Almost 30,000 people a month search Learn Spanish Free or a related phrase on Google. I guarantee you that the huge majority of those people will never learn Spanish.
Can you learn Spanish for free? Yes.
Will you? No. Here’s why.
To compare trying to learn Spanish for free to a similar situation you face daily ask yourself “Do you want to get to work for free every day or do you want to get to work on time every day?”.
There is of course a trade-off there. You could get to work every day for free by walking, hitchhiking, or carpooling. It could take you 4 hours, 3 days, or a week, however, it is theoretically possible to get to work for free.
You could even theoretically get to work for free AND on time, but I think we can agree that the likelihood of that is close to zero.
The same thing can be said for the idea of “learn Spanish for free.” It is theoretically possible, however, in all likelihood, you will not learn it for free. Yes, that’s a challenge. Prove me wrong. I’d love to hear from you about it too.
There are several challenges with trying to learn Spanish for free that I believe make it extremely difficult. Now, before we go any further, I want to clarify a couple points:
• In this article when I say learn Spanish, I am referring to achieving an advanced level in all four areas: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
• I am not claiming that if you spend money, you will learn Spanish faster or better. There is no guarantee that by spending money you will learn Spanish better, faster or at all. Just like if you spend money to take the bus to work it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get there. The bus may break down or you may get off at the wrong stop.
• I understand why people think they should or why they think they need to learn Spanish for free. Money can be scarce and when there are free resources readily available on the internet, why spend money, right? I understand that.
• I am not making a moral judgement about your ability to spend money to learn Spanish. You’re not better if you have the money to spend or worse if you don’t.
Now, here’s why it is important to invest money in your process to learn Spanish.
1. Money saves you time
Spending money often buys you time. Really, you exchange your money to purchase something that would take you much longer to obtain if you did it on your own. Think how long it would take you to build your own car. Almost everyone chooses to buy a car instead of building it.
Or even how long it would take you to bake a loaf of bread. Most people would rather spend $3.00 for a loaf of bread than spend 2-3 hours making that same loaf.
The same is true for learning Spanish. You can find a language partner and practice Spanish for free. However, that same partner will want something in exchange, generally, to practice English for free. So, for every 30 minutes you receive of free Spanish conversation and learning with your partner, you will need to give 30 minutes of free English teaching to that partner.
What if instead you paid someone $10 for an hour of one-on-one tutoring? In that same 60 minutes, you will receive 60 minutes of Spanish learning from a trained professional. Compare that to the 30 minutes of learning you receive for free with a language partner, most likely an amateur who knows nothing of teaching techniques or which things to teach first.
One option cost you $10.00 and in return you receive 60 minutes of class from a teaching professional and the other costs you 30 minutes of time in return for 30 minutes from an amateur. Which is better? I say the 60 minutes with a trained professional.
I just watched a great movie called In Time with Justin Timberlake. He lives in a world where everyone has a clock on their arm, counting down to zero. When your clock runs out of time you “time out” or die. You do things to add time to your clock, such as work at a job or steal. However, anything you want is paid for in time instead of dollars. A phone call? That takes one minute off your life clock. A coffee? Four minutes. A bus ride? Two hours.
While this concept may seem strange, think about our free language partner example versus a paid tutor above? In both cases you spend 60 minutes of your life, however in one case you learn Spanish for 60 minutes while in the other, for only 30 minutes. In effect, you are trading your time for a service.
Just like in the movie.
So, as you consider spending, or not spending money, to learn Spanish, take into account the time you are giving up by not spending money. There is no right answer here. Some people have more money than time and others have more time than money. Decide whether you should invest money in learning Spanish based on your unique situation.
In other words, money can help you learn Spanish faster. I did not say it WILL help you learn faster; it MAY help you learn faster when spent properly.
2. Money is a motivator
Money can motivate you. But not in the typical sense when people are motivated to work harder or study harder to earn more money. In fact, it’s the opposite of earning money. If you spend money, it can motivate you to follow through with something. It commits you to learning Spanish.
I personally have a hard time motivating myself to exercise. I get a little lazy in the morning as I watch the news, have some coffee, and even work on the computer. It’s tough for me mentally to break away from this and go to the gym to exercise or work out.
However, I have found that if I spend money on a trainer, I motivate myself to meet up with him regularly, work out and then go on with my day. Most of the time, without having spent money to hire him, I would not have worked out.
It’s the same for learning Spanish, or any other activity. If I pay for a class, I go to every class. I don’t skip any. Even if the amount I spend is small. I once spent $100 for six weeks of classes, one hour a day, five days a week. I didn’t skip a single class. I would have only “lost” about $3.00 if I had skipped a class, however, to me that didn’t matter. When I didn’t feel like going, I always ended up saying to myself “Wait, I paid for this class, I need to go.” So, I went.
My commitment to Learn Spanish by spending money for the class solidified my commitment to attending class.
3. Money is a measurement tool
How committed are you to learning Spanish? Will you give up your daily coffee? Will you get an extra job 4 hours a week so you can pay for a private tutor? Will you not go on vacation this year so you can afford a Spanish class and textbooks?
In other words, “How hard do you really want to learn Spanish?”
What are you willing to give up? How bad do you want it?
How much are you willing to spend to Learn Spanish? Zero? Then before you go any further, ask yourself if you are really committed to learning Spanish.
4. Money can get you better tools
Let’s face it. Money can often buy you better tools. Ever try to use a cheap pair of scissors? The cut may come out ragged or perhaps the scissors can’t even cut through the paper. You know when the paper folds or bends instead of being cut by scissors.
Or back to our getting to work analogy. Would you rather have a brand-new car to get you to work on time or a bicycle? They both can do the job.
The same is true for tools to learn Spanish. One of the tools I mention that you can use to learn Spanish for free is the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Spanish course. This course was created by the US government in the 1960s to teach its foreign service officers Spanish. This course is in the public domain so is free for anyone who would like to use it. The course includes audio as well as hundreds of pages of exercises and explanations.
Now, if you think language learning techniques have not changed in the 50 years since this course was created then you are mistaken. While the FSI course is free and you can definitely learn Spanish from it, it’s also not the best tool for anyone to learn Spanish. It’s outdated, cumbersome to use, offers no interaction with native speakers and no opportunity for conversation. Not to mention that there are hundreds, if not thousands of everyday words that were not around when this course was created.
However, it is free.
One of the most amazing resources to build up Spanish vocabulary is a book first published in 1951 and currently available on Amazon for under $6.00 used. If you had to learn what this book teaches you through free resources on the internet, it would take you probably hundreds of hours just to collect the information. So, is it worth the $6.00 investment for you to save those hours or would you prefer not to learn any of what the book imparts? That’s the trade-off.
While all the tools exist and are readily available to learn Spanish for free, the reality is it will take you hundreds, if not thousands of hours to become fluent in Spanish.
And that’s if you do pay for classes, textbooks, and tutors.
Using free resources will take even longer. Most likely thousands of hours.
I suggest that before you embark on the journey to learn Spanish, ask yourself if you are willing to commit the time and discipline to doing it on your own and without spending a dime. Or can you find money in your life to help advance the process?
So, if you are willing to commit to investing in your journey to Spanish fluency, here’s the first place to spend money. It’s called the italki Language Challenge. It’s a great motivator to make you commit to learning Spanish. I joined. Will you?
Besides offering to match teachers with students, italki is an amazing language learning tool with free features where you can find language partners, ask questions, and receive corrections on your writing. If you want to learn more about italki, read through my italki article.
Check out these other articles to help you Learn Spanish.