One of my personal business policies centres around accessibility because I believe all education should be free. My bills, however, demand to be paid. As a compromise I try to give my students as many tools as possible to take control of and supplement their own learning. Especially free materials that I personally use! Here are my favourite free resources and what they’re good for. Many have or are accessible through phone apps which make them entirely portable so students can study on the beach, on the train, or before they go to bed!
1. QuizletI’m a huge fan of flashcards, but they’re often clunky, messy, and can get wet or lost. Quizlet, a digital flashcard platform, gives you all of the convenience of flashcards and more with none of the pitfalls. You can choose the language of each side of the flashcard and use them for conjugation drills, vocabulary, etc. When you flip through the cards, you have the option of having them read to you so you can practice your pronunciation as well. For each set of “cards” you can choose from a few different study methods. As you go through the activities, the platform lets you know which cards you’re struggling with and give you the option of “starring” ones you feel you need to study more. You can create your own or searching for sets and copy them to have them in your own folders. Study on your computer or on your phone with the Quizlet app so you can study wherever, no excuses. The best part is the platform is pretty intuitive, so people who struggle with new technology, myself included, can find their way around pretty quickly!
2. PinterestPinterest is a digital cork board website where users can “pin” photos, links, and other media to “boards.” Sometimes when I’m on Pinterest, I get so lost in the recipes, pretty home decoration ideas, and travel photos, that I forget it has strong educational value. It’s a great source of ideas for a teacher, but it also gives students access to the very resources we often use in our classrooms and so much more. I’m talking about charts, infographics, Youtube videos, songs, you name it. Simply type what you’re looking to study like “The Subjunctive in Spanish” or “Spanish regular verbs” and if you stumble upon something that seems useful pin it for further study! I use Pinterest to pin local information on Cabarete in a visual way, but also update a Student Resources board as I find pins that I really love. And since the platform is available for phones, its also portable!
3. iVoox & Apple’s Podcast AppiVoox is a podcast platform on iPhones, Android phones, and PC that focuses on podcasts in Spanish—on everything from politics, culture, meditation, health and beauty—in a variety of accents! Most of the podcasts are for intermediate to advanced students but there are also some for learning Spanish (though they tend to be also in Spanish). For intermediate to advanced students that enjoy political and cultural podcasts I recommend Radio Ambulante and News in Slow Spanish. News in Slow Spanish even allows you to choose either Spain or Latino Spanish. For bedtime stories, “Cuentos Para Irse a Dormir” is an adorable podcast of a father and child retelling some of my favourite childhood stories! For beginners, try “Accelerated Spanish: Learn Spanish Online the Fast Way,” “Learn Spanish: Notes in Spanish Inspired Beginners,” and “Podcast Spanish class- beginners (Dublin). The iPhone’s Podcast App, in my opinion has less options for Spanish language podcasts than iVoox, though Radio Ambulante and News in Slow Spanish are also available on this platform. But I did find that it had more options for free podcasts to Learn Spanish. Simply type learn Spanish into the App’s search bar and pull up hundreds of podcasts designed to help students learn Spanish in both Spanish and English.
4. Word ReferenceWordreference.com is one of my favourite Spanish to English dictionaries (it actually functions for many languages, too-I first came across it in high school when I was learning Italian!). I preach it religiously to my students who I warn away from using Google Translate just as religiously. Wordreference has a few functions that make it a powerful, free tool for Spanish learners. The Spanish to English dictionary boasts an impressive amount of nuanced entries, and country codes (so you can see in which countries certain terms are used). If a word or verb has multiple meanings, this is the best place to look! It provides principal translations, additional translations, and even compound forms that help you find colloquial and idiomatic expressions! Can’t find the phrase you’re looking for? The forums on this website are amazing, with hispanohablantes chiming in to help non-native speakers find the perfect way to express themselves. The second best part is the conjugator. Plug a verb in and see all of the conjugations in all of the tense forms! It even highlights irregular forms in blue. A perfect platform to verify definitions and conjugations when you’re making your Quizlet flashcard and it also has a phone app.
5. Así Hablamos, Tu Babel, & Urban DictionaryAs most students can attest, learning Spanish in a classroom is only half of the battle, being able to apply that knowledge in the outside world is the other more difficult battle. So as soon as they’re able most of my students start asking for playlists, TED talks, or movies/shows to watch on Netflix to better their listening comprehension while engaging in activities they already enjoy. But more often than not, it also leads to a score of questions about slang and colloquialism that due to regional differences in Spanish, I can’t always answer (Ask 100 latinos from all over the Spanish-speaking world how they say what’s up in their community and you’ll get 100 different answers). Así Hablamos, Tu Babel, and Urban Dictionary are three online platforms that help you find the meanings to popular slang words. Así Hablamos and Tu Babel even have a search by region option making it easy to learn the slang of a particular country.
6. Me & Una Vaina Bien SpanishAnd last but not least, me! I offer a lot of infographics you can download straight to your phone both here on the website and on the UVB Facebook Page! What are some of your favourite free study aids and podcasts? Let me know in the comments below!
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