Spanish Pronto: Learning Tools

The best online and print resources, as well as a few suggestions for learning more Spanish.

NOTE: Many links here may be dead, though some may work. This page sees too little traffic to be worth spending the time to update. It originally was intended to organize Spanish Internet resources in the days B.G. [Before Google].

For more Spanish information and resources, see the Spanish Pronto main page.


[Top] [Tools] [Practice] [Bibliography]
Accents Grammar Pen Pals Slang Verbs
Alphabet Lessons Pronunciation Technical Spanish Vocabulary
Arabic Media Questions Telenovelas
Countries/Cultures Names Reading Tests
Dictionaries News Sayings Translations

Accents [^]
How to type accents: Typing Foreign Language Characters on Your Mac or PC

Alphabet [^]
The Spanish alphabet and its letters: Spanish Pronto: Spanish Alphabet

Arabic [^]
100+ Spanish words from Arabic defined: Spanish Pronto: Arabic Words in Spanish
About 1,225 Spanish words of Arabic origin: Arabic influence on the Spanish language

Countries/Cultures [^]
Everything about Latin America: Latin America Network Information Center - LANIC
Music, movies, pop culture, and activities: Actualidades: Blogueando para aprender

Dictionaries [^]
Spanish-English, English-Spanish, and Spanish-Spanish:
Spanish-Spanish: Diccionario de la lengua española (The dictionary from the Real Academia Española.)
Technical Spanish (law enforcement, clinical, mathematical, etc.): Technical Spanish
Recommended print dictionaries: Dictionaries

Grammar [^]
Basic Spanish grammar lessons, explained well: Spanish Grammar
Exercises covering tricky points of grammar: Grammar Exercises Index
Expressing English thoughts with Spanish words: Spanish Writing Guide
Recommended grammar books: Grammars

Lessons [^]
Basic conversational Spanish, with video: BBC Languages - Talk Spanish (Moves fast, but you can pause and rewind.)
Learn Spanish online with a private tutor: TopSpanish.Com

Media [^]
Spanish news media outlets worldwide: Recursos Noticieros en Español, Kidon Media-Link

Names [^]
Spanish names: Behind the Name: Spanish Names: Aa-Cu, Da-Is, It-Pa, Pe-Zo

News [^]
Spanish news media outlets worldwide: Recursos Noticieros en Español, Kidon Media-Link
The latest news, in Spanish:
Google News Argentina
Google News Brasil (In Portuguese, not Spanish, but fun if you are curious about Portuguese.)
Google News Chile
Google News Colombia
Google News Cuba
Google News España (Spain)
Google News Estados Unidos (United States)
Google News México
Google News Perú
Google News Portugal (In Portuguese, not Spanish.)
Google News Venezuela

Pen Pals [^]
Person-to-person international correspondence: International Pen Friends/ Pen Pals Exchange
Classroom-to-classroom international correspondence: Schools Pen Friends/ Pen Pals Exchange

Pronunciation [^]
Computer pronunciation of Spanish you enter: Text-to-Speech
Pronunciation basics: Spanish Pronto: Basic Study Reference

Questions [^]
Quick answers to your Spanish questions: Languages - Yahoo! Answers

Reading [^]
Learn Spanish by reading real Spanish: Spanish Pronto Reading Practice
Spanish-language short stories: Proyecto Sherezade
Find real Spanish children's books: Spanish Pronto Book Store

Sayings [^]
Spanish sayings (dichos), with translation: Spanish Pronto: Dichos, Refranes, Sayings, Proverbs
47 popular sayings, explained in Spanish: Refranes Populares

Slang [^]
Widely used Spanish slang. Also searchable by word and by country: Jergas de habla hispana

Technical Spanish [^]
Spanish—and Spanglish!law enforcement and emergency terms: Spanish for Police, Fire & Healthcare Personnel
1300+ Social Security terms translated: Social Security Online
350+ mathematical terms translated: English-Spanish Math Dictionary
HIV/AIDS-focused Spanish-English medical terms: FUNDAMIND - Glosario de Términos
Extensive dictionary of clinical chemistry terms: Diccionario inglés-español de ciencias de laboratorio clínico
2,000+ archaeological and related terms: LexicoEngSpa or LexicoSpaEng
Extensive dictionary of aeronautical terms: Aviation Dictionary or Diccionario Aeronáutico

Telenovelas [^] (Spanish-language soap operas)
Daily plot summaries and conversation: Telenovela World

