The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

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KLearning Spanish opens up an exciting, diverse world, stretching from the Spanish Peninsula to the jungles of Peru, from the Argentine pampas to Mexico’s northern deserts. As well as providing the traveller with the lingua franca of over 20 countries, Spanish is connected with a rich culture of world-class literature, art, music, cinema, and architecture. Spanish is an excellent choice for a new language to learn, and here we outline exactly how you should go about achieving this goal.



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Knowledge of the Russian language opens up a vast, diverse world, stretching from the Carpathian Mountains to the expanses of Siberia.  As well as providing the traveller with the lingua franca of over 15 countries and unrecognised territories, the Russian language is intrinsically connected with a rich culture of world-class literature, art, music, cinema, and architecture.  Russian is an excellent choice for a new language to learn, and here we outline exactly how you should go about achieving this goal.

How to Use This Guide

For anyone learning a foreign language, nothing is more important than choosing the right learning resources.  However, as with most languages, the amount of available material for learning Spanish is overwhelming, and the quality varies enormously.

So what should you buy?

Most resource guides on the internet simply throw together a vast list of virtually everything related to the language in question, leaving you just as bewildered as you were before.

But you don't need a list - you need a guide!
But you don't need a list - you need a guide!

We know from years of experience that the Pareto principle strongly applies to language learning: you really do get 80% of the results from 20% of the materials you buy.  If we had only known at the time how to separate the textbook-wheat from the chaff, we would have saved a considerable amount of money!

And so we have come up with the solution: an all encompassing, fully-updated handbook, advising you on the best books, videos, websites, podcasts and courses to help you on your path to native-level fluency.

Concept Online Learning

We appreciate that you may not have time to read through the whole of the guide, or may just be looking to improve a particular skills.  So, in order to help you find exactly what you need with ease, we’ve grouped our recommended material into the following colour-coordinated categories:

Grammar & Vocabulary

Reading

Writing

Speaking

Listening

Bonus

Grammar & Vocabulary

Reading

Writing

Speaking

Listening

Bonus

Of course, the material that you use will vastly depend on your current Spanish level.  (After all, there's nothing more dispiriting than working through a course that's too easy or too difficult for you!)  That’s why we have divided the guide into three sections: beginners, intermediate, and advanced – showing you exactly what you need for the stage you’re currently at.


Beginners – Grammar & Vocabulary

Grammar and vocabulary are the skeleton around which your language skills develop - you can't do anything until you've got to grips with the basics.  Obviously it's vital to choose the right material for the job.  So let's dive straight in and look at the best textbook on the market for beginners

Getting Started with Spanish

The easiest way for complete beginners to get going with Spanish. The book is divided into short lessons that clearly and gradually explain all of the necessary grammar. Even comes with online audio accompaniment of the authors providing extra clarifications. Lots of end-of-chapter exercises. Should be all you need for grammar to take you up to an upper-beginner level.

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Getting Started with Spanish

The easiest way for complete beginners to get going with Spanish. The book is divided into short lessons that clearly and gradually explain all of the necessary grammar. Even comes with online audio accompaniment of the authors providing extra clarifications. Lots of end-of-chapter exercises. Should be all you need for grammar to take you up to an upper-beginner level.

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As you can imagine, there were literally hundreds of Spanish textbooks for beginners to choose from.  We believe that Getting Started with Spanish is the best because it makes absolutely no assumptions about your prior level of Spanish and is specifically designed for self-learning beginners.

You could also try:
 If you are a false beginner or you have experience of learning foreign languages, then you may prefer to try Basic Spanish, another brilliant introdcutory textbook.

What we particularly like about this textbook is the way that each chapter builds on the last, constantly reinforcing topics that you have already covered to refresh your memory.

By the end of the book you will have a solid footing in –ar and –er verbs, adjectives, pronouns, question words, and other basic language skills.  Combined with the vocabulary that is gradually introduced to you, the grammar here should give you the confidence to conduct a basic conversation with a Spanish speaker.

