Monday, December 21, 2009

10 Free Language Learning Communities

Joining a language learning community is a great way to learn or improve your Spanish. Online communities often provide free lessons, videos, audio materials, and a chance to practice with native speakers. Here are 10 free language learning communities to explore in your free time.

Livemocha - Livemocha, the world's largest language learning community, provides more than 160 hours of free Spanish lessons in addition to courses in 30 other languages. Site members can practice with the lessons and receive helpful tips from native speakers along the way.

Busuu - Bussu is a worldwide language learning community that is free for anyone to join. The site offers an integrated video chat option as well as hundreds of image and sound-based learning units.

iTalki - iTalki combines social networking and language learning to create a global education community. Members can communicate, share files, post content, and learn from each other online.

Tomisimo - Tomisimo is a Spanish language learning community with an English to Spanish dictionary and a Spanish verb conjugator. The site also provides a forum where learners can connect with other people who are studying Spanish.

Palabea - Palabea is a large language learning community for people who want to talk to native speakers in an online exchange. The site also provides free audio and visual learning tools and a language school database.

LingQ - LingQ is a language learning site that provides an unlimited number of free language lessons and a community where language learners can chat and make new friends online.

Lang-8 - Lang-8 is a free international language exchange community for people who want to learn in a social environment. Visitors can help others learn a language, have writing corrected by native speakers, and track learning progress.

VoxSwap - VoxSwap is a social network for language learners. Users can learn a new language, teach someone else a new language, and make friends with people all over the world.

Lingorilla - Lingorilla is an award-winning global video community for people who want to learn a new language and make new friends around the world. Site members can watch free videos, join or start a language group, and quiz themselves online.

Mixxer - This free language learning community makes it easy to find free language learning partners online and communicate with them via Skype.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online school for

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spanish activities for children ages 6-9

A few days ago, @mundaysa, an associate professor of Spanish who I follow on Twitter, passed along this wonderful resource - ¡Aprendo Jugando! Actividades de Español para niños y niñas de 6 a 9 años.

It’s a downloadable PDF file (110 pages) from the Departamento Confederal de Migraciones de UGT y de la Secretaría de Políticas Sociales de FETE-UGT. The text and activities are written by Fina García Naranjo and Concha Moreno García.

Each activity lists objectives, procedures, exercises with some of the support materials (worksheets, labels, etc.). Topics include the alphabet, numbers, food, family members, and much more. Here’s a screenshot of the table of contents.


Where to go:
¡Aprendo Jugando! Actividades de Español para niños y niñas de 6 a 9 años

Friday, November 20, 2009

Give your Spanish a boost by volunteering

As you may have noticed, I haven’t really been blogging a lot lately. Well, one of the main reasons is that I got a job back in April which has kept me extremely busy. It’s a steady paycheck so no complaining here. I work for a children’s summer camp. Some of my duties include taking photos for print materials, Image1maintaining the website, social networking (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc), and much more. On the downside, I haven’t really used my Spanish too much except for a few emails.

Well, I decided that I needed to fix that. Very soon I’ll be volunteering as a bilingual reader for preschool age children. I’ve really missed teaching Spanish at the preschool, so I’m very excited about this new adventure. Currently all I’m doing at home is reading in Spanish… pretty much on a daily basis in fact, but I’m not using it in an active manner – i.e. conversing or writing. With this new position, I’ll be reading aloud and also interacting with the children in Spanish.

I can already tell that the “spark” has returned. In preparation for this new position I have started talking to my own kids more in Spanish, writing in my journal in Spanish and more. All I needed was that little push.

So, do you want to give it a try?

Where to go:
Volunteer Match:

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Olympics – Madrid still in the race…

Just a quick post for those who want to follow the news about who will host the Olympics in 2016. You can learn background information about Madrid’s journey and watch live:

Edited to add: Well, the 2016 Olympics will be in Rio de Janeiro which is still pretty neat – the first time in South America. In any case, the site is still a great place to watch Spanish-language television.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

20 Free Online Resources for Spanish Language Learners

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer.

Learning Spanish is a great way to open doors to opportunities in travel, professional areas, and even education. The Internet plays host to many different resources that would be useful to anyone who wants to learn Spanish. Here is a list of 20 free resources for Spanish language learners to explore:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT offers over 1,900 free courses for online learners, including several free Spanish courses. Course offerings include Spanish I-IV, oral communication, and advanced Spanish communication.

123TeachMe - This free service offers basic and conversational courses that cover vocabulary, grammar, and conversational Spanish. 123TeachMe also has resources strictly for kids, including games and quizzes.

