Here are our findings for the best places to learn Spanish quickly.
Learning a new language can be fun, but also challenging. You can read our ideas and suggestions for learning any foreign language here.
What are some considerations in learning Spanish?
Lucky for you, Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn for native English speakers to learn. There’s no new writing system to learn, like there is for languages like Russian, Hebrew, and Chinese.
You might have to learn a couple new maneuvers with your tongue, like rolling your Rs. And of course, there are some grammatical differences as well.
Your biggest consideration right now, though, should be whether you want to focus on Spanish that’s spoken in Spain or Spanish that’s spoken in Latin America. Each online school has different programs available.
So, choose a school and study hard. Good luck and have fun, too. Having fun is important to learning anything.
Pimsleur (learn naturally by listening and speaking; no grammar)
- Learn naturally by listening and speaking
- Daily 30-minute lessons
- Proven method for permanently learning new vocabulary and phrases
- Great for picking up a near-native accent
- Apps are available for learning on the go
- Hands-free learning for core lessons
- Explanation of cultural differences
- Very little to no grammar explanations
- Monthly option only has Latin American Spanish
- Full version has both Castilian Spanish (two levels) and Latin American Spanish (five levels) available
- Little to no instruction on reading and writing
- Pimsleur websites are disorganized and confusing
The Pimsleur Method was invented over 50 years ago by Dr. Paul Pimsleur, a linguistics professor and researcher at Ohio State University and UCLA (my alma mater—don’t hold it against me, Trojans).
He found that one of the fastest ways to acquire a new language is by hearing the language used in everyday situations and interacting with it so it easily sticks in your mind. He also found that traditional ways of learning grammar, conjugating verbs, and the like tend to slow down the learning process.
In other words, this language program focuses on the speaking and listening aspects of the language. It’s a “natural” way to learn, and it’s similar to how you learned your first language: listening and repeating until you get it right and understand what’s being said.
You might say that the Pimsleur method is the “scientific method” for learning a language. There are four parts to this scientific sequence noted on the Pimsleur websites:
- First, pick up vocabulary with “Graduated Interval Recall.” Repeating words at specific time intervals is much more effective than just repeating a phrase over and over again until your brain goes dull.
- Learn quickly, respond quickly. The audio lessons are designed to build anticipation of a response, so the answer will always be at the tip of your tongue rather than buried deep in the recesses of your mind.
- Expand your vocabulary naturally. Pimsleur teaches the core vocabulary (about 1500 words for a basic conversation and about 5000 words for fluency). Once you master those words, you’ll be expanding your vocabulary as you do with English, learning new words as you encounter them.
- Learn grammar by listening, not studying. This is how we naturally learn grammar (of course that is fine-tuned with our school lessons growing up). It’s why most people can feel something is incorrect grammatically without being able to explain why something is wrong.
Remember that writing exercises and grammar explanations are not part of the Pimsleur program. They have 5 levels of Latin American Spanish and 2 levels of Castilian Spanish (the standard Spanish of Spain). So you have your choice there.
But here’s the problem. The Pimsleur websites are a bit messy and disorganized. They offer a monthly payment program and a pay by level program, but they’re not on the same page. For monthly, go here. For pay by level, go here. The monthly plan does give you a free week to try it out.
And Castilian Spanish is NOT available on their monthly program, but is available if you pay by level.
They do have apps, so you can study on your phone.
BOTTOM LINE, the Pimsleur method is great if you’re not concerned with the reading and writing part of the language or if you don’t want to know the grammar rules in detail, but with the money you’d be spending, it’s definitely more cost efficient to go with a different program.
Even though Pimsleur is something to consider if you’re super focused on speaking Spanish quickly, they don’t have a way to record and check your pronunciation as opposed to most of the other schools on this list. At least, they don’t advertise it.
Rosetta Stone (speaking and vocabulary focused)
- Build vocabulary picture-based exercises
- Some audio-only, hands-free lessons are available
- Speaking ability is the number one focus and goal of this program
- Their software will record your voice and help you fine-tune your pronunciation and accent
- Program is designed to give you an immersive, “real life” experience
- Designed to build confidence in your speaking ability and not just following a script
- Native-speaking tutors available for some programs
- Stories where you can read along with native speakers; sometimes known as “shadowing”
- Over 25 years in the business
- Offers both Spanish for Latin America and for Spain
For a while, from my perspective, Rosetta Stone was just a glorified vocabulary builder. If you’re learning a language, you do need a vocabulary, but you also need a lot more.
Good news; these days Rosetta Stone does offer more (details listed above). At one level, you can even receive one-on-one lessons with a real live teacher over the Internet.
However, like Pimsleur, the focus is on vocabulary and speaking, so you might need some supplemental materials if you want a deeper understanding of grammar points.
They offer Spanish for both Latin America and Spain. They also give you the choice of a monthly payment plan or a full payment plan. A free demo is also available.
