Studying a foreign language could make you smarter. According to a study from the University of Chicago, people make more rational decisions when thinking in a foreign language , because it forces us to use the more analytical side of our brains.
If you're looking to learn a language, you could certainly do worse than Spanish. It's the third most-spoken language in the world, and Hispanics make up more than 17 percent of the US population . So, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, here are five tools I've found super helpful in my quest to learn Spanish as an adult.
- App: Larousse Spanish-English Dictionary  ($4.99) The free Spanish-English dictionary apps I tried left a lot to be desired, and this $5 app is well worth the price. It quickly translates almost any word from my phone, and it also has tons of verb conjugations — a must have for beginners! Plus I can do my homework on the go.
- Podcast: Discover Spanish  (free) This series of 10-minute Spanish lessons is great for travelers, because it teaches commonly used phrases while also explaining a bit of the grammar, so you're more likely to remember. It's also a great supplement to in-person Spanish lessons. After a while, I found the hilarious music and overly enthusiastic host "Johnny Spanish" quite endearing.
- Website: SpanishDict.com  Beware of Google Translate! Instead, I use this online Spanish dictionary, which translates just about any word I can imagine and also conjugates verbs and helps decode entire phrases very accurately.
- Language program: Pimsleur  One of the most stressful things about learning a language is remembering how to speak it when faced with a real-life conversation. Pimsleur's method is designed to make that as automatic as possible. This audio program focuses on basic conversational necessities and does a great job teaching pronunciation through repetition.
- Classes: local semiprivate lessons (prices vary) The most valuable resource in my Spanish education is a weekly, semiprivate class with three to four students. The class size offers plenty of personal attention, but unlike a private lesson or a larger class, I get many opportunities for conversation. Plus, an actual teacher does what no audio program can: she corrects me when I'm wrong.
Have you studied a foreign language? If so what tips do you have to offer?