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13 Free Methods to Master Spanish at Home: For Self-Learners

Learning a new language can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also be dreadfully challenging, especially for those who are just starting out.

Fortunately, with the rise of technology and the abundance of online resources available, there are now countless ways to learn a language from the comfort of your own home, and for free.

In this article, we'll explore some of the best methods for learning Spanish on your own, from beginner to advanced - without the need for expensive classes or tutors.

Regardless of your level, these techniques are designed to help you develop your language skills and reach your goals in a fun and engaging way.

Let’s go over these 11 methods of learning a language for free!

panama city, panama - with words that say "the 11 best metohds to learn spanish for free

Table of Contents

Top Techniques for Beginner Learners:

At the beginner stages, we have to be much more intentional in our learning. People say that babies learn languages the best, and that we will struggle more as adults - but I can't think of a piece of “common knowledge” that is further from the truth.

How many years does it take for a baby to be able to string together their first sentences? 3 or 4?

As adults, we are shooting to be conversationally fluent within that time frame.

One of the many reasons why we can learn so quickly is that we can be intentional about it. We can study phrases, and words, use flashcards, etc. So in the beginner stage, we will be leveraging the fact that we can intentionally learn Spanish, by using apps, reading phrases and words often, consuming stories, and listening to catchy music to give us our first 1 thousand words.

1 - Apps (Duolingo/Busuu/Memrise)

Apps such as Duolingo are where most people start learning Spanish, this is extremely helpful, especially for somebody who hasn’t studied a language on their own before.

This provides us with an easy way to get started and is designed for the beginner stages. Grab your phone and let’s start the journey!

Duolingo (Easy For Complete Beginners)

Duolingo is a popular language-learning platform that offers courses in more than 40 languages.

One of the aspects of Duolingo that will help you out a lot is that they provide lessons with stories at the end of each lesson and a “tip” section where they explain the rules and vocab used in that lesson.

My favorite part about Duolingo is their podcasts which you can find on their website. The reason the podcasts are so great is that they do the best possible job at making a podcast digestible to a beginner.

picture of the where you can find the Duolingo Podcasts

I have talked about Duolingo a lot here on the website in the past – and I have said some bad things about it. At the end of the day for a beginner language learner, the most important thing is that you're learning and seeing the language.

Whatever it is that brings you back to learning, is well worth the time.

Busuu (Best For Serious Language Learners)

Busuu is (in my opinion) the best language learning app out there. If you're looking for a fast paced curriculum that will get you fluent as quick as possible - choose Busuu.

While Duolingo may have a better looking design, the lessons are incomparable to those of Busuu. Busuu teaches useful vocabulary, it lets us hear natives speaking, introduces us to slang, and more.

Personally, I don't use many apps to learn languages, most (for me) are a waste of time. Having said that, Busuu will always have its place in my study sessions.

collage of screenshots showing off Busuu app

Memrise (Supplemental Vocab/Phrase App)

To be honest, Memrise is not a bad app in any real way, but I will say that I put this here just so you can try something else if you would like to.

Memrise is great due to the fact they teach you important words and phrases first, and let you hear these phrases be said by native speakers. However, the amount of lessons you can do without paying is super limited.

Although I don't pay for the app, when I started French I downloaded it and learned all of the lessons it gave me, and I would say it was worth the time spent.

collage of screenshots showing how it looks while using Memrise

2 - Read (Fable Cottage/The Spanish Experiment)

Reading even at the beginner stages is extremely helpful. Although it is likely that at this stage you and I won't understand a lot of what we are reading. However, with the help of Google Translate, we can understand all texts with relative ease.

I recommend that you start reading as soon as you can, as it’s a way to start seeing hundreds of words every day without spending hours on Duolingo. The most important part of this beginner stage is not necessarily memorizing words as much as it is seeing them.

When we see words repeatedly we will memorize them without effort, so just keep that in mind and don’t stress yourself out too much with flashcard decks and whatnot. The truth is if you show up to study, you are on your way to fluency - no doubt!

