Learning Spanish

This is an updated HowTo with a new title. I have moved the schools to their own sub-pages so your comments will actually be attached to the school you attended.

I have been adding language learning resources (not just Spanish) to A42.com. Still evolving but there are some pretty nice tools that are available for free to help you learn a language and even other things.

Not in the school list is nss-pmc as they used to be a school but are only doing referrals now.

Audio Courses

Most audio courses seem to teach you how to be a tourist. That is, you learn how to register in your hotel, talk to a taxi driver and such. This is not necessarily bad as it gets you started but I have realized this also doesn't get you really understanding the language. The ones I list here seem to be more "serious".

If you are "in a hurry", something that can be downloaded is a plus. Here are a few.

Notes in Spanish

Done by a couple in Spain, this is a "friendly" way to learn. Lots of podcasts to download for free, other material available. See NotesInSpanish.com.

Rocket Spanish

While I have not personally listended to this course, I did download the free sample course. It seemed good but too basic for me.

Rocket Spanish web site.

Learning Spanish Like Crazy

I downloaded their samples and was happy with the content. There are now two courses and I purchased Level Dos and am very happy with it. You can buy these courses on CDs but the downloadable versions are substantially cheaper.

Learning Spanish Like Crazy website.

Michel Thomas

This course is not available for download but I found it very good and very different. It is by Michel Thomas (http://www.michelthomas.com). I had seen it ages ago but it had too many "marketing words" in the description to believe. Well, I have now heard two of the three Spanish courses (and have the third on order) and I am now a believer. You can order Spanish With Michel Thomas (Deluxe Language Courses with Michel Thomas)

His approach says "no books, no notes, no homework" and he tells you it is his job to make you learn not your job. His classes were only taught in person (about $20,000 for 8 hours of classroom time) but you can now get CDs.

The three classes are:

  • Spanish -- 8 hours of him with two students. He assumes you know nothing and takes you thru being able to use most verb forms. There is little vocabulary taught here other than giving you some patterns to convert about 2000 English words into Spanish.
  • Advanced Spanish -- 4 hours of him with two students. In this class he teaches you every possible verb form including irregular verbs. When English makes no sense (do you understand the subjunctive in English?) he first helps you understand the English.
  • Spanish Vocabulary Builder -- I bought it and was impressed. It is fast-paced and filled in a lot of blanks.

The first class I heard was Advanced Spanish. The fact that the students used pronouns correctly inspired me to listen to the first class. He taught two rules--if there is more than one pronoun, the personal one comes first and that if the other pronoun is la or lo then the personal pronoun will be se, not le or les. Beyond that, learning "just happened".

Even if you are "good" in Spanish I recommend the Advanced Spanish class. It just fills in so many blanks--in both Spanish and English--that it is a good time investment.


Books in Spanish are another good way to learn the language. Not a substitute for listening and speaking but a good way to expand your vocabulary. Powell's is a huge bookstore (ok, a set of them) in Portland, Oregon. They have a decent assortment of books in Spanish, offer used books as well as new and will ship anywhere.

Grandes Biografiás
is a series of small, relatively inexpensive books about famous people. They are published by Edimat Libros in Spain.

I have only read the one on Che Guevara (and, if you want to read a serious account of Che's life, Ernesto Guevara, también conocide como el Che is a far superior book). The charm of these books is that they are easy reads. The chapters are very short, there are photos and so many of the concepts are easy to understand. For example, here is a semi-random paragraph from this book.

Pero entre los dos personajes se da una base de identifición fundimental y, sobre todo, la cuestión de que la conveniencia les llevaba, desde posiciones doctrinales encontradas, a una identidad de interes y tácticas.

Spanish Childrens Books is another interesting option. The also have the advantage that you can share them with kids in a Spanish speaking country.

Another easy search on Powells is for Spanish Language Books in general. There are almost 27,000 matches.

Oxford Color Spanish Dictionary Plus. While I have many dictionaries, I found the Oxford Color Spanish Dictionary to be a good compromise between size and content. I have used the second edition and am very pleased with it. The word "color" initially put me off but it just means the words are in blue. It makes it much easier to spot the words on the page.

On-Line Learning

For those who want some on-line learning, the BBC has some great stuff. Check out the BBC Spanish pages.

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Every one want to learn

Every one want to learn other languages like Spanish but it is not easy,one should have to work hard to do this as you tell,we have a fine collection of short quotes and also have some heart touching Spanish Quotes


I got a tip via a local Spanish Meetup group about language courses available for free through the local library system.

OK, that doesn't help most of you, but.

One option where I live is Mango Languages. I signed up for this first, and after waiting for three minutes or so for the first page to load, I bailed. It looks like most of it if Flash-based, which generally means long waits, but can provide a rich, multi-media experience. Yeah, right.

So I went to option B and found a gem. This is Rocket Spanish. So far this is the best online program I've found. It's basic (Yay!). It's simple (Yay!). I can handle it (Yay!). I'm learning (Ditto!)

