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Learning Spanish

21 Spanish Language Resources to Keep You Motivated

21 Spanish Resources
If you are learning Spanish as a second language, one of the challenges is continuing to find new material that is appropriate for your current level. Of course, that changes every few weeks, as what was challenging a month ago might be too easy for you now.

With that in mind, I wanted to publish this list of some of the best videos, podcasts, apps, websites and books that I have utilized this year in my studies. Everything on this list is available for free, except the books near the end of the list.

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Learning Spanish

Must-visit site for language learners: LiveMocha

Update: LiveMocha no longer exists, nor does the Falling in Love with San Miguel site, so I removed the links below. Oh well!

In the lengthy time since my last blog post, I’ve been steadily improving as a Spanish student, mostly through reading and watching shows on DirecTV Más.

I was reading through some posts on one of my favorite American-Expatriates-in-Mexico sites (Falling in Love with San Miguel) when I came across a brief mention of a language learning resource called LiveMocha.  Wow!  I had no idea what I was missing out on.

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Learning Spanish

Get the Foreign Service Institute Spanish course FREE!

Several years back, I bought Barron’s “Mastering Spanish” volume 1, which included a book and 12 audio cassettes.  It’s a good program, and I learned a lot from it.  I now know that this product is merely a commercial repackaging of the government-funded FSI Spanish Basic Course.

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Learning Spanish

Fuera de Serie, now with closed captioning

I mentioned the entertaining Spanish travel show “Fuera de Serie” in a previous post.  At the time, I noted that closed captioning wasn’t available on the show.  However, the last few of these shows that I have recorded finally do have closed captioning.  If you’re using this show for practicing Spanish comprehension, check it out.

The show airs on the Galavision network, which is part of many satellite and cable providers channel lineup.  Currently, the schedule is 2 PM Central time, Monday through Friday.

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Learning Spanish

“Jewels of Mexico” is a real jewel

Among the many Spanish language shows I’ve been watching lately (see my last post), one of the best is “Las Joyas de México”, or The Jewels of Mexico.  It’s a half-hour documentary about various sites in Mexico, airing on HITN-TV at 7 PM Central on Sundays.  There are repeats at other times as well.

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Learning Spanish

Have DirecTV? Supercharge your Spanish learning

My normal DirecTV satellite TV package included a couple of Spanish language channels, Univision and Galavision.  However, I found that only a handful of shows on those two networks were interesting to me.  On a whim, I decided to head over to the DirecTV website and see what else I might could get.  They have a package called En Español, which adds 26 additional Spanish language networks to my choices.  (They say 33, but that includes some music channels and other items.)  At $19.95 extra per month, it’s not cheap, but I think I’ll keep it for a while.
Now I can actually find something interesting to watch while improving my language abilities.  Many shows are subtitled as well, so don’t forget that option.  My favorites so far are HITN, which shows a number of interesting shows, and EcuaVisa from Ecuador.  I’ve heard that Ecuadorian Spanish is among the easiest for non-native speakers to understand, and so far I’d have to agree.  They seem to speak a bit slower, and drop fewer letters from their words than other speakers.

CNN en Español is always a good choice, as is Discovery Channel Español.  Now my ReplayTV is chock full of Spanish language shows.  HITN also runs 2 episodes each Sunday of Destinos, a Spanish language instructional show.  The best part of all this Spanish TV is that I can really see the difference in my comprehension.  In my last exposure to Destinos, I was able to understand only bits and pieces, while now I can follow along with much of the dialogue.

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Learning Spanish

Two interesting shows for practicing Spanish comprehension

In recent weeks, I’ve been watching a lot of Spanish language TV, and I’ve found the process to be very helpful in my efforts to improve my Spanish comprehension. On History Channel International, they run a show called “El Canal de Historia” at 7 AM Eastern Monday-Friday. The shows are documentaries dubbed into Spanish. For example, this week I watched a biography of Cristobal Colón (Cristopher Columbus), and an episode of America’s Castles.

The shows feature a mix of Spanish only commentary with closed captions, and English language segments that feature Spanish subtitles. Both types of content are helpful to reading and listening comprehension. I’m also pausing the shows when I sense that an unknown word is common or particularly useful. At that point, I look up the word in my Spanish-English dictionary, and if I think the word is a useful addition to my vocabulary I make a quick flashcard for it and resume watching the show.

For flashcards, I’m using a tip I learned from the Learning Spanish podcasts I mentioned here recently. I went to Kinko’s and had them cut business card stock into blank business cards. They’re the perfect size and paper weight for homemade flashcards. I keep a stack of the resulting flashcards handy to use whenever I have a few minutes to spare.

The second show I want to mention comes from the Spanish language network Galavision. Check your schedule for “Fuera de Serie”, a half-hour show focusing on various travel destinations. Unfortunately, the show does not offer closed captioning, so it’s quite a challenge for me to understand much of what is being said. Still, the shows feature interesting destinations and it’s enjoyable to try to keep up. The title of the show, Fuera de Serie, translates roughly to “Out of the Ordinary”, though I’ve seen it translated elsewhere “Out of this World” or “Something Outrageous”.

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Learning Spanish

Spanish language newspapers

Students of Spanish may be interested in the these sites that I use for practicing my reading comprehension. I generally read at least one major news story from a Spanish language newspaper site each day. I visit each and try to pick a story I will find interesting.

  • Mexico City’s largest newspaper: El Universal
  • A newpaper from Guanajuato, in central Mexico: Correo
  • A newspaper from Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, TX: El Diario
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Learning Spanish

“Dictionary-enable” any web page from Spanish to English, for free

Here’s another useful resource for students of Spanish.

The UltraLingua Online Dictionary will let you look up English translations of Spanish words of course, but it also has a neat useful feature for helping you read entire webpages in Spanish. The site provides a “dictionary enabling” feature, where you provide a web address and the page loads with every word of the text as a clickable link which pops up the translation. This way, you can read as usual, but if you see an unfamiliar word, you can click on it for an immediate translation.

Existing hyperlinks are undisturbed, while the rest of the page gets transformed as described. My only complaint so far is that it appears to mangle non-English characters, such as letters with an accent over them in Spanish.

According to their terms, usage is free for light, casual use, but free use has a limit on the number of lookups per day, after which a subscription would be required.

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Learning Spanish

The Best $12 You’ll Ever Spend as a Spanish Student

In my daily exercise of reading the top news story in a Spanish language newspaper, I find myself referring to two books time and time again. One is quite obvious. Every student of Spanish certainly has purchased a general purpose Spanish to English dictionary. However, I find myself referring to a second book just as often.

501 Spanish Verbs by Christopher Kendris is a must-have resource. Kendris’ book, now in the 6th edition and published in conjunction with Barron’s, is decidely utilitarian. It’s a list of 501 of the most useful Spanish verbs, organized in an easy-to-use one-per-page layout. Every verb is defined, and then conjugated in 14 different tenses. An additional 1000 verbs are supplied in an appendix, with a pointer to a verb that is similarly conjugated.

When I first read the description of this book, I didn’t understand why I would want a list of verbs when I already have a dictionary for that purpose. The key difference is the complete list of conjugations, and the easy access. Once I added this book to my study tools, I don’t know how I got along without it.