The Fable Cottage (unfortunately) has most of its stories listed only for subscribers, however, they have a few that are completely free as well!

I used the free stories on their website many times to improve my French and I found the stories extremely engaging and fun (that is, for beginner content). I set the link here to take you to my favorite free story they have in Spanish “El pájaro y la ballena”.

This story is about a bird and a whale that fall in love, but realize that they are very different creatures, with different desires. In the end, they learn to let go of each other because of the love they have for one another.

It’s a bit corny but it's sweet and contains about 600 words and can be read within 6 minutes.

Acquire The Language

On this website we also provide free stories for Spanish learners! I personally write these with B1/B2 learners in mind. These stories are generally short - so that you can learn all of the words used easily.

Also, we allow stories of our readers to get published. If you ever write a tiny story, you can send it to me on this website, I'll make sure that the Spanish is perfect and we'll share it with the whole community of language learners!

Snappy Spanish is most comparable to what we do here at Acquire The Language, they have quite a vast amount of stories that you can access for free, and in my opinion, they’re very enjoyable.

My personal favorite from them is “The Getaway” which follows the perspective of a man who’s trying to get away with a robbery.

3 - Listen to Music and Read the Lyrics

Listening to music while reading the lyrics has been my #1 method of acquiring new vocabulary at an unbeatable pace! The method is super simple and works wonderfully. Here are the two ways we can go about learning Spanish with music for free.

woman listening to music

Use Google + Translate

This is my preferred method because not only is it free, but the database is infinite!

All we do is look up “SONG TITLE + LYRICS” and then we scroll to the bottom to find the “Translate” button, once we click it, we will have a row for every line of the song in Spanish, and below it a line with the English translation.

a picture of the "translate lyrics" button on google

For some people I have seen this method fail because they can't keep up with the lyrics because of the pace of the song.

Others just are uninterested, but I would give it a try – if you can make it work like I have, it will be extremely advantageous.

If you don’t want to use the old-school Google and YouTube Combo Method, there are apps such as Sounter and Lirica that provide this method in an all-in-one package for free!

how lirica app looks when using it

With these apps you can just choose a song, it will show you the lyrics and help you learn them with translation tools. I have found that these apps are not as reliable - and the more reliable ones are a little costly such as FluentU.

But in any case, if you want to give them a try it might help you out!

4 - Listen To Beginner Spanish Videos - Dreaming Spanish

There are tons of YouTube channels like Dreaming Spanish that provide materials that are easy enough for complete beginners to understand. He uses a method called TPRS, and if you have never heard of it, you're going to love this approach.

picture of a dreaming spanish video

Basically, the teacher makes the class 100% in the target language, and uses pictures and hand movements to help the student understand what they're saying.

So you'll be able to enjoy videos that (in Spanish) even if you're an absolute beginner! When you click the title of this paragraph, it will take you straight to his "Beginner Playlist."

5 - Read and Write New Words and Phrases

One way to help you acquire grammatical structures (and vocabulary along the way) is by writing new phrases repeatedly. This method just requires a pen and paper and a place to find such phrases.

The app that I used for phrases is called “Close Master” and it’s perfect for this because it gives killer sentences that sound very natural and are useful!

demonstration of "close master" app

This app is partially free, it allows you to review 30 sentences a day WHICH IS PERFECT because it means we won't overdo it with this method.

5-10 minutes a day is just the right amount of time to utilize this method.

Top Techniques for Intermediate Learners:

Congratulations if you have already reached the Intermediate stage in Spanish!

Some of the best methods for you to take your skills to the next level are:

  • Journaling

  • Watching Movies and YouTube

  • Chatting with a language partner

  • Switching the language of your phone to Spanish.

Let’s go over these methods and you can choose which ones to add to your study routine.