At this point you will be at an A1 level and ready to move on to the next item in our list.

Getting Started with Spanish - Our Rating
93%

Of course, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t supplement Getting Started with Spanish with other grammar guides. There are plenty of excellent free websites on the internet that go over all the grammar that a beginner needs to learn.

  • Our favourite is Spanish Grammar in Context. This professionally produced website is organised in a neat and user-friendly way.  Quizzes and video explanations make this a great way to consolidate things you learn from your textbook.
  • Another option is Spanish Learning Exercises.  Although there aren’t a huge number of exercises here, the ones that do exist will be useful if you finish the end-of-chapter tasks in your textbook and want a bit more practice.

Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish

Entertaining beginner’s coursebook that will take you up to a solid intermediate level. Absolutely packed full of information, whilst still being highly readable and funny. Particularly useful for pointing out common mistakes that you are probably making to help you sound more authentically Spanish.

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Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish

Entertaining beginner’s coursebook that will take you up to a solid intermediate level. Absolutely packed full of information, whilst still being highly readable and funny. Particularly useful for pointing out common mistakes that you are probably making to help you sound more authentically Spanish.

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Once you have worked your way through Getting Started with Spanish you will feel confident with the rudiments of the language, but you won’t quite have reached intermediate level.  This is an excellent choice for those looking to fill in the gaps.

Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish does just what it says on the tins: it provides a path out of that awkward stage where you can say a little (clumsily) but probably don’t understand much.

Written by a native English speaker, this book retains a light touch whilst covering important topics like common idiomatic phrases, pronunciation, verb usage, false friends, and set phrases.

Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish - Our Rating
89%

501 Spanish Verbs

Solid reference book, detailing the full conjugations of 501 common Spanish verbs. Numerous example sentences demonstrate how each verb is used in various contexts (including idoms). There is also a sizeable dictionary of 2,200 additional verbs, showing which conjugation pattern each one follows so you know how to form them correctly. A worthwhile purchase for beginners.

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501 Spanish Verbs

Solid reference book, detailing the full conjugations of 501 common Spanish verbs. Numerous example sentences demonstrate how each verb is used in various contexts (including idoms). There is also a sizeable dictionary of 2,200 additional verbs, showing which conjugation pattern each one follows so you know how to form them correctly. A worthwhile purchase for beginners.

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With 15 tenses and moods, the Spanish verb is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of the language – crack it and everything else will soon fall into place.

This is easier said than done.  With a confusing array of irregular, two verbs for ‘to be’ and a difficult subjunctive, Spanish verbs present a serious challenge to new learners.

Thankfully, you have at your disposal 501 Spanish Verbs. It explains how each verb’s conjugation follows one of three paradigms, and shows that once you have memorised these patterns, the process of learning how to use individual verbs becomes infinitely easier.

It then delivers on its promise and sets out the full conjugations of 501 common verbs, as well as listing the infinitives to 2,200 other ones in the back of the back.

501 Spanish Verbs - Our Rating
88%

There is a very useful online alternative to 501 Spanish Verbs: Cooljugator allows you to simply type an English verb into its search bar, and you get the Spanish translation in all of its conjugated forms.

It’s not as comprehensive as a dictionary or 501 Spanish Verbs, so you shouldn’t completely rely on it. But it does have some nice features that make up for this downside: stress indicators, pronunciation hints, related verb lists, etc.

The site’s owner claims that he frequently adds new words to the database so this should become an even more powerful tool in time.

Spanish Grammar Chart

Compact Spanish grammar chart (six pages) covering everything from rules of stress to the various verb categories and conjugations. An essential for beginners that struggle to remember grammatical rules and want an accessible reference guide. Very reasonably priced.

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Spanish Grammar Chart

Compact Spanish grammar chart (six pages) covering everything from rules of stress to the various verb categories and conjugations. An essential for beginners that struggle to remember grammatical rules and want an accessible reference guide. Very reasonably priced.