Discover Spanish - Discover Spanish has fun, free podcast Spanish lessons. Podcast episodes last 15 minutes and cover greetings, numbers, age, and much more.

Insta Spanish - This online learning site features free Spanish podcast lessons for all levels of learners. Throughout this site, you can also find Spanish speaking pen pals, an e-learning newsletter, and a forum.

Learn Spanish Online - Learn Spanish Online offers 903 free pages of Spanish grammar with audio files to guide all examples. Language learners can find everything they need--from accents to verbs.

BBC - The BBC offers a large collection of resources for learning Spanish. Learners can find online courses, speaking resources, and quick fixes.

Radio Lingua Network - The Radio Lingua Network provides two free learning podcasts for learners to build their Spanish speaking confidence.

Study Spanish - This teaching site offers free tutorials for anyone interested in learning Spanish. The tutorials consist of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, verbs, idioms, and a travel helper.

Vocabulix - Vocabulix offers over 90 vocabulary lessons for improving your Spanish skills. Users of this site will also find verb drills and verb conjugation tables.

Babbel - This online language platform offers fun, multimedia courses for learning Spanish, English, German, Italian, and French. This is a great place for Spanish learners to find grammar builders, multimedia courses, and grammatical exercises.

Rolling R's - Rolling R's has a series of free videos lessons for building your Spanish speaking and writing skills. The site offers over 75 video lessons, most of which are available for free download or viewing.

don Quijote - This language site offers free Spanish lessons from Spanish teachers. Simply register for a free membership to gain access to this online language resource.

Edufone - Edufone has 40 free podcast lessons for all levels of Spanish speakers. The podcasts cover grammar, verbs, pronunciations, and conversations.

SpanishUnlimited - SpanishUnlimited features free services for learning and practicing Spanish. This site offers users lessons, vocabulary words, tests, and vocabulary games.

Spanicity - This Spanish learning site features grammar and vocabulary lessons complete with audio. Spanicity also comes complete with a Spanish dictionary and quiz. - The site provides online tutorials on vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. This site utilizes both text and audio to help you learn.

Spanish Romance - Spanish Romance offers free online Spanish courses created by Spanish teachers. This site features resources for learning vocabulary, numbers, and phrases.

Palabea - This online social network offers video lectures, virtual classrooms, documents, podcasts, and language partners for Spanish language learners.

iTalki - iTalki is an online social community for learning a wide variety of different languages including Spanish. Users of this site will find 43 different courses, language partners, groups, and a knowledgebase.

Livemocha - Livemocha is a free way for Spanish learners to find self-paced lessons, practice, and native speakers who want to share their skills. All you have to do is sign up for a free account to immerse yourself into the Spanish language.

Karen Schweitzer is the Guide to Business School. She also writes for, an online college resource.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Free iPod Touch/iPhone Apps for Learning Spanish

After writing about the iRAE app, I thought it would be good to write more about iPhone/iPod Touch Apps that might be helpful for the Spanish language learner. All of these are free.

El Universal (Mexico) and El País (Spain) both have news articles, videos and other “authentic” iphonematerials for the Spanish language learner. Radio Nacional de España has five channels with which you can listen to music, news, weather, traffic, sports and more. (internet connection required)

WordReference is definitely a handy little app. You can access English-Spanish dictionaries, Spanish monolingual dictionary, Spanish synonyms dictionary, plus several others. You can also link to the WordReference’s forums via the app which comes in handy. (internet connection required)

SpanishPod has an app where you can look up words in their glossary with sample sentences. The sentences are accompanied by audio. Also, if you’re a premium member, which I’m not, you can also access their flashcard feature. (internet connection required for audio)

Stanza is one of my FAVORITE apps. I love to read and I really love the ability to load many books on my iPod Touch and take them wherever I go. Well, with this app, you can also download many books in Spanish. Right now I’m reading Drácula by Bram Stoker. Other authors represented include: Miguel Cervantes, Pio Baroja, Francisco de Quevedo, Benito Pérez Galdós and many, many others.

