Tools to learn Spanish – Learning Spanish with the BBC

When learning a language, we not only deal with our lessons, grammar exercises or lists of vocabulary. One of the things I tell my students is that they have to read, watch or listen to Spanish media. In the Internet age we have plenty of material that can help us learning Spanish in a fun way: we can listen to the radio while cooking, we can read newspapers articles during the break at job and listen to music while surfing the Internet.

The idea for this column is to do a review of the different sites and resources we can use to improve our Spanish. So, here it comes the first one!

1. Learning Spanish with the BBC

The BBC gives us the opportunity to learn Spanish through a lot of useful tools. Note that not all of them are available outside the UK, but most of them are.

You have a Guide to Spanish, where you can learn important facts about the Spanish language around the world. For example: did you know that Spanish is spoken in Africa, in Equatorial Guinea? Or that the Ñ in “España” comes from a small “n” that scribes in medieval ages wrote above a bigger “n” when a word had “nn”?

So, you can find different tips and facts, but the most important and the one that gets our attention here is the video drama, “Mi vida loca”.

“Mi vida loca” is, as described in the site, “an interactive video drama and Spanish course. Mi Vida Loca takes you on an intrigue mystery adventure to Madrid and beyond in 22 episodes, ca 10 min each, covering basic learning points for Spanish absolute beginners. A learning section complements each episode.”

In the first episode you arrive to Madrid to visit your friend Teresa, but… well, it’s better if you watch the complete episode. You’ll learn how to greet someone, how to say where you go in the taxi…

The difference with other videos teaching Spanish is that you have an assistant that will explain the language and the communicative elements present in each episode. The key words, phrases and grammar points will be explained in each episode in the “Learning Section” and the students are encouraged to practice with the different characters they find through the action.

Of course, you also have a printable transcription, and students completing the course will get a certificate.

Why do I like it?

Because is short, fun and simple. You’ll watch people speaking real Spanish at their own speed, but you won’t get lost. The subtitles and the talking phrasebook will help you understand what you’re watching. And, you can always stop and go back if you want to watch again.

Would I recommend it?

Sure! I’m planning to add this course to my regular lessons, so students can practice after the lessons and learn more vocabulary. We teachers also have a lot of tips about how to use “Mi vida loca” with our students.

2. Practicing your Spanish with Lyrics Training

This site follows the classical activity of filling the blanks with the word you hear. You have a lot of languages to choose, and different levels. When opening the site today, it highlights a song in Portuguese (Brasil variety) and Easy Level.

If we choose Spanish, we will find a lot of different songs, and with different accents. You can find Shakira, Pitbull, or El Canto del Loco. Spanish from Colombia, Argentina, Mexico or Spain. And as you may guess, the objective is to get as many points as you can.

Once you select your song, the video will start and then you have to choose one of the three game modes: beginner, intermediate or expert. You only have to fill in the blanks with the appropriate word as you listen.

So, up to this point, it’s rather simple and similar to what we prepare for our students. What is then the difference? Well, with Lyrics Training, you have to write the word to continue with the music. It’s automatic! If you don’t write, the music stops! But, you can make the system to repeat the previous line. You only need the arrows in the keyboard to move through the song.

Why do I like it?

Because it is really fun! I love music, and I love working with songs in my classes. The students can learn a lot of new words, how to pronounce them, and there is always the challenge to win as many points as you can. Moreover, you don’t need to stop the song and rewind it to hear again. The system will do it for you.

However, we cannot choose the word we have to write. When preparing a listening exercise, teachers choose the word with a precise objective: it’s an irregular verb, or a past participle, or because they have a specific meaning. In Lyrics Training the system will choose the word for you. And sometimes it is really, really easy.

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