Spanish is the second most popular language in the world with nearly 407M native speakers. 43M people in the United States are either native speakers, or have native-like proficiency in Spanish. The emergence of Latin America as an economic superpower and the growth of America’s Hispanic population has ensured the relevancy of studying Spanish in the 21st century.

The question remains: how do you really learn Spanish?

Below, we take a look at some of the best ways to learn the Spanish language, and the pros and cons of each:

The Best Way to Learn Spanish

1. Personal Lessons

Cost: $20-125/hr

A language isn’t merely a set of words and grammar rules. It is a living artifact that changes with time and place. The flavor of Spanish spoken in Peru is drastically different from the kind spoken in Barcelona, Spain. Private lessons from an actual native speakers ensures that you not only understand the rules governing the language, but also the many inflections and variations present in it.

Personal lessons is the most expensive way to learn Spanish, but also the most effective. Some of the advantages of persona lessons over books/CDs/online courses are:

Personal lessons can cost anywhere from $20 to $125+ per hour depending on the location (New York will be far more expensive than New Mexico, for example). You can also expect to pay a premium for highly qualified or reputed teachers. Group lessons are a cheaper, but equally effective alternative to individual lessons.

Video courses such as this beginner’s course to Spanish are a solid alternative to private lessons as well.

2. Instructional Audio CDs

Cost: $15-$150+

Audio CD courses sound too good to be true: pop in the CD on your drive home from work, and you’ll be speaking Spanish fluently in less time than it takes a Game of Thrones season to end. The truth is that audio courses actually work, but not in the passive manner the marketing material might lead you to believe.

Learning any language requires active involvement in a regulated process (no matter how simplified that process might be). Even with audio CDs, you will eventually have to put in some serious leg work, especially with a language as linguistically diverse as Spanish. Nevertheless, there are some major advantages of using instructional audio CDs:

A major disadvantage is that audio courses cannot teach you how to read or write a language. These courses are excellent for tourists and casual learners to pick up the nuances of Spanish, but people who want a more thorough education should look elsewhere. If you find your pace slacking off after a couple of weeks with these programs, consider investing some time in this mind mastery course.

Examples: MichelThomas.com, Pimsleur.com

3. Software Applications

Cost: $100-$500

Interactivity, large peer communities, and relatively low cost have made software applications one of the most popular ways to learn Spanish. Different applications emphasize different learning methods (such as the word association method pioneered by Rosetta Stone). Supplemented with regular interaction with an actual native speaker, these software programs can be powerful learning tools because of the following reasons:

Examples: RosettaStone.com, Fluenz.com, RocketLanguages.com

4. Online Resources

Cost: Free

A number of websites dedicated to the study of Spanish have emerged in the past few years. These sites offer the dynamic learning environment of private lessons along with the interactivity of software programs. Most are free, some cost as little as $0.99 for dedicated mobile apps. A few popular online resources are:

Learn the secrets of Spanish with this course from a former NSA agent!

5. Other Methods

Besides the following, there are a bunch of other ways to learn Spanish as well, such as:

If you’re looking to start a business in Latin America, consider taking this course on Spanish language markets.

Learning Spanish is a lifelong process that requires long-term commitment. Complete mastery requires that you not only learn Spanish in a classroom setting, but understand its cultural contexts as well. Watching Spanish movies with subtitles, making Spanish-speaking friends, and even living in a Spanish-speaking country for some time are some ways to keep up with the language.

Spanish Language students also learn

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