To find them within the app go to Online Catalog –> Feedbooks –> Public Domain Books –> Languages –> Español. You can also access Project Gutenberg books using the app as well. (internet connection required to download books)

TuneWiki is a rather unique app which I’m still trying to figure out myself, but still thought it was worth mentioning here. So far, I’ve been able to listen to some of my Spanish language music (from my iPod) and read the lyrics at the same time. Sometimes the lyrics aren’t very accurate, but others are… it’s hit or miss. You can also listen to radio stations from around the world and with some of them you can read the lyrics as the song is playing. Give it a try and let me know what you find. (internet connection required)

Where to go (iTunes links):
Radio Nacional de España
El Universal
El País

What are your favorite apps for learning Spanish?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

RAE – App for your iPhone/iPod Touch

The RAE (Real Academia Española) now has a free application for your iPhone and Ipod Touch. With this app you can look up words in the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary and search the Panhispanic Dictionary. It appears a newer version is currently under review and with that one you’ll also be able to look up synonyms.

I just loaded it this morning and so far, I like it. Thanks to a Twitter friend, @eldeingles, for the news!

Where to go:
iRAE on iTunes

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finding authentic materials on iTunes

I was just outside doing a bit of yardwork and listening to ShowTime Spanish on my iPod, when Mark, one of the hosts, talked about a neat way of finding authentic materials on iTunes. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had to share it with all of you.

On the iTunes Store screen go to the very bottom. You’ll see this:

Click on the bar and choose a country. Here is a screenshot of the podcast section of the Spain iTunes store:

As Mark mentioned, you won’t be able to buy anything if you don’t have a credit card registered in Spain, but you can still enjoy all the podcasts.

Where to go:
Show Time Spanish

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Around the Twitterverse…

I haven’t had much time to blog, but I’ve run across some great resources just by spending a little time on Twitter the last couple of weeks. Here are some good finds:

RT @josepicardo: New from Boxoftricks: Fun, engaging resources for the independent learner of Spanish

RT @icpjones: World Language Resources --

RT @spanglishbaby: New post about 4 bilingual and Spanish book publishers. Know more? Please leave link in comments

RT @spanishonly: Some interesting articles about Extensive Reading for Second Language Acquisition.

RT @bencurtis: Fun Notes in Spanish video contest, big prizes, spread the word!

RT @yocrezco: Animal Scramble, de Wild Planet

RT @spanglishbaby: Finally found the PBS media player en ESPAÑOL! It’s here:

Ver vs. Mirar

Where to go:
To follow me on Twitter:
To follow others click on the names after the @ sign. (You’ll have to sign up with Twitter first.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TED videos in other languages

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an annual conference which is filled with talks by some of the world’s most fascinating people. I have been watching the videos for about two years now and have learned so much. Well, now, they have translated many of their videos in other languages including Spanish.

To watch a video with subtitles, click on the subtitles drop-down menu underneath and simply select a language. You can also click on the Open Interactive Transcript link to the right, click on any phrase to play the video from that point.

Where to go:
About TED:
TED Translations:
TED Translations in Spanish:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Blog Spotlight: English Tricks

Huh? Wait a minute… isn’t this a blog for learning Spanish? It certainly is and that’s why I thought I should bring this particular blog to your attention because you might not have noticed it otherwise.

Ramses from the blog, first brought it to my attention via Twitter. (Seriously, Twitter is a great resource for finding things like this.) I started subscribing to it immediately and have kept up with it ever since.

The blog author who is a native Spanish speaker writes about English expressions and vocabulary. First, what the expression or word means in Spanish, then example sentences in English followed by the same sentences in Spanish.

An example from the blog:

Once and for all

El equivalente en español es: “de una vez por todas” y se usa para mostrar que algo termina definitivamente, después de un gran esfuerzo o de muchos intentos.

The pipe has been leaking for months. I’m going to fix it once and for all.

La tubería lleva goteando meses. Voy a repararla de una vez por todas.

Where to go:
English Tricks:

Family Literacy Bag for The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Just received this in my inbox this morning from CASLS (The Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon):


Eric Carle's classic picture book is celebrating 40 years of delighting young children and adults with its simple concepts and brilliantly colorful illustrations. Reading Rockets has created a new family literacy bag inspired by the Hungry Caterpillar — activities that invite parents and kids to explore together the book's themes (in English and Spanish).

Read about the Family Literacy Bags at .

Download the activity kit in English from or in Spanish from .


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dinosaurs and numbers in Spanish

Funny how a teachable moment can evolve… The boys received their Easter baskets a week early from their grandma. Each one was packed with toys and lots of candy. Included in each was a 3-D foam foampuzzledinosaur puzzle. In the package were two pieces of foam with the pieces precut and then a diagram of the pieces labeled with numbers. The directions were fairly simple… choose two pieces with the same number and construct the puzzle according to the numbers.

