Tag Archives: Learn Spanish Online

Spanish teacher Ivan

Featured Spanish Teacher of the Month – Iván Aguilar

Our team of teachers is spread across boundaries. Each of them brings in a unique teaching style, cultural experience, and a new set of language learning tips.

This month, we travel all the way to Peru to meet our teacher of the month – Iván Aguilar. Iván has been rated as a 5 star teacher consistently by all the students on CultureAlley. Here are some great learning tips from Iván.

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Iván Aguilar. I’m from Peru, a country located in South America. Currently I’m working as an English and Spanish teacher and Academic Coordinator at a Language School in Perú. Spanish is my mother tongue and I just love teaching it. I also love spreading the love for Peruvian culture and music! :)

2) What motivated you to start teaching languages?

This has been a long an interesting path I followed. I studied to be a Social Science teacher, but I got involved in language teaching and found my true professional call. I really like to see how my students overcome the language barrier and become what we might call world citizens by sharing their culture and opinions with the world through the internet or in person. It is really rewarding to be able to contribute to this process.

3) Tell us about your teaching experience – How long have you been teaching, what kind of students have you taught?

Well, I have been teaching for about ten years now. I’ve taught all ages from 6-year-old kids – the most energetic- to adult students.

Most of my students are university students who need to know at least two languages in order to get their degrees.

I’ve also taught some teaching methodology courses.

4) Why you think learning new languages is beneficial?

I think languages are very important since they allow people to connect with other people.

I’ve seen how the perception of the world changes while learning a new language because indirectly a new language always brings about the learning of a new culture.

This is one first step to make ourselves part of a more understanding and global world. Besides it is great to see how learning a new language enriches a person.

As the quote says: “Learn a new language, get a new soul”

Needless to say there are many more academic and professional doors opened for the ones who learn new languages.

5) Please give our readers some tips on learning languages.

I have just two words : practice and connect. It is great to practice grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc. But it is also really relevant to connect all that is being practiced with our real lives.

If you are practicing a specific grammar pattern, get some time to write your very personal sentences because in the end you want your new language to talk about yourself, your ideas, your opinions, your country, the things that matter to you.

For me,

connecting also means talking or writing to people who are learning or are native speakers of the language that you have chosen to learn.

This always makes your language learning more meaningful and prepares you for real-life interaction.

6) Tell us about your most interesting experience while learning or teaching Spanish yourself.

I like the various forms of art very much. I think immersing yourself in a form of art is a great strategy to learn a language.

One of the most interesting experiences I had, was helping my students to prepare for doing some drama (acting) as a part of their course. Not only did we have a lot of fun, but I also could see students devoting a lot of time in learning their lines and linking this to their acting. It was great!

7) How have you worked with CultureAlley to spread the love for language learning?

I feel glad to be working with a very organized and creative team as the one of CultureAlley. They are building the much needed bridges to help students get high quality language instruction. At the same time I feel they are cooperating through the teaching of languages to create bounds of international friendship. It feels great to be able to make some little contribution to this project.

8) A final word of advice for budding language learners?

Don’t stop learning new languages, don’t stop knowing new worlds!

If you wish to take lessons with Iván, just fill up this form: http://culturealley.com/SkypeLiveLessonform.jsp

Learn Spanish for Free!

In our last post on how to learn a new language, we discussed a high level methodology to make language learning easy, fun, and as natural as any other habit.
One of the most popular languages today is – Spanish – the second most natively spoken language in the world, Spanish is witnessing a tremendous rise in its popularity!

A lot of our learners talk to us on live chat and on our forums and ask ‘How can I learn Spanish?‘, ‘How do I learn Spanish for free?‘, ‘How can I learn Spanish online?‘ etc…

Today, we talk about some ways by which one can easily learn Spanish for free and skip making a hole in one’s pocket! :) We will review various methods to learn Spanish for free, suggest which to choose and why, and also provide some resource references.

Here are some great ways to learn Spanish for free:

1. Free Online Lessons 

Gone are the days when you were forced to buy a 500$ CD/software to pick up a new language! There are some great self-study courses available on the web/as mobile apps to help you learn Spanish grammar, conversations, and vocabulary for free. These can help you start right from the beginning and take you to even an advanced level.

