Since we’re going to be spending at least four months of the world in Spanish-speaking countries, I thought I’d better get a wriggle on trying to learn some of the language! Lofty has been much better at this than me, and has been learning for almost 18 months. I, however, have taken the more ‘intensive’ approach and trying out lots of different methods! I’ve compiled a list of just a few of the ways we’ve been trying to learn Spanish (and some bonus ones that have been recommended to us, that we will try in the near future):
1. Best if you have three months or more: Find a Groupon/Amazon Local deal!
Lofty found a brilliant deal on AmazonLocal that offered a 12-week Spanish course for only £79 with the Elegant International College in London. Definitely worth every penny! With a course over 12 weeks, he really got to know the teacher and the other students, so he was able to meet up with them outside the classroom to help improve his Spanish even more. After 18-months, Lofty is a confident Spanish speaker and well prepared for a few months in South America!
2. Best if you only have two weeks: Instituto Cervantes ‘Intensive’ courses
This is the course that I took over the last two weeks of November. Instituto Cervantes is run by the Spanish government as a way of promoting the Spanish language around the world – and all the teachers are native Spanish speakers. The course takes place every day for three hours a day (from 10:30-13:30) and costs £312. The class sizes tend to be pretty small, with a minimum of 4 up to a maximum of about 12 people per class.
Although I initially started with the very beginner course (Inicial 1), because I had been using Duolingo (see below) I already had enough vocabulary to jump to the Inicial 2 level. I’m so glad that I did. Over the two weeks, I went from a completely shy Spanish speaker to being able to have actual conversations and write full on emails and postcards. The course is quite intense – they try to speak as little English as possible during the lesson, even to complete beginners – but I thoroughly recommend it if you get the chance before you go. They also give you a ‘qualification’ at the end of the course which allows you to pick up a Spanish language course anywhere around the world.
3. Best if you’re learning on your own (for free): Duolingo
I downloaded a bunch of Spanish apps to help me learn, but the most useful one has been Duolingo (and bonus: it’s free!). It’s easy to use, fun, and has really helped improve my vocabulary. The biggest drawback to Duolingo is the fact that you don’t say much out loud – and you don’t get a chance to interact with anyone, so translating Duolingo knowledge into an actual conversation is tricky. That’s why I would thoroughly recommend taking a course as a way to cement that knowledge!
3a. Best for learning on your own (for ££): Rosetta Stone
A bit on the expensive side, but well proven to be one of the best pieces of software for learning Spanish on your own! I have yet to use it but have heard only great things. I have the Latin American Spanish version, level 1 and I’ll be adding it to my laptop for learning on the road.
4. Best if you can start your trip a bit early: Homestays
Lofty and I are unfortunately starting in Portuguese-speaking Brazil, so we’re not able to do a homestay. But if my experiences learning French are any indication, becoming fully immersed in the language with a homestay is the only way to become truly fluent. Oasis Overland offers week-long homestays as ‘added extras’ on most of their South America itineraries.
5. Best if you like to watch videos: VideoEle
This website was recommended to me by my Instituto Cervantes teacher and it’s so useful! Some of the Spanish learning videos I found on YouTube were very basic and not very helpful. But these videos are clear, useful and tie in to the different levels used by Instituto Cervantes. If you’re a beginner, go to the section marked ‘Alumno’ and then level ‘Nivel A1’
I would also like to download some great (but easy) Spanish-language podcasts for the road – does anyone have any recommendations? We’ve been listening to Coffee Break Spanish and Show Time Spanish but always looking for others!