Hey guys! So last night I posted about my newly composed Chinese learning strategy, which can actually be used for any language! Anyways, at the end of that post I announced that I am now learning Spanish and have been for the past two months, and am now to B1 fluency and only 2% away from becoming B2.
Now, here’s what’s interesting: I’m level B2 in Mandarin Chinese, and it took me six years to get there. I’ve only been learning Spanish for two months and I’m almost as fluent in Spanish as I am in Chinese (which is pretty fluent). How did I do that?! Want to hear something even more interesting? I learned Spanish, in two months, to an upper intermediate level, for absolutely free. And you can do the same.
First of all, some background on the Spanish language. Spanish has been classified as one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers, but that definitely does not mean it’s easy, as a lot of you know! According to statistics, Spanish fluency requires about 575 to 600 class hours, or, about twenty four weeks. That’s six months, if you study everyday all day. Also, there are two main dialects of Spanish: Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish (I’m learning the Mexican dialect because that’s most useful in the US and it’s the one my family speaks). So, how do you learn Spanish efficiently and still cut the time drastically, and for not a penny out of your pocket?
Here’s how I did it:
How To Learn Spanish For FREE
1. Use Duolingo
The first primary resource I used was Duolingo. At first, I was really anti-Duolingo because they tend to teach you phrases in the beginning that seem like you won’t ever use. Examples are sentences such as, ‘the woman drinks,’ ‘the woman’s apple,’ ‘the man is not a boy,’ etc. However, if you have the patience to learn
these boring phrases (which for several years, I did not), it becomes extremely helpful. You suddenly realize that you were being taught grammar from the first day and that those phrases help you with every other one you learn! Plus, you pick up a lot of vocabulary but in a decent amount.
I’ve used Duolingo since the start of my Spanish journey, from Level 1 and now to Level 9. According to it, I am 48% fluent, which I’ve heard is pretty accurate.
- Everyday I start by strengthening my skills (a feature Duolingo has) at least twice
- I then begin the next lesson and enter the new vocabulary I learn into my Anki SRS
- After completing a lesson, strengthen it
Depending on the day, I do from 1-3 lessons a day.
2. Use Memrise
Memrise was/is my second primary source (meaning I use it just as much as Duolingo). It’s absolutely free. You can upgrade for pay if you want, for a few extra features, but I’ve never run into any problems with the free one and plan on continuing to use it a ton down the road. I started by taking the Spanish (Mexico) 1 course, and finished it within about two to three weeks. After that, I went onto the Spanish (Mexico) 2 course, and currently only have two more lessons to finish before moving on to Spanish 3 (there are a total of seven levels if I remember correctly).
A huge pro to Memrise is that most of the stuff I learn is also taught on Duolingo and around the same time if you started both courses from the beginning, so what I learn on one resource first is like a review and strengthening on the other the next day. It’s so cool! So be sure to start them at the same time for this coincidence to happen.
- I start everyday by doing the Classic Review
- I then do at least 2 new lessons a day
- Usually the lessons have things I’ve already learned on Duolingo or that are fairly easy, so sometimes I even do 3 lessons
- I don’t normally put Memrise vocab into Anki unless I have a really hard time with a certain word or phrase, because Memrise tends to be more repetitive than Duolingo
3. Download a Spanish Podcast
I’m not sure about all podcasts, but subscribing to them is free on an iPhone. On my iPhone I have three Spanish podcasts: the new Duolingo podcast (with narration in English and dialogue in Spanish), A La Aventura (a podcast about Spanish literature), and SpanishPod101.
