How to learn Spanish: The best learning apps and sites in 2021

by learn a language journalist

There are roughly 450 million native Spanish speakers in the world and the U.S. already has more Spanish speakers than Spain. If you’re looking to join their ranks, then know this: You absolutely can. Learning Spanish is like learning any language. It takes practice, a good teacher, and time — not to mention some effort on your part. And while the best way to learn Spanish is by living in a Spanish-speaking country and completely immersing yourself, taking an online class or two can get you most of the way there.

Is Spanish easy to learn?

This is a subjective question that’s pretty difficult to answer. For one thing, language-learning aptitude is pretty personal. What’s easy for one person may be excruciatingly difficult for another. While we wouldn’t call learning a new language easy on its face, we will say that something that makes Spanish easy to learn is that you’re likely to encounter many opportunities for practicing your new skills. After all, Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world, sandwiched squarely between Mandarin and English.

How can I learn Spanish for free?

Duolingo for learning Spanish? Groundbreaking.

The popular green owl has become a household name and even a meme for its persistent reminders to practice. The free website and corresponding application promises fluency if you just give up a bit of your free time.

Free apps like Duolingo are really popular for their convenience. It looks like a game and makes us feel smart. We like Duolingo for vocabulary practice, but it won’t make you fluent since it doesn’t really explain concepts like verb conjugation. The site also seems to teach words and phrases without explaining how to use them, so your newfound word stock will seem a little out-of-context. There are tips on Duolingo that help with usage, but grammar concepts still lag behind.

This isn’t to say you should delete the app from your phone. It’s free, and it’s got some good qualities. But if you want to impress native speakers, you better add some more resources to your learning plan.

Why online learning sites are great for learning a new language

One sign of a good Spanish platform is a focus on conversational learning. It’s important to hear the words and also speak them, but it’s harder to do this than reading and writing. Many sites can equip learners to read Spanish, but only the best will get them talking with native speakers.

We like interactivity in foreign-language courses. Methods with a variety of activities get high marks from us because it’s hard to stay interested in the process over the long term. We also love a good budget buy, but education isn’t always the place to cut corners. So, when in doubt, look to the free trial. We tried to hit a variety of budgets and look for long trial periods when making picks. Everyone learns differently, so we wanted to make sure to suggest things you can try out before you buy.

How we came up with this list

To find a good course, we dove into Reddit for recommendations, a great place to go when looking for answers that are more authentic. We also Googled “best sites to learn Spanish” and ended up with articles written by the instructional sites themselves (that’s just the way it is now). We then looked up reviews for the sites. If there was enough acclaim, we tried it out. (And boy are we tired of learning “¿Como estás?”)

The sites are all very similar. Most have droves of fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions accompanied by pictures. We recommend turning the sound up as you practice, as the words are usually pronounced with each question. To really grow, say the words aloud as you answer (unless you’re around people, like on the subway or in a waiting room).

Most sites cover introductory and basic Spanish. When you start getting to advanced levels, you need more and more resources. An intermediate level is plenty for travel and basic communication.

So whether you’re looking to take a trip and test out your new language skills abroad or simply want to get better at conversing with Spanish-speaking friends and family at home, here is our list of the best online learning sites that will show you the way.

The Good

Teaches all levels • Receive a CEFL certification upon completion • Choose from 24 different Spanish courses • Self-paced courses

The Bad

Pricing is in Euros • Lessons and website are dated

The Bottom Line

A good option if you don’t mind dated stock photos.

Thorough lessons meet a dated design.

  • Price:
    €59,99 per year (around $73) or €29,99 per month (around $36)
  • Free trial:
    Two days
  • Type:
    Online course
  • Spanish level:
    Beginner through expert
Lengalia has 24 different self-paced online courses, and all the courses follow the Common European Framework for Languages, a standard certification program. While most sites stop at an intermediate level, Lengalia offers advanced courses as well, with class options for every learner from beginner to expert. When you finish your selected course, Lengalia will give you a certificate of proficiency, which is widely accepted at jobs around the world. 
The website looks pretty dated, and stock photos litter the lessons, so they might not be as engaging as some other updated sites. But if aesthetics aren’t important to your Spanish education, Lengalia has some great content like podcasts, videos, a vocabulary trainer, a verb conjugator, a virtual teacher, and more. Among the 24 different Spanish courses, there are over 280 lessons available, over 32,000 exercises, and over 25,000 vocabulary words, so there’s no shortage of material here. 
You can choose between having the site guide you through your lessons, or focus on your interests, strengths, and weaknesses to customize your learning plan. All the courses are self-paced, so you can complete them on your own schedule, no hard deadlines required. There’s also a two-day trial, so you can try it out before you commit to the subscription. 
Like most sites, you save money if you pay for more months at a time. You can usually get 50% off a year subscription, bringing the cost to just over five bucks per month. It’s pretty inexpensive for a certification program, and the site is full of different types of content, so it’s likely to fit however you learn.
The Good

Write and speak Spanish • Ease of use • Available on the App Store and Google Play

The Bad

Likely should be supplemented for more advanced Spanish speakers

The Bottom Line

Get access to an interesting, motivating language app for a small monthly fee.

