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A while back, I found myself in a situation that drove me to want to learn Spanish.
Of course, there are hundreds of options to choose from for Spanish programs, and I took my time looking for one that would work the best for my busy lifestyle and situation.
Eventually, I found SpanishPod101. And it played an important part in improving my fluency in Spanish. I will review everything I know after using it myself, including what I learned, why I chose it, and what I like and what I don’t like about it.
- My Story
- The Basics
- Why Did I Choose SpanishPod101?
- How SpanishPod101 Can Help You
- How It Works
- Real Life Application
- Learning for a Specific Skill
- The Advantage
- Different Types of Spanish
- Subscription Levels
- Now, on to You
The driving force behind me wanting to learn Spanish was mostly personal. I am an American married to a Mexican. I had a mild interest in the language before, but never seriously pursued learning Spanish until I was a member of a Spanish-speaking family.
In the beginning, I spent long days working with my mother-in-law in her Mexican store. She didn’t speak much English, and I quickly realized that learning Spanish would be essential for building a strong relationship with her and the rest of my new family.
At that time, carving out a chunk of my schedule to sit in a classroom was not an option. I was incredibly busy and not able to make any significant time commitment. Not to mention, the price of these types of courses can be astronomical, costing up to $1,000 USD per month or $40.00 per lesson.
So, I eventually decided on SpanishPod101.
The way SpanishPod101 constructs the many different learning paths to fluency was the perfect balance between structure and flexibility. And you can be as involved as you want.
In addition to plenty of interactive materials, their lessons are available in the form of podcasts. You can learn Spanish while you clean, walk, cook, or drive. It allows you to kill two birds with one stone, which is invaluable when time is such a precious commodity.
The program is self-paced, with a free option that is less in-depth but still incredibly useful. If you want a more extensive experience, there are different subscription levels at various price ranges that provide more material.
The level you decide on will depend on what tools you want to use in order to learn Spanish and for what reasons. And you can choose to learn with more interactive videos or simply with podcast lessons.
Why Did I Choose SpanishPod101?
For some, like me, it was personal. In other words, the desire to better communicate with a significant other, friend, or family member was the driving force behind learning Spanish. When someone marries a partner who is bilingual, they will often learn their spouse’s native language for the sake of communicating with their extended family.
And sometimes people fall for others who don’t have a firm grasp on English at all, so they will learn another language simply to communicate better with their partner.
There is even a specific learning pathway at SpanishPod101 geared towards talking to your partner. It has hundreds of lessons that cover everything from dating to proposing and beyond.
These lessons are cleverly designed to help you learn Spanish fast through some of the most common conversations and situations you will face, so that you can begin building a stronger relationship with whomever you need to.
When I started, I already had a decent understanding of the basic building blocks of Spanish grammar and phonetics from my high school Spanish class. What I lacked was vocabulary and actual practice interacting in Spanish, which can be very intimidating.
SpanishPod101 took my learning to the next level. I was able to focus on vocabulary and made good use of all of the interactive material I could. This made it easy for everything else to fall into place.
Within about six months, I was basically fluent. And the more learning paths I completed, the better my accent, speed, and vocabulary got.
How SpanishPod101 Can Help You
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the entire world. It falls just behind Chinese, which holds first place. English, surprisingly enough, sits in third place.
Additionally, Spanish is spoken by over 400 million people spanning across the globe in at least 21 different countries throughout Europe, Central, South and North America and even Africa.
Learning a new language can be intimidating. Spanish, however, is one of the least daunting languages you can learn. It is a phonetic language, meaning each letter of the alphabet has a specific sound. The vowels, for example, each have only one sound.
And the consonants often have similar sounds to English consonants, making it easy to sound out words when reading.
Due to its undeniable global reach, more and more people are learning Spanish from programs like SpanishPod101 for an array of different reasons.
For some people, their desire to learn Spanish is for career or business advancement. Wise employers recognize the advantages of hiring someone who is bilingual.
Doing so offers the potential of bringing in an entire base of Spanish-speaking customers or clients. And as a bonus, employees who are bilingual earn anywhere from 5% to 20% more per hour than their monolingual counterparts.
And when it comes to expanding your business across borders and seas, the ability to speak Spanish will be impressive to potential business partners, if not essential. It will save you from costly communication errors and hours upon hours of translation services.
SpanishPod101 offers a learning pathway that specifically emphasizes different formality levels, vocabulary, and phrases for business negotiating situations.
Still, some decide to learn Spanish for the sole purpose of travel or relocation. You might just need to brush up on some important phrases and vocabulary for your vacation. The ability to converse with locals and navigate without confusion will prove to be valuable and remove a lot of stress from your excursion.
The cool thing about SpanishPod101 is that you can search specific topics in your dashboard, like living in Latin America or traveling, and follow that pathway until you have mastered it.
Of course, if you are permanently moving to a Spanish-speaking country, immersion is the best way to learn the language. But SpanishPod101 is a great tool to fill in the gaps and help speed up the learning process.
