What’s the Best Method for Learning Spanish?

Let’s face it, these days we really are spoiled for choice. As a Spanish language student, you might feel bombarded by different methods, techniques, learning platforms, materials, locations and teachers. From online courses and learning communities, CD or mp3 courses, plus language learning Apps for tablets and smartphones, choices of Spanish classes to attend and the multitude of Spanish learning trips advertised by schools abroad… sometimes too much choice means that we end up not being able to decide at all.

Below, we have compiled some useful facts and information on the effectiveness, time scale and prices of some of the main Spanish learning methods. We hope that they might help you make up your mind between one technique and the next.


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Online Courses

Online courses no longer mean a series of boring website screens. With sites like Livemocha taking inspiration from social networking, many online courses now come with global online communities that enable learners to get in touch with native speakers, attend live online classes and access materials ranging from tongue twisters, quizzes and videos, to songs, verb tests and popular Spanish media.

The main advantage of online learning is the total flexibility you have to learn Spanish at your own pace and during the times that are convenient for you. Some providers like StartSpanish offer courses all day, every day and you don’t even need to download software or book lessons ahead of time. Online courses are reasonable in price, ranging from about €18 (£15 or $23) a month for basic courses, up to roughly €120-160 (£100-130 or $150-200) per year for longer/specialised courses.*

The downsides? You need to be very self motivated to make the most out of a self guided course. If you have a tendency to put things off until mañana, then learning Spanish on the web might not be for you. Also, virtual networks can never fully replace direct human interaction. Online courses, self driven as they are, can also make learning quite slow because you won’t always be able to check mistakes or get immediate feedback, nor are you constantly immersed in the language. If you are concerned about effectiveness and time, do look courses that offer some kind of a learning or fluency guarantee. This way, if you put the hours in, you will not be disappointed.

To learn more, why not check out our blog post titled Innovative Ways to Improve Your Spanish? You’ll find some very detailed information about online Spanish courses and prices.


CD courses and language learning software

Thankfully we are well past the decades of records and tapes! CDs are still used for language learning, but mp3 files and software are become more the trend – and the various Apple and Android apps that often accompany them. One of the best known providers in this arena is Rosetta Stone. Like many companies who offer computer assisted language learning software, they offer courses that contain pure language modules, but also include other tools like games, quizzes and tests that help you practice on your computer at home and small extras that you can load onto your smartphone, tablet or mp3 players and use anywhere.

The advantages of computer or CD learning will largely depend on the quality of the course or software, but might include things like being able to work at your own pace, knowing exactly what the course costs you or learning at home, in the car and whilst exercising. With companies like Rosetta Stone or Berlitz, the materials will be of an excellent quality and written and designed by top language professionals.

As with online learning, however, you will need to manage your time and you will have less interaction with other students
 than on an online course or in a classroom situation – and certainly much less than on a language immersion trip abroad. These factors may make your learning journey slow. Also, with CD courses you will hear a limited number of voices or accents 
and the opportunities to ask questions are limited.

The courses can be expensive, with Rosetta Stone being the most popular of brands at prices starting at Level 1 Spanish for about €165 (£138 or $210) and their Levels 1-5 course ascending to approximately €280 (£240 or $370).* But you can also find big brand learning products at a cheaper end, like Berlitz’s premier Spanish at round €25 (£20 or $30), with one level included only.* Try typing in ‘learning Spanish CDs’ on Amazon and see what comes up! You’ll probably find that there are many less known, cheaper products or brand names that still have excellent reviews and five star rating from buyers.


Classes in your home country

Spanish lessons in classrooms in your home country, for example evening classes, are held in many learning centres and colleges, as well as private language schools. The obvious advantages of a classroom group is that sometimes you can get a really good social experience with other students. Equally, you may find that your classmates are of a totally different age or background to you and if this is an important factor, you may wish to do your homework carefully or see if the local language school you are considering has a ‘try before you buy’ option or will allow you to pay for just a few classes before signing onto a full course.

In a classroom situation the tuition will be highly structured and guided by a teacher who organises various pair and group learning activities and you can ask the teacher questions. For those students whose forte isn’t self discipline, a classroom situation is far more cost-effective in the long run than an online or computer based course (as long as you go to class, of course).

Prices for classroom courses will vary widely and compared to online and other self-guided or distance learning methods, they tend to be pretty expensive. To give you an idea, a 30 hour course with the Cervantes Institute in London will cost you about €355 (£300 or $460).* Or you might prefer to pay per class and study at a community college or with a private teacher. Say you pay for an intensive course comprising of individual lessons, 2 hours a day at about €15 per hour, for 90 days; this will eventually set you back €1,800 (£1,500 or $2,300).

Add to this the inflexibility of classroom lessons and having to go at the pace of the slowest learner or level in the class and you may not benefit as much from the group-based experience as you initially thought.

Overall, if you don’t mind having to be somewhere at set times each week and you can locate a Spanish class that is within easy travelling distance for you, at the right level, has a good teacher, and is not too expensive, this may be a good choice for you.


Spanish courses in Spain

Spanish is a valuable business language and many companies take a favourable stance towards employee ‘language learning sabbaticals’ abroad. Studies show that you can learn the same in a two week course in Spain compared to a one year course at home, attending two 2 h 45 min classes per week.

The obvious drawback in learning Spanish in Spain is that you will need to be able to invest time and money. Luckily the price of a modest length stay in Spain, booked well in advance and avoiding all peak times, does not have to leave your wallet bare.

Spain is still one of the cheaper European economies, especially when it comes to eating out, but also many goods like certain groceries, pharmaceuticals and public transport are far cheaper in Spain than in other EU countries.

In UniSpain we even offer you a 5 to 10% discount on the course fees so you can save on your Spanish course as well. We can for example offer a two week course in Alicante or Granada containing 15 lessons each week for only 190€ (£153 or $231).

For more information take a look at our website or you can sign up for our Special Discount Newsletter where you will get exclusive offersby email from more than 40 different Spanish Schools in SPain.


The final verdict

Well, there is no definite answer to what Spanish learning method suits everybody the best. Individual requirements, time constraints and budgets dictate the choices we make. However, you can probably get a good idea if you balance these following three aspects: SPEED, QUALITY and PRICE. It is probably fair to say that it will be rare to find all three aspects completely applicable to one Spanish learning method. For example, if you want fast method that is also cheap, you might go for an online course – but the quality of your learning will not match that of a classroom situation or come close to the immersion benefits of a trip abroad.

Bueno. We hope that you’ve found our breakdown useful. Be sure to let us know your thoughts! Whatever method you settle on, we’re sure you’ll love learning this wonderful language that over 300 million people in the world speak every day.

If you have any questions or doubts about learning Spanish in Spain we will be very happy to help you out. You can Contact Us by phone, email, Skype or chat.

(*Prices and exchange rates may vary. The figures quoted are from March 2013.)

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