A cut above Duolingo, Babbel makes pronunciation exercises part of its course.

  • Price:
    $26.85 for three months, $44.70 for six months, or $83.40 for 12 months
  • Free trial:
    The first lesson of any course is free
  • Type:
    Web, Android, and iOS apps
  • Spanish level:
    Beginner, intermediate, and advanced
Babbel has the convenience and modernity of Duolingo, but it allows you to practice conversational Spanish. The first things you learn are commonly used phrases like, “Hello, how are you?” and “Can you repeat that?” Babbel gives you interactive dialogue exercises to help you practice what you learn and actually retain the concepts. The whole course is focused on being able to communicate with native speakers — the ultimate goal of learning a foreign language.
Just like Duolingo, it has a leaderboard and easy exercises that make learning feel like a game. But it’s better because it tests how you say words with helpful (albeit frustrating) voice-recognition software. The lessons are built together in Babbel’s “interlinking framework” so you’ll never feel like you’re jumping from topic to topic without context. 
Babbel is a good resource for its convenience since you can learn on basically any device through the downloadable apps. Like other popular options, it makes users feel like they can get fluent with just a few minutes a day practice — lessons range from 10-15 minutes each. In reality, it probably needs to be supplemented to achieve advanced levels.
The Good

Free • Variety of exercises • Great for grammar • Doesn’t require an account to use

The Bad

Website interface isn’t very engaging • Some of the more advanced grammar topics may be difficult to learn on your own

The Bottom Line

Bookmark this one for intermediate skills.

A free site to practice conjugating verbs and even learn books of vocabulary.

  • Price:
    Free
  • Type:
    Online course
  • Spanish level:
    Beginner to intermediate
The hardest part of the Spanish language is verb conjugation. With enough practice, it’s a grammar rule just like “there,” “their” and “they’re” (assuming you got that down). My favorite exercise on Conjuguemos makes verb conjugation a little less intimidating with fun, interactive conjugation exercises.
Conjugemos teaches the Spanish basics similar to how you would learn them in an actual classroom. Go to the textbooks tab and find “Breaking the Spanish Barrier 1” for beginner vocabulary. There’s also vocab by theme, and you can practice with flashcards, quizzes, and games.
Despite the elementary graphic design, the site is most useful for those with some elementary experience with the language. There are exercises for grammar concepts, including the subjunctive and indicative moods, plus all the tenses — something neglected by apps like Duolingo. Conjuguemos doesn’t have pronunciation exercises, but you can practice listening with listening activities videos from native speakers. Accents change with each region, just like someone from Mississippi sounds differently than a Bostonian, so the variety of speakers will help you to better understand all Spanish accents.
The site can be accessed for free without even creating an account, but you won’t be able to save your progress or record your grades. With a free account, you’ll be able to do those two things, plus get access to all of the public games, activities, and printable worksheets. 
The Good

Free option • Interactive

The Bad

Unexciting user experience, mostly basic and intermediate Spanish

The Bottom Line

Get a college-level curriculum for free.

Simple and effective lessons with a variety of exercises.

  • Price:
    Free
  • Type:
    Online courses
  • Spanish level:
    Beginner to intermediate
edX gives you the option of taking some courses for free, but the catch is that you just lose your progress after four weeks. It’s plenty of time to finish, but if you want a certificate for your LinkedIn account saying that you completed the program, you’ll have to fork out forty to fifty bucks to learn without the time limit, and you get the official certificate at the end.
Each chapter combines reading and hearing Spanish, which is so important. If you don’t always read things in your head with correct Spanish pronunciation, edX gives good practice should you ever travel to a Spanish-speaking country and don’t want to totally embarrass yourself in front of the locals. 
The courses definitely feels like school, not a game or a fun pastime, with few really engaging features. The lessons are chopped into small pieces, though, so it works for short attention spans. There are a few different course options, from Basic Spanish 1 through Basic Spanish 3, plus more fun Spanish topics like “A travel by Spanish America: Spanish for beginners” and “Spanish for beginners: Learn in Paradise.” Each course is also taught by a university, so you can even take classes from universities in Spanish-speaking countries.
The Good

Learn grammar alongside vocabulary • Good website and app • Lifetime access option

The Bad

No advanced courses

The Bottom Line

Get an engaging beginner Spanish resource for a small monthly cost.

It has the design of Duolingo with the structure of a course.

