When we moved to Almunecar Spain in June 2019 it was evident we would need to learn Spanish if we were ever going to be able to talk with locals. Almunecar is a traditional spanish town where the people speak mainly Spanish. Some people who work in local shops and restaurants have limited English, but Spanish is prominent. Well of course! We are in Spain anyhow! I do want to point out though that our local bank (Banco Sabadel) and the local cell service company we dealt with (Orange) did have people who spoke English very well.
We explored taking Spanish language lessons at a few schools in town but realized that the cost to keep up these classes was going to be somewhat significant for our budget. So I went to the internet to see if there were any free online Spanish language classes and the first one to pop up was Duolingo (duolingo.com). I decided to sign up for the free version (with ads) and have been taking their lessons ever since. At the date of writing this article I am now into exactly one month of taking daily Duolingo lessons. I receive daily email reminders and spend about 15 to 20 minutes each day taking their language lessons. There are various categories to go through such as Intro, Phrases, Travel, Family, Restaurant, Shopping, School and People. The lessons take you through five levels of learning for each category. Once you complete the lessons in each of the five levels, and for all of the categories, the app moves you up another phase where the categories are more advanced and the lessons get a little harder. There are a total of 5 phases.
Both Mark and I have gotten a lot out of the lessons. I do want to point out that we did have some basic understanding of Spanish already at the time of signing up for the lessons. Before the first lesson you will take a basic test which then configures the app for the first level.. Mark and I are now feeling more confident about having some basic knowledge of Spanish and are able to order food in restaurants now after just one month of learning the lessons on Duolingo. We would like to take some classes with an instructor in person at some point, but for now this type of learning is working out very well for both of us.
What I love about this app is the style of teaching. It reminds me of the way we were taught how to read and write and speak english. You remember, don’t you? Those first grade reading guides where the story was, “See Dick run. Run Dick, run. See Dick with his dog Spot. See Dick and Spot.” Yes, this DuoLingo App is that basic and repetitive. You’ll not only be introduced to the words gradually and the grammar at a pace everyone can keep up with, but you also get to see how to use those funny little accents and spelling too.
Other features the app provides include adding friends to your watch list where you can see their progress and they can see yours. There are ‘Achievement’ awards too for things like getting through a lesson without mistakes, completing more lessons in a single day than planned, and more. And of course, there are bells, whistles, and sounds built in to keep you encouraged to keep going.