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Best learn Spanish online courses 2021

Best learn Spanish online courses 2021
(Image credit: ShutterStock)

We’ve tested and ranked the best learn Spanish online courses for 2021, so you can find the right app or website for your learning style. From visually-focused courses to completely free apps, there’s a pick below for everyone.

When we were assessing the courses, we evaluated them for things like ease of use, learning styles and accuracy in tracking tools. Rosetta Stone came out top in all these fields, providing courses that are appropriate for a range of learning styles and an easy method for viewing your progress. It’s not perfect - the TruAccent AI could do with some work - but we still rank it as the best learn Spanish online course that you can currently get.

Editor's Choice: Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone has all the lesson content and learning tools we look for. You can learn Spanish vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and writing skills quickly with its immersive learning method.VIEW DEAL ON Rosetta Stone

In terms of accessibility, most of our picks allow you to access Spanish lessons via an app or through a dedicated website. Using the desktop version can make it easier to match images with words, if you struggle with the smaller visuals on a phone, and in general we found that there was plenty of content on both types of platforms.

As a general rule, a lot of these are best-suited to beginners (although we’ve outlined where this isn’t the case.) If you’re an advanced speaker, you might be better off using one of the best online tutoring services, which would allow you to get live feedback on your accent. And if you’re looking to improve in other languages, we recommend you check out our guide to the best learn French online apps and websites as well.


1. Rosetta Stone: Best learn Spanish online course overall

Rosetta Stone: Best learn Spanish online course overall

(Image credit: Rosetta Stone)

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone helps users learn Spanish more quickly and effectively

Formats: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: 3 days | Offline lessons: Yes

Easy to use
Great companion mobile app
Business and educator subscription options
Live tutoring costs extra
Problems with voice recognition

Rosetta Stone has helpful lessons for auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners alike. The lessons are broken into manageable chunks, and you can customize your curriculum to learn only the topics you want.

Rosetta Stone’s phrasebook has a good selection of greetings, expressions and phrases that can help you quickly master a particular task, such as asking for directions.

This software uses immersive teaching techniques to speed the learning process. The lessons don’t have English subtitles or instructions. Instead, every word on the screen is in Spanish, which forces your brain to associate new vocabulary with images, rather than words from English. Our reviewers found this method helped them learn words and phrases faster than the techniques used by other Spanish language software we reviewed.

The Rosetta Stone mobile app has all same functionality as the online application and can track your progress as you continue down the path to fluency en Español. The mobile and online applications track your progress and sync with each other, so you can start a lesson on your home computer and pick up where you left off on your phone during your lunch break.

Your Rosetta Stone subscription also includes downloadable lessons. When you download the files to your phone or other mobile device, you can continue your lesson plan without needing a Wi-Fi signal or using cellular data.


2. Duolingo: Best value Spanish learning software

Duolingo: Best learn Spanish online option that's completely free

(Image credit: Duolingo)

Duolingo

Duolingo is a superb free option for learning any language

Format: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: Duolingo Plus has 14 day trial | Offline learning: No

Free
Easy-to-use mobile and desktop interface
Fun, game-style learning
Notifications can be annoying

Duolingo’s fun, innovative platform has language lessons that are appropriate for younger and older students alike. It’s easy to navigate and divides lessons into manageable chunks, so you can learn during short breaks at home, work or school.

The desktop and mobile apps track your progress through the lesson plan and give instant feedback about your incorrect answers. They also provide suggestions on how to improve in areas you struggle.

Duolingo has most of the teaching tools and tracking features we look for in Spanish language software and is completely free, which is why it’s our best value pick. Many other free programs come bundled with adware and other malicious software. However, Duolingo is an online service and doesn’t require you to download anything, so we didn’t have those problems when we tested it.

If you need extra motivation, Duolingo has you covered. It sends fun notifications on a regular basis and also tracks how many days in a row you’ve logged into the program to complete exercises. It rewards you for your diligence with Lingots, the Duolingo currency you can use to buy timed practices and other bonus skills.


