As a native English speaker with a lot of travel experience, I know how important it is to learn the language of the places you visit. Not only will you have an easier and more culturally enriched journey, but you will also find the locals appreciate the effort you’ve made.
Spanish is the native language of 475 million people worldwide, second only to Mandarin Chinese for numbers. For a native English speaker, it is also one of the easiest languages to learn. Because it is a phonetic language, each letter or combination of letters always makes the same sound. The pronunciation is simple, with fewer vowel sounds than in English, making it simple for anybody to pick up.
Learning a language is one of the most rewarding activities there is. Being able to visit another country and converse with locals in their own language is worth all the effort. With the growth of online learning, it is now possible to learn almost any language from the comfort of your home. But there are so many language learning options out there now that it can be hard to choose.
I have reviewed the best available online Spanish courses to provide this comparison. As I am a teacher, I understand the learning process and what features a course needs for you to be successful in learning a language.
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How to choose the right course for you
So, where do you start when looking for an online language course? When choosing a language course, you need to first consider what your own aims are. Do you want to use your language at work? Or are you planning to live in a Spanish-speaking country? Are you aiming to pass official language tests like DELE or SIELE? Is writing properly important for you, or do you just want to speak fluently?
You also need to consider which variety of Spanish you need. Some courses only teach one variety, while others offer a choice. It’s important to make sure you’re learning the right variety for your needs before you start. Then take a look at the learning methods used. Do they teach what you want to learn? Do the lessons seem interesting to you? Finally, you’ll need to consider the cost. Do you prefer to pay upfront or take a monthly subscription?
Below I have listed the options I think provide some of the best online Spanish courses. The courses are all different, so read the detailed reports to work out which course is best for you.
Recommended Spanish courses
Best Overall (for South American Spanish): Rocket Spanish (Rocket Languages)
The Rocket Spanish course teaches South American Spanish. The course is separated into three levels which can be paid for separately. Though the up-front cost is high, a single payment gives lifetime access to the course. As a teacher, I think the course has lots of good features and follows effective learning practices, but more reading comprehension activities would improve the range of skills learned.
The course consists of audio lessons followed by reinforcement activities. Lessons are captioned, and the learner is encouraged to repeat the words spoken by the teacher. There are also specific pronunciation activities and flashcards available for further practice. Quizzes are provided to test your progress, and the Survival Kit lessons introduce essential language for travelers. There is also the opportunity to practice extra vocabulary.
While Rocket Spanish doesn’t suggest a particular number of hours of study a week, they do give the overall number of hours of study needed to complete the course. The level one course has a total of 138 hours of study, and levels 2 and 3 have 122 hours each. The dashboard indicates that students should try to complete 100 “points” a day.
Milestones and Tests
Rocket Spanish has a system of badges and stars that are awarded for points gained by completing lessons and practice activities. There are also placement tests you can take to monitor your progress as you go through the course.
The site is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. The use of captions with all audio material is great for learning and accessibility, but the option to turn off captioning for listening practice would be useful.
Rocket Spanish has three course levels, which must be purchased outright, allowing lifetime access. Below are the current purchase options.
- Full course (levels 1, 2 & 3): $259.90
- Full course with payment plan over 6 months: $47/month
- Levels 1 & 2: $249.90
- Level 1: $99.95
There is no monthly payment option unless you purchase the whole course. While the upfront cost is high for the full course, it provides enough learning material to get you to a fairly advanced level. For those who are looking for a more comprehensive package that they can pace as they prefer (thanks to the lifetime access), this package provides very good value for money.
You can read more in our in-depth review of Rocket Spanish.
Best for Listening Comprehension: SpanishPod101
SpanishPod101 offers a choice of Mexican, Peruvian, Costa Rican, or European Spanish, though it’s quite difficult to navigate between the different options. The course is separated into five different levels, and there are several different subscription options. Though there is a free option, it’s really only a taster. If you’re serious about learning Spanish, you’ll need to pay for a subscription. As a teacher, I think that the premium versions of the course have a lot to offer, but the basic subscription is very limited.
