advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

All about language programs, courses, websites and other learning resources
User avatar
White Belt
Posts: 49
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015 6:10 pm
Location: Belgium
Languages: French (N), English (C2?), Dutch (C1), Spanish (B2), Italian (B1), Esperanto (B1), Portuguese (B1), German (A-range)
x 37

advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby guiguixx1 » Thu May 04, 2017 1:44 pm


My brother would like to learn the basics of Spanish, he often goes to Spanish-speaking countries and only speaks French, English and Dutch. I gave him the "Espagnol pour les nuls" book and the Harrap's audio method. I also advised him to listen to the Youtube channel "lightspeedspanish" and to download Duolingo. I will also try to find some good frequency list for his vocab.

Would anyone advise other materials or method? He would mainly have some time while driving to and from work (about 2h each day, so he will mainly focus on listening) and he will need Spanish in about 2-3 weeks and would like to get the furthest possible.

0 x
Language learning and teaching website as a French teacher of Dutch and English:

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2343
Joined: Thu May 14, 2015 4:18 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Languages: English (N)
French (studies), Italian (studies), Mandarin (studies),
Esperanto TAC (Only god knows why), Finnish (only in it for the cookies)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1836
x 4747

Re: advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby rdearman » Thu May 04, 2017 3:40 pm

Pimsluer or Michel Thomas might be good options if he is doing a lot of driving.
0 x

User avatar
Blue Belt
Posts: 577
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1130

Re: advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby James29 » Thu May 04, 2017 3:44 pm

Agreed re Pimsleur and Michel Thomas. Paul Noble is a great option too.
0 x

Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1820
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (beginner)
x 4516

Re: advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby Cavesa » Thu May 04, 2017 4:00 pm

I would suggest leaving out all toys like Duolingo. And get a serious course. Contrary to popular belief, real courses like Teach Yourself, or better quality classroom courses (your brother should have no problem with a monolingual one, as he already speaks French) work fine and trully teach people the basics of a language. I don't know why people these days try to find anything that is not a course.

Audio courses are good for some learners, either Pimsleur or perhaps Language Transfer should be helpful. But he won't get too far without a more systematic approach and he won't need that much handholding, as French is gonna be a huge bonus.

I'd say the key to learning the basics FAST is:
1.Put in a big amount of time during the required timeframe
2.Get serious resources, no toys. With the backgroud in French, he can progress fast and getting to easy going resources might be counterproductive
3.Don't get too many resources. One or two done from the beginning to the end are much beter than the first three lessons of a dozen courses. Perhaps the combination of Harrap's (I think this product of their is just translated MT, isn't it?) + Teach Yourself/a class aimed course (there are even a few intensive ones, Via Rapida is one going from 0 to B1, but I haven't tried it personally).
4 x

White Belt
Posts: 14
Joined: Sat Oct 22, 2016 9:15 pm
Location: Houston, Texas
Languages: US English (N), Spanish (Beginner), German (Beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?p=53021
x 12

Re: advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby PunkJesus » Thu May 04, 2017 5:02 pm

I would say Coffee Break Spanish and Language Transfer Complete Spanish for audio only.

I would recommend Assimil Spanish (2014 not the 1989 version). It will teach you more Spanish in a short amount than Duolingo. Duolingo's current Spanish course is awful. Hopefully their new one (whenever it gets released) will be much better.
2 x
: 94 / 100 Assimil Spanish (2014)
: 34 / 200 Lingvist Spanish (200 hrs)

Blue Belt
Posts: 554
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015 9:48 pm
Languages: English (N). Currently studying Spanish (intermediate), French (false beginner).
x 631

Re: advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby Tomás » Thu May 04, 2017 8:19 pm

Here's a new book. I haven't had a chance to read it yet:

Learning French from Spanish and Spanish from French: A Short Guide

There are no shortcuts in language-learning, but someone who knows French and English will have a huge head start on Spanish.
1 x

User avatar
Orange Belt
Posts: 193
Joined: Sun Dec 20, 2015 9:59 pm
Location: Sweden
x 415

Re: advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby Stefan » Thu May 04, 2017 8:23 pm

If I ever get around to restart Spanish, I would use Dicendi's updated FSI Spanish. It's basically a modern version of FSI with flashcards, pop-over translations and a lot more. Truly wish it was available for more languages. Use the digital course at home and then practice in the car by listening to the tapes. I would combine this with Assimil to practice reading.