3. Rocket Languages: Best for audio learning

Rocket Languages: Best learn Spanish online course for audio learning

(Image credit: Rocket Languages)

Rocket Languages

A superb audio course for Spanish learners

Format: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: 60 day moneyback promise | Offline learning: No

Loads of audio lessons
Perfect for beginners
Generous 60-day moneyback guarantee
Some issues with the app
Free version is very limited

Rocket Languages is a primarily audio-based course, and we've found it to be hugely effective when learning any language. It's split into three parts: the first couple of parts are all about learning the language, and they're done via a story that you listen to and then answer questions on. It brings the often dry subject of language learning to life, and is great for anyone who loves listening as their preferred method of absorbing information. Like a podcast, audiobook, or just a music playlist? Rocket should work nicely for you.

The third part of Rocket's learning method is the 'Survival Kit', which offers phrases and information around certain scenarios that you might encounter while travelling or dealing with people in your chosen language. So, there are kits for shopping in a foreign country, or business meetings - things like that. They're very useful tools.

One thing we don't like about Rocket is how much it repeats itself. While repetition is a part of learning, it happens a little too much here. The cost is another issue, but this is no more expensive than competitors like Rosetta Stone, so it is fairly priced.


4. Mondly: Best for travel and phrases

Mondly: Best learn Spanish online course for travel phrases

(Image credit: Mondly)

Mondly

Need to know select language and phrases for vacation and work? Try Mondly

Formats: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: First 6 lessons | Offline learning: No

Very easy to use
Good prices
Mixes visual and audio learning
Too simple for advanced users

Mondly is a well designed, very modern language app, which is available on both smart devices and web browsers. If you're in need of some basic phrases, or a broad grasp of the Spanish language for a vacation or business trip, this is a superb option. It has a gentle learning curve, a useful structure that breaks down learning into subject areas, and everything is very visually pleasing and simple to navigate.

We like the mix of visual and audio cues for each lesson, and the fact that there is an attempt to incentivize and gamify learning - there are star ratings per lesson, leaderboards, and daily challenges. It all helps to keep to coming back to learn. You can share your profile across the phone app and the web version, so it doesn't matter what device you choose to learn on, at any given time.

Pricing is good too, as the cost per month and per year is pretty reasonable - it's cheaper than many other providers on this list. The downside, though, is that it isn't as suitable for mid-level and advanced learners, as it focuses mostly on vocabulary and phrases. If you're looking for context, structure, and grammar then Mondly falls behind some of its competitors.

Overall, though, we really enjoyed using this app, so would heartily recommend it to anyone who just wants a beginner's knowledge of language.


5. News In Slow Spanish: Best for intermediate learners

News In Slow Spanish: Best learn Spanish online option for intermediate speakers

(Image credit: News In Slow)

News In Slow Spanish

An audio-based course that does... exactly what you'd expect

Formats: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: Limited free access | Offline learning: No

Very effective method
Perfect for intermediates
Topical learning
Expensive
App isn't great

We like News In Slow Spanish. What it does, it does very well indeed: it reads you various news reports, in Spanish, only slowed down so you have a better chance of picking out words. It then invites you to pick out phrases or vocab from the news report, and tests you on them. There is an audio transcript of each report, and you can choose to translate certain elements of this if you need help with understanding it.

We recommend this one for intermediate users because the course is all in Spanish, and you need a basic grasp of the language to take part. There is a beginner option, but we found it very challenging, so required a lot of persistence. There is a massive amount of content to choose from with this course so, even though it's expensive, you do get value for money. It's effective too, and the fact that the news reports cover real topics means that you learn loads about modern Spanish culture too.

If you're worried this is too advanced for you, we suggest pairing it with Duolingo to help you get a better grasp of the language first, for free, before launching into News In Slow.


6. Fluenz: Best Spanish learning software for travel

Fluenz: Best learn Spanish online option for travel

(Image credit: Fluenz)

Fluenz Spanish

If you're learning Spanish for a trip, Fluenz is your best choice

Formats: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: None | Offline learning: Yes

Great topical exercises
Attractive, easy-to-navigate interface
Expensive
Lessons move slowly

Fluenz’s unique approach teaches foundational language concepts, such as grammar and pronunciation, using real-world travel situations and by instructing you on how to converse and engage with locals. Its interface looks great and includes virtual face-to-face instruction from Sonia Gil, one of the company’s founders.