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Is it possible to fit the entirety of Spanish grammar on one wall chart?

Of course not..

But BarChart have managed to cram virtually everything a beginner Spanish learner would need to know onto just six sheets, and for that they deserve kudos!

We are huge fans of visual learning at Language Sherpa (because it works), so we are always looking out for products that maximise on this learning technique, like the Spanish Grammar Chart.

Simply put this colourful chart in a location that you’re likely to glance at from time to time and you will soon start to reap the benefits of having this useful reference guide at hand.

Spanish Grammar Chart - Our Rating
81%

The Oxford Spanish Dictionary

The undisputed king of dictionary series, the Oxford Spanish Dictionary contains over 300,000 words, phrases, and translations. Recent stylistic and layout improvements have made it much easier to find the word you need in its correct context. Fully updated to include contemporary business, technical and computing terminology. The best Spanish dictionary out there.

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The Oxford Spanish Dictionary

The undisputed king of dictionary series, the Oxford Spanish Dictionary contains over 300,000 words, phrases, and translations. Recent stylistic and layout improvements have made it much easier to find the word you need in its correct context. Fully updated to include contemporary business, technical and computing terminology. The best Spanish dictionary out there.

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Dictionaries are expensive, so you don’t want to keep buying new ones on a regular basis. For this reason, it makes sense to get the best one available straight away.

With over 300,000 words and phrases, you’ll almost certainly find a translation for whatever it is you need.  One of the best features of the Oxford series (that is often lacking in rival dictionaries) is the care they take to provide translations for words in all of their contexts, including idioms, sayings, and figurative usage. Look up a simple word, like ‘hand’, for instance, and you’ll see what we mean: it can be used in dozens of different ways, and doesn’t just refer to the human appendage.

Warning
Don't be tempted to scrimp and buy the 'Compact' version - it's surprisingly patchy. 

Dictionaries are often criticised for not keeping up to date with modern technology and innovation. The Oxford series, however, are frequently updated, meaning that if you get the most recent edition you can be sure that it will stay relevant for a good few years.

The Oxford Spanish Dictionary - Our Rating
91%

A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish

Lists the 5,000 most frequently used Spanish words (with English translations), starting from most commonly used downwards. All of the words also come with example sentences. Excellent resource for filling in any important gaps in your vocabulary. Can also be used to provide a rough estimate of your vocabulary size.


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A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish

Lists the 5,000 most frequently used Spanish words (with English translations), starting from most commonly used downwards. All of the words also come with example sentences. Excellent resource for filling in any important gaps in your vocabulary. Can also be used to provide a rough estimate of your vocabulary size.

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When you consider that the average native speaker knows about 20-35,000 words, it’s clear that this book will do wonders for your Spanish if you have the stamina to get to the end.

The dictionary allows you to follow a systematic programme of vocabulary learning – master the most common words and then move on to the rarer ones.

Minimum Vocabulary Required for Each CEFR Level

A1 Level:
0
Words
A2 Level:
0
Words
B1 Level:
0
Words
B2 Level:
0
Words
C1 Level:
0
Words
C2 Level:
0
Words

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One negative, however, is that it only gives limited definitions. You will probably want to cross-check with another dictionary to make sure you know what each word means across different contexts.

A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish - Our Rating
82%

Anki

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard programme. It uses an algorithm that learns which words you find easy to remember and which ones don’t, and adjusts how frequently it tests you on these particular words accordingly. It is completely free and easy to install.

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Anki

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard programme. It uses an algorithm that learns which words you find easy to remember and which ones don’t, and adjusts how frequently it tests you on these particular words accordingly. It is completely free and easy to install.

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Everyone learns vocabulary in their own way – some people simply suck words in like a sponge and don’t need to make any active effort; for others, nothing seems to stick unless they learn it off by heart.

If you’re the former – great! If not, Anki will prove invaluable.

