Learning Spanish requires commitment, hard work and consistency. If you don’t understand what to cover, when to cover it or how to progress, you’ll waste your time, lose hope through lack of structure and likely give up.
Creators of the best language learning apps on the market today understand only too well these common pain points suffered by new language learners. And they charge to help you overcome them.
But whilst learning Spanish can be expensive, not all resources require breaking the bank. Plenty of apps are useable completely free of charge, and that’s where we come in.
The 8 Spanish language tools that we have put together in this post are designed to stop you going through the worst case scenario in early stage language learning. We’ll take you through our choices and explain why you’re likely to progress your Spanish by using them.
By the end of this article:
You’ll know how to get the most out of these free Spanish resources.
You’ll know which apps best suit your learning style.
One thing before we get started: If you’re serious about improving your Spanish then you can chat with a native Spanish tutor via italki, a site full of language tutors and students. Every Spanish learner that signs up here will receive $10, enough for a 1 hour lesson. Tap this link to find out more.
One of the 8 best tools for learning Spanish for free is Duolingo. If you haven’t heard of Duolingo – where have you been? That little green owl is everywhere and must be teaching at least one of your friends a new language!
There are 40 million users learning Spanish with Duolingo and you could be next!
How Does It Work?
Setup is easy enough – just download the app, register yourself for an account and then make up a profile. Pick your language of choice and decide what your goals are going to be each day. Five minutes? Ten? Fifteen? The choice is yours.
Right at the start, you’ll have the opportunity to take what’s known as an “entry test” so that the very beginners can start at, well, the very beginning. Those more advanced Spanish learners can skip ahead to where they feel more challenged.
Starting with the basics, everything you learn has been separated into ‘modules’ – think food, animals, plurals – that you work through slowly and master over a number of levels.
Those further ahead can only be accessed once the earlier modules have been completed, serving as motivation to move on and also keeping things structured so you don’t get overwhelmed.
However, if you already have existing knowledge, or you’re finding things a little too easy, you can “test out” some of these earlier levels by proving that you’ve mastered those skills already. You have to pass with flying colors to move on, though!
What happens next?
When your Duo journey begins, you are automatically added to a random leaderboard of users, which is updated each and every week – this is completely spontaneous and there’s no way of determining who you’re up against.
Every activity or level you successfully complete gives you a certain amount of EXP or experience points, which determine your position in the league. Play every day and meet your goals to soar through every leaderboard and become a champion.
You can either rise through the ranks and graduate from your existing league by finishing the week as one of the top ten players, stay there for the next week and try again, or… be demoted to the previous league, if you fall to the bottom ten!
Plus, each day that you play adds another to your streak – the total number of days you’ve successfully studied without missing one. You only need to login and play a single lesson to ensure that it continues, so there’s not much excuse.
You can use lingots, the in-game currency you earn for successful level completion, to purchase a streak freeze and protect it from one day of forgetfulness. The threat of losing your hard-earned streak is all the motivation needed to keep at it!
Why Use Duolingo?
Every single lesson on the platform encompasses a variety of different activities, from Spanish-to-English translation, English-to-Spanish in reverse, matching word pairs, oral pronunciation, sentence writing, and much more.
Listening activities encompass quite a few of these tasks, but don’t worry if you’re worried about disturbing others. You can opt to deactivate your microphone/speakers and stick to typed (or tapped) exercises only for a select time.
Each day, you start off with five Duolingo “lives” – much like a video game, these little hearts represent how many attempts you have left before you need to wait a while to play again. This is motivational – it encourages you to get things right the first time!
If the idea of having to wait a couple of hours before trying again bothers you, you could always upgrade to Duolingo Plus and become a premium member. That does mean you have to pay $12.99 a month for the privilege, though. Or $79.99 for a year!
There are certain other privileges that Plus membership carries, including the removal of ads, unlimited 24/7 use of the app without the hearts system, and the opportunity to download lessons to play offline whenever you’d like.