It allows you to delve deeply into a wide array of learning paths for a well-rounded and complete learning experience. You can even take a lesson that is solely to improve your pronunciation of Spanish words.
Improve Reading and Writing
SpanishPod101 is also great for those who are able to speak their Spanish as a native language at home and English everywhere else but are unable to read or write it.
Such was the case with my partner’s younger siblings. They could say anything in Spanish, but if you asked them to spell something or why they conjugate a verb a specific way, they had no clue.
With this program, they would be able to narrow down their learning pathways to emphasize grammar and only learn what they had missed out on.
Clearly, it’s important to consider your motivation before choosing your subscription level at SpanishPod101. Here is an idea of what you will have access to at each level:
How It Works
To use SpanishPod101, the first thing you need to do is to choose your Spanish level based on the five available levels:
- Absolute beginner
- Upper Intermediate
Absolute Beginner level is for those who just start learning Spanish. Within this level, you learn basic conversions and vocabulary for your everyday life, such as how to introduce yourself, how to go shopping, and how to tell the date and time.
You also learn basic grammar rules such as conjugating verbs and noun-adjective agreement rules in Spanish.
An the Beginner level, you learn more complex sentences in both formal and informal Spanish for daily life. You also learn more about conjugating verbs in different tenses, adverbs of time, more prepositions, and so on.
The Intermediate and Upper Intermediate level are comparable to the B1 and B2 level. It also has lessons for those who have learned Spanish for a while to review their language proficiency again before learning more about Spanish.
The Advanced level is for those who aim to be fluent in Spanish, which is comparable to C1 and C1 level.
One you choose your level, then you need to customise your own pathways based on lessons you want to learn. I would recommend you to go with the fundamental lessons as suggested to you by SpanishPod101 first before moving on to other lessons on that level.
Once you master all of the lessons on that level, then you can move on to the next level.
You can track how many lessons you have learned so far, including how many hours and flash cards you have reviewed, on your dashboard.
Each level consists of anywhere from 10 to 90 lessons. Most of them have about 20-25 topics, which makes breaking up your learning experience into manageable chunks much easier.
The learning pathways are a great tool because they allow you to focus on what you need to prioritize first.
If you are a true beginner, there are lessons that simply cover the basics, like “Absolute Beginner Mexican Spanish for Every Day”. I used this lesson to expand my basic conversation skills after feeling like I was stuck in a rut using the same phrases over and over again.
It has 31 topics, including well-thought-out material like “10 Responses to ‘How are You?’”, and “Common Slang Expressions”.
Real Life Application
Likewise, I was able to use pathways that correlated to my daily life at the time. In one instance, after my Spanish had progressed considerably, my mother-in-law asked me to accompany her to a hospital as her translator.
I was thrilled but nervous. I began thinking about all of the medical terminology I didn’t know yet. Luckily, there was a ‘Health Issues’ learning pathway on my beginner dashboard that covered everything from body parts to explaining symptoms.
I studied up before the appointment and translated everything successfully.
Learning for a Specific Skill
Other than picking out your pathways at random, if you know a specific aspect of learning Spanish that you need to focus on, you can narrow down your lessons according to five different categories:
- Reading and Writing
In my case, I already had a firm grasp on grammar, reading, and culture. So I simply unchecked those boxes, leaving only the lessons that focus on conversation and vocabulary.
In a classroom setting with a set curriculum, you might end up learning vocabulary, phrases, and verb forms that are not necessary for your goals. This is a waste of time and money. SpanishPod101 allows you to learn at your own pace, at your own time, and in your own way.
The beauty of this program is that it’s up to you and what your schedule will allow since you can learn it online.
Moreover, almost every lesson has an audio-only version. If you are busy and don’t have the time to read the accompanying lesson notes, you can listen and learn Spanish while doing something else.
What I did was set aside an hour a day to study Spanish with SpanishPod101. During that time, I printed out lesson notes, which are available as PDF files for all lessons, and read it together while listening.
Then, I re-listened to the same lesson again at a later point while commuting to work, exercising, or cleaning.
Different Types of Spanish
Also, the dashboard of pathways for almost every level includes a wide array of options for regional Spanish. There are huge variances in the Spanish that is spoken in different countries. European Spanish is very different from, say, Mexican Spanish.
This was important for me, and I have a perfect example of why. While I was still learning, I took one semester of Spanish in college. My professor was trained in Spain and was teaching us European Spanish.
When I attempted to use some of what I was learning with my partner and his family, there were entire verb forms that aren’t used in Mexican Spanish, prompting some curious looks. I ended up ditching the class and choosing as many lessons at SpanishPod101 that focused on Mexican Spanish as I could. And there are hundreds, so I was never left wanting.
SpanishPod101 takes it a step beyond European and Mexican Spanish by also providing lessons for Peruvian Spanish, Costa Rican Spanish, and more. This is very smart and allows you to learn suitable Spanish based on where you reside.
SpanishPod101 comes with four levels of subscription as seen below.