Essentially, Anki is a flashcard app. But what differentiates it from the hundreds of competitors is the spaced repetition algorithm that it uses. This means that it is able to remember which words you find more difficult to recall than others and to test you on them more frequently.   

While some of the settings can be a little fiddly, and synchronisation between phones and computers can play up, it is generally an extremely reliable app and one that we wished we had used from day one of our language learning.

Even if you only use Anki for half an hour each day, you’ll see marked improvements in your vocabulary. 

Anki - Our Rating
92%

The good thing about Anki is that sometimes you don’t even have to compile vocabulary decks yourself. If you search around on the internet, you can sometimes find pre-made decks that you can import into your folders.

One such deck, created by Neri, displays 5,000 Spanish sentences sorted from easiest to hardest. It’s a great way to gradually build up set-phrases and connecting words. You can download the deck from here.


Beginners – Reading

Choosing reading material is not easy when you’ve just started learning a foreign language. The vast majority of books and newspapers available to you will be too challenging at this point, and yet, equally, you can’t stay tethered to the artificially simplistic exercises in your textbooks for too long.

So where is the best place to start once you’re ready to venture out into the world of literature?

Many language guides come out with the same suggestion: start with children’s books. This is TERRIBLE advice. There is nothing easy about children’s literature – especially for learners of Spanish! Although the concepts and storylines are simplistic enough to be enjoyed by toddlers, you face a number of surprisingly tricky linguistic challenges, such as a confusing array of diminutives, strange vocabulary, and irregular sentence structure.

A far better option would be to start off with something aimed at older children/teenagers. The vocabulary in these books is still pretty simple, but the grammar is often more regular than those aimed at younger readers.

The Adventures of Tintin

Classic comic book series by Belgian artist, Hergé. Fun and interesting stories with non-complex language and sentence structure. Excellent for beginner readers to build their colloquial comprehension. Entire series can be found here.

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The Adventures of Tintin

Classic comic book series by Belgian artist, Hergé. Fun and interesting stories with non-complex language and sentence structure. Excellent for beginner readers to build their colloquial comprehension. Entire series can be found here.

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If you’ve worked through about half of the Penguin Course, you should find it relatively easy to read one of the Tintin books.

As well as being great stories in themselves, the comic book format means that you’re reading succinct speech bubbles, rather than long sentences. This makes for good, easy practice texts while you’re still mastering trickier grammatical elements, like participles and relative clauses.

Mafalda

Quino’s world-famous Argentine comic series. A great way to build up your reading skills with easy, short dialogues. The simple grammar and vocabulary used means that you should be able to read through these without too much reliance on dictionaries.



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Mafalda

Quino’s world-famous Argentine comic series. A great way to build up your reading skills with easy, short dialogues. The simple grammar and vocabulary used means that you should be able to read through these without too much reliance on dictionaries.

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Mafalda is the creation of Argentine comic artist Joaquín Salvador Lavado, better known as Quino.  This feisty young girl is one of the most beloved literary creations of all of Latin America and an excellent way for Spanish learners to get started with their reading.

As with Tintin, the texts are never overwhelming – the bite-sized, entertaining dialogues are excellent practice for beginners.  Unlike tedious textbook conversations, Mafalda’s interesting, thought-provoking plots will keep you engaged.

It’s also a good way to start learning about the various Spanish dialects.  For example, Argentine speakers often use vos instead of .

New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in Spanish

Classic short stories with the Spanish original on the left hand page and the English translation on the opposite page. All stories are from the twentieth century and feature writers that readers may not be familiar with, giving a fresh perspective on Spanish literature.


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New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in Spanish

Classic short stories with the Spanish original on the left hand page and the English translation on the opposite page. All stories are from the twentieth century and feature writers that readers may not be familiar with, giving a fresh perspective on Spanish literature.

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When you’ve finished the textbook the best thing to do is to read some Spanish texts with parallel translations. Having to go back and forth between the book you’re reading and a dictionary can be incredibly frustrating, and often saps a lot of the fun out of reading.