2. FluentU (14 Day Free Trial, $8-$18 a month after)
This is cheating a little bit because we’re talking about a two week free trial rather than a completely free platform, but FluentU is so fantastic a resource that we simply had to mention it to you. FluentU is the second of our 8 best tools for learning Spanish for free.
– Great as a secondary resource for learning Spanish, to build on existing knowledge
– Exposes you to new words from authentic, native Spanish speakers
– Strengthens your grammar, listening skills and expands vocabulary
– Videos on every topic – politics, stories, music, jokes… endless possibilities!
- Not completely free – just a free trial (although the trial is definitely worth trying out)
- Doesn’t encourage you to practice your speaking, little writing
How Does It Work?
Just by joining up, you’ll have access to all of the languages they offer, which at the moment includes not just Spanish, but Chinese, French, English, German, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese… I could go on!
With an easy to navigate User Interface, navigating the platform is simple – they offer thousands of videos, each organized according to topic and difficulty levels, of which there are many. Whatever you want to learn right then and there can be found!
Most videos are around five minutes long, with others reaching between ten and fifteen depending on the context. This is the perfect length, in our opinion, for a quick and easy language lesson. Each one also has an accompanying vocabulary list to look at.
You’ll receive a definition of those words, as well as the appearance of a “Fluency Meter” which indicates how familiar you are with it (as determined by your work with the flashcards and interactive subtitles – more on that in a sec) and an audio clip.
Your opportunities for learning are varied – first up there are interactive subtitles, which break up the dialogue in each video into little segments, allowing you to scroll through and see information like definitions and examples of words in a sentence.
You can either turn on subtitles alone, have a subtitle and a complete translation, or switch them off entirely – it’s up to you. Try not to rely too much on those English subtitles and be sure to test your listening skills without subtitles, too.
After watching videos, you can also perform language exercises relevant to each one, allowing you to fill in gaps, listen to and write down words, put sentences in the correct order, and so on.
Why Use FluentU?
Taking clips from real Spanish speakers and making them accessible to learners, FluentU helps you to become fully immersed in the world of español, with built-in flashcards, notes, and a translation dictionary so you don’t need your own!
Plus, there are clips on FluentU covering just about any topic you can think of, from serious subjects like business and politics to popular culture, folktales, songs, and even children’s stories. You can really specialize in whatever you want to know.
Just by watching a video, you can navigate the subtitles, see translations, make a flashcard, check word definitions – and all from native linguists with accurate pronunciation talking about countless different subjects.
Although structured according to difficulty, there isn’t much of a system in place with FluentU – this can work for people who find it easier to learn when they are in charge of the subject being studied each day. With over 2000 videos, there’s a lot of choice!
All of the clips are short enough that you can check out quite a few within an hour, and it’s very easy to look at just one or two when you have a spare ten minutes in your day. It isn’t a huge commitment, but it sure can teach you a lot.
Another of our 8 best tools for learning Spanish for free is Busuu. Promising to teach you to speak a language in just ten minutes of practice a day, amongst over 100 million fellow learners, Busuu is both an app and a website that can teach you two Spanish courses: Complete Spanish or Spanish for Travel.
Skill Level: Beginners
- Two courses – choose the one that suits your needs
- Covers oral, written, and heard Spanish
- Huge community of native Spanish speakers ready and willing to help
- Study plans keep you organized and on track
- Some features are hidden behind the premium membership paywall
How Does It Work?
Whether you use your computer or smartphone to learn, Buusuu is simple and straightforward – just pick the language of your choice, and away you go! They cover the four main language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
With the dedicated Spanish app, you can learn absolutely everything, whether you’re online or offline; it offers both a Grammar Review and Vocabulary Review, as well as the options to both record audio and type out conversational exercises.
The range of activities available caters to users of a range of abilities, from the very beginner to an upper-intermediate level. Advanced features gained by Premium membership subscription include advanced grammar lessons and Offline mode.
Much more than any competing app, you are encouraged to practice your speaking skills by audibly recording your voice and making use of their speech recognition software, as well as listening to dialogues from other learner’s journeys.
