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Estoy Aprendiendo Español (Learning Spanish)
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I'm Learning Spanish

If you want to learn Spanish (and you speak English), this may be of interest. Other than being lucky enough to live near people who speak Spanish, the best way to learn is in a class. If you cannot (as I could not a while back) then I may be able to help with some ideas. Yes, I speak Spanish now. :-) I was officially rated as intermediate.

Note: The specific product recommendations here are from the 2003 and 2004 timeframe; there are new (and likely better) items on the market now, but I have not researched them.

A Few Tools

Electronic Tools

I used Franklin/Larouse's electronic Spanish/English dictionary (model DBE-1440). It offered good definitions AND provided conjugations as well. It was a great reference tool. (It also accepts Franklin's Bookman cards for other languages or other books.) (Caveat, this unit broke on me twice so while I was happy with the features, the reliability is in question.)

Another great tool has been the Quicktionary II Spanish/English translator. This unit is not cheap. The best deal I found was on I prefer this unit while reading because it has OCR capabilities (Optical Character Recognition - it READS and translates what it read). This is faster than other forms of word translation. The drawback is that the definitions are more terse than that of the Franklin unit. While the Quicktionary II can scan letters from the back of the case, but I find it to be very cumbersome, so I only use it when reading something that can be scanned.

If you don't have the money for more than one, I would recommend the Franklin/Larouse. It has more complete definitions and offers other learning tools (conjugation, a "to learn" word list, etc.) and works in most any condition. It is also much less expensive.


I recommend the book "501 Spanish Verbs" by Christopher Kendris, Ph.D. (ISBN: 0-8120-9282-1). It will be a valuable reference tool for learning conjugation. Much of the book is repetitious but it will serve well as a reference. The first part of the book has detailed explanations of what each tense means and how it's used. There are other books that I recommend. Send email (address below) and I'll tell you about them.

Learning Without A Course

I recommend the doing the following:

  1. Brush Up on English Grammar.
  2. Learn Basic Conjugation
  3. Use Spanish Courses
  4. Translate from Children's Books.
  5. Use DVD Movies With Spanish Soundtracks
  6. Find Spanish Speakers

I'll expand on this a little more below.

Brush Up on English Grammar

While this may not seem obvious, the benefit is high when you start to study Spanish grammar. I'm sure there are many sources. I used "How Grammar Works: A Self-Teaching Guide" by Patricia Osborn (ISBN: 0-471-61297-9). Know about the following terms/phrases: noun, subject, object, verb, adjective, adverb, gerund, participle, definite article, indefinite article, present, past, future, past perfect, present perfect, future perfect, preposition.

Learn Basic Conjugation (via a Book and Flash Cards)

Flash Cards

Click on picture for enlargement
Click below to go to our Spanish Flash Card site,
Stack of Spanish Verb Flash Cards
Sample Spanish Verb Flash Card

I wanted to start with a good understanding of verb conjugation so I could recognize the verb tenses early in my learning. I could not find very many Spanish flash cards, and none of them had the information that I wanted. So, I created several flash cards for conjugation. They have been a great help. I sell these flash cards on ebay and on our ClearBall Flash Card web site. If you wish to own them, send email to the address below, or see our ClearBall site for Spanish Flash Cards

The flash cards that I created show the seven simple tenses:

  • Presente de indicativo
  • Imperfecto de indicativo
  • Preterito
  • Futuro
  • Potencial Simple
  • Presente de subjuntivo
  • Imperfecto de subjuntivo (two forms)

They also include gerundio (gerund) and part. pas. (past participle) and include the conjugation of "haber" which when combined with the past participle, can form seven complex tenses (for example, past perfect).

See my recommendation above for the book "501 Spanish Verbs."

Use Spanish Courses

Spanish with Michel Thomas (Deluxe Edition)

This 8 CD course (also available in cassette) will help quickly, but definitely has problems. You do not need a book (so one can listen while driving). I learned a lot from this. The main problem is that there are fairly major inaccuracies in the course (both in his Spanish and his English!). Use this course to learn quickly, build vocabulary and learn in situations where you cannot use a book (like while driving). But do NOT use it as a good pronunciation guide or to gain good grammar habits.

Barron's Mastering Spanish

This course focuses on pronunciation. While it is available on cassette, we bought the CD version. It contains more than 10 CD's and the sound quality is very good, which is important for hearing some of the more subtle differences between English and Spanish pronunciation. There is a book that comes with it, which is needed for many of the exercises. My impressions of this course have been very favorable. One really needs to be looking at the book while listening to the CD's, so listening in the car will not be particularly helpful. We bought this course from

Learn in Your Car: Complete Language Course

This is by Penton Overseas, Inc. We bought this course to use in the car. It is boring and repetitious. There are likely many others that are just as good. One problem is that one might be tempted to learn just phrases, rather than learning how and why they are put together. The speakers give the phrases, but rarely give any way for the listener to understand how the words are used. If you use this in the car I advise you to always try to understand the individual words and how they are conjugated.  This will take effort (maybe by using a recorder while you're driving, to record the words/phrases that you need to dissect).


Translate From Children's Books

We bought several childrens' books that have both Spanish and English, and translating those has helped me much. This has been one of the best learning tools. I use an electronic translator to save time. See information about Electronic Tools.


Use DVD Movies With Spanish Soundtracks

Find DVD movies that have Spanish soundtracks (and English subtitles to help) so you can hear the Spanish language at its natural speed. In the earlier phases of studying, you can use the English soundtrack with Spanish subtitles. Later, switch to a Spanish soundtrack with English subtitles. At times, you should turn off the subtitles so you can focus on what they are saying. It is a very hard exercise. I look for DVD's that have subtitles in English and Spanish, and soundtracks in English and Spanish. Many do not offer these. The DVD's that I've found so far are:

  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • Shrek
  • Blazing Saddles (if I recall correctly)

Find Spanish Speakers

Associating and speaking with Spanish speakers is necessary to learn the conventional ways that words and phrases are used. Consider any social groups that might be possible. If you go to church, consider a Spanish congregation. That would be an excellent weekly lesson and introduce you to new friends.


I recommend extended visits to Spanish speaking countries, or if that's not available, standard courses such as taught at a college, but if both are out of the question for any reason, the above should still move you along well.


Contact Info© copyright - Mark W. Rice