The basic deal is a set of simple conversations between "Amy Waterman" and "Mauricio Evlampieff". The Mauricio character is from Chile. I don't know where the Amy character is from, or if their names are actually real, but the two of them have distinctly different accents. Even I can tell. (I.e., things like "gomo" vs. "komo" for the word "como", and "Mauricio" really runs his words together.)

Example: Lesson 1.5 is "What do you do for a Living?" The basic conversation is:

Mauricio: ¿Estás de vacaciones?

Amy: No. Estoy aquí por negocios.

Mauricio: Ah. ¿En qué trabajas?

Amy: Soy ingeniera.

Mauricio: Qué bien.

Amy: ¿Y tú? ¿Qué haces?

Mauricio: Yo soy doctor.

Amy: Ah, lo siento. Doctor Mauricio.

Mauricio: No. Estoy estudiando todavía.

Each lesson contains additional words and phrases orbiting the basic conversation.

Each has a downloadable mp3 file, and has a web page containing the text (as above). There are quizes which I've avoided so far, and there is also a workbook of some kind available which I haven't bought, but having dinked with this up through lesson 3.1 now, I think I'd buy it if I had to.

Maybe not suitable for everyone, but OK for me, for now.

Chris Marquardt, the organizer of the local Spanish Meetup group has a little, non-commercial web site that might help someone. See Spanish Pronto!

No Sniveling!

Nicaragua Spanish Language Schools

Paul T from Toronto,Ont,Canada

I have a web site that is an index to find most Spanish language schools in Nicaragua.

Try it out : http://www.nicaraguaspanishlanguage.com

I found this recently


Free on-line courses, word and phrase of the day, links to other resources.

Rebecca Brown

Learn Spanish "ON THE BEACH:!

PLAYA ROCA LEARNING AND LANGUAGE CENTER: Las Penitas-Leon, Nicaragua We also are the home of the Playa Roca Learning and Language School. Professional language professors teaching English and Spanish (Norwegian if you so choose!) right here ON THE BEACH. No city smells, the exhaust, boom boxes, honking with sweaty hot with humid suffocating wind blocking concrete buildings clogging your learning experience. Learn Spanish in the morning and surf or relax or explore all day! Private and group classes for all levels from beginner to advanced. Package "Learn and Stay" discounts are available on a select individual basis. Also see: www.leonlingua.com We are also attempting to educate the community in cleaning up their environment. Playa Roca to many locals means "NO BASURA" or NO TRASH! Teaching English and Math to the youth of Las Penitas is the goal of the Learning Center. They exchange their basura for tutoring in English and Math. Volunteers are welcome to help Playa Roca educate these wonderful people.


david cardin on facebook

So many Spanish courses

So many Spanish courses available everywhere...still many Americans find it extremely difficult to learn Spanish. That's because of the very different grammar and all the new sounds and hard to learn articulation and pronunciation. That's why some Nicaraguans say many American gringos chew their language in stead of speaking it. I would say, before you even start on any Spanish course, focus at least one month on you pronunciation and articulation first and try to master all that new sounds perfectly. Because it is even more difficult to better your bad pronunciation later on, when you have finished your course(s). An excellent free aid is available on the Internet at http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/spanish/frameset.html

Spanish Pod

Another online option is Spanish Pod http://www.spanishpod.com. You get a 7-day free trial period and then you have to pay afterwards. But I did a couple lessons and they were pretty good, and they have lessons at all levels.


Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans

Learning Spanish

There has been some terrific references here, really helpful. I have a question. Once actually making a move to Nicaragua, is it not, the best of both worlds to start off with living with a family? not neccessarily with a Family tied into a School.

I would say yes

Even if you knew Spanish well (let's say, grew up in one of the Latin American cities like San Salvador, Miami or Los Angeles) living with a family could be a real plus. That would be to learn "Nicaraguan".

For example, there is a chapter in "Living Like a Nica" of Nicaraguan words. It is only a sample (four pages) but people that know Spanish but not "Nicaraguan" seem surprised. From the set, my favorites are the "ch words" which sort of look like Yiddish in Spanish. Here are a couple:

  • chavalo -- a young person
  • chingaste -- residue of food such as grounds in the bottom of a coffee cup.

There are also so many common expressions that, if you know Spanish, only confuse you. Again, from the book:

  • ¡Estoy como la mujer de un guardia! -- I don't have any money.
  • Ya vengo. == I will be there right away.


I attended Nicaragua Spanish Schools (The first link on this page - http://pages.prodigy.net/nss-pmc/) in Granada back in 2000 and had a great experience. However, it appears that they are no longer in the Spanish Teaching business. Apparently they're now a Referrer. You can send them an email and they'll give you the contact info for all the schools they have on file. Here's an exerpt from their website:

The culmination of the NSS project was the transfer of the NSS schools in Granada and San Juan del Sur (south coast - not shown on map) to local Nicaraguan ownership.

