I discovered this recently when I felt the need to learn Spanish. Recantly I took on the responsibility of managing sales and marketing for the Latin region of Americas. Its a great job that requires lots of one on one interaction with people from Spanish speaking countries.
Although most people I work with know and speak English very well, I feel learning Spanish will demonstrate my commitment to the people of this sub continent. So I decided to set myself a goal of learning Spanish in six months.
Having had some experience using podcasts I knew that podcast was an excellent medium for language teaching. So, the first place I went looking for a Spanish language podcast was iTunes, the Mecca of podcasts. Within a few seconds of searching for key word "spanish" I came across two great podcasts that are helping me learn Spanish on the go.
One is called Cofee Break Spanish with their Scottish hosts Mark and Cara. This podcasts has a very traditional language teaching approach, with Mark being the teacher and Cara the student. After listening to Mark and Cara for six weeks I have to say that its fun to listen to them for 15 minutes in the morning on my drive to work.
The second podcast is called the Spanish Pod which takes a slightly different approach. This podcast teaches situational Spanish - the hosts Lilly and JP describe a situation and teache you how to interact with people in Spanish in that situation. For example, one recent podcast focused on making a deposit in a bank in Mexico, and besides Spanish I ended up learning a lot about Mexican culture. There are a few things I love about this podcast - first, they analyze the dialog carefully which teaches you a lot more than the actual dialog itsel, and second, I love Lilly's vivacious personality! Together with JP, Lilly makes it real fun to learn Spanish! Spanish pod has quickly emerged a favorite of mine, and I am making a steady progress with the help of Lilly and JP.
The third source that I have found invaluable to my Spanish language quest is the MIT online learning website. Through this site I was able to locate the website for Annenberg foundation's site called Learner.org.
Annenberg foundation has developed video coursework for learning languages and the Spanish one is called "Destinos". The Destinos videos form the core curricullum of the MIT Spanish language course so obviously its excellent. But the important thing is that the videos are free to any one interested in watching them on Annenberg foundation's web site!
Just watching the videos will help you learn rudimentary Spanish but three is a companion book that I think would be even more helpful but for now I am managing without the book.
The "Destinos" series is a very clever way to teach Spanish but clearly the course work has been designed with class room setting in mind. Several things can make this coursework ideal for students of Spanish like me, busy worker bees who are trying to learn Spanish in our spare time. But there are several shortcomings of this site right now. For instance, the book "Destinos" is not available on Annenberg Foundation website for purchase. It would be nice if the foundation would put out PDF files of the main lesson online for download.
Another problem is that the content cannot be played on iPhone or iPod, my main AV device away from the computer. The resources I have outlined are only the tip of the iceberg. All in all, despite all these problems, the free resources available to the student of foreign languages is large and ever growing.
So, if you are on the market for foreign language learning, there is no better time than tight now!
About the author: Pavansut is the alter ego of Sunil Joshi who is learning Spanish in Princeton, NJ