The basic course consists of audio lessons followed by pronunciation practice and grammar notes. With a premium subscription, you can choose whether to view captions as you listen or turn them off. Other features only available in the premium version include flashcards, quizzes, and extra content. While the main course is quite basic, reading comprehension is available in a different lesson set. A free podcast is also available to all.
There is no recommended study time per day or per week.
Milestones and Tests
Each SpanishPod101 pathway includes regular tests to measure your progress. There is also an initial assessment test to ensure you start at the right level.
I found the SpanishPod101 user interface fairly hard to navigate, and the course content seems to be quite spread out. The pathway lessons have listening and speaking activities but not much else. However, there is other free content released every week that is outside of the pathway and other offers of material to buy or download for free. It would be better if the course was more integrated.
While there is a free option with SpanisPod101, the content offered doesn’t really amount to a proper language course. To follow one of the main pathways, you need to subscribe to one of the options below.
- Basic (lessons & podcast only): $4/month
- Premium (additional features include flashcards and quizzes): $10/month
- Premium Plus (offers personalized learning program and 1-to-1 lessons): $23/month
Additional discounts are available for paying upfront for several months.
Best Free Option: Busuu Spanish
Busuu uses short video clips and quick questions to practice a new language. It has a good placement test that makes sure you start at the right level, and lessons are short so that you can progress quickly. This platform is designed for casual learning of 2 to 25 minutes a day.
The course uses repetition in short lessons to reinforce new material. This makes it a simple and quick way to learn without spending too much time. It’s the ideal platform if you want to practice in short bursts and make progress quickly.
The recommended minimum time to spend on Busuu is only 5 minutes a day, and 25 minutes is the maximum target you can set. Of course, if you have plenty of time, you can always do more.
Milestones and Tests
The course has tests at the end of each unit to monitor your progress. You can only progress to the next chapter if you pass the test on the previous one.
This very simple interface is really easy to use. It is clearly laid out, so you don’t need to go looking for anything. If you just want to concentrate on practice, this site is the best for you.
The free version of this site is really all you need. The main thing you get with the premium version is that ads are removed – which can be a big selling point if you are easily distracted while studying. If you do want to subscribe, at the moment, the 12-month subscription is cheaper than the 6-month one.
- 1 year: $119.88
- 6 months: $83.94
- 1 month: $14.99
Best for Spelling Practice: Glossika French
Glossika is mainly a rote learning tool that teaches learners stock phrases. The free version only allows access to smaller languages, and the basic subscription to only one language of your choice. The interface is easy to use, but the lessons are a bit repetitive. To me, this seems like an additional learning tool rather than a language course in itself.
The course is focused on learning phrases by rote. Two learning modes are available, audio only, which requires the student to repeat and record the phrases, and full learning mode, which requires the student to write the phrases. If your main learning package doesn’t include much writing, this could be a useful addition to practice spelling.
There is no recommended time per week with this program, but progress is measured in reps. Each time you repeat a sentence, you earn one rep. The site suggests you should be able to engage in conversation after 50,000 reps.
Milestones and Tests
There really aren’t many milestones in this course. You just keep collecting reps as you go.
The user interface is very clear and easy to use, but it’s not very exciting.
In order to study Spanish, you need to take out a subscription (but note that Catalan is one of the 9 free languages). There are two options depending on whether you want to study more than one language.
- Basic subscription (1 language): $16.99/month
- Pro subscription (all languages): $30.99/month
Best All-Round Learning Package: FluentU Spanish
FluentU uses authentic videos from around the world to introduce new vocabulary. The course is well structured, and the lessons develop learning skills progressively. Each lesson is quite long, but you can take a break and pick up where you left off. It is one of the more expensive options, but it also has the best quality lessons.