Tests [^]
Spanish AP (advanced-placement) test: AP Central - The AP Spanish Language Exam
Check your Spanish level: Webspañol's Spanish Level Test

Translations [^]
Fast, free, imperfect translations: Babel Fish
My translation service (not free): Spanish Pronto: Spanish < > English Medical Translators (

Verbs [^]
Spanish verb conjugator (conjugador verbal): or Web-Compjugador
Basic regular-verb conjugations: Spanish Pronto: Basic Study Reference
Basic irregular-verb conjugations (present tense of estar, ser, haber, tener, poder, ir): Spanish Pronto: Basic Study Reference
Conjugations of 25 common Spanish verbs: Vocabulary: The Most Common Spanish Words

Vocabulary [^]
24 important basic phrases: Spanish Pronto: Basic Study Reference
100+: Basic Spanish Words with Pronunciation (numbers, days, months, eating, colors, family, directions, etc.)
Arranged by grammatical category, for learning: Vocabulary: The Most Common Spanish Words
Arranged alphabetically, for reference: Glossary: The Most Common Spanish Words
Learn Spanish by reading real Spanish: Spanish Pronto Reading Practice
Recommended print usage guides: Usage Guides

[Top] [Tools] [Practice] [Bibliography]
Some things you can do to improve your Spanish!

Take a trip to someplace Spanish is spoken. Just by being there you will be surrounded by signs written in Spanish and people speaking Spanish. Ideally, you will also have many chances to converse in Spanish, too. Most Spanish-speakers will be very pleased that you are trying to learn Spanish and they are understanding if your Spanish is not yet perfect. Do not be surprised, though, if they also want to practice their English with you!

The People’s Guide to Mexico is not a "where to stay and what to see" guide book, but is great for learning everything you can about Mexican culture before you go.

I get the latest edition of The New Key to Costa Rica before any trip to Costa Rica, and I always recommend it to anyone I meet who is planning to visit Costa Rica. I spent most of a year in Costa Rica and found this book most helpful. The other KU students and I often referred to it simply as "the bible" (as in, "I don’t know the answer to that. Do you have the bible with you?").

There are many exchange programs out there for people of all ages. What they have in common is they give you the chance to spend an extended amount of time (weeks, months, even a full year) living in another country.

If you are in high school, you can find lots of information at: High School Study Abroad and Teen Travel Overseas (Transitions Abroad).

For a thorough list of university programs and contact information, take a look at Peterson’s Study Abroad to find the right combination for you of country, field of study, program, and sponsoring institution (which can be a different school than your current one).

For advanced university Spanish students who feel ready to take a full schedule of regular university classes in Spanish, one good option (the one I did in 1987) is the University of Kansas full-year program at the University of Costa Rica.

Ideas for affording or financing your study abroad can be found at:

For overseas travel, study, and work experiences for all ages, check out the website of Transitions Abroad.

Someone helps you with your Spanish; you help them with their English. This can be face-to-face, in your community, or at via voice chat, text chat, or e-mail.

There may already be an in-person language exchange or a Spanish conversation group near you (you can check at: Spanish Language Meetup Groups), and if there is not, you can always start one.

Find Spanish-language magazines, newspapers, or children’s books at the library, newsstand, bookstore, or online.

Find real Spanish children's books: Spanish Pronto Book Store

Learn Spanish by reading real Spanish with the Spanish Pronto Reading Practice.

Read one of the many Spanish short stories at Proyecto Sherezade (a few of them have been translated into English, so you can compare the original Spanish version to the English translation).

Find a book you enjoy in English and in Spanish. Read a paragraph in one language, then again in the other. (A fast way to pick up a lot!)

Search the web for pages in Spanish about things you have already heard in English (e.g., the day’s news) or about things you know quite a bit about already (e.g., your hobbies, profession, or interests). For example, look up what interests you in Wikipedia, read as much as you want to about it in English, then click on the word Español in the languages box. The Spanish article may be a translation of some earlier version of the English article (or vice versa) or may have no connection to the English article at all beyond the topic. In any case, you should still be able see some similarities and learn a few more Spanish words.

Check out Spanish-language music. iTunes offers iTunes Latino, including sampler albums at Latin Essentials that are a good place to begin exploring. is a Latin music internet radio service offering radio programming in a variety of genres (e.g., mexicana, bachata, reggaeton, urbano, cristiana, mariachi, flamenco,...).