6 - Journal Using Google Translate When Necessary

I have been using this method ever since I embarked on the beginning stages of intermediate Spanish. At first, your journal entries might need some work, you might be writing and constantly pulling out your phone to search for a word that you need – this is great!

Journaling will definitely not only teach you new vocabulary, but it will solidify the vocabulary that you already know.

me journaling to learn a language

One of my favorite methods that I have created is the TWRF Journaling Method. This consists of having a journal that you write in daily 100% in Spanish (or any other target language).

The TWRF stands for:

  1. Translate your journal entry with Google Translate

  2. Write the entry into your journal in Spanish (or other target language)

  3. Read the entry out loud, or have Google Translate read it to you

  4. Forget about this entry and move on with your day

But… you don’t study the entries?

Nope, this is a 100% acquisition-based learning method, and trust me, you’ll learn a lot of Spanish by following these steps daily over a long period of time.

This method teaches you how to talk about your feelings, habits, and experiences in Spanish without any brain-busting study methods.

7 - Watch Movies, TV, or YouTube Daily

Now that you are at a level where you can understand a lot more, you should start getting used to native speakers' accents and pronunciation. It’s a big step and at first, you will definitely want subtitles, but little by little your brain is going to be making huge connections while you listen.

I have spent months in Spanish-speaking countries (I am writing this article from Panama) and to be honest, this is the next best thing to being in a Spanish-speaking country.

You’ll get 85% of the value you would be in a Spanish-speaking country but for FREE

8 - Find A Language Partner To Chat And Call With

The last thing you are definitely going to want to do is get a language partner. My favorite app for this is HelloTalk because I have had really good experiences with the community there, but I have also heard good things about Tandem.

Whatever you go with I’m sure it will be about the same. If you have never heard of these apps, they are kind of like Facebook mixed with Twitter, but only for language learners, so it’s extremely convenient for people like us.

If you want a good language partner, go into voice chat rooms and participate, there are people there who are truly consistent and want to progress.

collage of screenshots showing how it looks to use HelloTalk App

9 - Change Cell Phone Language To Spanish

If you haven’t done this yet I definitely recommend it! Changing our phones to our target language is a super easy and effective form of immersion. You will certainly need to learn some of the vocabulary that you don’t know (or cant guess) – but it’s worth the struggle.

In the end, you’ll be confident with all of the vocabulary because you will interact with it every single day.

10 - Watch Comprehensible Input YT Channels

Comprehensible Input YouTube channels give us materials that even a beginner learner can understand. I began watching these channels pretty early in my Spanish learning journey, and I attribute a majority of my success to this method of acquisition.

Below I listed the three best comprehensible input YouTube channels that I have ever come across.

If you have any other suggestions for channels to put on this list, put them in the comments or shoot me an email and I’ll add them!

María is a wonderful young Colombian woman who makes everything from “Common Mistake” videos, to “Vlogs” and even comprehensible documentary-type videos such as this one on Pablo Escobar's long-lasting impact on Colombia.

Dreaming Spanish is probably the most consistent and high-quality YouTube channel for comprehensible input in Spanish. His videos span across a great variety of subjects.

Personally, if I were starting to learn Spanish again, I would check out his old videos of him just talking with a whiteboard, and I would make my way toward the beginner history and geography episodes.

Vicente makes more specific videos that will help you better understand common phrases, grammar, and colloquial words.

While personally, I don’t find Vicente as a “fun” YouTuber, I think that his ability to explain new concepts to us (while maintaining the dialogue in Spanish) is incredible.

Top Techniques for Advanced Learners:

Wow, you did it, countless hours, weeks, years. If you have reached this level it really shows that you are dedicated to improving your abilities in this language.

If you have gotten to this level and you have a tip of your own to help others master Spanish at home (for free) - shoot me a message on this site and I'll add it to the article!

You are now reaching the level of most native speakers which is an incredible feat!

Now to progress you are going to need to do more intensive activities, but surely you will succeed if you have made it this far.

