Cheap (and FREE) ways for students to learn Spanish or any new language
Learning a new language does not need to be an expensive experience, as long as the student is willing to put in the time and effort there are almost always affordable, if not free, ways to learn a new language.
Libraries have not just books and reference materials for free, (so long as you bring them back on time), but a lot of libraries are beginning to offer free online language learning resources. They also offer community classes, for free or low cost.
Ask your librarian if they offer any services like this.
There are many free websites and blogs available now to learn languages, busuu.com and livemocha.com are two of my favorites. They are free to join and offer many free lessons, vocabulary flash cards, and the ability to contact pen pals from around the world. A downside to these websites is that although they offer most major languages completely (Spanish, Russian, French, German, Portuguese, etc.), lesser known languages or ones that are drastically different from English aren't normally offered. If they are offered they have a tendency to be filled with mistakes.
Low Cost Books, CDs, and Software
Although it's not free, it is possible to buy extremely affordable language learning books, CD's, and software.
Check local second-hand bookstores, online on websites such as eBay or Half.com, and library sales.
A nice thing to keep in mind, is that colleges change edition of textbooks just about every year, and they are essentially the same book. On Half.com I have found a book two editions earlier for about two dollars, compared to the almost two-hundred dollar current edition.
Music in the Native Language
You can also learn a lot from a cultures music. Listen to a song over and over again, and try to write down the lyrics, then try to translate the lyrics. This will not only help you with your vocabulary and grammar, but it will also give you some pop culture knowledge. A few websites that can help with this are YouTube, Pandora, or Spotify.
Also, try and learn the different styles of music, and try to be able to tell them apart. Such as, can you tell Reggae, Cumbia, and Nortena apart? This is a skill that will take time to develop, but if your serious about having relationships with people who speak Spanish, then knowing the culture will be invaluable.
I don't know a more enjoyable way to pick up on a new culture than this. Find an authentic restaurant. Not a tourist trap, Tex-Mex type of restaurant, but a restaurant on the back roads that tourists do not normally go to. Remember that these people feed their neighbors, and would not stay in business long if they poisoned their neighbors with unclean food.
When you're at these restaurants, practice your language. The people there will not mind, and do not worry about trying to sound perfect. You won't. And they don't expect you to sound perfect.
Learn to cook new foods. Scourer the Internet for interesting cultural recipes, and then make an adventure of finding the ingredients. Go to the ethnic markets in town to buy the food, and then cook the meal with friends. In America we've lost the feeling of meals being a social experience, that should enrich our bodies as well as our intellect and soul.
Learn Spanish via YouTube
One of the best ways to learn about another language, is to learn about the culture. A quick simple way to do this is to watch videos on YouTube in the language you are trying to learn. For example, there are many full length Spanish novellas available on YouTube for free, or begin to follow a regular vlogger who vlogs in Spanish. If nothing else, then just do a quick search with just a random word in your chosen language, and then explore the new world that opens up to you from there.
Top 3 Spanish Language Channels on YouTube:
Great Sites to Find Spanish Reading Material
These sites are great ways to read articles in whatever interests you in Spanish. Learning a new language doesn't have too feel like a chore.
- Google News-Spanish - The great thing about Google News, is that you can find news from just about any country.
- ESPN Futbol
- El Mundo
- People Magazine
Reading Material in the Native Language
One of the most common ways that people increase their vocabulary in their native language is through reading various types of articles, books, or magazines. This same idea holds true when learning a new language. Check your local public library and see if they carry any books in the language that you are learning, or start to follow a foreign online newspaper.
Reading helps to not only teach new vocabulary, but it will also show new perceptions and help make cultural connections. These connections are the difference in being fluent with an understanding of the people, and only knowing academic Spanish and how to conjugate.
Volunteering can do more than just help your heart. It also can help your resume for when you are applying to colleges or new jobs. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with speakers of foreign languages, the options are endless between teaching adults English as a Second Language and reading to at-risk school age children. The shelters, schools, libraries, and city hall in your town would most likely be able to send it in the right direction for a program nearby. If there are no programs, then start your own. Find a need in your community, and fill it.
Learning a new language should be an enjoyable experience, so have fun and learn.
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