A few resources for Spanish language learners

I began compiling this list in my head last year while studying at International Language Institute in Northampton, Massachusetts, and finally wrote it all down for some compañer@s in Northampton Spanish Meetup and classmates in ILI’s drop-in conversation group.  This isn’t a comprehensive list, but just a few items I’ve found extremely helpful.  Daniel Cuenca, ILI’s former teacher extraordinaire, used and/or suggested a few of these resources in class, and Eric, a translator I met in Buenos Aires last year, gave me the dirt about WordReference.com.

This list makes me wonder how we ever learned other languages before the web existed.  And in my case, in some ways the answer is, “I didn’t” – yes, I could read Spanish at an intermediate level and write without too many errors, but my prose was fairly stilted and I couldn’t get a decent sentence out of my mouth.  Forget casual conversation – by the time I figured out what someone was asking me, they were two blocks away.

  • Destinos

http://www.learner.org/series/destinos/index.html

Boston public TV-Annenberg Foundation telenovela series filmed in the late ’80s.  Dated fashion sense (check out Raquel Rodriguez’s shoulder pads, and don’t miss the La Boca clown suit!), but excellent resource for beginners.  A bit cursi, but aren’t all telenovelas cheesy?

  • WordReference.com

http://www.wordreference.com/

I find this website invaluable.  I look up even words I’ve used a thousand times, when I forget how to use them correctly in a sentence.  Includes verb conjugations and Spanish-English forums frequented by professional translators all over the world.

  • Google Translate

http://translate.google.com/

Far from perfect, but good when you encounter an entire sentence or paragraph you don’t understand – just cut and paste it into the box.  Also good for writing in English and checking your work – often something translating weirdly indicates a grammatical error.  Includes audio pronunciation of individual words.

  • Google Images

http://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=Ti

Type in a noun in Spanish, and you instantly have hundreds of photos and drawings of the item.  Great for using that visual portion of the brain – connecting images with language.

  • Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish by Joseph J. Keenan

A friend gave me a copy about 15 years ago, I started using it intensively last year, and it’s been really helpful.  It’s also amusing, which most language books aren’t.

  • YouTube

I haven’t even begun mining this source, but Spanish teachers have told me there are a zillion useful learning videos here.  And of course you can find music videos by your favorite hispanohablante singers, some with Spanish subtitles.

  • Media by country

Because my research focus is Argentina, I “liked” TV Pública Argentina on Facebook, and I watch the headline news nearly every night.  I also read daily newspapers online, so I’m able to keep up with the news using audiovisual and print media sources.  I’m sure you could do the same with Mexico, Spain, or any other country – I did a bit of this for a recent class presentation on Bolivia, and it was very interesting.  I’ve also subscribed to a few feminist blogs in Spanish, in Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and Venezuela.

About springbyker

See more at: springbyker.wordpress.com. Feminist QBLTG Left activist grammarian & general crank. Love grassroots political movements, literature, independent film, travel in Latin America, bicycling, & good vegetarian food. I plan to write about all of these, plus being a recovering clutterer, writing, and saving the planet from suburban sprawl.
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2 Responses to A few resources for Spanish language learners

  1. Such a great list of language learning tools! What a great idea to use Google image search in this way. Can’t wait to try it. Like you, we’re big fans of WordReference: eavesdropping on other people’s language questions is both edifying and super fun. I once stumbled upon in a long thread in which a besotted English speaker was trying to translate a love letter for their Spanish-speaking flame. The collaborators are typically very courteous, but this time they were especially gentle in their language suggestions. It was beyond sweet to see a bunch of disembodied strangers reach out over the internet for the cause of love.

  2. springbyker says:

    Thanks, jamesandmarian! I love your anecdote about the love letter. My favorite thread on WordReference was helping someone in Argentina translate a cartoon by an irreverent U.S. comic artist. I made one suggestion and she took off with it, with wonderful results.

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