(part 1 of 2)

In this article, we’ll take a look at recent language learning trends that inform when, where, and how to learn Spanish. While VR and AI evolve with head-spinning speed, the most durable and dynamic way to learn Spanish is by taking in-person and online Spanish classes.

Both in-person and online Spanish lessons are still an option in 2024. Either way, taking group classes with experienced instructors yields better results than rote learning via phone apps and passive video watching. What you need is active participation, dynamic activities, and guided practice in a class.

A graphic showing an desktop computer on a desk and a teacher on the screen.

In the last few years, online Spanish instructors have gained greater skills and experience. The best Spanish instructors create online classes with a comfortable, low-pressure atmosphere that some students may prefer to in-person classes, especially after factoring in the commute.

However, other learners, in contrast, feed off the energy of face-to-face interaction, hands-on materials, kinesthetic activities, and thus prefer Spanish classes on campus. While some students enjoy the organized and accessible formats like Google Classroom, other students would rather work with pen, paper, and white boards. 

Just remember, the point of learning Spanish is to communicate ideas, not avoid mistakes. It’s important to reject perfection!

You may need beginner Spanish class to take a vacation, intermediate Spanish to talk with a client, or advanced Spanish to watch a movie. Let’s recap trending benefits that make learning Spanish useful:

  • Global Communication: Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world by the number of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese, and the fourth most spoken language overall. There are 21 countries whose official state language is Spanish, going alphabetically from Argentina to Venezuela.
  • Career Growth: As of  2023, Mexico is the USA’s number one top US trading partner.  Bilingual employees will be in ever-increasing demand in 2024 and beyond. Spanish is vital for international business and trade, especially in the Americas and Europe, and various industries such as health, banking, customer service, and education. 
  • Cultural Understanding: Learning Spanish tunes you into the evolving cultures of Spanish-speaking countries, not to mention the USA. The 2020 US Census found that the Hispanic or Latino population, which does not necessarily indicate language, numbered at 62.1 million in 2020, an increase of 23% from 2010.
  • Tourism: You can order food, make small talk, and understand cultural sites in popular Spanish-speaking countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico, and Argentina. According to World Population Review, Spain currently ranks as the second most popular tourist destination in the world (after perennial #1 France.)
  • Literature:  Spanning centuries and regions, the poetry, prose, and drama reflect the historical and linguistic diversity of the Spanish-speaking world. Out of a million possible examples, here are three:
    • “The Inhabited Woman” by Gioconda Belli: A novel that explores the life of a woman involved in the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.
    • “La vida es sueño” (Life Is a Dream) by Pedro Calderón de la Barca: A significant work of Spanish Golden Age drama, exploring themes of fate, free will, and reality.
    • “Romancero gitano” (Gypsy Ballads) by Federico García Lorca: A collection of poems by Lorca, a key figure in the Generation of ’27, exploring themes of Andalusian Gypsy culture.
  • Cognitive Benefits: Learning a new language, including Spanish, can have cognitive benefits. It enhances memory, problem-solving skills, and multitasking abilities. A 2015 study by the Georgetown University Medical Center found that “people who speak two languages have more gray matter in the executive control region of the brain.” (which is a very good thing!)
  • Media and Entertainment: There is a wealth of Spanish-language literature, films, music, and television shows. With the explosion of streaming services, you can easily access, for instance, Netflix’s Spanish content, Spotify’s Latin music playlists, and Amazon’s Primero Latino. 
  • Connecting with Neighbors: In areas with a significant Spanish-speaking population, knowing the language can facilitate social integration and community engagement. You can meet new Dominican members of your community and work with different organizations that include Puerto Rican friends and neighbors. The Hispanic origin groups in the US are varied and multifaceted. Fun fact: US hispanic populations are more diverse in Northeastern cities than in other metro areas.
  • Language Learning as a Skill: Learning Spanish can make it easier to learn other Romance languages, like French, Italian, and Portuguese, due to their linguistic similarities. 

It’s never too late to take Spanish classes on Zoom or on campus

Technology is a game changer, and language classes are a no-brainer. When you take classes with peers and an instructor, you benefit from the human element missing from apps, VR, AI, and other tech-oriented approaches.

This human element can take the form of smiles and laughter. You get inspired and retain more information when you log-in and join your classmates on a set schedule. 

