Have you found the best way to learn conversational Spanish online
January 23, 2022 3:42 AM   Subscribe

I moved to Valencia Spain a year ago with my husband and we are both capable of getting things and done and doing the basics in Spanish. My husband, who speaks three other languages to begin with becoming fluent quickly.

For me, as a one language American it is bit more challenging.
I want to move on to the next level and would love to hear what others have discovered as far as progressing in another language. I have tried in person classes and find I prefer online learning.
I have tried Babbel, Spanish with Paul and Duolingo all with some success but would like to find out about any other courses that have worked well for others.
posted by privatechef to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My partner and I have experienced something similar in our ongoing efforts to become fluent Spanish speakers. Although it has been easier for the multilingual speaker, both have made similar progress and we're currently at an advanced intermediate level, six months on and before immersion. In the monolingual partner's case, this was due to intensive classes over zoom. If you can afford the time and money and effort to commit to intensive classes designed to move you through the DELE levels, you will make progress. You can do these online, they don't need to be in person but 1:1 zoom classes will accelerate your learning. The monolingual speaker also says that conversation exchange has been very useful to them and highly recommends meeting up with native speakers to have chats, if possible.
posted by mkdirusername at 4:17 AM on January 23, 2022

I could write a lot, too much really, about language learning. I will recommend the website italki, I've used it for 3 languages (Spanish, Japanese, Chinese), and it's great, though you have to be very proactive about searching for the sort of teacher that suits you, and searching for new ones if the ones you've found don't work. Everyone has a different style.

The most important advice I can give is that teachers are not the entirety of your language study. Teachers are just one tool...a very useful tool, and if you want, you can find a teacher who can give you insight on how to structure your language study (they're generally more professional and have more experience). But at the end of the day, teachers are just a resource...there are lots of ways to practice input and output, lots of ways to interact with natives productively, lots of ways to improve vocabulary, etc. I simply say this because I think this is an insight that people without experience studying language often lack, which is that teachers (whether in a classroom or online) are but a small part of the language learning journey.

But yeah, definitely stick at it. You will definitely improve. And as you gain experience and figure out what works for you, you can improve your efficiency.
posted by wooh at 5:10 AM on January 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

I am currently learning Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and I have an excellent 1:1 tutor over Zoom. I don't feel like the tutor chosen has to be the most qualified person in the world, but lesson planning, homework/resources, and flexibility are keys for me. (My tutor normally teaches formal Arabic, but I am only interested in conversational Darija.)

You don't have to pay a lot, I'm paying under $10 an hour via Reddit. (And tipping, heavily, don't come for me.)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:14 AM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

Honestly the fastest and best way to improve fluency is to speak with other native speakers frequently and at length about as many different topics as you can. Immersion puts the language center of your brain on blast like nothing else. Pick a no-English day(s) at home, maybe Sundays? Every other weeknight?

I didn't really get to fluency until I was living in an area with no English speakers at all.
posted by ananci at 5:48 AM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

I recommend watching Ten Things Polyglots Do Differently. It's a great talk from The Polyglot Gathering by Lýdia Machová, who learns a new language every two years and currently speaks nine of them!
You can probably skip the first bit when she just rattles through various specific polyglots and how they learn - not necessarily interesting if you've not heard of them and don't know your way around the techniques she's talking about. Around 14 minutes, she moves on to the titular Ten Things, which I found interesting and helpful.
posted by penguin pie at 6:46 AM on January 23, 2022 [6 favorites]

I understand your situation because I moved to Buenos Aires as an adult to matriculate at the university to study Spanish -- which I did and learned a lot -- but then struggled to improve my conversational Spanish. For me, the challenge at first was having a high enough level of Spanish to even have those conversations beyond the basics. The second was seeking them out -- just as I had achieved that, COVID happened and everything went online. I went from being A2 to C1 in Spanish but still want and need to work on the conversational bit, so I understand! For me, formal group lessons worked better than an app because they were more rigorous and realistic. Of course, apps can and do work! Second, finding speaking partners online or in person for either paid lessons -- like mentioned above -- or tandem exchanges over coffee helped. Third, listening to news, videos and podcasts also has helped -- repeating words and phrases, replying as if I were talking to someone, and more. Fourth, if you two are willing, going out with your husband and vowing to just speak Spanish -- and using the opportunity to speak with strangers -- will help even if it's not a 24/7 thing as you two need to communicate about deeper stuff too. Buena suerte, and please be gentle on yourself! Fluency can and does happen as an adult but it's so often a much slower process than we'd like.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:05 AM on January 23, 2022

One small thing I do is leave Spanish subtitles on whenever I'm watching Netflix. Additionally, if a show is dubbed in Spanish, then once I've finished watching it in English, I'll replay it (in the background while cooking/cleaning etc) in Spanish.
posted by EarnestDeer at 9:45 AM on January 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

One of the things that has really helped my Mandarin improve in the last 6 months is, like EarnestDeer mentioned, watching Chinese shows with ONLY Chinese subtitles. The subtitles were key because they helped me parse out what I was hearing and map a sound to visual. A really useful tool for that is the Language Reactor (formerly Language Learning) Netflix extension. Also important was accepting that I wouldn't understand everything at first and resist the urge look up every single word.

I also dedicate about ~30 minutes a day to learning new and reviewing old vocabulary (using Anki, which uses spaced repetition). I get the vocab either from established lists or from the shows I watch (noting which words/types of sentences I see come up regularly).

The Refold community (that more or less lays out a path to language learning, YMMV) has a pretty active discord with people who may have additional resources for you.

p.s. I've talked to wooh about language learning at length, his advice is solid
posted by thebots at 3:39 PM on January 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

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