preply. You can end up spending from 5$ to around 80$ per lesson depending on the tutor and their experience level. 

Both these places are great to practice your Spanish skills and you will learn a lot from the online tutors but that can become quite an expensive hobby. 

LANGUAGE EXCHANGES

There are some cheaper alternatives to online tutoring for Spanish like language exchanges or social media groups where you can connect to people that want to participate in the language exchanges 

There are quite a few Facebook groups out there but the quality of the provided content there is very questionable. 

Finding the right group for you can be a daunting and very time consuming task. But you might end up lucky enough to find a great group that fits you in the first few tries. 

Watch Spanish Movies

Watching movies and TV shows in your target language is a valuable activity which you should definitely add to your learning schedule. 

This is how I learned English when I was 5 years old. My brother and I were watching Cartoon Network and all of their cartoons without any voice overs or subtitles in our native language.

Later on we moved to watch other movies and shows like that and we were practically fluent in a few years. I have applied the same activity for my other languages including Spanish. 

Here are a couple of things you can watch in Spanish and Latino Spanish: 

  • Casa de Papel

  • La Plataforma

  • Torrente (all movies)

  • Club the Cuervos (Mexican TV show) 

 

Lucky for you, Netflix has been killing it with Spanish speaking content on their platform. You can find a ton of movies and TV shows in Spanish that are very good. A great way to combine entertainment and learning at the same time. Therefore if you are a Netflix user, go ahead and see what is out there for you.