If you’d like to learn a new language that has a good chance of being useful in day-to-day life, Spanish is a good option. Spanish is the second most spoken language (when considering native speakers) in the world.
There are more than 500 million people worldwide who speak Spanish. This makes it a useful language for both leisure travel and business. In addition, the Spanish language is relatively easy to learn. It has many similarities to other romance languages, and its pronunciation is mostly phonetic, so building a large Spanish vocabulary is easier than learning other languages.
Even as recently as a few years ago, learning Spanish would have required paying for expensive language learning CDs or taking face-to-face lessons. Many people use immersion learning, visiting a country, and spending a few weeks doing a crash-course in the language there.
While these options are still available, learning Spanish online is now more practical than ever before. You may not get the fluency of a native speaker by doing an online Spanish course by itself, but you could learn the basics of Spanish grammar and vocabulary and pick up enough of the language to be able to get around in a Spanish speaking country, ask for directions, buy things, and interact with native speakers reasonably confidently.
How much progress you’ll make depends on what sort of aptitude you have for language learning, but online studies can give you a head start and will allow you to make the most of any time you have with a Spanish teacher face-to-face.
Benefits of Learning Spanish
There are many benefits to learning a foreign language. Researchers have found many cognitive advantages to being bilingual, including better memories, increased cognitive awareness, and even reduced risk of cognitive decline later in life.
Learning a second language opens doors for new social experiences and offers career options too, especially if the second language is one that is widely used around the world, such as German or Spanish.
Why should you consider learning Spanish?
We’ve already touched on some of the advantages of learning Spanish. It’s a widely used language, which means you’ll have many opportunities to travel to countries where there are native speakers.
Spanish is the official language or national language of 21 countries:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- El Salvador
- Puerto Rico
In addition to these countries, there are many other parts of the world where Spanish is widely used, and where Spanish-speaking communities are common.
What factors are driving the growth of Spanish speakers in the US?
Spanish is a popular second language in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It’s considered an important language in the world of business, and as the economy becomes more globalized and emerging economies become stronger, Spanish knowledge is seen as increasingly valuable.
Mexico, for example, is a country with a rapidly growing economy. The consumer market in Mexico is booming, and businesses are looking to tap into that emerging economy. To do so, they’ll need skilled workers who can speak the local language.
What are the professional advantages of learning Spanish?
Because Spanish is so important for international commerce, bilingual workers who know both English and Spanish are very much in demand. It’s estimated that those working in sales, technical support, and marketing can expect to earn 10-15% more simply by being bilingual.
Today, the economy is in a fragile state, and the job market is highly competitive. Taking the time to learn a foreign language could give a jobseeker the competitive edge they need to beat out other applicants. If you’re not sure what to choose for your new language, picking something like Spanish makes sense since it’s such an easy language for English speakers to learn, and yet it’s also very much in demand.
It’s also a reasonably accessible language. Every major language learning platform has a Spanish course, and you can find people to help you practice Spanish online. You’ll also find lots of popular books that have been translated into the language, and there’s plenty of visual and audio media to consume, too. This makes immersion learning relatively simple.
One of the reasons adults struggle to learn a second language is that they don’t spend much time practicing it. Forming the connections and associations that make it possible to ‘think in a foreign language’ takes practice, and immersion learning helps with this.
Advantages of taking free Spanish lessons online
Formal teaching, face-to-face classes, and working with a native speaker of your chosen foreign language are very helpful when it comes to learning how to speak Spanish. However, you can still make a lot of progress with learning a new language if you take online lessons.
There are many free Spanish language lessons available online, including app-based learning with gamified features that help keep you motivated to do a few minutes every day, formal, structured courses, and audio or video lessons that are somewhere in-between.
Why should you consider taking free online Spanish lessons?
Taking free online Spanish lessons makes sense for anyone who is interested in learning the language, whether those lessons are their primary means of study or not. If you’re just exploring learning a foreign language for the first time, you can pick up the basics through online lessons.
If you’re taking formal lessons at college, evening classes, or even through a private tutor, spending a few minutes each day working through some app-based lessons might help you remember what you learned in class. It will also expose you to a wider vocabulary, too, which brings you one step closer to fluency.
How can free online Spanish lessons help you prepare for a more advanced Spanish class?
Free online Spanish lessons are good for getting used to hearing the language spoken, and for learning new words. Most free Spanish language classes you’ll take online cover basic tourist-focused conversations, and teach you how to form very simple sentences and ask questions.
You might learn how to count, the names of the colors, and some other simple words and phrases, as well as the pronunciation of the letters. These are all important things to learn, and if you spend a few minutes every day working on your Spanish you’ll find those simple terms sink in fairly quickly.
Many Spanish learners find they ‘hit a wall’ with online or app-based lessons when it comes to speaking themselves, or listening to other Spanish speakers who talk quickly or have an accent. Some people also find they struggle with more complex writing and speaking because they need more guidance when it comes to grammar.
These are areas where a more advanced Spanish class can help you because you’ll be able to have real-time conversations, ask questions, and explore the finer points of the language in-depth.