If you’d like a more lengthy explanation, check out this guide from Buusuu themselves on what to expect as a new user learning Spanish, specifically covering the very first week as a language learning member.
Why Use Busuu?
Busuu’s thriving online community is a major selling point – the Community tab puts conversations and friendship with native Spanish speakers right at your fingertips, so you can practice your speaking and make some new pals on the way!
In their fantastic offline mode, you can easily download content in order to absorb additional content whilst you’re on the move, whether in line at the grocery store or getting your hair cut with no access to a Wifi connection!
Whether you’re starting out as a beginner or you’ve already got some existing knowledge, there’s plenty of content for you. There are lessons in both the Complete and Travel courses for intermediates, as well as several other exciting resources.
First off is their “All about Spanish” podcast, which caters to intermediate learners – sure, you’ve watched some Spanish Netflix, but that’s more for fluent speakers, whereas these episodes will teach you about Spanish culture in a language you know.
You can also “Learn Spanish with El País” – reading Spain’s biggest and most popular newspaper, you’ll keep up with events in español, as well as improve your comprehension skills – there are even lessons created in partnership with the paper!
Having been designed by a team of Spanish linguistic experts, designed to teach you to communicate in real life situations, every Spanish language course offered by Memrise comes highly recommended, with over 10,000 native speaker audio clips.
- Real audio and video clips from native Spanish speakers
- Hundreds of words to learn, lots of engaging mini-games and tasks
- Pronunciation and spoken practice through voice recognition
- AI learning engine that alters lessons as you use the app to increase motivation
- Quite a few of the best features are hidden behind the premium paywall
Skill Level: Beginners and beyond
How Does It Work?
Following their patented three step approach to language acquisition, Memrise first teaches you real-life Spanish vocabulary and phrases, using an interactive AI learning engine that adapts each lesson to your personal requirements.
By immersing yourself in real life Spanish conversations and culture, your language acquisition is based in real-world contexts thanks to thousands of natural audio and video clips, with no text-to-speech software utilized here, thank you very much!
Using clear, concise flashcards, mnemonic skills tests (learning techniques that aid information retention and retrieval), and regular repetition, you will plant tiny word “seeds” that bloom into beautiful flowers once you’ve planted and learned them.
You also have access to content created by members of the community – though it’s advised you use the browser version over the app to search through and utilize this, then move over to the app once you’ve found the courses you like the look of.
Examples of exercises include word pair matching, spelling tests, translation, matching words, and pronunciations. There’s also separate pronunciation practice, difficult word tests, quick reviews, audio, and video clips, and Learn With Locals.
Why Use Memrise?
Their specialized learning engine automatically updates each task to keep boredom at bay and encourages you to stay motivated, based on your feedback, current performance, and individual preferences.
Teaching you to speak first and correct yourself later, there are no grammar rules when it comes to Memrise exercises – their research suggests that traditional grammar teaching methods can halt progress anyway.
You can, of course, practice your grammar on certain exercises that the app and browser courses offer, but if you make a grammatical error when speaking into the voice-recognition software you won’t be penalized.
With a very visually appealing interface and a game-based system that brings a lot of fun to the learning process, Memrise is really enjoyable to use; starting as a beginner, you can reach an advanced level of proficiency, all from one app.
Not only do you have access to thousands of clips from authentic Spanish speakers, but you can also use countless user-created learning flashcards, for instance, so the app really does have hours and hours of Spanish teaching potential to unlock.
As with FluentU, this is a bit cheeky to include, because Rosetta Stone only offers a free demo, a small taster of the banquet it has to offer. But boy, is that a tasty offering! So, we had to tell you about this excellent Spanish learning opportunity. Without a doubt, Rosetta Stone is (to an extent) another of the 8 best tools for learning Spanish for free online.
- PC Mag’s Editor’s Choice for best full-featured language learning software, 8 years in a row
- TruAccent speech engine helps you fine tune your accent/pronunciation
- Dynamic Immersion – speaking, seeing, hearing, speaking, reading and writing, in Spanish only
- Downloadable lessons, offline access
- Only a 3 day free trial – paid after that
How Does It Work?