In the best online Spanish classes, the instructor provides instant feedback and tailors lessons to the interests and needs of the students. This human element is key to the process of gaining language skills.

Unlike AI and VR tools,  online Spanish classes are individualized by a Spanish teacher who is trained and experienced in the art of helping people use a new language.  Your Spanish lessons can zero in on the best lessons for your personality and your plans for travel, school, or fun. 

You don’t have to give up your favorite apps or textbooks. Online Spanish classes can serve as a supplement to individual self-study as well as a main course of group immersive study. 

It’s true that the best time to learn a language is when you’re a young child. That ship has sailed, right? So, while adults face fresh challenges acquiring a new language, don’t throw up your hands just because you’re no longer a child. 

A young woman with long hair looking excited with a giant brain and brain function graphics behind her on the wall.

Adults can learn a new language in ways similar to that of native speakers and kids, according to research from the University of Kansas. One essential piece of the process is participation in social situations in a controlled classroom environment. While achieving native-speaker fluency is a tall order, an adult Spanish beginner can acquire meaningful communication skills, especially if regularly participating in online Spanish classes that provide opportunity to practice. 

Plus, additional benefits abound: adult language learners show improved mental flexibility, decision-making, and multi-tasking ability.  Indeed, the University of Zurich conducted research  on brain functioning among the elderly, confirming what we already know: cognitive acuity and brain functioning flourishes among lifelong learners.

Although learning Spanish may not be a walk in the park, the best online Spanish classes offer personalized guidance to move forward, instant feedback to correct course, and encouragement to take risks. 

While solo study efforts may stall, supportive classmates and instructors keep the learning process in motion. The only requirements for an impactful online Spanish course are an Internet connection, a computer, and an interest in Spanish. 

Still, there’s more to consider when weighing your options to learn Spanish online. 

The benefit of regularly scheduled, easily digestible sessions is an aspect of online learning that shouldn’t be underestimated. By signing up for an online course, you guarantee yourself the discipline of steady, measurable workouts. Each online Spanish class provides a single lesson objective within a brief time-frame, like a self-contained exercise session at the gym.

The current trend towards micro-learning involves short and focused study sessions, which dovetails with the nature of taking Spanish classes online. This bite-sized approach is designed to fit into busy schedules and is believed to enhance retention. 

Another must for effective language learning is to contextualize language with relevant situations and meaningful real world content. The best online Spanish language classes stress authentic cultural content, including films, music, and literature, to provide a more holistic learning experience. 

Depending on the desires of the class, you can role play scenarios, discuss song lyrics, or debate current events. The friendships that develop online may spill over into real life. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of humanity in language development. Social aspects of learning, including pair work, group games, discussion forums, and team challenges, provide the contextualization and inspiration to retain new language skills. The best online Spanish classes emphasize fun community building and energetic collaboration.

In other words, people need other people to learn language. Even introverts sooner or later set aside their self-study tools and connect with peers to speak, listen, read, and write.

Geographical distance may separate participants in online Spanish programs, but the class can feel connected if the instructor uses an interactive student-centered methodology.

Learning a new language is never easy, but the best online Spanish course gives you lots of chances to practice speaking. All you need is a computer, Internet connection, and an interest in Spanish. 

The best online Spanish course provides opportunities to chat, play games, and socialize. You can make small talk, discuss issues, and forge cultural connections.

Sure, you can study Spanish by watching Youtube tutorials, clicking through multiple choice exercises, and squinting at Spanish grammar textbooks. The cup of the Internet overflows with apps, videos, and grammar exercises.

That’s fine and dandy, but most people need social interaction to develop language skills. The best online Spanish classes create a welcoming community to discuss your interests, share your passions, and express a lifetime of experience in a new language. 

As a mature learner, you have a lot to say. It’s both fun and beneficial to learn how to say it in a new language. 

So how can you get started learning Spanish?

Cognates help. For instance, liberty and  libertad come from the Latin libertas. Many scientific, literary, and technical terms derive from Latin roots in both Spanish and English. With greater awareness of Latin roots, you can improve your vocabulary in English too!

In part 2 of this article, we’ll delve into more details about getting started learning Spanish. Namely, we’ll discuss how to roll the Spanish “rrrr,” which version of Spanish you should learn, and how long it takes to learn Spanish fluently. 

Learn more about taking in-person and online Spanish classes and in-person and online French classes

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