English is the most commonly learned second language all over the world, which is great news if you’re an American — it means we don’t have to work as hard when traveling. But some people still think there are a number of restrictions in place when trying to navigate another culture, and that learning a little bit of the native tongue would lift a few of them. So what’s the best way to learn a little Spanish before taking a mountain biking trip to Spain?
Our favorite is Duolingo, by far.
The language-learning app’s best feature is that it’s completely free. Nowadays there is a paid version for those who would like to avoid pop-up ads at the end of each lesson, but the ads really are not all that bothersome.
Duolingo teaches many languages, including romance languages like French, Spanish, or Italian; Germanic languages like Norwegian or German; Asian languages like Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, or Japanese; and even Middle Eastern languages like hebrew or arabic. Believe it or not, you can even learn High Valyrian from Game of Thrones, or Klingon from Star Trek. The app is even rolling out a latin course soon.
You don’t need a smartphone to start, either. You can learn on your computer by heading to www.duolingo.com.
Duolingo offers dozens of lessons per language, and helps you learn them by making the process addictive: you earn points for each lesson completed, and there’s even a little owl mascot cheering you on. You earn even more points for opening the app on consecutive days.
Lessons can be intimidating at first, but they grow on you quickly. In each lesson you’ll learn a bit of vocabulary and grammar. Once you “pass” a lesson, you’ll have the option to start learning the next unlocked lesson or complete harder exercises in the previous one.
There are other apps like “babel” that offer a more classroom-like setting with, what critics say, are more useful lessons with Spanish vocabulary you’ll actually use, but unfortunately the classroom approach is outdated and most people don’t stick with it — because it doesn’t work. Duolingo is more likely to keep you coming back for more, because it really does make you feel like you’re making quick progress day by day. That’s why it works better.
That progress adds layer upon layer, and soon you’ll be able to understand rudimentary Spanish. If you’re trying to plan a trip to Spain, then why not give it a try? If you want to learn even more, try to complement it with online conversations with actual native Spanish speakers!