Henning lived for several years in El Salvador, working as a teacher. He is Co-Founder of the SAY ZONTE! project. Writing for this blog is his way to give s.th. back to “el pulgarcito.”
3 powerful reasons why learning Spanish online for free doesn’t work!
We often have students that started learning Spanish online, with some Apps, specific webpages, or maybe also with a teacher in video conferences.
But as SAY ZONTE!, we don’t think that this is a good idea to learn Spanish efficiently!
At least you should get the whole picture first before spending money for an online Spanish course or even learning Spanish online for free, with an App, for example..
In this article, I would like to give you my opinion and some advice about learning Spanish online.
But first, I want to give you a quick overview of the pros and cons of learning Spanish online:
The Pros and Cons of learning Spanish online
Because you don’t have any travel costs learning Spanish online might save you some money!
Learning Spanish online means, you’re not limited to any schedule in a school or academy.
There’s no need to travel if you learn Spanish online with an App.
Real communication is different!
Learning Spanish online with an App means that you won’t develop essential communication skills.
An App doesn't adapt to your needs!
No matter what app you’re using: Only an experienced real-life teacher finds out where you need to improve your Spanish and adapt the classes.
Learning Spanish is more that grammar and vocabulary!
If you learn Spanish, you want to be immersed in a different culture and get to know real-life people! No app can, and no online-class can substitute that!
Learning Spanish online for free:
Are personal classes dead?
Well, learning Spanish online completely might work for some people, but in general, I think online Spanish classes can’t substitute one-to-one lessons with a teacher that sits right in front of you.
Of course, we, as SAY ZONTE! realized that because of digitalization, almost everything is accessible at any time, wherever you are.
You can choose from a large variety of providers of free online Spanish classes that are well structured and professionally designed.
Also, you can study your vocabulary and grammar with some professional and useful Spanish learning apps that are more or less motivational.
And, to mention another argument why “live” Spanish classes might be dead soon: You can also save a lot of money! There seems to be no need to travel around the world and learn Spanish, spending your money on food and accommodation – and the lessons, of course.
BUT: Still, there’re some big mistakes in thinking like that.
Personal Spanish classes: The beginning of a real learning process
Learning Spanish online can’t substitute the experiences that you make with a private teacher that sits right in front of you! Why? Well, there’re several reasons:
1. Online communication is different
Communication online can’t substitute a personal conversation. An experienced teacher can see and feel when you don’t feel comfortable.
She or he will be able to notice when you’re tired if you can’t concentrate or if you didn’t understand certain things.
All the micro-expressions and movements you do when you feel uncomfortable (or well) are getting lost in our digital world if you learn Spanish online.
An excellent Spanish teacher always adapts his methods and the content of his lessons to your personal needs that might change each day.
And no Spanish learning app can substitute a personal connection between a teacher and a student.
2. Learning Spanish is more than grammar and vocabulary
Another critical point is that no online Spanish class or App can substitute the experiences you make while you’re traveling to a Spanish speaking country.
You always have a motivation why you learn Spanish at all: travel, your job, you’re a language nerd, you felt lost last time when you were in a Spanish speaking country and many other reasons.
But the motivation to learn Spanish is always more significant when interacting with people (and your teacher). There’s a real need to communicate!
Learn Spanish online can’t substitute real-world interaction! And that should be the main idea of learning Spanish (and any other language).
You learn more during a real (Spanish) conversation while you’re traveling than in any other Spanish class. The things you’ve learned in your Spanish lessons must be practiced and as realistic as often as possible!
And by the way: You always get to know a different culture learning Spanish in a Spanish speaking country. No online class and no app to learn Spanish can substitute that!
3. Learning Spanish online doesn’t necessarily make you SPEAK Spanish!
In my humble opinion, that’s the reason why personal Spanish lessons in a Spanish speaking country are indispensable for most people.
We’ve often made the experience that some students show some decent knowledge in our placement tests, but they are not able to have a simple conversation at all.
They struggle to have a daily conversation and feel uncomfortable because of all the mistakes they might make.
If you have a good personal connection with your teacher, your Spanish will soon become more fluent.
During a private Spanish class, there’s no distraction at all. It’s just you and your teacher. A well-trained Spanish teacher lets you speak as often as possible to let you practice your Spanish!
Plus: Before and after your class, your Spanish learning progress keeps going if you want to. Order your beer in Spanish, go to the beach and have a conversation with the local fisherman, take a surf class in Spanish, and so on!
Have you ever tried that online?
The more you invest, the more you get!
Well, at least that’s a pearl of elementary but true wisdom. If you spend money to learn Spanish, there’s some certain pressure from yourself that you do your best to make to most of the money that you invested.
Yes, you have to spend money on a plane ticket, accommodation and food – and personal Spanish classes, of course. And it’s so different from sitting at home alone (or in a video conference).
You decided to spend more time and money to learn Spanish. We often see our students so motivated to learn Spanish and to make significant progress in only 10 hours! I believe that also because they want to learn Spanish seriously – no matter if there are more significant expenses.
In the end, they learned way more than in the same amount of online lessons.
Conclusion: Learn Spanish online?
Yes or no?
I don’t want to say that learning Spanish online for free or with certain apps, video conferences and webpages are not right. It is – for some people – and we do offer Spanish classes online and also an online learning platform!
Learning Spanish online with Apps or specific webpages (like duolingo.com, for example) may complete and practice your Spanish grammar and vocabulary – but you won’t improve your spoken Spanish.
Besides that, no one would be able to correct your pronunciation.
My recommendation is the following: If you need to practice a specific topic of Spanish grammar and if you’re an experienced advanced Spanish speaker, you might consider taking online classes or learn Spanish with particular webpages (or books).
For any other person (and that’s 95% of the people who would like to learn Spanish), I recommend taking at least 10-20 hours of private Spanish lessons in a Spanish speaking country.
Also, I think it’s a good idea for advanced speakers to take some private lessons from time to time. It’s good to get some structure into your grammar and to check your spoken and written Spanish also.
It always depends on what you want and what’s your motivation to learn Spanish online or with a real teacher sitting in front of you. But I genuinely believe that even in the year 2050, there won’t be a perfect substitute for a personal Spanish class in a Spanish speaking country.
If you’re interested in Spanish online lessons, please dont’ hestitate to contact us. We offer classes in El Zonte and also online.
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