This is one of the few programs we tested that can still be purchased outright and permanently installed on your computer, so you don’t need access to the internet to take lessons once they’re downloaded. The lessons are also available on the mobile app for Android and Apple devices.

This Spanish language software is marketed and designed to teach teenagers and adults, so it doesn’t have games or give flashy accolades for completing lessons. Instead, Fluenz aims to connect the Spanish language to culturally significant events and real-world conversational situations.

During testing, our reviewers found Fluenz has a good combination of auditory and visual lessons. There aren’t as many speech-recognition exercises as in some of the other programs we tested, but the ones it includes let you record your voice as half of a conversation that might happen at a restaurant or in a taxi. You can then play the conversation back and compare your accent to that of a native speaker.


7. Pimsleur: An academicly-grounded way of learning

Pimsleur: Best learn Spanish online option for academics

(Image credit: Pimsleur)

Pimsleur

A tried and tested method for those with a more academic leaning

Formats: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: Free lesson | Offline learning: Yes

Immersion learning focuses on conversations
Emphasis on core vocabulary
Little visual content
Can take a long time to learn

If you learn best by listening, Pimsleur is the best option for you. This program was developed by linguists and uses immersion learning to teach you conversational Spanish. Each lesson focuses on a conversation, with the instructor guiding you through each word and phrase used in the dialogue. This familiarizes you with day-to-day conversations, and as you progress, you should learn to anticipate and recall the correct responses. Pimsleur is mostly an audio program, so if you’re a visual learner or like learning games, this may not be the software for you. 

You purchase Pimsleur outright rather subscribe to it –there's an upfront cost but there are no ongoing expenses.


8. Living Language: Best Spanish learning software for visual learners

Living Language: Best learn Spanish online course for visual learners

(Image credit: Living Languages)

Living Language

The best Spanish learning software for visual learning types

Formats: Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Free trial: Free lesson | Offline learning: No

Flashcard exercises help you learn and recall vocabulary
Affordable
Audio learning tools aren’t as good as those in other programs
Less interactive

If you’re more into visual learning, Living Language is the best option for you because it has a variety of games and activities that help you learn Spanish.

We especially liked the sentence builder activity that gives you an English sentence and a jumble of Spanish words necessary to make the proper translation. In addition, it has flashcard exercises to help you learn vocabulary. There’s a downside to this style of visual learning, though – it may make you associate a Spanish word with an English word, rather than help you to use its Spanish meaning. Also, its audio learning tools aren’t as comprehensive as those in other programs. 


9. Spanish Uncovered: Learning with a personal touch

Spanish Uncovered: Best learn Spanish online course with a personal touch

(Image credit: Olly Richards)

Spanish Uncovered

The brainchild of Olly Richards, and a very personal course to boot

Formats: Windows PC and Macs | Free trial: None | Offline learning: Yes

The method works well
Nice personal lessons
No free trial
The website looks like a scam

Spanish Uncovered is designed and taught by Olly Richards, who is famous for a variety of self-help and learning books. He himself claims to be fluent in eight languages, and you can see his personality all over the Spanish Uncovered course. It's a total immersion course, like Rosetta Stone, and it blends both audio and text to take you from beginner to complete fluency.

We like the personality Richards brings to this course, even if the website it's hosted on - with numerous overbearing assurances from the man himself - does feel like the front for a 'get rich quick' scheme. You'd be forgiven for being put off by the hard sell. But don't be, because underneath it lies a genuinely good Spanish course that is proven to get great results.

Beware the odd pricing structure too: there's a bronze tier which starts at $297, and that jumps straight to Gold, which is over $1000. There's no free trial period either (just a moneyback guarantee) so think really hard before signing up.


Is Spanish easy to learn?

This really depends on your mother tongue, but if you’re a native English speaker you might find Spanish has some surprisingly similar features to your own language. As it’s a Latin-based language, there are some words that have the same spelling and meaning in English (like 'elemental' and 'fatal') but are pronounced slightly differently.

That said, there are a few grammar quirks to this language. Much like French, Spanish has a complicated set of rules when it comes to its grammar, with lots of different verb tenses. However, you should at least find it easy to find someone to practice this language with - it’s the fourth most widely spoken language in the world.