Advanced language learning courses can be quite expensive, so it doesn’t make sense to pay for them when you’re a beginner at the language. Rather than spending a lot of money to get told how to say “the apple is red”, or “la manzana es roja” as it is in Spanish, by a tutor, you can learn those basics using an app.
What are the benefits of the flexibility afforded by online Spanish lessons?
The main area where online Spanish lessons shine is the flexibility they offer. Building language comprehension requires regular practice. If you’re not exposing yourself to your desired second language every day you’ll find it’s hard to ‘think’ in that language and that you forget a lot of what you learned between sessions.
Even if you enroll on a language course, if you’re only taking classes a few times a week you’ll likely find your progress is slow. Augmenting the vocabulary and grammar you learned in your classes with some extra online learning will help you progress more quickly.
Free apps and online courses are a good option for people who can’t afford to take a traditional class, or for those who either don’t have classes available in their areas or are unable to attend classes due to their work schedules.
Those who want a little more support, guidance, or interaction may want to look at online lessons taught by a tutor, either one-to-one or in a small group. These are slightly less flexible than app-based or pre-recorded Spanish lessons because they require you to be available to take classes at a set time, but they’ll give you a chance to build your speaking skills and listening comprehension by working with a native speaker.
Where to find free online Spanish lessons
There are dozens of options for learning a language and many of the popular tools are either free or very low-cost. Learners can choose from flashcard-style lessons to games, pre-recorded videos, and more text-heavy guides, giving them the chance to work with the type of learning material they find most engaging and easiest to remember.
Some popular options include:
All of these learning platforms offer free courses. In some cases, there are premium options that add extra features, the option to earn a certification or access to more learning material.
It’s possible to learn a lot using the free versions of the courses, however, and it’s worth trying the free platform for a few months to see how much you retain before investing in the extra features.
What should you look for in free online Spanish lessons?
When you’re choosing a platform to learn a language on, you should think about how you stay motivated, and what sort of content will help you learn. In addition, consider your goals. Is your goal to learn a language well enough to get by on holiday, or do you want to be fluent in writing, listening, and speaking for business?
How much time do you have to study? Are you more likely to stick with five minutes per day doing some simple DuoLingo lessons or would the structure of a Coursera course work well for you?
DuoLingo and Memrise both work on the “little and often” principle. These easy-to-use apps and websites present you with small pieces of information such as vocabulary or short phrases and then test you on them. With DuoLingo, you’ll follow a themed set of classes and be re-tested regularly to confirm you can still remember the content from previous days. Users are rewarded with points and gamified badges as they progress through the lessons.
Memrise uses the analogy of plants, and treats learning a language like ‘growing a garden’. Words and phrases you learn are ‘planted’ and you’ll go back and water the memory by refreshing words you already know. Newly acquired words will be revised regularly and ‘grow’ into mature plants. As the plants grow, you’ll be tested on the words less often, because the mature memory should be firmly implanted in your memory.
These systems work very well for learning vocabulary and may give you decent reading comprehension for simple phrases too. However, they’re less effective for spoken language learning and listening.
Both DuoLingo and Memrise have an audio component, but because you’re dealing with very short phrases or individual words, and the words are pre-recorded, you don’t get to practice listening to fluid, natural speech. There are speech recognition tools to test you on how well you pronounce words, but the software isn’t always reliable and if you’re repeatedly told you’re pronouncing the words incorrectly you might find yourself feeling rather frustrated because the app can’t give you the feedback you need to correct yourself.
In contrast, courses offered on platforms such as Coursera will include more long-form speech and pre-recorded role-play interactions. This gives you the chance to listen to conversations and develop stronger spoken Spanish skills.
Another benefit of the long-form courses is that many of them follow mainstream curriculums, meaning they’ll prepare you to take exams to prove your Spanish proficiency. This can be useful if you’re hoping to seek employment in a role where being bilingual is important.
What should you avoid when looking for free online Spanish lessons?
One thing to take into account when you’re looking for free lessons is who created the lessons and how carefully they’re vetted. For example, Memrise is a useful platform for people who want to grow their vocabulary and who already have a good understanding of Spanish grammar.
However, the platform allows users to add content to it, and while the content is voted on and reviewed by the community, this feature does mean low-quality content sometimes slips through.
If you’re a beginner and you don’t want to be left frustrated or confused by user-created content that is inaccurate, you may want to stick to professionally created courses such as Duolingo’s, or the pre-recorded content on Coursera.
Most effective Spanish lessons online for free
We’ve listed a few of the most popular options for learning Spanish online already, but there are some other structured options to help people at different levels of fluency, from those who are just trying basic Spanish for the first time, to those who are interested in learning conversational Spanish or becoming proficient enough to work in the country.
What are the top-rated free online Spanish lessons?
Some of the best Spanish courses you can take online include:
This platform offers hundreds of lessons on Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and even frequently-used idioms. There are basic classes for beginners and intermediate or advanced options for those who have already taken short courses and are looking to grow their proficiency.
As the name suggests, this online school is aimed at those who are interested in learning business-focused Spanish. Lessons focus on topics such as sales, marketing, job interviews, travel, taxes, and negotiations. There’s a lot of audio content to work through, helping learners become more confident listeners.