Which website/apps to choose for learning Spanish online:

  1. Depth: Check the list of topics on these websites and then go with a source that has enough material for your learning needs. Switching from one source to another too often may result in a break in continuity.
  2. Interactivity & practice: Pick a source that provides interactive Spanish practice games and exercises on top of the content. This will ensure a consistent learning experience. Testing yourself on what you learn is extremely important. Choose sources which give you a mix of reading, listening, and writing exercises and give immediate feedback.
    Quizlet is a good website for finding practice exercises but they don’t have complementary lessons – so you may feel lost as to which exercises to look at.
  3. Structure and flow: There are two types of websites:
    1. Websites that have structured lessons and quizzes with a clear flow – These pretty much act as a book guiding you one lesson after the other. Choose this if you are looking for a one stop shop experience and want to limit the need for searching for topics.
    2. Reference Websites which cover a lot of different grammar and conversational topics without necessarily having these organized in a flow or as lessons. Choose these only if you are looking at these websites for one-off reference or as supplementary material. About.com for Spanish is a good reference website if you want to search for help on certain topics
  4. Audio support: We would highly recommend choosing websites which have tutorials and lessons with audio support. Audio-visual lessons just change the way you pick up Spanish. You will develop a better accent and better listening skills.
  5. Content: Of-course the meat of any learning website is the content it offers. Now, how good or bad the content is would only be discovered once you try out a couple of lessons. But you could look at user comments/ feedback about the website before getting started. Remember that different people may like different styles of teaching. We ideally recommend content that is beyond just a phrasebook and helps you understand why something is said the way it is.

2. The Telenovela method

Another great way to learn Spanish for free is using Spanish media. Traditionally, the telenovela method (TV method) involved watching Spanish soap-operas and learning Spanish with them.
The Telenovela Method uses Spanish-language media, that you would enjoy, to teach you Spanish. In our experience, this method works best once you have some basic knowledge of Spanish grammar and vocabulary - although we have seen people use just this method as well.

Expanding scope from just TV, you could use movies, YouTube videos, songs, comic strips, news, or whatever you enjoy to make the process of learning Spanish fun and engaging. While starting out, it is ideal if you use videos, songs, movies, and comic strips with  both Spanish and English subtitles.

Learn Spanish for free with comics

Learn Spanish for free with comics (copyright: GoComics)

Take the above comic strip for example. If you don’t know any Spanish then you’ll find it difficult to understand the first script. But if you know the basics (like pronouns, ser/estar, basic conjugations) then understanding the strip becomes very easy by looking at its English version.

Eg: Una gran mayoría de gente de seis años dice que no satisfaces sus expectativas de la paternidad
Una gran mayoría de gente = A large majority of people
de seis años = of 6 years
dice que = say that
no satisfaces = you don’t satisfy
sus expectativas de la paternidad = their expectations of (the) fatherhood

You should watch/read small sections at a time, then try to look at the meanings of the words you don’t understand. More than just the vocabulary, try to understand the grammar – why a sentence is framed the way it is.

If you don’t understand certain concepts, you can post questions on forums.

The Telenovela method is effective because it introduces real conversations – as a native would talk, and is fun at the same time. However, you will need help with understanding the grammar and vocabulary. So, the Telenovela method would need some basic understanding of the language and supplementary sources which explain the concepts well. We recommend using it as a fun way to practice and learn more vocabulary.

Some resources:

  1. Songs:
    1. Just go to YouTube, Grooveshark, or Pandora to tune into Spanish songs. You can find Spanish and English lyrics on sites like metrolyrics.com, lyricstranslate.com, etc..
    2. We are working on adding a Karaoke tool into your lesson experience to help you practice Spanish. Check out a sample: http://culturealley.com/SpanishKaraoke.jsp
  2. Comic strips: GoComics:  You can find popular strips like Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield, and other in Spanish on this site. It also has the English version of the same strips.
  3. Movies: You may find some movies (with subtitles) on YouTube. Otherwise you can also get DVDs or go to websites like open subtitles.

3. Language Exchange

This method involved conversing (either face to face or over Skype) with a native who speaks Spanish and knows some English (or whatever your native language is) – the native would teach you Spanish and you in-turn would teach him/her English (or whatever your native language is).
Finding a native:

  1. Friend circle: If you can find someone you know already or a friend – nothing like it! Because that will make the conversations more natural and comfortable.
  2. Clubs: A lot of cities have clubs and meetup groups for language learning where you can find a mix of beginners as well as native speakers
  3. Online: You can also find websites to connect you with natives over chat/Skype

It works well because you are interacting 1on1 with a native – you pick up the right words, learn the accent well, learn about their culture, and most importantly practice speaking.
The only draw-back at times is that a native Spanish speaker may not be necessarily equipped to teach Spanish and both of you may feel lost.
There is a paid version of this option where instead of choosing just any native, you can interact with a native Spanish teacher over Skype who is trained to teach you Spanish. However, experienced teachers would charge a fee.