Which is better, classroom courses or e-learning? 

We interviewed Shannon Kennedy, a language encourager for Fluent in 3 Months, about the primary advantages of using software to learn a language instead of face-to-face instruction. She told us e-learning affords you the ability to work at your own pace without the need to coordinate two calendars to arrange a lesson or meetup. “With face-to-face instruction, there's the pressure of responding quickly. But with software, you have a little more time to reflect and respond.” 

One disadvantage of e-learning compared to classroom instruction is the need to be self-motivated. Learning Spanish for business travel comes with important motivating factors, like avoiding awkward conversations with important colleagues, but it also requires you to learn specific topics quickly. We asked Shannon which features of learning software make it easier to learn quick and conversational topics for business travel. She didn’t single out one specific topic but suggested, “Lots of repetition, but done in a way that isn’t boring.” The best Spanish learning programs we tested allow you to skip around in a curriculum to focus on the topics you use most for business travel, and once you identify the most important topics, you use timed game-style exercises to attain conversational fluency.

How much does Spanish learning online cost? 

Spanish learning programs and courses cost anywhere from free to nearly $150 for a one-year subscription. If you want to own and download software, or pay for the cost of a full language-learning course, this can cost as little as $40 all the way up to $200. Most of these programs have mobile apps that don’t cost extra, though some of the downloadable programs don’t have accompanying apps. 

Important things to consider when choosing the best learn Spanish online course 

Ease of use

Learning a foreign language is frustrating when it’s difficult to access lessons or the software crashes frequently. We graded each program we tested based on how easy it was to download and install, as well as how easy the software made it to find and continue lessons. The best programs we tested are easy to login into or download and have clearly laid out learning paths.

Purchasing options

After testing all the programs, we believe it’s best to purchase language learning software as an online subscription. Online programs don’t download to your computer, and you can subscribe for a short or long period of time, based on your needs.

However, you can also purchase some programs outright. These applications are installed on your computer from a downloaded app from a trusted retailer or the manufacturer. This type of program is a good option if you want to share learning software with other members of your family or if you know it will take you quite a while to reach your fluency goal.

Mobile app

Programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo have companion apps that allow you to learn on the go. The mobile apps look a bit different than their desktop applications, but manufacturers update app content more frequently, and you can take lessons in them during your spare time.

Some of the programs we tested, like Fluenz, allow you to download flashcards or lessons to your mobile device via their app. That way, you can practice without using Wi-Fi or cellular data.

Smart speaker Spanish lessons

Alexa and Google Assistant can’t compete with the best Spanish learning software we tested, but using a smart speaker to practice speaking and listening is a good way to supplement a comprehensive curriculum. Our favorite Spanish learning software, Rosetta Stone, has a free Alexa skill with a limited selection of topics including greetings, food and drink, and directions. Here are a couple options for Alexa and Google Assistant smart speakers.

Busuu
This language learning program is the best option for smart speakers that use the Google Assistant. Google-compatible smart speakers don’t require you to download or enable skills like the Alexa smart speakers. Simply ask Google Assistant to “Talk to busuu” or “Ask busuu about learning Spanish,” and the speaker walks you through the introductory process. The course has a good selection of audio flashcards that cover popular topics like introducing yourself and saying hello, but not enough to make you conversationally fluent at the end of the lesson plan.

SayHi
This language learning app for smart speakers is available for Alexa and Google devices. It contains dynamic content, so the developers are constantly learning from users and upgrading the app. There are three free lessons that focus on comprehension and popular conversational topics. The lessons are all less than 20 minutes, so if you want to brush up on some beginner-level topics without staring at a screen, enable the skill and ask Alexa to “Open SayHi” or continue a lesson by saying “Alexa, tell SayHi to resume my lesson.”

Learning Spanish by watching TV

It would be lovely to think that you could simply switch on Money Heist and a few seasons later become fluent in this Romantic language. While it’s not quite that simple, some studies show that watching tv in a foreign language can really speed up the learning process. 

Not convinced? We’ve pulled together a guide on how watching TV can improve your language skills, with expert tips from experienced teachers. Their top advice is to play around with subtitles, find an episode length that suits you, and to pick genres like cookery shows to improve your vocabulary in a specific area.