There are several courses to choose from on Live Lingua, and these courses are taught by native speakers. There are free class options, but the real appeal of this platform is the one-to-one classes. Because you get to work with a Spanish teacher, you’ll get far more in-depth tuition. Users can try a one-to-one class for free, but you’ll have to pay to continue using the tutored lessons.
The Spanish Experiment is a free, easy-to-use website with Spanish lessons divided up into clear sections, with each section focusing on a topic such as a specific type of vocabulary or grammar. There are also sections on commonly confused words and mistakes.
This website is quite text-heavy, but the classes make use of lots of audio too. The lightweight nature of the website and ease of navigation make it easy for learners to dip in and out.
The BBC is a British broadcaster, and they offer a lot of educational content, including Spanish lessons. The BBC courses are aimed at beginners and intermediate-level students. Their language hub offers online tutorials, short lessons, and even a guide to slang.
More advanced learners can explore the links to public broadcasters and even try reading or watching the BBC news in Spanish to broaden their exposure to the language.
What are the best apps for learning Spanish?
DuoLingo and Memrise are some of the most well-known language learning apps, with lessons available for dozens of languages, not just Spanish.
These apps are great for people who are just getting started with a new language, or who want to get to a level of proficiency where they can ask for directions and say “how much is that please?” when they go on holiday.
Learners who are hoping to achieve a higher degree of understanding of the Spanish language may want a more sophisticated app. Some good examples of Spanish learning apps include:
HelloTalk is a language learning app with a twist. Unlike other apps that have pre-scripted lessons, HelloTalk connects learners with native speakers, allowing them to talk via video or voice chat, text, etc.
The app is great for adults who are hoping to practice speaking and listening. However, there’s no system in place to vet users, so it’s not a good idea to give this app to a child to use unsupervised.
This app features 101 lessons and over 1,000 phrases for users to learn. There are 4,000 interactive exercises, including reading, listening, and speaking. The speech part relies on speech recognition software, which means it isn’t quite as good as talking to a native speaker, but you’ll still get some useful practice that will help you become more confident in your spoken Spanish.
The app is ideal for beginners who are planning a short trip for business or pleasure, and it’s designed to help users get to basic conversational proficiency.
Busuu is a general language learning app that covers several popular languages, including Spanish, French, German, and Russian. The app is designed to help people learn Spanish in a self-paced fashion, with a structured curriculum that gradually builds vocabulary and introduces important grammar concepts.
The app lets users define a study plan, gives reminders to encourage students to keep practicing, and tracks your vocabulary so that you know which words you need to focus on.
The above are just a few of the most interesting language learning apps. No app is a substitute for classroom learning or immersion language learning, so if you’re serious about becoming fluent in Spanish you should look for ways to talk to native speakers, watch as much Spanish media as you can and even spend time living and working there if you have the option to do so.
How long does it take to master Spanish?
It takes consistent practice to learn a new language. The Foreign Services Institute classes Spanish as a Group 1 language, meaning it’s relatively easy for an English speaker to learn.
Don’t be misled by the term ‘relatively easy’, however. It still takes an average of 480 hours of diligent study to reach basic fluency in a Group 1 language. You could be forgiven for thinking that makes it possible to get ‘fluent’ in one year if you invest several hours per week into your studies.
Most people will find it takes longer than that to become fluent because they’ll have bad days, waste some of that time, duplicate certain studies across different apps, or find that a specific area of grammar is a real struggle for them.
Also, you’ll have to account for missed lessons, periods of low motivation, forgetting things, and getting distracted in day-to-day life. If you miss a month of classes because you were busy at work then decided to go on holiday, you’ll need to spend a few classes revising the content you’ve already covered and getting back to the level of proficiency you used to have.
This means it’s important to set realistic expectations for how long it will take before you’re able to read, write and converse in a foreign language quickly.
Spanish is reasonably easy to learn, and your written proficiency and ability to ‘get by’ when reading and listening might grow more quickly than your ability to speak the language. Many words in Spanish bear enough similarity to words in other romance languages that you’ll be able to guess what’s being said a lot of the time.
This makes Spanish a rewarding language to learn since you’ll feel like you’re making progress quite quickly. It’s important to keep going to Spanish classes, talking to native speakers, and working through structured courses to cover holes in your knowledge, so that you can make the step from “a tourist who can ask for directions” to being someone who can converse confidently about a variety of topics.
The best approach to learning a new language is to combine structured online courses with short bursts of revision in an app. Then, as your confidence grows, introduce other exposure to the language into your day-to-day life. For example, change the default language in your favorite websites to Spanish. Watch the news in Spanish and try playing video games in the language too.
You’ll likely find that the Spanish you’re exposed to in entertainment is rather different from the Spanish you learn out of a textbook or an online course. It’s more complex, sometimes uses abbreviations or slang, and is harder for a beginner to pick up, but it’s closer to what you’ll be exposed to in real life.
You need both types of Spanish when you’re a beginner, so you can learn the rules of the language in a predictable and consistent way, then move on to talking like a native and having confident conversations for business or pleasure.