This is the solution: collections of classic short stories from the twentieth century with English translations on the opposite page.

Surprisingly, that’s pretty much the only volume of Spanish parallel texts out there.  If you want some more reading practice, we highly recommend Olly Richard’s Short Stories for Beginners.  It’s an excellent collection of unusual stories that would be perfect for any upper-beginner learner.


Beginners – Writing

It’s vital that you practise your writing as much as possible when you’ve just started learning a language.  Reading and learning vocabulary is important but you won’t be able to cement all of this new information in your brain without putting pen to paper.  Fortunately, there are many excellent Spanish course books on the market.  Here are the best ones:

The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice

Very detailed and rigorous grammar review book. Features over 400 writing exercises designed specifically to strengthen grammar skills. Categorised as an intermediate-level book, but should be a good choice for ambitious beginners that have worked through the textbooks we recommend above.

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The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice

A decent workbook with over 200 written exercises to supplement a beginner’s Russian course. The content is colourful and attractive, and features some interesting cultural insights. It is designed to be used alongside the Ruslan communicative course, but can also be used as a standalone product.

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All of the textbooks that we have selected for our grammar and vocabulary section have lots of written practice exercises.  However, if you have exhausted these tasks and want some more drills to work through then you should have a look at the Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice.

Its enormous stock of written exercises perfectly supplements the grammar topics that you will have learned from your beginner’s textbooks.  As if that wasn’t enough, you can find an additional 250 exercises (including some audio ones) as part of the digital content that can accessed with the publisher’s app.

The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice - Our Rating
85%

Spanish Verb Tenses

One of our favourite language learning series. This is a no-nonsense course book that is dedicated solely to testing your knowledge of Spanish verbs. Plenty of practice with over 200 exercises. Extremely reasonably priced.

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Spanish Verb Tenses

One of our favourite language learning series. This is a no-nonsense course book that is dedicated solely to testing your knowledge of Spanish verbs. Plenty of practice with over 200 exercises. Extremely reasonably priced.

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As we mentioned earlier in this guide, the Spanish verb is something that will appear time and time again to give you grief – you would do well to deal with it earlier rather than later.

This book is a great choice for any beginner that wants to perfect their use of the Spanish verb.  This is not just a case of getting the conjugation right – it’s just as important that you choose the correct tense if you want to avoid sounding gratingly foreign.  After you have worked through the 200+ exercises in this book you will have a lot more confidence in making this choice.

What we particularly like about  Spanish Verb Tenses is the accompanying app, which allows you to go over the exercises on the go.  The explanations are top notch as well.

Spanish verb Tenses - Our Rating
79%

Beginners – Speaking

Get speaking as soon as you can! It’s the hardest (and most important) language skill, but the one that we most often neglect.

Although you could get a private tutor straight off the bat, it may be cheaper and more constructive to enrol on an evening course in your city.

You may also like:

The hourly prices of these courses are often twice as cheap as those that a native speaker will charge for one-to-one tuition in your city. On the other hand, a large class will limit the amount of time you get to speak, and sitting patiently while the inevitable class laggard struggles through material that you mastered weeks ago can be incredibly irritating.

But if you can find a course with a small-number of other highly motivated participants, your speaking will make incredible progress.

Well-reviewed Russian courses in selected cities include:


Beginners – Listening

Girl Laptop IllustrationGood news! The rise of computer technology and the internet means that there is now an enormous amount of listening opportunities out there for you to take advantage of.

Here we narrow down the best courses, channels, and podcasts for beginners to take their listening skills to the next level

Rocket Spanish

The best online Spanish course for beginners looking to kickstart their listening skills. Packed full of targeted audio and writing exercises, all organised thematically. Seamless transition from desktop to mobile app, and vice versa. No subscription – a reasonable one-off fee unlocks the entire platform for life.

