For people in the U.S., Spanish is often the second language they’re most interested in learning. Whether it’s to appreciate Spanish entertainment more or perhaps to be able to communicate with Latin people lacking a good grasp on the English language, the situations where a U.S. citizen will be thankful for knowing Spanish are plenty.
However, the hectic schedules of our everyday lives can make learning something new difficult, especially if it involves attending classes. Some simply can’t set aside enough hours to visit a Spanish-teaching classroom weekly; others are happy to have finished their education and get jitters from the mere thought of having to sit in class again.
Fortunately, Spanish online courses are getting better every day, and they now offer to teach you an entire language from wherever it’s most convenient – your home, your office or even your car. Still, there are certain things you should look out for when choosing an online course. That way, when you start using the language, you won’t sound like a tourist trying to read out of a dictionary.
What your Spanish language course should have
Most of the courses will tend to look appealing, but looks can be deceiving – not all of them are as rich with features as you’d like, and some will offer better tutelage than others. Some things to look for:
- The option to hold an actual conversation with someone who is fluent in Spanish. Let’s face it, there’s no replacement for this when trying to learn a language, and few things will boost your multilingualism like being able to talk Spanish with a native-level speaker who will actively correct your mistakes and explain what went wrong. You probably won’t be able to converse with someone at all times due to lack of tutor availability, and that’s fine – as long as the option is there when most needed.
- Grammar correction. In a way, this is similar to our previous point: learning’s great and all, but you’ll want to put your knowledge of the language – however lacking it might be – to use regularly. Having an online course correct your spelling mistakes while letting you know what’s erroneous(and why) will also speed up your understanding of the language considerably.
- Plenty of audio recordings. Writing and pronunciation are two separate entities, and they need to be treated as such. In the absence of a teacher, everything you’re learning should be accompanied by an audio library that you can replay as many times as needed until you have a grasp on how to actually speak. This way, when you finally have a conversation in Spanish, you’ll avoid sounding like a text-to-voice program.
- How much recognition the course has received. While there are some quality courses that have flown under the public’s radar, in general, you’ll want to try going for one that has an award to its name. Also, make sure to check reviews on the web to get a better idea of what the course really offers – bonus points if you can actually talk to someone who attended it.
Benefits and drawbacks of using software and apps to learn Spanish
How much will you need to sacrifice for practicality? In this section, we’ll compare what Spanish learning software brings to the table against what it might be lacking.
Pros of using software to learn Spanish:
- The first is, as you might have guessed, practicality. Thanks to learning software, people who would otherwise never be able to attend a course now have a chance to learn a new language from whichever location they are constrained to. You can even use many of these courses on your mobile device, although you might want to exercise restraint when surrounded by other people – loudly pronouncing Spanish words to your cell phone in a social situation can make you look mighty weird.
- Software gives you more control over your learning process. Regardless of whether you’re a fast learner or a slow one, Spanish-learning software will let you have your foot on the gas pedal. You can repeat a stage over and over again until you’re sure you’ve mastered it, or you can skip to more challenging parts if you find that the software underestimates your knowledge.
- You can share the software with others around you. Whereas a real life course charges on a per-person basis and is rarely suitable for all ages, a single purchase of Spanish-learning software can potentially educate an entire family or a group of friends. Besides, watching others struggle just as much as you can provide some relief and remind you that difficulties are understandable.
Cons of using software to learn Spanish:
- Lack of live action. How much of a drawback this ends up being depends on the person: some people simply won’t be able to teach themselves a new language, and would greatly benefit from an actual tutor guiding them through the entire process. You will need to objectively assess your chances of learning Spanish through software alone.
- Lack of commitment. Many types of language-learning apps don’t really force any timetables upon the user – sure, this can be seen as beneficial, but it can also spell bad news. Without enough discipline on your part, you won’t use the software as often as you’d need, nor with enough dedication. If you think the time you set aside to learn Spanish could end up as one long Facebook session, you could probably make use of an actual classroom.
- Outside distractions could impede your learning process. Here, the mobility that Spanish-learning software provides can also act as a major drawback. You might have difficulty concentrating with children running or screaming around you, your significant other coming home from work, your favorite TV show starting and so forth. You might also feel compelled to submit to these distractions and leave the learning for another time. No es bueno!
When comparing the pros and cons, always be realistic with yourself. Some people are simply more susceptible to distractions and outside influences – this doesn’t necessarily make them bad students, but it does mean that a real-life course would convey the knowledge better. On the other hand, if you’re confident in your ability to pay attention and stick to the schedule you’ve set, don’t be afraid of going for a language-learning app – you’ll save both time and money on top of enjoying the ability to learn Spanish at the place of your choosing.