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?