- I listen to 1 podcast in the morning right when I wake up and then another at night before I go to bed, so I hear Spanish as I start my day and as I end it
- In the morning and night I listen to A La Aventura, because it’s in only Spanish and the goal is to completely immerse myself whereas the other two have English in them
- In the afternoon or whenever I have spare time I listen to SpanishPod101, where I can write down phrases learned and learn through listening only
- The Duolingo one only has two podcasts on it currently because it’s so new, but I don’t use it all the time anyways because of the amount of English in it
- On some days I do active listening drills, where I take dictation (write down what I hear them saying) of an all-Spanish podcast on a sheet of paper
4. Listen to Spanish Music
Music has been a key tool in all my language learning, but for Spanish I’ve noticed just how powerful it is and how much it actually can help. I have a playlist of four Spanish songs on my iPhone, which are: “Bonita” by J. Balvin, “Escapate Conmigo” by Wisin, “Chantaje” by Shakira and “Soy Yo” by Bomba Estereo, if any of you want to check them out. What I like about these songs are that they’re all so catchy, are good for intermediate learners, and they have interesting messages but they aren’t hard to figure out if you have a decent amount of vocabulary.
- I listen to Spanish music mostly passively, like when I get ready for an event, I connect my phone to my Bluetooth speaker and listen to music and try to sing along as I wash my hair, put my makeup on, or get dressed
- I also listen my Spanish music when I run in the evenings. When you’re moving around while learning something, it sticks better, and that has definitely been the case with Spanish. So my runs have become Spanish music only.
- Singing out loud or even singing in your head really helps to get you out of the habit of translating in your head
- If you come across a word that is repetitive you don’t know, look it up in a dictionary and write it down. Don’t translate the whole thing or every single word you don’t know (unless you want to), but only words that are just completely nipping away at your curiosity
5. Journal in Spanish
I haven’t done this very much, but the few times I have, it’s really helped me get to the next level, especially after the first month of studying. I either physically write it out in my Spanish notebook or get on a Google document and type it out. Either way, I write about how I’m feeling, describe the day, write out my goals, etc. After I’m done I upload my journal entry onto Italki, where native speakers can read and correct my entry.
- I try to journal every other day
- If you find that you don’t know how to say something you want to say in Spanish while writing your entry, look it up and then make sure to write it down
- Get a native speaker to review and correct your work, compare the corrections, and then revise the entry and read over it.
- Also, if a native speaker introduces me to a new grammar pattern, I make sure to write it down and practice it
- It helps if you take a different color pen and mark the corrections on the first entry, explaining to yourself where you went wrong, THEN write a clean, new entry with all the corrections made to it
6. Use SpanishDict
SpanishDict is an online Spanish dictionary, but also like a blog. I use it for everything I need to look up, and they also have online articles about certain grammar points or tricky vocabulary words as well as quizzes and exercises. I used this the other day, for example, when I was having trouble differentiating between “Por” and “Para.” SpanishDict had a whole article lesson over it, and a practice quiz/exercise at the end. After practicing several times, I really mastered the differences.
- I only really use SpanishDict when I’m having trouble with a concept or need help translating a word
- I also downloaded it on my iPhone so I have a dictionary with me anywhere I go
7. Study in a Peaceful Environment
I can’t tell you how important this is. Please make sure your brain knows that you are not forcing yourself to learn a language. Study in a fun atmosphere. I normally study outside on my back porch during nice weather, or in bed at night or in the morning when I’m comfy, if I’m feeling creative I study at my clean desk, or if it’s cold outside, I study in the living room by the fire with hot chocolate. If you tell yourself that what you’re doing is probably impossible, it will be.
There you have my complete routine of how I learned Spanish these past two months, and how I plan to continue learning it, for free.
You might have noticed that I didn’t include speaking with a native speaker. This is because I live with one, my dad, and I can practice any time I want. However, I know most of you don’t have that advantage. So, what do you do? Use a site or app like Italki or HelloTalk to connect with native speakers. You might be thinking that this will ruin the whole ‘for free’ theme here since you have to pay for Italki tutors, but it doesn’t. You can register on Italki without ever taking a lesson, and instead just look for language partners. Language partners are free and people from other parts of the world who become like your pen pals.
I hope you enjoyed this article about how I learned Spanish for free. Honestly, you can learn almost any language for free by following these same steps. Duolingo and Memrise have many, many courses available in tons of languages.
I also hope to start getting more active on my YouTube channel, which I’ve actually had for several years now, and one of the first videos I plan to upload is of me speaking in Chinese, Korean and Spanish (even though my Korean, in all honesty, sucks).
So stay tuned and happy learning!
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