Spanish learning tools review

Spanish learning tools review

Let’s start off with the fact that I am absolutely horrible at learning languages.  The six years I spent trying to learn French proved to be a complete waste of time the first time I was stuck trying to get directions from a French guy.  Spanish hadn’t proven to be much easier for me until I found a couple great products and started living here in Colombia full time.  But now, I suppose I’ve finally reached a point in my Spanish where I no longer can reasonably review language learning products from a true learners perspective.  So now it’s time to share all the things I’ve tried and give you my opinions on them.

My favorite Spanish learning program…

Michel Thomas Foundation Course


This was probably the third program I tried and it came recommended by a British dude I met in the Dominican Republic.  There are so many things I love about this course that it would be impossible to explain them all.  Unlike most other “audio books”, Michel Thomas does not neglect grammar and structure, but he introduces it in context.  The program goes through him teaching two students how to speak Spanish.  This worked great for me because they normally had the same problems I was having and when they were corrected I was corrected.  He also associates words in Spanish with ones we would know in English.  The course is only slightly entertaining but it’s enough to keep you focussed (even with my ADD).

My favorite App for learning Spanish…

Duolingo!  This app is free, fun, and very engaging.  I’m not going to tell you where I use it most often, but I will say that I don’t have any magazine subscriptions here.  I think it’s a great time killing companion for the Michel Thomas audio program.  It does great at teaching individual words where the above program focuses on understanding the language.  Duolingo does include some grammar and pronunciation, but it’s not really the best at those things.  This app is perfect for just increasing vocabulary.

And my favorite video program…

Bueno Entonces Spanish learning reviewBueno Entonces!  OK, honestly I have no idea how much I learned from this program.  I do know that it was funny as hell and I truly enjoyed watching it.  I personally thought it was a little too fast for someone just starting out but it has some great advantages too.  You not only get to visualize the words with photos for association, but also in their written form at the bottom of the screen.  Everything said in Spanish is translated and color coded to demonstrate the differences between verbs and adjectives, masculine and feminine, etc.  I’m a pretty slow reader so I had to pause it if I was trying to read both the English and Spanish, but I just got to the point where I quit trying to learn Spanish and just laughed my way through the series.  I’m sure I was still learning as I laughed.

So those are my favorite tools for learning Spanish.  Here are the others I tried…

Rosetta Stone was the first program I tried.  I opted for the TOTALe version.  It was just OK.  I learned a lot of words, but never understood how to use them or put them into a real sentence.  They have some cool games and live classes, but at several hundred dollars a year, I was very disappointed.  I used Rosetta Stone for a few hours a day starting about 3 months before my first trip.  When I arrived in the DR I still couldn’t order a sandwich.

Spanish for Dummies was the second thing I tried.  Flat out sucks!  Don’t even bother.

Power Spanish Accelerated is slightly better than Spanish for Dummies if you are trying to stay under $20, but it still sucks.

There are also podcasts, videos and apps galore.  I haven’t found any that really made an impact on my Spanish.  One of my buddies really likes one called Spanish in 180 seconds, but I consider it more of a “tip of the day” type thing than actually learning Spanish.

What do you think?  Have you tried any other programs?  Success or failure?  Leave comments below to help others trying to learn a new language.

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