When I moved to Mexico in 2013, I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. Back in the U.K., French is taught as the standard second language. But today, I’m more or less fluent in Spanish. Much of that success is down to smartphone apps.
If you’re looking for the best apps to learn Spanish, keep reading. I’m going to introduce you to eight Spanish language apps that helped me.
Let’s begin with some teaching apps. There are two mainstream apps worth considering, as well as an Android-only app I can personally vouch for.
Duolingo is arguably the most well-known app for learning a foreign language. Each lesson is customized to suit your native tongue. From a Spanish-speaking standpoint, it offers Spanish for English speakers, French speakers, German speakers, Russian speakers, and more.
Duolingo is excellent if you want to learn grammar. Remember, grammar is the backbone of every language; if you understand the syntax, you’ll be well on your way to success.
The Spanish courses cover the most common tenses, as well as more complicated constructions and grammatical moods like the conditional and subjunctive.
For $7 per month, you can upgrade to Duolingo Plus. It lets you download lessons for offline use and strips out the ads.
There’s a counterargument to spending too much time learning grammatical rules. Some experts suggest it’s not as efficient; after all, we don’t spend hours studying grammar rules when we first learn languages as children.
Instead, some argue it’s better to focus on expanding your vocabulary and using it in context—that’s more akin to how children learn.
Memrise is much better than Duolingo when it comes to vocab. It uses a flashcard approach, along with heavy repetition to drill the words into your brain.
Importantly, Memrise also accommodates for regional variances. Much like there are subtle but significant differences between U.S. English and British English, so too are there differences between Mexican Spanish and Iberian Spanish.
Finally, Memrise offers a bevy of user-created Spanish courses, meaning you’ll never run out of new material even once you’ve completed Memrise’s official courses.
3. Spanish Verb Trainer
Spanish has a dizzying number of verb endings. Of course, you must know all the usual indicative tenses, but there’s also a separate set of endings for their subjunctive and imperative counterparts, as well as the conditional. And let’s not mention irregular verbs.
Spanish Verb Trainer uses the same flashcard approach as Memrise; however, instead of focusing on general vocab, it exclusively teaches you verb endings. Ignore the less-than-impressive visuals—this is a great learning aid.
This app is only available on Android, but it seems like Spanish Verbs Trainer on iOS provides a similar experience.
Download: Spanish Verb Trainer for Android (Free)
There are times when you need to look up a new word, check the conjugation for a little-used tense, or read grammatical rules about a language. In those instances, it’s useful to keep a few references app on your phone.
There are three apps that I used all the time. If you know about other high-quality options, let us know in the comments at the end.
If you’ve already been learning Spanish for a while, you’ve probably come across the SpanishDict website. It’s one of the best resources for looking up words and grammatical information.
But did you know the company also makes a free smartphone app? It has a dictionary, translator, tense conjugations, and a Word of the Day.
5. Spanish Verbs
As a native English speaker, the most challenging aspect of learning many Western languages is the verb endings. Ultimately, verbs can sometimes catch out even experienced speakers, so keeping a verb app on your phone is wise.
Spanish Verbs offers 18 different verb forms. It is based on the work of renowned Spanish professor Fred Jehle.
This app is only available on Android. If you use iOS, check out Learn Spanish Verb Conjugation.
Download: Spanish Verbs for Android (Free)
Anki is a bit different from all the other apps on this list, as you need to enter your own content. At the most basic level, you can use the app to generate custom flashcards to learn and reinforce new material.
However, you’ll quickly realize that if you create a master list and use the tags correctly, you can create a vast database of learning material useful for both reference and educational purposes.
Anki also has a desktop app that’ll sync with your smartphone. We recommend using the desktop app to create and manage your master list; it is less fiddly than the mobile apps.
It’s widely accepted that the best way to learn a language is to use the immersion technique.
Language immersion means you should surround yourself with as much of your target language as possible throughout the day. This is much more effective than merely focusing on it for an hour and then not thinking about it again until the following learning session.
Understandably, smartphones have become one of the best ways to assist in language immersion.
7. BBC Mundo
BBC Mundo is part of the BBC’s foreign language output. It has been active (under different names) since 1938, so there’s no risk of the service going away anytime soon. Today, the website is the central focus of BBC Mundo’s offering, though it still produces a fair amount of video content.
The BBC offers a BBC Mundo smartphone app. Its design exactly mirrors that of the main BBC News app, and you can also use it to watch the service’s Spanish-language video content.
Because many of the same stories are covered on the English and Spanish-language apps, you can flick between the two to help understand how the two languages tackle the same content in different ways.
BBC Mundo also has a heavier focus on Latin American news, providing you with an opportunity for cultural learning alongside your language learning.
8. News in Slow Spanish
News in Slow Spanish is one of the best apps to use to develop your listening skills. The app features a weekly episode rounding up the news in Latin America. The content is released in two versions—one for intermediates and one for advanced learners.
Each episode is divided into four news segments. The news is then followed by a discussion around a particular grammar topic, and concludes with an analysis of a specific expression. All the segments provide opportunities for interactive speaking exercises and listening tests. The app offers transcripts of each episode so you can review what you heard at a later date.
Two Spanish courses are available: Latin Spanish and Iberian Spanish. Subscriptions aren’t cheap; plans start at $16 per month. However, if you’re serious about learning Spanish, it’s a great investment.
The app also includes some free content. Typically, it’s just the first news segment from each episode.
Don’t Overlook the Obvious!
When you’re searching for the best apps to learn Spanish, it’s easy to overlook some of the most obvious tools you have at your disposal.
For example, Spotify is packed with Spanish-language music and podcasts. There are millions of Spanish Twitter accounts (often, your favorite sports team will maintain a Spanish-language Twitter profile), and YouTube is its usual trove of content.
If you’d like even more ways to learn Spanish, make sure you check out how to learn a foreign language in five minutes per day and some unusual ways to learn a foreign language, too.