  • Price:
    $11.99 per month, $29.99 for three months, or $55.99 per year
  • Free trial:
    Try the first unit of each course for free
  • Type:
    Website, Android and iOS apps
  • Spanish level:
    Beginner to intermediate
The Good

Communicate with real native speakers

The Bad

No structure • A lot of emphasis on speaking and reading • Might be difficult if you don’t know enough Spanish words to text with

The Bottom Line

Download the app to practice once you have some vocab under your belt.

Write pen pals from all over the world with a focus on practicing languages.

  • Price:
    Free or get VIP access for $8.99 per month, $39.99 for three months, or $89.99 for a lifetime membership
  • Type:
    Mobile app
  • Spanish level:
    Intermediate to advanced
HelloTalk connects you with native speakers in an app that’s a lot like Facebook Messenger. It’s like having pen pals, but through instant messaging, and speaking different languages. The goal is to get help with Spanish while teaching others English at the same time. You can write journal-like entries to your profile, and users edit it to improve your grammar. Then, you can take a red pen to others’ posts too.
The app knows you’re learning, so it has features to make communication easier. Press on the message for the app to translate it into English for you. This way, you can stay off Google Translate. There are text, voice, and video chat options in the chats, for ultimate speaking and listening practice. The free version of the app lets you learn one language and teach one language at a time, translate five times per day, and initiate up to five new chats per day. The paid version loosens up those restrictions quite a bit.
Look for people around your age or users with similar interests tagged in their profile, so you’ll have more to chat about. With over 25 million members on the app, you might find a friend or two along the way as well. There are also learning games and immersive lessons in the app available for an additional fee, if you want to supplement your chatting practice. 
The Good

Entertaining • Unique • Helps you practice reading and listening skills

The Bad

Dated design • Few grammar and vocabulary lessons available

The Bottom Line

This engaging site will help you learn practical Spanish and keep up to date on current events.

Catch up on the news while learning Spanish.

  • Price:
    $22.90 per month
  • Free trial:
    Seven days
  • Type:
    Website
  • Spanish level:
    Intermediate to advanced
News in Slow Spanish combines journalism with language education. The site produces around 20 news articles a week with beginner, intermediate, and advanced vocabulary options — so you can read about the daily happenings while advancing your language skills.
But multitasking comes with a price, with monthly memberships priced at just under $23. It’s quite expensive for the few formal lessons available, but the site is a novel idea. Some articles and basic Spanish lessons are free on the site, so you can try them out before you buy the membership.
If you don’t have a ton of free time, but want to keep up with today’s news and learn Spanish, this site will save you some time. It’s also real, relevant content, instead of the fake conversations you read and participate in on other sites. Each article has both text and audio, so you can follow along and see the words as you hear them. Difficult words are highlighted and translated when you move the mouse on them.
You could always just read Spanish news outlets, but they probably use vocabulary beyond your level. News in Slow Spanish will help you build up to reading the regular newspapers.
The Good

Immersive language content • University class format • Projects and assignments to help apply learned skills • Flexible deadlines • Financial aid options available

The Bad

Peer grading can be inconsistent or unhelpful • At some point, you will have to grade work from other students

The Bottom Line

If you were thinking about going to a local college to take a Spanish class, Coursera will give you a similar experience for less money.

Get the college learning experience with Coursera’s Spanish specialization.

  • Price:
    $49 per month
  • Free trial:
    Seven days
  • Type:
    Online series of courses
  • Spanish level:
    Beginner
If you’re looking for a language experience that mimics a semester of a college class, Coursera is the best pick. Coursera offers courses and specializations through universities, with curriculums designed by academic professionals. This class is a specialization, meaning that it’s made up of a series of courses, and is offered through the University of California Davis. 
The classes are geared towards beginning Spanish learners who have little-to-no previous knowledge of the language, and will help you build up your vocabulary with 1500 of the most commonly used Spanish words and phrases. Courses are completely online, and the schedules are adaptable, allowing you to set flexible deadlines to work at your own pace. Coursera really works like a college class — at the end of each course, participants will complete a written assignment and an oral presentation that will be graded by their peers to apply the grammar and vocab skills learned through the course. There’s also a final project that will have you write up a detailed travel plan (in Spanish, of course) for an imaginary business trip or vacation to a Spanish-speaking country. 
Coursera recommends that you dedicate around five hours per week to the courses — at this pace, you’ll complete the entire specialization in about five months, with a certificate to prove it. If you’ve been thinking about shelling out money to take a class at the local college, Coursera will give you basically the same experience for much cheaper. After the seven day free trial, this course on its own costs $49 per month, or you can get access to it with a Coursera plus subscription for $399 per year. If you’re having trouble paying for your language course, Coursera also has a financial aid program that students can apply to. 

This content was originally published here.

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