Some of the best things that you can do now are to:

  • Write stories, articles, or even a small book

  • Take a trip to a country of your choice

  • Take a formal C1-C2 exam

  • Keep yourself immersed as much as possible.

11 - Write stories, articles, etc. Challenge yourself

This might sound boring, but its benefits may prove to be incalculable. Choose a type of content to write, and work on it little by little, you can find new words in the content you watch, write them down, and use them in your writing.

For example, my passion is teaching and talking about language learning and so when I reached an advanced level in Spanish, I began writing articles in Spanish.

Not just as a way to utilize my skills, but also to improve them.

Most people aren’t even decent writers in their native language, so achieving that goal in Spanish is a huge milestone for us all. If you end up writing something, send it to me and I would love to read it!

12 - Take a Trip to a Country Where The Language Is Spoken! (Not Free - But Worth It For You)

If you have reached this stage of the learning process without going to a country where the language is spoken, maybe it’s time to begin considering it! This will force you to live in the language (especially if you go alone).

I have used this technique to advance my Spanish and it has worked wonderfully.

Being back in the USA, most of my input was through YouTube videos - which is a horrible representation of real-life Spanish.

I’ll give you an example as to why. The other day I was getting on the elevator to go up to the apartment I'm staying in (in Panama City, Panama). And when the elevator opened an old man came out and he smiled at me and said “enaomotamo” just like I wrote it there.

girl getting scared by a man coming out of the elevator and saying in bad spanish "enaomotamo"

Now if you don't speak Spanish yet - just know that THAT'S NOT SPANISH! What he meant to say is “Buenas, cómo estamos?”. And this is not uncommon.

Maybe he’s from a place where they speak like that, or maybe he’s just tired after a long day and wasn’t paying much attention to his words.

In any case, this is the "real-life speech" sometimes, it’s like a different language from time to time.

So imagine, if you are surrounded by that intensity of colloquiality, afterward there is no going back. After understanding that guy, you’ll be able to understand the Spanish language in your sleep.

13 - Pass a Formal C1 or C2 Exam

This is a super ambitious goal but it may be worth the sweat! If you decide to take these exams, you will have a certificate that shows you really, REALLY know the language.

My girlfriend, for example, is a native Spanish speaker and is a C1.

So indeed, these levels are the holy grail. Also studying for the exam will make you look closely at certain grammar points, vocabulary, and idioms.

It certainly is a great way to brush up on your advanced Spanish and take it to the next level.

Always Stay Immersed to Progress Further (Bonus Tip)

Now that you’re at this level, you have more or less finished learning this language. Of course, there will always be words you don't know. However, your abilities in the language you study are just about as good as your abilities in your mother tongue.

The only thing to do now is to continue getting input and having conversations.

And if you haven’t already, maybe you should be looking at how to get a raise, or a better job in your industry where you can utilize your skills, if possible.

Conclusion: Master Spanish at Home for Free

No matter what stage of the learning process you are in, there are many fun and exciting things that you can do to improve your skills for free.

For beginner learners, some of the best things you can do are:

  • Use apps such as Duolingo & Mondly

  • Read short stories with websites like The Fable Cottage

  • Learn vocabulary through music (with Google Translate or Apps like Sounter)

For intermediate learners, some of the best methods for you are:

  • Journaling using a dictionary or Google Translate to find words you don't know

  • Watch movies, YouTube, or Tv daily

  • Find a language partner with an app like HelloTalk

  • Change the language of your phone to Spanish

And lastly, for you try hards (just kidding lol) the best methods are:

  • Writing content such as articles, stories, or a book in Spanish

  • Take a trip to your favorite country where Spanish is spoken

  • Study for (and pass) a C1 or C2 exam

If you are still a beginner or intermediate, enjoy this process. One day will come when you will be fluent in Spanish, and you'll look back on the hours of studying with nostalgia.

Check this article out if you are interested in learning "5 Insider Secrets to Learning a Language Quickly and Efficiently"


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