Personal Development

3 Free Tools for Learning a Language

So I recently decided to dust off my three years of high school Spanish (of which practically all I remember is “Yo tengo no dinero”) and start learning Spanish again for upcoming trips to South America. Here are three free tools I’ve been using:

  1. Anki – the OG flashcard application for your desktop. It’s free to download and has a bit of learning curb but is great for spaced repetition learning. When I first started, I found a list of 625 commonly used Spanish words from Fluent Forever and created flashcards in Anki using the method described in step 2 of this blog post; specifically I used a picture to symbolize the word, and recorded the sound of a native speaker speaking the word in the answer, using Forvo.
  2. Memrise – another spaced repetition learning app, this time running in a web browser. I started with the 1500 Word Spanish Intro course, and have since graduated to Learn Spanish Conjugation and Learn Spanish Grammar, among others. There is a ton of user-generated courses on the site, especially for a popular language like Spanish.
  3. Doulingo – is an app I have on my iPhone. It has short lessons and tracks daily progress. I find the that app is optimized more for getting you to come back every day rather than actually challenge you, but it’s a good way to keep focused. The website also has great additional content (I really love their Duolingo Stories).

I try to spend minimum 1 hour per day with the above, and have seen slow steady improvement of my Spanish. Doulingo reports I am 58% fluent at the moment (from 0% 1 year ago), but I’m sure that is not a very meaningful metric for real-world applications.

Other tools I use/have used:

  1.  iTalki – a website for finding speaking partners, tutors, and professional teachers, this is probably the best way to learn a language outside of actually living in your target country. The language exchange is free, but using a teacher is going to have a monetary and time commitment cost.
  2. Netflix – has a ton of Spanish-language content, and you can get original programming from almost any country, which is truly amazing. Prepare to be very lost at the beginning.
  3. YouTube – another great resource for tons of free user-generated content. I really like: Butterfly Spanish, Spanishland School, and Why Not Spanish.
  4. Podcasts – are great for practicing listening skills while travelling or doing other things (like cooking, laundry, etc.). I listen to Spanishland School’s podcast Espanolistos regularly.

Any other recommended resources out there?

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