Growing up in Southern California, Spanish was as familiar-sounding as surfing slang. And like the surfers' language, I have yet to understand more than few words in Spanish. With the majority of my friends having been Latino and living in predominately Mexican-American neighborhoods for nearly four decades, I figured I'd become bilingual through osmosis.
In high school's Intro to Spanish class, I discovered I could read the language and quickly translate written words to English. I was so good at this, the teacher accused me of already knowing Spanish and was taking her class for an easy A. I dropped out of high school a few weeks later, proving her accusation false. (I entered an independent studies program).
In my late twenties, I enrolled in a Spanish 100 course in college. Once again, I could read & translate words effortlessly in my head; however, I was extremely self-conscious about pronouncing the words aloud. I ended up dropping the class.
Recently there was a lot of discussion and debate over cultural identity. During the Rachel Dolezal debacle, social media was in a frenzy ridiculing individuals who identify with a race other than his or her own. Some of the comments were reminiscent of remarks directed at me as someone who has — from a very young age — felt more connected and comfortable with a cultural ethnicity other than that I was born into. I never lied about it, though. I simply stated I was a Latina trapped in a white girl's body.
All of the controversy reminded me that I am still not able to communicate in the language of the culture that I hold close to my heart, makes up part of my daughter's genealogy, and now has become the ethnic majority here in California.
I'm confident I will never be fluent in Spanish (or maybe I'll be as good at it as English, which isn't saying much); however, it's important to me that I can at least understand it verbally and can respond in writing, if necessary. There are some minor language differences between Spain and Mexico (and other Spanish-speaking countries), but overall, the variations aren't so extreme that you wouldn't be able to get your message across. So with that mind, I searched my bookmarks to find the five FREE A+ sites to learn Spanish on-line.
1. BBC - MI VIDA LOCA
I'm starting to believe the Brit's do everything better: news, craft magazines, humor, gun control.
The BBC had an awesome languages feature on their site, and even though it's archived and no longer updated, the lessons are still available. Start at the main Spanish page to get familiar with the resources, then click on Mi Vida Loca.
Mi Vida Loca is an interactive learning video drama filled with intrigue, mystery and adventure as you fend for yourself in Madrid and beyond in 22, ten-minute episodes covering basic learning points for absolute beginners. A learning section complements each episode. Practice the vocabulary, grammar and activities at your own pace. You could complete the course in twelve weeks!
2. ANNENBERG LEARNER - DESTINOS
Years ago, my favorite soap opera was Santa Barbara. I may have found the substitute to fill the hole in my heart that has existed since Santa Barbara signed off: Destinos.
Destinos premiered in 1992, and soon became the "most popular Spanish learning series ever." The description of Destinos is best summed up straight from the site:
"In Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish, lawyer Raquel Rodríguez travels to Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and finally to Mexico, all to solve a secret from Don Fernando's past. Destinos is in conversational Spanish, with some narration in English and in Spanish. Every episode covers new grammatical concepts, vocabulary, and cultural practices, with a review at the end. As you go from episode to episode and destination to destination, the content grows more challenging. For additional review, choose a related activity in the Practice section."
3. DOULINGO - LEARN A LANGUAGE FOR FREE. FOREVER.
Doulingo is a great discovery! It's like if Fitbit were a video game for your brain! Start the fun and games and immersion in Spanish here! You can also become friends with me on the site to play and compete with! In addition to the web, Duolingo is also available on iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone.
4. ONLINE FREE SPANISH - A FUN WAY TO LEARN SPANISH
More like the SUPER FUN WAY TO LEARN SPANISH! This easily navigated site was created to offer free Spanish lessons for both children and adults. There is a bunch of colorful games, lessons, resources, worksheets, etc, — and everything is designed to make learning fun! I may just give up blogging and dedicate all my time to learning the language that "opens the door for you to communicate with 400 million people worldwide."
5. 123 TEACH ME - LEARN SPANISH FREE ONLINE
Don't let the neat, clean landing page fool you! 1...2...3 is how quickly you're going to realize what a lucky break you got in finding out about this site and its plethora of resources! It is packed with interactive games, audio files, videos, visuals, lessons, quizzes, general and niche courses. Settle in and immerse yourself in Spanish!
Don't forget to follow and Like these individual sites on Twitter and Facebook! Word-of-mouth and donations help to keep these sites updated and free! Thanks to the team behind all of 'em!