No, don’t worry, we are not suggesting the Spanish learning product featured in the above photo. It is just an awesome photo. It must be from the early 90’s, no? I am not sure, but that boy sure is having fun learning Spanish. And so can you!!!! 🙂 🙂 Ok, enough with that, just kidding. Lets cut to the chase!!!
A lot of things are helpful when you’re learning a second language. A great teacher is one. An inability to feel shame (or at least, to be able to quickly dismiss it) when you make embarrassing mistakes is another.
And then there are these five resources. True, none of them are essential, but together they make a pretty damn fine package. Three are websites that are free for anyone to use, while the other two are books that are easily worth outlaying a few dollars on. Enjoy, and please share your comments if you have used any of them.
Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Verb Tenses, Second Edition (Practice Makes Perfect Series)
This is simply the king of Spanish workbooks. It has a 5-star feedback rating on Amazon.com and deservedly so. It’s set out simply and it progresses through the tenses with clear explanations and plenty of exercises to help you lock the information in. It focuses on the all-important verbs, and covers them very thoroughly. It’s like a Spanish course all by itself.
Best For: getting the rote-learning of verbs done so that you can focus on conversation the rest of the time.
This is where you want to go when you’ve heard or read a specific Spanish word and you want to look up the meaning. Yes, like a dictionary, but come on, this is 2010! Paper dictionaries are yesterday’s news. The dictionary entries are comprehensive, and they include links to any threads in the users’ forum where someone has asked a question about the word, which is very handy for trickier definitions.
Best For: learning the meanings of new words and replacing your print dictionary.
Studying Spanish inevitably throws up a lot of questions – about what phrases mean, how you translate something from English, what to say in a certain situation, and so on. If you have a teacher or a Spanish-speaking friend you can of course save up your questions and ask them, but really, these are ideal questions problems for ‘crowd-sourcing’ to answer. That’s where these forums come in. A recent post, for example, asked how you say “hey babe” in Spanish. Needless to say, it got plenty of responses…
Best For: asking thorny questions about things in Spanish you don’t get, and reading the answers to other people’s interesting questions.
Like Ms Richmond’s book (above) this one also has the coveted 5-star rating on Amazon.com. It’s written by a native English speaker (from the US) who learned Spanish the hard way, and now speaks it well.
The book has chapters on things like swearing, how not to seem like a gringo, 64 important verbs, how to describe people’s personalities, how to respond in different ways during a conversation and more. It does exactly what it says on the cover: helps you to break out and start speaking Spanish in a more natural way. It’s also a lot of fun to read.
Best For: learning what sounds fluent and natural in spoken Spanish, as opposed to what is merely correct.
If you want to improve your Spanish comprehension there are of course plenty of options. You could watch TV in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish, try to overhear people on the subte and so on. None of these things are designed specifically for Spanish learners though. Enter Destinos, which is essentially a Mexican-style telenovela that was developed for Spanish learners. It’s in 52 parts, all of which are freely available on the website quoted above.
Best For: hilarious late-80s fashion (the size of Raquel’s shoulder pads is truly awe-inspiring), and practicing your Spanish listening in real-life-like situations.