4. Free English-Spanish Dictionaries

There are several online dictionaries to help you find new words and build your vocabulary. If your aim is to build vocabulary, find a limited word dictionary that has curated the most important words. If your aim is to find meanings of words you read somewhere or hear somewhere then go for a more comprehensive dictionary like the one from Oxford word reference or use Google translate (it works well with individual words, not so much with phrases).

The web provides tremendous scope for learning a new language – so save the 500$ for exploring a new place! :) There is enough quality material out there – all you need to do is be careful and picky.

Here are some resources and tools that we have built at CultureAlley to help you learn Spanish for free (also available for other languages):
1) Free audio visual lessons on Spanish – More than 60 free lessons with voice and audio support. The lessons are super-intuitive, conversational, and explain each concept in detail
2) Free practice games on Spanish – Our games ‘spellathon’ and ‘scatterathon’ provide action packed practice to develop your reading, writing, and listening skills. They complement what you learn in each lesson and give immediate feedback
3) Free Spanish Dictionary – 1000 most used words in Spanish with English translations. Has an easy search feature and comes with audio support.
4) Live chat - To guide you on your learning plan, answer your questions, hear your feedback, and more!
5) Spanish Forums – Ask questions and get responses from our team within 24 hours
6) Spanish Karaoke ToolLearn Spanish with music using our karaoke tool. Many more songs coming up soon!

Tell us about more helpful resources that you’d like us to review or include in the list. Happy learning!

Spanish SuperStar of The Month

How learning Spanish made Daachi Halima a special girl!

We get a lot of comments, questions, and feedback from our learners. These go a long way in helping us evolve CultureAlley and make it a better, more enriching experience for all our learners. Every month, we will feature one of our students, who stands out as a true language learning star!

Here is Daachi Halima’s story, in her own words – one of the most heart warming stories we have read so far!

Name: Daachi Halima
From: Algeria
Born: 1989
Profession: Earned a diploma in English language and working in a cultural center.

The things that I like (my hobbies) are: I love reading books, writing poems; novels; and short stories. I also like to draw Anime! I like watching Korean and English movies.

Before I entered the university, you won’t imagine the thing that I disliked the most was learning languages!!
I did not expect that one day I’ll become so fond of learning languages.

The reason why I started learning Spanish is that when I was studying in the University, we were studying about the American civilization which contained the history of Mexico; and we studied about Santa Anna. During that time I started liking Spanish. Then, I started looking for sources to help me learn some Spanish.
I asked my colleague to teach me some Spanish – she used to just give me some words and then laugh at me because I didn’t understand the meaning. Then, I looked for a teacher but I didn’t have enough money to carry on with my studies in the university and learn Spanish in parallel because it was too expensive.
I didn’t give up, and I continued looking for sources for learning Spanish for free – I looked for two years!
I was looking on the internet too but all that I found was forums with short trials. And on some forums which were free – the narration was so fast that I never understood anything!
Finally, I found CultureAlley which was really amazing. Teaching everything so well and slowly also with practice – all of that for free! The most amazing thing is that they are available to chat with their learners kindly.
My language learning journey has been so good. With CultureAlley, I can take two to three lessons each day at my own pace because I’m busy with work and I don’t get much time to learn at one go. I like to practice each Spanish word that I learn every day. I practice it with my sister and brother too – I’m teaching them everything I know about Spanish – at the same time this makes me revise my lessons with them.
I have a mobile dictionary Spanish -> English that I keep with me too.
Learning Spanish has made me special girl!
It has made me want to learn more languages; as I said before, I’m working at a cultural center; this place is suitable for learning.
Learning Spanish has made me want to teach this language to all my village for free – just as I studied it! I want to teach them about this culture. I want to tell them to never be afraid of learning languages – because learning languages is something so interesting!
I have started teaching English in my village and my students also want to learn Spanish because sometimes I talk to them in Spanish to make them get a flavor of it.  Most of the people in my village don’t have enough information about foreign languages and how interesting they are.
I want to learn all languages that are available at CultureAlley – I hope they’ll offer French soon because it is the Second language in Algeria. Also I’d like to learn Korean because I like to watch a Korean movies. I want to learn English better. And Hindi too – because sometimes I sing some Hindi songs but I always wonder about the meaning and about my pronunciation.
CultureAlley has helped me a lot in learning Spanish because of the way of teaching that they adopt. For me, as an Arabian girl, I benefit from both sides. I practice my English by listening to the narrator and learn Spanish slowly and perfectly! Specially with practice! I also love the cultural leaf!
I want to tell all learners that if you want to learn a new language – you can! All you need to learn a language is to have some will. The reason to learn languages is not important – if you have a noble aim then God will help you for sure.