Also, Phil, I noticed that you left off Escuela Horizonte in Estelí. I also noticed that the website I had for them has disappeared. Have they gone out of business?

Don't forget "la UCA" in Managua

A real university experience. Excellent teachers, facilities and environment.

Central Superior de Idiomas http://www.uca.edu.ni/idiomas/

Doors of hope fly open when doors of promise shut. -Thomas D'Arcy McGee

another option

I second Phil's comments on the Thomas course--it is excellent. But I also want to slip in a plug for a newer course called Learn Spanish Like Crazy. Its website http://www.learningspanishlikecrazy.com/offer.html is SO insanely heavy on the hype that you will probably be turned off, but in fact, it's a really good course, and it focuses on Latin American Spanish. I downloaded Level One (and you get A LOT of material!) after my first 2-wk trip down here, after I'd been studying on my own with books and another audio class (I think it was Learn Spanish in your Car...), and it really took me up several levels of proficiency fast. They've just released Level 2, and I've worked through over half of it and have been finding it every bit as good as the first.

And I promise, I don't work for them--I'm just trying to get this damn language down like the rest of you to make my life here that much smoother. But one more plug--a Spanish language school has finally opened in Rivas, and they're doing a great job. It's modeled on the Nicaragua Spanish School system, formally in SJDS, Leon, and Granada, with homestays, activities, etc. No website yet, but the director's email is: info_nicaraoschool@yahoo.com

Good luck!

I agree...

I like the LSLC downloads also, and they are cheap.

"Crazy" Class

They are going to release level 2 for download on 10 April 2007. They sent me a couple of sample lessons. They are both on the subjunctive and seem very well done.

Now, I don't see how they are "totally different" or anything but I do think it is a very good choice.

"Behind the Wheel Spanish"...learn at home or in your car!

just finished level 3 and like it alot...different native speakers make it interesting in terms of accent and they also throw in the gringo MC...fun and interesting, recommend it!!

About Michel Thomas

I and my partner did the whole course twice. But we still had a lot of difficulty when we got to Nicaragua. Basically, you don't learn any nouns. Michel claims in the tapes that you will be able to confidently have a basic conversation... I don't think so.

However, it did set me up for learning more verbs. I think, having done the tapes, it was much easier for me to see the patterns in the language. And I did like finding out how to convert words from English to words in Spanish:

  • "ation" words become "acion" words (pronunciation -> pronunciacion)
  • "ical words become "ico" words (political -> politico)
  • "able" words and "ible" words are the same but pronounced with the Spanish accent (duh).

Since then I've noticed more trends like:

  • words ending in "ty" are (basically) the same but end in "dad" (university -> universidad, electricity -> electricidad).

So don't expect miracles but it's a good start.

Two "additions"

First, there is a "Spanish Language Builder". Two CDs. It still isn't a lot of nouns but worth adding to the list.

The other thing I recommend is "Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish" by Margarita Madrigal. Originally published in 1951 and updated in 1989, I found it a pretty amazing book. The first odd thing she does is concentrate on the preterit tense first. Sounds strange but her point is that you need it to talk about "what you did". There is a lot more "did" that is "am doing". Not prefect if you are already in a Spanish speaking country but, for learning, it makes sense.

More to your concern, she does hundreds of nouns that are almost the same in English and Spanish along with offering a lot of patters.For example, in the first three pages of the book you have learned some that are the same (TOR words such as el actor, el doctor, un tractor, interior are the first group, AL such as local and animal next and BLE words followed by almost the same (IC to ICO words such as elastico, and ENT to ENTE/ANT to ANTE). You are already using them in sentences (e.g., El doctor es inteligente) in those three pages.

The book was out of print and probably still is. I found my last copy used at http://www.powells.com.

Another school with online presence

Ave Nicaraguita

I've been studying with them and they are great. It's immersion schooling. No English. You can do home or school stay if you want. The school is also heavily involved in helping impoverished families.

The school I'm going to is in Granada but I know they have a school in Esteli, Masatepe and probably others.

Updated link on Escuela Laguna de Apoyo...

apparently they have moved the site to http://www.gaianicaragua.org/.

This was the first school I attended for two weeks, 4 hours per day staying in the main house. The casita in back was also a pretty nice place to stay, although some of the additional housing was a little rough, food was good, inclusive two weeks one on one approx. $370, cerveza additional. Donaldo Silva (dsilva@hotmail.com) is a good instructor who i've hired over the years for private tutoring when a Granada stay is preferred. Beautiful location, right on the laguna!

Norma Morales (sacuanjochespanishschool@yahoo.es) in Esteli is probably the best instructor i've encountered. She taught spanish in the public schools for 15 years, and writes everything on a white board, so you can better understand, I think this helps alot. Norma can also provide private tutoring, cultural tours, housing.