This course allows learners to choose their own level and choose which lessons they want to take. Each lesson uses a video clip followed by a quiz. The quiz questions start easy and get harder, eventually requiring the learner to write words and arrange sentences themselves. There are also flashcards for learning vocabulary.
FluentU recommends spending 5-50 minutes a day. But 5 minutes wouldn’t even allow you to finish the first part of the quiz, so upwards of 30 minutes is more realistic.
Milestones and Tests
Because the course allows users to choose the content that interests them, there is no strict course progression and no milestones or end-of-unit tests. The increasing fluency with different words and phrases is recorded, however.
This was actually my favorite site to use. You don’t have to follow a set path, you just choose a subject you want to learn about. Everything you need is easy to find.
With this course, you have the option to pay annually or monthly.
- Monthly: $29.99
- Annually: $143.99
Best for Speaking: Pimsleur Online Spanish
Pimsleur Online offers a choice of Latin American or European Spanish and aims to get students speaking within 30 days. In order to achieve that aim, you need to spend at least 30 minutes a day learning. While the learning interface is very user-friendly, the information pages could be much clearer.
There are daily 30-minute video lessons, strongly focused on speaking and listening. Reading lessons are also provided, though not every day. There are flashcards, quizzes, and other games to test progress.
Pimsleur recommends 30 minutes a day, but having looked at the site there is probably an hour’s material for each day. To complete the level 1 course in 30 days, you really need to dedicate some extra time.
Milestones and Tests
The course is designed for learners to complete one lesson a day for 30 days. Other than that, target there are no specific aims or tests to mark progress.
Actually taking the lessons is very easy, but finding information on the site is quite hard.
You can make one-off payments through the website, but it seems that subscriptions can only be bought through the app.
- One-off payment: $150 per level
- Monthly subscription: $24
Best for Casual Learning: Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone offers a choice of Latin American or European Spanish. The course is entirely in Spanish without translation so that learning is natural and the student begins to think in Spanish. The interface is user-friendly, and there are multiple-choice and speaking activities. The course can be targeted towards business, education, or family life, and progress through the course feels quick.
Each unit begins with a 30-minute core lesson, followed by shorter lessons focusing on different aspects such as reading, writing, listening, or vocabulary. There is also an option for premium subscribers to have short live tutoring sessions. At 25 minutes, these lessons are easy to fit into a busy schedule.
The recommended time to study with Rosetta Stone is upwards of 30 minutes a day. You could easily spend at least 2 hours on each lesson, though obviously, you don’t need to complete it all in one day.
Milestones and Tests
Every lesson you take with Rosetta Stone gives you a score and a pass or fail. To complete the course properly, you should pass all the lessons in unit 1 before moving on to unit 2.
The site really is quite easy to use. You simply click on the lesson you want to do and work through it. The pronunciation practice is very accurate and useful to improve speaking.
Rosetta Stone offers both subscription and buy-outright options.
- One-off payment for lifetime access (all languages) $299.00
- 3 months $35.97
- 12 months $143.88
Best for Live Lessons: Spanish Institute for Global Education
While the online courses above will give a basic grounding in the language, nothing compares with actual live language lessons with a native-speaking teacher. Based in Seville, the Spanish Institute for Global Education offers both online and in-person classes. They offer customized learning programs and can also help students prepare for tests.
The course involves live online lessons based on an individual learning plan. Courses cover reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Full course materials are provided, as well as feedback from your dedicated tutor. As the program is personalized, you can ask the teacher to include relevant materials to help you reach your aims.
It is up to you to schedule as many lessons as you wish each week.
Milestones and Tests
The teachers at the Spanish Institute for Global Education will constantly monitor your progress and can help you to prepare for official Spanish Language DELE and SIELE tests.
The website is quite easy to navigate, but there is not very much information about online courses. For instance, the site doesn’t say how long each lesson is.
Obviously, live lessons are more expensive than just working through an online course on your own, but pairing up to take lessons significantly reduces the cost.
- One-to-one classes: €23 per class
- 2 students: €12.50 each per class
- 3 students: €10 each per class