BOTTOM LINE, Rosetta Stone has improved over the years and now offer a more well-rounded experience. However, they’re still lacking some things that the others offer. They do offer a choice of Spain or Latin America Spanish, so that’s a good thing.
Innovative Languages (tons of free stuff; upgrade to a live teacher)
- New free audio and video lessons every week
- Apps for learning on the go
- Communication-focused lessons
- Teachers break down audio conversations word-by-word
- Numerous study tools and exercises to help practice your new language
- Tracking reports to keep you motivated
- Real teachers, not just a textbook
- Spanish lessons with multiple regional focuses: Mexico, Peru, Spain and Costa Rica
- Learn at your own pace with short lessons (under 30 minutes)
- Tons of free materials for studying
- Different pay levels (monthly payments available) open more materials, including live teacher sessions
- Voice recording available
- Cultural lessons
- Grammar explanations in great detail
First of all, Innovative Languages has a ton of free materials for the different languages they offer: many video and audio lessons, but also printable worksheets for extra practice. They cover all the language points: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
The teachers in the lessons will also explain grammar points in great detail. The sample conversation is often broken down word by word, so you know exactly what’s going on.
You can record your voice and compare it to a native’s. They have writing practices and audio podcasts. They cover all different topics, too: restaurants, family, etc.
You can even upgrade your plan to get a real live teacher for one-on-one lessons and personal feedback. Even without the one-on-one lessons, they have forums that you can ask questions on and are answered by native Spanish speakers.
They don’t offer a specialized Spanish courses for the different dialects. However, they do have teachers from and lessons about Mexico, Peru, Spain, and Costa Rica.
I used Innovative Languages when I was studying Japanese (not Spanish) back in the day and I have to say that they’re materials are good and practical for the real world.
The only negative thing for me was that they offer so much to their students, that it can be a little overwhelming and you might not be sure what to choose next. They have courses and paths to follow, but personally, I tend to get distracted by so many options sometimes.
BOTTOM LINE, Innovative Languages have solid programs for many languages, Spanish, obviously being one of them. They teach different dialects, but they’re all mixed together under one course. It can be overwhelming, and it’s not as structured as the other schools promise, but you have nothing to lose with their free lessons and materials. Upgrade anytime that you’re ready to get serious. Or use the free materials as a supplement to Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone.
Rocket Languages (the comprehensive language package)
- Used by over 1.2 million people
- More than 10 years in the business
- Tons of audio lessons at about 25 minutes each
- Focuses on Latin American Spanish
- Detailed grammar explanations
- Exercises and activities to help you retain what you’ve learned
- Interactive audio programs to get you speaking and reacting in conversation naturally
- Quizzes for self-testing
- Record your voice and compare to a native speaker’s
- Community forums to ask any language questions
- Different language acquisition techniques are used, including “shadowing”
- Progress tracking for motivation
- Other motivational tools like badges and leaderboards
- More tools like flashcards and a phrase finder
- Cultural lessons
- App for learning on the go
- No monthly payments; pay once for lifetime access and upgrades
- 60-day money back guarantee
Rocket Languages is another full service language learning experience. However, they offer only Latin American Spanish, not Spanish from Spain.
Not only do they have many practical tools for learning and practice, they also integrate different scientific principles for language learning. They mainly follow Miller’s Law, which is basically learning languages in “chunks” for better retention. In addition, they have exercises for you to do “shadowing”, a method that I really believe in.
They cover reading, writing, listening, and speaking. They also cover grammar and cultural points. Courses at Rocket Languages also include vocabulary quiz cards and instructors (and forum members) that you can ask questions to.
What makes Rocket Languages stand out is that they have everything (tools, materials, etc.) plus a great reputation in the language learning field.
They only negative here is that they don’t offer a monthly plan. It’s all or nothing with Rocket. However, like the rest of the programs on this list, they do have a free trial, so you can test them out to be sure before you buy. And they have a 60-day money back guarantee (the best that I could find).
BOTTOM LINE, Rocket Languages have everything you need to master a language. The only things they don’t have are monthly payments and Spanish from Spain. With their offer of a free trial and 60-day money back guarantee, you can’t lose checking them out.
All these programs are highly rated and people have learned a language from all of them. Don’t forget, that with learning a language, you have to put in the effort, too.
- For the most comprehensive and well put together program, Rocket Languages is on top. They’ll give you full support, a plan to follow, and great materials to learn from. However, there’s no monthly plan if you happen to be on a tight budget.
- If you’re only learning for certain situational phrases or if you are looking for a lot of free stuff, go with Innovative Languages (Spanish Pod 101). If you really like them, you can stick with them and upgrade to a paid plan. And if you’re looking for live one-on-one lessons, this would be my choice for that. Their lessons cover Spanish from many different countries.
- If you must learn Spanish from Spain, Rosetta Stone has the edge over Pimsleur.