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Rocket Spanish

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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In compiling this guide we trialled over a dozen of the top online Spanish courses.  Rocket Spanish stood out as easily the best of the bunch – here’s why:

  • The content is thematic

    We are huge fans of thematic vocabulary learning (Using Spanish Vocabulary, for instance, is an essential resource to get) as we have found that structured learning is the best way to keep words in your long-term memory. We were really pleased to see that the team at Rocket Spanish share this viewpoint and organise their lessons along thematic lines.

  • The mobile app is brilliant

    Most language apps come across as little more than half-hearted afterthoughts. Some platforms even have the audacity to charge you extra for it. Rocket Spanish’s mobile app (free for both iOS and Android) has been designed excellently and was far more intuitive than all of its rivals.

  • It doesn't smother you with unnecessary features

    Rocket Spanish only provides you with the tools you need to make real progress with your Spanish – interactive audio lessons, detailed writing exercises, and an excellent narrative story which solidifies your situational vocabulary.

  • Everything is 100% downloadable

    This means that you can sit down and get all of the material in one place – no need to keep going in and out of the site itself to use its contents.

  • Real-life audio from the start

    The sooner a student weans themselves off what we call ‘teacher-speak’, the sooner they will understand real conversations. This is what Rocket Spanish does from the very beginning, using authentic dialogues to build your listening skills up.

  • No subscription

    Almost all online language courses nowadays charge for monthly/yearly subscriptions, meaning that over time they turn out to be very expensive. With Rocket Spanish, however, once you’ve paid the one-off fee you get access to the full platform for life. Although the price may seem a bit steep, you then fully own all of the lessons and downloadable material inside – you’re not ‘renting it’. This means that in the long run Rocket Spanish is probably the cheapest course on the market.

Give it a go!

Sign up for Rocket Spanish's free trial here:

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Learn Spanish with Free Podcasts!

SpanishPod101

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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Learn Spanish with Free Podcasts!

SpanishPod101

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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We are naturally suspicious of online language courses, as the vast majority do not deliver on their promises – RussianPod101 is one of the few exceptions.

For a very reasonable price you gain access to a veritable treasure trove of Russian learning tools and resources, including:

High quality audio and video podcast lessons

Printable PDF Lesson Notes

2000 Most Common Words List

Entertaining Review Quizzes

Database of Spanish grammar constructions

1-to-1 Direct Instruction From Native Spanish Speakers

Interactive Pronunciation Comparison Tool

Portable Survival Phrases Centre

A personalised learning programme

Although the lessons are probably a bit on the easy side for advanced learners, for beginners this is an absolute must-have resource.  The sheer quantity of audio and video lessons alone makes it far and away the most efficient way to improve your Spanish listening skills.

SpanishPod101 has been expanding steadily for the last few years thanks to its dedicated team.  As it is continuously adding new content to the site you can be sure that you will always have fresh material to practice with.

SpanishPod101 - Our Rating
93%

Interested?

Create a free account at SpanishPod101 now!

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While the online courses that we’ve reviewed above are excellent, make sure you don’t neglect the thousands of free YouTube channels dedicated to teaching Russian:

Amazing Russian

Amazing Russian is hands down the best YouTube channel out there for beginners looking to improve their listening skills.

The reason why we are so enthusiastic is because it is rare to come across such a practical and educational channel on YouTube.  Most ‘learn Russian’ channels rely heavily on gimmicks and flashy appearances without delivering much substance.  But if you want to make real headway with your listening then this is the channel for you.

The videos, mostly dealing with everyday situations, effectively ease students into the listening comprehension with a steady speaking pace, core vocabulary, and optional subtitles.

Beginners – Bonus

Spanish Keyboard Stickers

High-quality transparent stickers for laptop keyboards. Versions for both black and white keyboards available.

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Spanish Keyboard Stickers

High-quality transparent stickers for laptop keyboards. Versions for both black and white keyboards available.

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Although Spanish only uses a few extra letters than English, it’s still a good idea to get some keyboard stickers while you get used to their placement.

You can find a range of transparent Spanish stickers that sit neatly on your keyboard without obscuring the original English symbols next to them.