So, my little guy and I began putting together the tyrannosaurus which had about 25 pieces. As we were working on it, I realized that this definitely could be a teachable moment. So as we searched for the matching numbers, I started speaking in Spanish only. My son didn’t bat an eye! Then he started speaking in Spanish. I would ask “'¿Dónde está número once?” He would then look at the diagram saying over and over “once, once, once” until he found the piece. I honestly don’t think he realized he was doing this!

Oh, and we listened to Spanish language music in the background (Jarabe de Palo station on

So, if you’re teaching your children Spanish at home, look out for those teachable moments. They’re everywhere!

Additional numbers activities: printable worksheets: activity:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

¡A Prepararse Para Kindergarten!

¡A Prepararse Para Kindergarten! (Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten!) is packed with information in both Spanish and English for your up and coming kindergartner. Some of the early childhood skills your child may acquire in both languages include learning the alphabet, recognizing your left and right hand, knowing the basic colors, shapes and numbers 0-20, using positional words and more.

Stacey Kannenberg is the co-author and publisher (Cedar Valley Publishing). According to her bio, she is a nationally renowned letsgetreadyeducation expert and award winning author with an expertise in children’s education. For the Spanish translations, she enlisted the help from native speakers and educators alike.

As a Spanish-language teaching tool for someone who is a native speaker or someone who is very familiar with the language, I think this book could be quite useful. It covers many of the basics from numbers, the alphabet, colors, shapes, parts of the body, days of the week, months of the year and so on. Quite handy to have in one book. Another thing I liked is that you can use dry erase markers on all the pages, so that makes it more interactive for your child.

On the other hand, if you’re not very familiar with the language, I’m afraid this book wouldn’t be as useful. Some of the words have the phonetic pronunciations included, but not the majority of them. I realize space was probably at a premium, but I would’ve liked to have seen this throughout the book. Additionally, some of the pages were very busy with the graphics and text. For example, the frequently used words page is quite confusing. Perhaps if the words had been organized in a table, it would've been easier to digest.  Also, with the Spanish vocabulary, I would have liked to have seen the definite articles used where applicable.

Overall, I think it would be fine for a teaching tool for those who are knowledgeable in the language. Personally, I probably will not use it with my younger child only because I prefer the immersion method as opposed to translation.

Where to go:
Cedar Valley Publishing:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Library of Classroom Practices

Every month I receive the newsletter from Annenberg Media which is always full of great links and resources for teachers. There is one resource that I particularly wanted to share with you - Teaching Foreign Languages K-12, A Library of Classroom Practices. annenbergFrom the website:

The Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 video library and professional development guide bring to life the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. Illustrating effective instruction and assessment strategies, the series documents 27 teachers and their students in K-12 classrooms around the country as they study eight languages across a range of competency levels.

The components of the library are the introduction, standards and the five Cs, assessment strategies, classroom programs, and a professional development guide. Spanish, Latin, German, Japanese, French, Chinese, Russian and Italian are the eight languages included in the library.

For example, here are the lessons for Spanish:

Creating Travel Advice
Food Facts and Stories
Fruits of the Americas
Hearing Authentic Voices
Interpreting Literature
Interpreting Picasso's Guernica
Politics of Art
Routes to Culture

Where to go:
Library of Classroom Practices:
Newsletter sign-up:


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Video: Why it pays to be multilingual

From the video page:

Professors from the foreign language and literatures department [California State University] explain the benefits of knowing more than one language, including understanding your own language better, being better off in the job market and just having fun.

My favorite quote: “When I travel in countries where I can speak the language, I have a key to the heart of other people.”

Thanks to Mandy Lindgren for tweeting about this video.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Podcast Spotlight: SSL4YOU

For a couple of years now I have been listening to SSL4YOU Español Segunda Lengua para Todos, hosted by Teresa Sánchez de Arriba, an English teacher in Zamora, Spain. The format is straightforward. She talks about a relevant topic and then afterwards explains some of the vocabulary words and phrases used—all in Spanish. ssl4u

In the beginning, I wondered why she was explaining simple vocabulary words at times, but then I really came to appreciate this. How useful it is to describe everyday words in the target language instead of instantly translating them into English.

For example in her latest podcast, Pedir Aumento de Sueldo en Tiempos de Crisis, one of the phrases is mantener la calma which is pretty easy to define—in English, but how about in Spanish? (She goes on to describe it by using the following phrases: estar tranquilo, no perder los nervios and no enfadarte.) 

I really feel like I get more out of this because she does stay in the target language rather than translating into English. In my opinion, listening to this podcast will truly enrich your vocabulary.