The main issue is time but it will be a problem with all courses.
2 x

User avatar
Blue Belt
Posts: 667
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:24 pm
Location: Spain
Languages: German (N), English (C2), Spanish (B2-C1), French (B2+ passive), Italian (A2), Russian (Beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3235
x 1574

Re: advice to learn basic Spanish quickly

Postby blaurebell » Fri May 05, 2017 1:09 pm

I think the main problem is to know what the actual aim is with this "learn as much as possible as fast as possible". Does he need to understand or to produce Spanish and if the latter then in which context? As a tourist, any tourist crash course will be enough to survive. During my daily life in Spain I mainly need just a few phrases for the supermarket, for the bar and for buying tickets to places. Even there you can usually get away with pointing and hand signs. Nowadays even asking for directions isn't necessary anymore due to smart phones. It needs very little to survive. If one wants to have fun with locals, drink with them and communicate with them in a sort of half broken Spanish half broken English then a bit of Duolingo is enough to get started. It doesn't need much to make yourself understood in a Tarzan way. More can't be expected after 3 weeks of 2h a day anyway - that's only 42h!

Now, if he's really serious though and actually wants to understand and speak Spanish properly, and maybe even speak it in a business context then I'd very much agree with Cavesa, there is no way around a proper course and Duolingo might well be a waste of time depending on his goals. I tend to use it only as a super fast overview over all basic grammar and usually abandon it as soon as it starts boring me with silly low frequency vocabulary.

I tend to follow these kinds of patterns depending on my goals:
1. Fast understanding - Pronunciation training + Assimil + Duolingo + early intensive reading of 5000+ pages + 150h of dubbed series. Headache guaranteed in the beginning. Production abilities next to zero, but I accidentally learned to understand French in 3 months that way, because I got hooked on reading Harry Potter. It gets a bit tedious with languages with few cognates, otherwise it's my favourite method to get started though, because my main goal is to understand. Main outcome: Good reading and listening comprehension.
2. Fast speaking - for easy languages 10 weeks early immersion with 3-5h of interaction based language classes in the country should be a good start. High chance of fossilised mistakes that are hard to correct. This is how I learned Spanish and I could start to read extensively after 10 weeks, so it's effective both for speaking as well as understanding, especially listening comprehension. It usually leads to fluent speaking, but with mistakes. I wish I had gone with option 1 in retrospect though because of those fossilised mistakes that still haunt me 7 years later. On top of things it tends to be expensive. Main outcome: Listening comprehension and fluent speaking, quite likely with mistakes.
3. *Correct* speaking about high brow subjects - FSI / grammar bootcamp + flashcards. High likelihood of headaches, boredom, frustration and dropping the whole thing altogether. This is how I learned English and Italian - high motivation due to school and university requirements, but since I tried to do it fast with Italian it really made me hate the language for a while and I haven't really maintained it properly either. In general it's only for the really disciplined types or with lots of external motivation and I find it only bearable as a slow process. In general there is only very slow progress with comprehension since this focuses on correct output and goes over every little bit of grammar until you're thoroughly sick of it. Over long years it's really effective though. Main outcome: Correct speaking and writing. The basis for comprehension of native materials - i.e. a full grammar overview - is only reached if one reaches the end of the course. This hardly ever happens though unless one is forced by external requirements or driven by extreme levels of discipline.

My preferred method these days is: 1. followed by slow 3. over years while I have fun with native content, because this is the way I have fun early on and still end up speaking correctly. There are no shortcuts in language learning. You can cheat, by diving into native content or speaking early, but you will always have to spend the time - I packed 500h of French into 3 months which is an average of 5 1/2h a day, and I spent similar amounts of time if not more on Spanish during immersion. And with some cheats, like speaking early beyond your level without appropriate correction you might also damage your language learning machine by feeding it too many mistakes.

People are different and all like different methods and have different goals. Abandoning a language learning project usually happens when people follow a method that is not suited to their character or their goals, possibly even both: Following a reading based method when they hate reading, or an interaction based course when early speaking gives them anxiety, or a grammar based course when they mainly want to understand. To pick the right method for your goals and your character is the most important decision. Anything else will inevitable lead to failure. Whether with the right method the process takes 3 months or 3 years should be a secondary consideration.
5 x
: 14 / 100 Дэвид Эддингс - Владычица магии
: 8144 / 35000 LWT Known

: 17 / 55 FSI Spanish Basic
: 29 / 116 GdUdE B

Return to “Language Programs and Resources”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: luke and 1 guest