Following a quarter of a century of leading the technology-based language learning market, Rosetta Stone released a brand new version of their learning software, which combines the very best of their old software with the latest technology.
With your smartphone, tablet, desktop TV… pretty much any smart device, download their app or log in to the software and begin your Spanish learning journey, with immersive methods combining both visual and audio cues to help you gain vocab.
Choose either a 5 or 10 minute lesson whenever you have time; you can use both the app and the desktop version simultaneously, so there’s no need to choose between them, and they sync together seamlessly when you switch between.
Within these exercises, you’ll pair sounds or words to the correct image from a set of choices, which vary per screen; other exercises include typing to complete descriptions of photographs, whilst grammar lessons cover most concepts.
A phrasebook you can scroll between gives quick access to phrases, useful expressions, greetings, and other useful tidbits, which is great to use when traveling; the Stories section lets you listen to a story and read it aloud for instant feedback.
Why Use Rosetta Stone?
With Rosetta Stone, every single lesson you complete will finish off by reviewing everything you’ve covered in that particular session; every unit completed is also celebrated with a simulated conversation using all of the content studied.
By fully immersing yourself in a language, particularly by using their TruAccent technology to continuously rehearse your spoken Spanish, you can much more quickly pick up the surrounding context and accelerate your rate of learning.
There is an online community of language learners and native speakers just waiting for you to join them – open up plenty of conversational opportunities and partner up with a fellow newbie to tackle rolling those r’s with a new friend, right from the app.
Getting real time feedback on your pronunciation, spelling, and understanding is a very valuable tool; when you succeed, you’ll receive a boost of confidence, and when you fail, you’ll be motivated to keep going and improve your techniques.
By focusing on how to speak out loud, rather than how many words you have managed to learn, your priorities lie in genuine fluency, as opposed to being able to recall Spanish, but not actually hold a conversation.
Skill Level: Beginners and beyond
- A conversational approach to language learning, based on actual spoken Spanish
- Quick 10-15 minute lessons with more comprehensive explanations of rules
- Opportunities to practice pronunciation
- Structured precisely in accordance with your existing skill level
- Some of the best features can only be accessed with a subscription membership
How Does It Work?
Babbel is structured in courses, with each course containing a multitude of lessons. Such lessons also cover a variety of topics; you will cover reading, listening, writing, and speaking, primarily through short exercises, reminiscent of Duolingo.
You will follow a tailored learning path, either starting as a complete beginner or using a placement quiz at the start in order to determine your current level of language proficiency. This, in turn, decides where your learning journey will begin.
Lessons are 10-15 minutes and each has a set of activities, which introduce some new vocabulary, sentences, and phrases. These can include filling in the blanks, spelling, translating, or audibly repeating words or phrases into your microphone.
From beginner all the way through to the advanced classes you can learn to speak Spanish that you’ll actually use. Given that each lesson has been developed by a fluent team of linguists, everything you learn will actually come in handy.
Why Use Babbel?
Their very own speech recognition software uses your microphone to listen as you speak, then makes comparisons between your pronunciation and that of their stored samples from native speakers. You’ll receive instant feedback!
All of the words and phrases you are taught are genuinely useful, from listening to train announcements at a Spanish station, to ordering an authentic dinner; this progresses as you do, and eventually, you’ll be chatting with the locals with ease.
Each class is narrated by a native Spanish speaker, who follows real-time pace and speaks as though they are having real conversations – this gives you a head start in becoming totally fluent, as you are immersed in the language and speaking it.
Similarly, every single lesson interacts with the one that came before it and prepares you for future classes, creating a beautiful spiral syllabus that consolidates your learning on a regular basis, so you won’t forget anything you’ve neglected to study.
Not only do you get taught language rules, but the context behind them is also explained – you will then immediately practice putting those rules into place, as well as bring in the language you’ve already learned to make sense of newly acquired vocabulary.