Where to find it:
Spanish with English translation with audio (click on titles)
Spanish only with audio
Subscribe to podcast with iTunes 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know this. I am a big fan of the television show Lost. I have been watching it since the first season. In addition to watching it, I also enjoy listening to the Jay and Jack’s Lost podcast for a recap, listener feedback and more.

I started thinking how neat it would be if there was something similar in Spanish to help with my listening comprehension. Just recently I found out that there is such a podcast called Extraviados run by two guys who simply like the show and decided to do a podcast. From their site:

Somos Vii y Camvoya. Nos gusta Lost. Se nos ocurrió hacer un podcast. Fin. Comentamos cada episodio y elucubramos teorías y conspiranoias. A nuestro aire, sin spoilers ni azúcares añadidos.

You can also subscribe to the podcasts through iTunes.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review: Foreign Language Friends

Foreign Language Friends is a web-based learning program geared towards young children and I’m pretty excited about it… no, actually I’m very excited about it. From the site:flf

Foreign Language Friends is a complete multimedia experience designed to help your children learn a foreign language easily and successfully. Through unique and entertaining activities, your children will discover their unique ability to learn a foreign language almost effortlessly. 

The theme-based program covers shapes, body parts, zoo animals, sea animals, family and more. (New themes are added on a regular basis.) With each theme there are seven activities such as Vocab Builder, Memory Match, Animation (completely in the target language) and several others finishing up with a printable booklet that can be used to reinforce the new vocabulary.

Even though your children could use the program independently, they recommend involving the entire family. I would as well. I think it’s very important to reinforce the language at home. For example, after doing the exercises for the shapes section, you and your children could go on a “shape hunt” in your house using the new vocabulary. (In fact, my head is buzzing with ideas for this.)

My six-year old was reluctant at first, as he is when it comes to almost anything that has to do with Spanish, but even this program hooked him. Yes, it did. His favorite parts are the matching game, the animation clip and the vocab builder activity. When I asked what he thought about Foreign Language Friends, he said enthusiastically, “I like it, I just like it!”

Monthly subscriptions are $9.95 a month or save and pay $99.95 for the year. But right now, Foreign Language Friends is offering a 7-day free trial for individuals and families so that you can try it out yourself. (For educational institutions, click here for information on pricing.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Added some new blogs

I’m not sure if you have noticed my blog list (lower left-hand side), but just in case, I thought I would point out some new ones that I have just added in the last week or so.
More Spanish – Lesson plans & technology for the Spanish classroom is written by Sherry Amorocho, a high school Spanish teacher. It’s fairly new, but looks very promising.
Spanglish Baby – Two Latina moms talking about raising their children bilingual.
¡Vámonos! is written by Lisa Stevens, a primary language teacher in the UK who is also quite a techie.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Twitter as a language learning tool

Really? Yes, I think so. For the last month or so I have started following more native Spanish speakers on Twitter and they have started following me. From meteorology to finances, I’m learning many new words and phrases while at the same time enjoying meeting people from Spain, Argentina, Mexico and other countries.twitter Also, the majority of them have blogs or web sites which you can read and learn even more Spanish. In general, the sites are listed in their profile.

If you want to give this a try, sign up with Twitter, follow me and then check out my followers and who I’m following. Another way is to visit TweetGrid and put in “learn Spanish” or other similar search terms to find people to follow.

Also, keep in mind that you will not always see “perfect” Spanish which is understandable because you’re only given 140 characters to express yourself per tweet. That’s quite challenging at times. You will sometimes see q, k, ke for que, dropped accents and punctuation marks and so on, so this wouldn’t be a good learning tool for beginners. On the flipside, you only have to worry about writing in Spanish in 140 or less characters. Not as much pressure, right?

Hope to see you soon on Twitter! 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pocoyó – Elly sobre hielo

Keywords and phrases: It’s all about helping in this video. :)

resbaladizo – slippery (0:10)
el hielo – ice (0:19)
patinar – to ice skate (0:26)
el patinador, la patinadora – ice skater (0:35)
ayudar – to help (1:58) – You’ll hear this word as well as ayuda throughout.
el pulpo – octupus (2:10)
la ballena – whale (2:25)
¡Inténtalo! – Try it! (3:40)
echarle una mano – to give somebody a hand (4:11)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Childtopia: Online games and more for children

Quick post to share with you this site that I ran across thanks to the Ñandu email list. The site is called Childtopia and is available in Spanish, French, Catalan, Basque and English. You’ll find the following activities:


I can’t wait to explore it more!