To listen to recent Top 40 songs from Spain, try the Top 40 jukebox at: Actualidades: Blogueando para aprender

The lyrics (or "letra") of any song you really like can probably be found by searching Google using:

lyrics "name of song in quotes"


letra "nombre de canción entre comillas"

By singing along to a favorite song, you will not only pick up a lot of Spanish, you will probably remember it forever!: "Lo que dijo el poeta, te voy a repetir: Existen aves, que cruzan el pantano y no se manchan, ¡y tú sabes, mujer, que mi plumaje es de ésos!" (See what I mean?) For lovers of mariachi music, that one ("El derrotado") and other equally "mariachi más mariachi" (as mariachi as it gets) songs can be found on Vicente Fernández’s album Lástima que seas ajena ("It’s too bad you’re someone else’s").

6. TELENOVELAS (SOAP, seriously)
Get hooked on a telenovela (soap opera). If you have access to a TV channel that broadcasts Spanish-language soap operas, you can read the daily summary of your favorite one at Telenovela World either after viewing the broadcast (to clear up whatever you did not understand) or before viewing it on videotape or DVR (so you will know what is happening). A great way to get hooked on daily Spanish practice! (And, unlike U.S. soap operas, they don’t last forever, just a few months.)

Rent or check out Spanish-language films which are subtitled in English, hopefully ones that are good enough you can bear to watch them a few times. Two of my favorites are Pedro Almodóvar's "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (R, but a comedy) and Robert Rodríguez's "El Mariachi" (R—very violent in a hail of bullets, blood spurting everywhere kind of way, but an interesting story). The video store or library may have other Spanish-language movies, too, including films more suitable for children.

Many movies include a Spanish audio track and the option of showing Spanish subtitles. Either of these can be an interesting way to watch a favorite film. Unfortunately, it usually does not work to run the audio track and the subtitles at the same time, as they are usually two completely different translations! For example, the audio will say, "Man, that’s far out." and the subtitles will say "Dude! Too cool!"—not very helpful! One solution to this problem might be to watch Spanish-language movies, which should have subtitling that matches what the actors are saying, and which may even provide the option of watching a dubbed or subtitled English version first.

If you are a total Spanish-learning fanatic (guilty), and want to really improve your listening comprehension of accents from all the different Spanish-speaking countries, the best option I have found so far is DirecTV's Spanish lineup which, in addition to the English cable channels I was used to having, provides about 43 Spanish-language channels (plus Spanish audio on some English ones). There are channels specifically from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, etc., as well as channels that show daily programming from other countries, such as the Telecentro channel, which rotates programming from the various Central American countries. About 10 of the channels seem to be "all soccer, all of the time," but some people, especially Spanish-speakers, might consider that a great advantage.

Some interesting shows available on DirecTV are Televisión Española’s "Saber y ganar," which makes "Jeopardy" look like "Wheel of Fortune" in comparison, and Telefé’s "A.M. (Antes del mediodía)," a morning show from Argentina featuring discussions of news, medicine, and soccer; interviews; dancing; insult humor; and commentary from stage left by a rabbit puppet named Pepe Pompín. There is also a great clone of the American kids show "Zoom," but based in Mexico, called "Bizbiriche." Oh, and "Cazando bichos" ("Looking for critters"), with a naturalist walking through wild areas of Mexico finding snakes, insects, spiders, and lizards and excitedly holding them up to the camera, and telling you all about them, before setting them back down to look for the next one. Anyway, a huge variety of channels and programming that really opens you up to some of the incredibly diverse peoples and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world.

On some shows, you can even get some good closed captions, so you can hear what is being said and read it, too.

Whatever you do, take advantage of what you already know to help you acquire more Spanish skills, and take advantage of your personal interests and enthusiasms to stay interested and enthusiastic about learning more Spanish!

[Top] [Tools] [Practice] [Bibliography]


The Collins Spanish Unabridged Dictionary, Ninth Edition
© July 14, 2009, Collins Reference.

The current best Spanish dictionary out there; well-edited, easy to use, and absolutely massive! Unless you are a professional translator, this may well be all the dictionary you need. (And if you are a professional translator, as I am, then this is a great dictionary to add to your collection.) The downsides are the price (the best is often the most expensive, after all), the weight, the very occasional absence of terms common in American English, and verb tables that have been abbreviated (e.g., for the imperfect of ir, just: "Imperfect: iba," and for the future of saber: "Future: sabré") Making up for these relatively minor flaws is the outstanding "Language in Use" section, which will help non-native speakers of either language sound much more natural in all their correspondence (business letters, personal letters, e-mail, job applications, etc.) and in their other writings (e.g., papers, articles, and essays). The Collins Spanish Unabridged Dictionary, Ninth Edition is my recommendation for when only the best Spanish dictionary will do.

