Learning Spanish

A lot of things have changed over the last 3 or 4 years and one of them, as you might have seen in my last update, is that I’m enjoying cycling in Europe. In particular, I’m finding Spain to be an amazing destination for cyclists.

In the last two years, I’ve been to Spain five times and I’m due to return twice more in 2024. Two of those trips were to Mallorca where, to be quite honest, everyone speaks English anyway! But whilst in Girona in October of 2022 there were two occasions I found myself in a situation where they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Spanish! I decided maybe I should do something about that!

My first step was the very popular DuoLingo. It’s quite a gamified app, there are XP, leagues, friends, challenges and streaks, which have the desired effect of making you go back each day to learn some more. After I’d used the free version for a few weeks, I realised I was enjoying it and I decided I didn’t mind spending some money on it, so I thought I’d better look into what the best options were.

Here’s a little breakdown of the different options –

+ Great explanations
+ A variety of ways to do reviews
+ A selection of different topics
+ LOADS of course and class options (cost more)
+ Uses CEFR

– Not so much repetition – reviews aren’t great/too easy
– No free option
– Only 14 languages

+ Good explanations
+ Uses CEFR
+ Free option is one lesson a day, unlimited reviews

– Not much repetition – use reviews
– Only 14 languages

+ Great repetition
+ Fun gamified system (streaks, XP, league tables)
+ Very usable as the free option (lots of ads though)
+ 39 languages!

– If using free, you can burn through your 5 hearts quite quickly
– One fixed path
– Doesn’t use CEFR
– ISN’T ACTUAL SPANISH! (and no option for it)

Rosetta Stone
+ Good for listening (only one that sometimes is just audio and no text?)
+ Good for pronunciation
+ Good repetition
+ You can jump about the course
+ 25 different languages

– Nothing in English at all…
– No explanations
– Doesn’t use CEFR
– Reviews aren’t structured for repetition

I landed on Babbel and Busuu, both of which had Black Friday deals meaning a year’s Pro version was in the region of £35 each.

It wasn’t just the language apps though. I put together a Spanish music playlist, found some Spanish TV on Netflix (La Casa de Papel is great!) and subscribed to some Spanish lesson podcasts for while cycling.

After 4 months of this, I had my second trip to Mallorca and was able to put some of it to the test. I quickly found that while it was possible to make requests, like ordering in a cafe or asking for directions, it was a different ball game when it came to listening to them speak!

By the time I had my third trip in 2023, to Sitges in Costa Daurada, I was getting better at keeping up with them and was able to do things like complain about a hair in my cake and then understand they were very sorry, the cake was made in a factory! I wouldn’t be charged for it!

After Babbel and Busuu’s year subscription ended, I jumped on a deal with Rosetta Stone for a lifetime subscription! This would enable me to learn other languages later if I so desire. Whilst Rosetta Stone is great and has some different methods (it feels much more speaking and listening-based, which is good for me now) I really missed the options and teaching of Babbel, so waited until I could also get a bargain and then jumped on a lifetime subscription for that too.

I’ve pretty much completed A1 Beginner and A2 Intermediate as far as CEFR levels dictate, which was rather my target when I started, so now I feel like I just need experience in talking with actual Spanish speakers. I guess I’ll have two more chances this year!