Learning Spanish   

Learning Spanish

Learning Spanish is not 100% necessary if you intend to move to any of the major tourist resorts in Spain. Most Spaniards in those areas speak at least a little English and all large companies have some bilingual employees. However, if you don't learn Spanish you will miss out on a fascinating learning experience, you will find it harder to really feel at home in Spain and you may find that you are charged "tourist" rates for things like taxi rides and electricians. You will also run into the occasional problem if you don't speak Spanish - not all medical personnel speak English and neither do many police officers. We would recommend that you attempt to learn Spanish if you are planning to visit for more than a month or so. Apart from anything else it's just polite.

The best way to learn Spanish (or any language) is in a class. Most FE colleges and adult education centres in the UK run beginner courses, and when you get to Spain youíll find there are many "academias" which run a variety of Spanish courses including short, intensive courses for beginners and ongoing conversation classes. Also in most Spanish towns youíll find council-run courses in Spanish at the "Casa de la Cultura" (the local library / municipal theatre / art gallery). These are very cheap, especially if you are on the electoral roll of the town, but you may find yourself in a class of 40. The academias on the other hand, usually have small classes, but in both types of class the quality of teaching varies enormously. Speak to an ex-student if you can or ask if you can start a course on a trial basis.

If time and money are not a problem, then we would recommend an intensive course from Don Quijote Language Schools. The courses include accommodation with a Spanish host family and offer a really good introduction to both the language and the country. Alternatively, they run an online course for beginners.

If you cannot find a good course, or if you are planning on taking lessons in Spain but want to get hold of the basics before you get there, then have a look at our book guide below, or perhaps check out our series of articles and tips for Spanish learners in our new e-zine section.

Book guide

Language textbooks have come on a lot in recent years. Anyone who remembers regurgitating phrases about their auntís pen in language classes will be pleasantly surprised by all of the selections offered below. They are all lively, interesting, cover a wide range of topics and, most importantly, all come with cassettes. There is not much point in trying to teach yourself a language without actually listening to it.

Teach - yourself Spanish books.

cover Oxford Take Off in Spanish

- an excellent book and audio course to get you started, written by the author of one of the most popular Spanish course books, Pasos. Highly recommended for self study.

cover Spanish with Michel Thomas - Complete Course (CD version)
Spanish with Michel Thomas - Complete Course (cassettes)
Spanish with Michel Thomas - Short Course (CD version)

- This selection is a little different as the courses consist only of CDs / cassettes. While they are not as lively as the books mentioned above, they do offer an excellent introduction to the Spanish language with very little effort on the part of the student. These cassette courses are particularly good for anyone who doesnít like the idea of slaving over a book, or who finds language learning particularly difficult and is after a different approach.

cover Street Spanish: The Best of Spanish Slang

- this book is not for beginners, but offers a fascinating insight into the Spanish language as it is actually spoken.

Phrase books and dictionaries

cover The Oxford Spanish Dictionary
The Pocket Oxford Spanish Dictionary

- the Oxford dictionary (whichever size you buy) is a particularly good one because it contains very clear usage guides as well as a comprehensive coverage of words you might need. The dictionary is littered with little boxes explaining about particularly common words. Most entries are accompanied by phrases too so you can be sure of how to use a particular word in Spanish.

cover Spanish for Dummies

- this book offers a few basic lessons in Spanish as well as a collection of phrases and a short dictionary. As with all the for dummies books it takes absolutely no previous knowledge for granted.


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