7.5 Great Resources
Like we said earlier, you're Language Learning experience might be driven by LearnSpanishSmart.com, but it should be by no means confined to it.
There are some other great resources out there that you can use to really help your language learning journey.
All of what is here is what the non-native speakers of Spanish in our team wished they'd known about earlier, rather than later in their studies.
- Language Exchange sites
- Listening resources
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What Language Exchanges do is they match up foreign language students who are studying each other's language. You then teach your own language and learn your partner's (native) language.
Essentially, as a native English speaker, you are an incredibly valuable commodity because English is the most important, and hence most studied language in the world. For many people the world over, learning English is an absolute necessity for them. Hence, there is an army of people out there who will be keen to learn English with your help, and in exchange, you learn (in this case) Spanish from them.
Another feature is that you can write some of your Spanish in the public space. Native Speakers will see this and those helpful individuals will correct it for you so that you can spot where you've gone wrong. This is also a great way to meet people to have conversations with.
Language Exchange Options
You'll notice that Busuu and Livemocha also have their own lessons. We think that this is not their strength by a long way. In our opinion, their lessons are quite basic and don't extend to much more than showing you a picture of an apple, and you have to click on the word 'manzana'. They also seem to have something of a copy and paste approach to their teaching even ACROSS languages. i.e. the Spanish lessons aren't necessarily tailored to Spanish. You can see a much more in depth discussion here.
That being said, they are great for finding partners, and combining them with Facebook Chat or Skype is absolutely fantastic.
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Apps & Sites
- Google Translate
Google Translate is the king of electronic translation and can be your 'go to' source to find out a word whether it be English>Spanish or Spanish>English (or pretty much any other language for that matter).
It's surprisingly good at translation (for a non-human) and you can use it to help your understanding with a copy+paste of Spanish text.
Be VERY, VERY careful with it though. It doesn't have much of an appreciation of verb conjugations, tenses, structure or context and you use it for English>Spanish at your peril. Other than to look up a few words (and even then, check the context) you really shouldn't be doing it for text of longer than a few words at a time (keep an eye on the verbs too - see next on Conjuverb).
Conjuverb is an incredibly useful app to have whether you're a beginner or more advanced. Basically, it has thousands of verbs in all their forms so you can use it as a great reference tool to check that you have the right one no matter what the tense, spelling, accents etc.
It's more for use reading & writing rather than speaking and listening though (obviously). It also has a good hide & swipe feature for learning your verbs.
At the moment, Conjuverb is only available on the Apple Appstore. If you're on Android then a slightly less slick alternative is downloadable here.
Duolingo is an interesting concept known as learning 'gamified'. You progress through levels and backtrack if you don't stick at it. It's very user friendly and good for vocabulary and practice.
Where it falls down is that it doesn't really explain much. You just tap through it and are supposed to piece things together in your head. We think this can be a little inefficient and at times, confusing. The concept itself also has quite a strong whiff of 'gimmick' about it and you probably don't want to use it as your number one source.
Great for vocab, keeping your practice up and for testing yourself. Not so great for studying or learning efficiently.
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The one book we really do recommend you think about buying though is Breaking out of Beginners Spanish from the University of Texas Press
It's written by a self-confessed extranjero who moved to Latin America and spent a lot of time there living.
Throughout the book he offers insights and information that it's just impossible to get elsewhere. It's a goldmine of information that will very often clear things up for your that were previously mystifying.
It's much more suited to intermediate level and above (surprise, surprise given the title) but even if you're a beginner yourself there's a lot of interesting material of what is to come. It can be quite encouraging too.
A truly valuable book. Very interesting and insightful.
Another book we think can be useful (though nowhere near the same league as 'Breaking out of Beginner's Spanish') is a very interesting concept of a book that comes from a series called 'English Grammar for students of X'.
If we remember the quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said: “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”, this series of books uses that concept and turns it on it's head, and helps you learn your target language by first explaining the idea in English, making it much easier to conceptualize first (in English) then learn (in Spanish).
It's really not as essential a purchase as 'Breaking out of Beginner's Spanish' though because a) It's very technical and grammatical and b) At LearnSpanishSmart.com we always explain things using the English first so that you can relate to and conceptualize them more easily- making this book a little redundant seeing as you can get most of the useful things on this very website (without spending money on the book). Nevertheless worth a purchase if you are interested as it does go into a lot of detail. English Grammar for Students of Spanish.
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- Audio Programmes
Audio Programs can be a useful part of your armory when it comes to attacking Spanish. OK they have their drawbacks (you go at their pace - not yours, they can be boring etc) but they can also be really helpful provided you choose the right one.
Our favorite is one called the Pimsleur method and we like it because we think it dovetails nicely with our own LearnSpanishSmart method. Using our site as the driving force of your studies and Pimsleur for the audio/listening side is a very powerful combination.
What Pimsleur does is it simulates a Spanish conversation (with Natives for pronunciation) then breaks that conversation down into bitesize chunks over the rest of the lesson. It can be frustratingly slow progress at times (so skip a few lessons) and it's a little old (so can be a little formal) but it is incredibly good to actually hear the language in a conversational context.
If you get your studying, explanations and material from LearnSpanishSmart.com, then put that to use with listening and some 'speak-out-loud' from Pimsleur, we think you're onto a winner.
Before you go ahead and buy, here's the first lesson as a sample. Remember it's the first lesson so you might find it a touch basic now, you can always skip ahead.
A very easily enjoyable way to improve your listening skills is with Music. Given their reputation for dancing well, it comes as no surprise that there is such a wealth of great material in the form of Latin Music. The speed here will probably be a problem but hey, it's only music and you can have it on in the background to create that 'Spanish-language' atmosphere for your brain.
Why not do a YouTube search for the main genres of Latin music? You'l find something you like in no time.
At first, you probably won't want to sit through a full blown Spanish Movie. At least not without the benefit of subtitles.
Once you've got a decent level of skill, you should be able to enjoy a movie with the help of subtitles no problem. That also means subtitles in both directions.
As long as you observe a few little tips, it can be a really valuable learning tool.
Spanish Movie with English Subtitles: This is a good tool to hear a lot of Spanish pronunciation, with the benefit of knowing exactly what they're talking about. If you read the subtitles a little faster than they speak, you know what's coming up and can listen out for it. Then you can equate them in your head when the actors do say it and you can pick out their correct pronunciation. It's also good for a little extra vocabulary too, especially with the visuals (e.g. you see a bad guy shout "¡Escúchame!" and everyone listens to him).
To start with, we think that kids movies are good because they are designed to be simple and understandable (makes sense) so go ahead and get a copy of El Rey León. After that, there are lots of great Spanish Language movies like Diarios de motocicleta and El laberinto del fauno among many many others.
English Movie with Spanish subtitles: Be wary of a bad translation (get your native friends to let you know) but this can be equally useful. You hear the actors say something, then immediately see how this is constructed in Spanish at the bottom of the screen.
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