Diccionario Clave: Diccionario de uso del español actual
© 2012, Ediciones SM.

This is a Spanish-only dictionary that will be most helpful to advanced students and teachers. It has basically the same exact definitions as the Real Academia Española’s Diccionario de la lengua española, but fewer of them (it is a still large book, but much smaller than the DRAE). Unlike the DRAE, the Clave offers a sample sentence for every meaning of every word. Also includes notes on usage within definitions, and a brief etymology for most words.

The Ultimate Spanish Phrase Finder, Frases equivalentes: inglés-español, español-inglés by Whit Wirsing
© 2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Once you get beyond basic Spanish, and possibly even before, you start realizing that dictionaries are great for translating isolated words, but generally lacking when it comes to helping you translate set phrases. The Ultimate Spanish Phrase Finder, in nearly a thousand packed pages, tells you virtually everything your dictionary left out! Whether you are working towards fluency or just never quite seem able to achieve it, this is the book you have been waiting for. I am sorely tempted to read it cover to cover, but so far am just enjoying being able to flip to any page and learn things that would have taken me years, even a lifetime, to have picked up any other way. Some examples from pages 604 and 605:

don’t give it away (a secret) ¡no lo cuentes! • ¡no se lo digas a nadie! • (thing) no lo regales

don’t make a scene no montes un numerito • no hagas un espectáculo • no me hagas una escena • no me hagas una escenita • no me vengas con ese rollo

don’t take no for an answer no admitas un no por respuesta

double take: to do a ~ tardar en reaccionar

to be down (in the dumps) estar depre • tener la depre • estar bajo (de ánimo) • (Sp.) estar chungo • estar bajeras

to be down on one’s luck (to be going through a difficult time) tener mala racha

to be down to earth (to be approachable) ser macanudo(-a) • ser asequible • ser simpático(-a)

These are just seven of 143 entries on these two pages. If you are serious about learning Spanish (or English!) this is a great book to have next to your dictionary.

This is a first edition, so it is natural that it does not yet include everything one might hope for, such as "to be serious about..." (studying Spanish) or as in "he's really serious about her," "down with..." in the sense of "are you down with that?" (does that sound O.K. to you?) instead of just the "down with (the dictator)!" sense, "to get down" in the dancing sense (get down and boogie) or in the sense of "the whole situation’s really got her down," but I am sure that these phrases, and more, will be appearing in the second edition. The first edition is still so packed with useful information that you won’t find anywhere else that I would have paid double or triple the price for it (i.e., $80 or $120 instead of $40, in my case), but I am also just as glad to have paid only what I did. Absolutely worth getting.


English Grammar for Students of Spanish: The Study Guide For Those Learning Spanish, Seventh Edition
by Emily Spinelli, ©2012, Olivia & Hill Press.

This book has become a classic. This is the one for you if you are in high school Spanish or your first couple years of college Spanish and are finding yourself confused by all the grammatical terms being thrown at you. Each of the many very short chapters explains a single grammatical idea, first explaining it in terms of English grammar, then explaining the same idea using examples from Spanish grammar. You can get this edition of English Grammar for Students of Spanish at bookstores (including amazon, which sells both new and used copies), but it is also likely to be available in earlier editions at used bookstores and in libraries.

A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish, Fifth Edition,
by John Butt and Carmen Benjamin ©2011, Oxford University Press, USA.

This is a much more modern grammar than the classic 1956 Ramsey, and also is full of examples and excellent observations about Spanish grammar. A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish is for advanced students.


Especially useful if you already have a couple years’ worth of Spanish and are planning to go live in Spain or Latin America for a while.

Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish
by Joseph J. Keenan, ©1994, University of Texas Press.

Reading this book after I had already majored in Spanish and spent a year studying at the University of Costa Rica, I did not find it very helpful for myself—I suppose I had already broken out of beginner’s Spanish by then. I did, however, find it very insightful and easy to read. The emphasis is on taking your Spanish beyond what you were able to learn in school. This book was highly recommended to me, and is universally very, very highly recommended; see, for example, the reviews at

If you have opinions of your own to offer on these or other Spanish-language references, I would be glad to hear them.


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