I’ve written on a few language learning resources I’ve found helpful in the process of learning Spanish, including Pimsleur and Livemocha. In addition, I haven’t written about the piles of resources I’ve found unhelpful, but rather why certain methodologies in general don’t seem to work for me.
Today, I want to share why SpanishPod101.com is a very useful resource when used in an over-arching language learning strategy.
Full Disclosure: The links to SpanishPod101.com in this post are affiliate links, which means if you decide to sign up, I get a commission. However, my recommendation and review of their website was not based upon the fact that I could become an affiliate, but rather on how useful I find their materials for learning Spanish. If you buy through my link, I’d be truly grateful to you for a really long time. If not, I completely understand!
What It Is
SpanishPod101 is a website run by Innovative Language learning. It has a basic model of a membership site, and you can sign up for a free account, giving you access to a few lessons and perhaps a 7-day trial of their premium service.
Their service really revolves around podcast-like lessons in which a native dialogue is presented, and then analyzed for vocabulary, grammar, and expressions. The lessons are broken into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels so that you are moved forward in a progressive fashion. In the beginner lessons, the teachers speak less in Spanish, whereas in the later intermediate and advanced lessons, they speak almost totally in Spanish.
Each lesson comes with a pdf guide which contains a transcript of the dialogue, specific vocabulary words and grammar explanations for the lesson, and cultural notes about various aspects of Latin America or Spain. Both the podcasts and the pdf lesson guides are available through the “Basic” membership, and can be downloaded to your iPod for easy access (a feature I really liked!)
The other features of SpanishPod101, particularly in the “Premium” membership include a flashcard memory system for vocabulary, an extensive dictionary to look up words and phrases, online pronunciation guides, and an interactive voice recorder.
How It Can Help You Learn Spanish
One of the best features about SpanishPod101 is the fact that you listen to a dialogue of native speakers at their normal speed, and then you fully understand the vocabulary and phrases by the end of the lesson. Then, you can replay the dialogue to make sure you heard every word pronounced and understood all of the grammatical constructions that transpire. You can also follow along in the pdf as the dialogue is played. This will help your listening and reading abilities tremendously.
The podcast hosts are usually native speakers too, who know the dynamic English equivalents of certain phrases, and are also knowledgeable about particularities of certain regions in Spain or Latin America (Costa Rica, Peru, etc.). This helps you to see certain expressions based on differing regions, including those which you might be interested in.
Where It Might Not Help So Much
Where SpanishPod101 might not help so much is in its lack of speaking emphasis. The product was not really centered around the speaking modality (like Pimsleur), and thus a regular listener will not get much practice in the speaking that he so desperately needs.
If he follows along, of course he will repeat the vocabulary words that the hosts review after the dialogue, but that’s about it. There is very little structured question-response or other speaking exercises for the listener to do which would enhance his pronunciation or fluidity. It is principally centered around listening to the podcasts and following along in the accompanying pdf guides.
Again, you will probably learn to listen and read using the SpanishPod101 lessons, but you will be far behind in practicing your speaking, especially if you are a beginner.
How To Use It Within An Over-Arching Language Learning Strategy
So, if you follow along on this blog, you will remember we’ve discussed various methods for increasing your speed at language acquisition. One of the things I’ve discussed is that as a beginner you should focus on PRONUNCIATION and SPEAKING first. Trying to learning a bunch of unnecessary vocabulary and grammar will only slow you down in the beginning.
If you are just starting out, check out the Pimsleur (see my review) program and the interactivity offered by Livemocha (see my guide) to get speaking and pronouncing the sounds correctly, as soon as possible.
Once you are out of the beginner stage and can make your way through a very basic Spanish conversation, THEN would be a good time to sign up for SpanishPod101. At some point you will need to learn grammar and to let your listening and reading abilities catch up to your speaking. I found learning grammar through SpanishPod101 efficient and smooth.
Also, once you get to an advanced level, I’ve found better methods for acquiring vocabulary, and there are better methods at continuing exposure and immersion. But for intermediate level Spanish learners, SpanishPod101.com can definitely be a real asset.
So, in conclusion, I heartily recommend you check out the SpanishPod101 modules if you are out of the beginner stage and somewhere in intermediate. You really only need the “Basic” membership ($10/mo), as the features of the “Premium” membership are not worth the extra money, in my opinion.
Whatever you end up doing, never give up and keep focused on your long terms goals, especially the places around the world you want to go to use your foreign language!