I have unofficially declared myself to be at a lower intermediate level of Spanish. I’ve used a lot of courses and materials to get here and I am still using more. Some of these have been absolutely fantastic and others are not as useful as others. I will say this, I have not found a “bad” course or program. I have liked all of them, but if you are like me, you don’t have a lot of time to use only “okay” courses.
So I am going to devote a few posts about which ones I have found to be the most useful. This post is going to emphasize Output based courses and the next will emphasize Input based courses.
My definition of a useful output course is a course that teaches you concepts of universally language usage. They may teach you specific phrases, but these phrases are taught in a way to create an intuition on how to apply them in any sentence. In other words, they help you learn to improvise and not just learn predetermined phrases.
*None of the links in here are affiliate links. I use a free wordpress.com blog site and they are not allowed. If I ever make the jump to self-hosted, then I may change that. As of right now, the links are provided for your easy of finding the programs.
What to use when you have Zero Spanish
There are two fantastic programs that I recommend for those who have little to no Spanish. The first one is Synergy Spanish. Synergy Spanish was created by Marcus Santamaria and it teaches the 138 most useful vocabulary to know. He slowly and methodically shows you how to intuitively build Spanish sentence using very little “grammar” to teach you. At least one of these words will be found in almost every Spanish sentence you use and almost all the sentence building skills will be found in every sentence you make.
The second program that I recommend you use along side Synergy Spanish is Paul Nobel’s Spanish course published by Collins. Paul Nobel is very much that same as Synergy Spanish, except the phrases it emphasizes. It also emphasizes cognates, which are words that are almost identical in both languages except a slight change, such as generally and generalmente.
Between these two courses, you will learn heaps of Spanish that is not specific to any one situation. To fill in those gaps and learn those situation specific Spanish, I recommend Coffee Break Spanish. With these 3 courses and doing the other things I recommend, you will get to at least advanced basic level of spoken Spanish.
What about after that?
The next program I recommend is Learning Spanish Like Crazy. Level 1 is for beginners to intermediate, though I recommend you start it after complete Paul Nobel’s program. It’s more useful if you have that program completed. This program is like a “generic brand” version of the Pimsleur approach, but that doesn’t mean it’s less useful. It’s just less money. It also emphasizes informal Spanish and will begin to transition you into more advanced grammar.
When you finish Synergy Spanish, I recommend you continue on with Marcus’s program and go to Bola de Nieve (also known as Synergy Spanish 2). This is going to expand where he left off and get you to an even more advanced level than where he left you. Just like Synergy Spanish, it will emphasize useful and colloquial Spanish.
What are you using now?
Right now I am still using Bola de Nieve and I am on Learning Spanish Like Crazy level 2. I plan on completing both of these by the end of the year. These courses are not all I do. I also use Speak your Language to practice along with using real conversations when I find the opportunity. These are great structured courses, but you must supplement them with unstructured practice. Then you can really improve your Spanish.