7. Youtube Channels
One of the greatest ways you can learn a language for free is to access the incredible content widely available to you for absolutely nothing on Youtube, made by committed creators who really want to help. Many of them are native speakers!
Skill Level: Beginners and beyond
- Totally free, 24/7, all the time
- Updated constantly, with hundreds of channels to subscribe to and keep up with – plenty of ways to learn
- Watch Spanish TV/listen to Spanish music – millions of hours of content
- Great to dip in and out of when you have time
- Not very interactive – requires you to make your own notes and consolidate your own learning with quizzes/tests/online resources
- No opportunity for feedback
How Does It Work?
We’re going to go ahead and assume you know how to use Youtube because pretty much everyone on the internet does. Please forgive us if you’re not actually familiar, but we haven’t got time for a step by step today.
Search “learn Spanish” and you can get access to hundreds of thousands of videos, all from creators who are ready to teach you Spanish. Many of these creators are native speakers, and those who aren’t are fluent in it and many other languages.
Looking through the videos made by these self-proclaimed polyglots, you can find plenty of content covering interesting topics that pique your personal curiosities. By subscribing, you’ll be able to stay up to date with their posts and keep learning!
Which Channels Should You Be Looking At?
SpanishPod101 – As well as being a podcast (more on this later), you can access this fantastic resource via Youtube, with hundreds of thousands of fellow subscribers globally. Learn to read, speak, write and hear in Spanish, from the very first lesson!
EasyLanguages – This amazing playlist from Easylanguages – a channel with more than a million subscribers – helps you to Learn Spanish From The Streets – interviews with members of the public allow you to gain valuable information about Spanish culture, all whilst broadening your language horizons!
ButterflySpanish – Almost at a million subscribers herself, this lovely lady’s channel has free Spanish lessons on pronunciation, grammar, vocab, culture, and general tips and tricks – all based in her great passion for the culture and language.
They’re accessible at any skill level!
Similar to learning a language on Youtube, minus the visual aspect, listening to an educational Spanish podcast can be an excellent way to inject more español into your everyday life, even if you’re not completely focused on it!
Skill Level: Beginners and beyond
- Easy to take in when walking from place to place/multitasking
- Accessible via whatever platform suits you – Spotify, Apple Music, Patreon, Youtube
- Most services are free, others are inexpensive when compared to language learning courses/app subscriptions
- Can be slowed down – great for if you’re cleaning or working out or walking somewhere whilst listening
- Not interactive – hard to consolidate without making your own materials
- Unable to receive instant feedback
How Does It Work?
First things first, decide whether you’re going to go for a podcast that’s recorded entirely in Spanish, or if you’d prefer one about Spanish and the process of learning itself. Beginners will want to begin with the easier, albeit less immersive option.
There are plenty that introduce you to Spanish bit by bit, with vocabulary tips, grammar advice and English explanations that will gently, slowly but surely have you picking up a whole new language.
Which Podcasts Should You Be Listening To?
Spanish Pod 101 – Delivering all of their content to Youtube as of a few years ago, SpanishPod101 was born as a podcast and continues to exist as such, with short audio lessons, as well as a premium program with learning tools and 1 on 1 tutoring
News In Slow Spanish – Whilst this doesn’t sound like the most exciting podcast in the world, this excellent podcast tells you the latest news, in Spanish, but presented in a slow and clear format that non-natives and learners will easily understand.
Palabaras Bravas – A fictional podcast with crazy hilarious twists and turns, this podcast from the language experts behind Babbel combines fantastic storytelling with vocab explanations to create a wonderful learning tool you’ll love listening to.
As you can see, the best tools for learning Spanish for free provide endless possibilities. Further down the line, you will probably have to invest a little bit of cash to keep going, particularly with resources like FluentU and Rosetta Stone. With Youtube and podcasts, though, you’ll always have free content to fall back on!
Make the choice that’s right for you, commit to learning at least a little bit per day – or week if it’s easier – and make an effort to practice on a regular basis, and there’s no reason you can’t thrift your way to being fluent in Spanish. Good luck! Or, as they say en español, Buena Suerte!