- The first three lessons of every pathway
- One new lesson every week
- Vocabulary Lists
- Spanish Dictionary
- 100 most common words
- Spanish key phrases
- Everything that is included in the Free plan, plus:
- Complete lesson access
- In-depth lesson notes
- $8 per month or $60 per year
- Access to all of the Basic materials plus:
- 1,900 additional words and phrases
- Grammar bank
- Audio dictionary
- Interactive Quizzes
- Voice recording
- Multiple-choice Assessment
- Custom word lists and lessons
- $25 per month or $180 per year
- Access to all of the Premium materials plus:
- One on one learning with access to a teacher
- Personalized learning plans
- Ongoing professional assessment
- $47 per month or $316 per year
To choose a suitable subscription, it depends on what tools you want to use to help you learn Spanish.
The free subscription is for those who are taking Spanish courses elsewhere and want to have access to additional tips and vocabulary that will help them improve their language fluency faster.
The real SpanishPod101 course starts at the Basic plan where you get access to all of their available lessons. It’s good if you only want to listen to the audio lessons alone, but you also miss out on the opportunities to use their interactive quizzes, flashcards, and additional words and phrases – which can significantly help speed up your learning process.
When it comes to learning a language, listening alone isn’t enough. You should always find a chance to practice it. With the Premium plan, you can use the tools mentioned earlier. You also get a multiple-choice assessment after every 1-3 lessons.
The assessments are a great way to review to make sure that you really learned all the important parts of the previous lessons. Some people fail at using SpanishPod101 because they just listen without taking the time to study and assess what they learn.
The Premium plan also comes with a voice recording tool, which is a great way to practice your pronunciation. You can compare your own pronunciation with that of a native speaker and see where you need improvement.
If you want to have human interaction with a Spanish teacher, then the Premium Plus plan is what you need. The best thing about the plan is that you get a personalized program and assessment by a Spanish teacher.
Although the lesson structure in the other levels of SpanishPod101 is good, with a teacher in the Premium Plus plan it can be better-tailored to you. Based on your current level and your goals, your Spanish teacher can point out which lessons you can skip, and which lessons you should focus on. It can significantly speed up your progress.
To start with, you can try their $1 for a one-month trial of the Premium plan. After testing out their lessons and tools, you can make a decision at a later point on what subscription level you want to go with.
Of course, there are some clear pros and cons for a program like this one. Based on my experience, this is how I broke it down:
If you truly don’t have the time to sit down and focus on the lessons, the podcast format allows you to learn on-the-go. And the podcast lessons aren’t too long or overwhelming, giving you plenty of time for practice and repetition.
The Mobile App
You can access your SpanishPod101 account on your mobile device by downloading the “Innovative Language 101” app and then choosing Spanish. This provides you with convenient options like syncing your phone to your vehicle and learning while you drive.
Compared to hiring a tutor, attending a class, or other online programs, this one is much more affordable. Obviously, you can’t beat free, but even the premium packages are a great value for the money considering how much material you get.
Hiring a private tutor for just two hours can be more expensive than paying for the Premium plan for the entire month.
The way the lessons are categorized into pathways that relate to specific situations, regions, and skills is brilliant. This keeps the entire program interesting and makes learning seem more fun. Not to mention, it is incredibly convenient.
From the vocabulary and common phrases to the detailed lessons for very specific situations, all of the content is remarkably useful and relative to current trends.
You also learn Spanish culture along with the lessons, which is another benefit of learning the language through SpanishPod101.
Different Types of Spanish
As I mentioned before, the fact that they offer lessons that are geared toward the type of Spanish that is spoken in different countries is priceless. You can get by with European Spanish in Mexico, and vice versa, but it might be a struggle.
Being able to master the Spanish of a specific region that relates to you will greatly improve your Spanish-speaking experience.
SpanishPod101 isn’t perfect though. Here’s the things I dislike about it.
Lack of Structure
If you are the type of learner that needs a clear schedule of lessons and curriculum, the design of this program might be frustrating. While the lessons themselves are structured well, it might be hard for someone to know where to start and how to progress.
Too Much English
The lessons are structured well, but there is a lot of teaching in English. While this is okay at the beginning levels, you might end up wanting a little bit more Spanish dialogue at the higher levels when you are trying to train your ear to catch things that are said quickly.
This really didn’t bother me much because I expected it, but some might get annoyed at all the emails, banners, and prompts to upgrade.
Now, on to You
Overall, I found SpanishPod101 to be easy to use, convenient, and well-designed. The amount of content that I had access to was seemingly endless and the learning levels were appropriate to their corresponding lessons.
The tools, like flashcards and key phrases, were also really handy. And the one-on-one resources at the highest subscription level is like having a private tutor without paying for one.
Even though I am now fluent in Spanish, I have kept my subscription with Spanishod101 and continue to find lessons, vocabulary, and dialogue that teach me something new. Not to mention, I can use it as a dictionary when I am in a bind and can’t think of a word.
I would recommend this program to anyone at any level, whether you don’t know any Spanish or are already speaking it.