Spanish is an enormously popular foreign language for native English speakers.
In fact, it’s one of the most ‘in-demand’ languages (~about 400 million native speakers!) and the Spanish language product market is absolutely flooded with options.
For many people, this makes selecting a quality Spanish course, book or product stressful and overwhelming.
I’ve spent a lot of time testing Spanish language products.
Being one of the most popular and well-established language blogs, I get asked frequently for advice on what to use.
While there are many Spanish courses and products available,quantity does not equal quality.
While you can find very cheap Spanish tutors on italki, a Shaum’s Spanish textbook and Rocket Spanish, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Innovative Language’s SpanishPod101 as a video and podcast-style learning resource.
SpanishPod101 prides itself on being a dynamic resource (new content routinely added) with lessons that range from absolute beginner through to advanced levels.
SpanishPod101 used to be a frustrating resource – not so much anymore
Not too long ago, SpanishPod101 had a very sloppy structure that made lesson navigation difficult.
But over time, they introduced Learning Paths.
The challenge with dynamic learning platforms like theirs is being able to provide an easy and clear path for learners to take and this includes a way for them to find what they’re looking for.
For example, one of the learning paths is called Absolute Beginner Mexican Spanish For Every Day and in that particular path there are (at the time of this writing) 31 sequential lessons. Because it’s sequential, you’re able to move forward and backward in linear fashion.
This provides SpanishPod101 learners with a structure of sorts and means that the organization of the site’s lessons aren’t haphazard and confusing.
Which dialect of Spanish does SpanishPod101 teach?
This is a really important question and one that all Spanish learners should ask before anything else.
Which dialect or variety are you learning?
SpanishPod101 originally focused on Latin American Spanish but these days it seems to cover both Latin American and Iberian (European) Spanish.
Many of the lessons even delve into “subdialects” (e.g. Peruvian, Chilean, etc.) and are clearly marked.
What’s on the SpanishPod101 dashboard?
SpanishPod101 offers an intuitive and detailed dashboard that can appear overwhelming.
When first signing in, you’re greeted with your ‘Learning Paths’, Latest News, Newest Lessons and more.
The pathways can actually be configured (you can add or remove content from this section).
The ‘Learning Paths’ feature is the best place to begin if you’re just getting started as there are so many lessons to choose from. While the paths are incredibly useful, it’s important to remember one thing:
The paths aren’t always in ascending order of difficulty it seems to you need to aware of this.
You can choose your own path and learning direction as an alternative.
The great thing about SpanishPod101 is that all of the lessons reflect authentic Latin American and Iberian cultural settings.
There’s a choice in every level between video and audio lesson types.
SpanishPod101 audio lessons for all levels
Unlike some of the other Innovative editions, there seem to be many different contributors to SpanishPod101 (Rosa is great!).
Many of the audio lessons are presented in a “chit-chat” style podcast, where a presenter is having some dialogue with a native speaker. It’s fun but not for everyone.
But you don’t have to listen to this if you don’t want to.
There is a way to skip straight to natural dialogues and ignore the banter which I highly recommend.
The lessons contain transcripts (in both English and Spanish), key vocabulary and lesson notes.
The best part is: lessons are fully downloadable.
This includes the audio, lesson note material and even videos!
It’s immediately clear that a lot of work goes into producing quality lesson notes that are easy to follow (and print).
Does SpanishPod101 have good quality video lessons?
Outstanding in my opinion.
This has improved a lot over recent years.
While there are still some fairly terrible old videos on the site, most of the newer video content (esp. by Rosa) are absolutely brilliant. Hard to find a better resource for video lesson material anywhere else in fact.
There’s a tonne of video material on SpanishPod101 which should easily keep you occupied for a long time.
Compared to many of the other editions of Innovative Language products, SpanishPod101 covers all levels with a large amount of fresh video content.
Is SpanishPod101 good for beginners (and what about other features)?
So on top of all the the audio and video lessons in SpanishPod101, you’ll see there are extra features available to paying members (located in the menu at the top).
In my opinion, most of these features are what I call “feature boosters” – stuff that isn’t really that useful or important but exist to add apparent value to a product for sale. The grammar section is a good example of this.
SpanishPod101 is not a grammar resource and therefore the grammar section is very poor.
The other features like the ‘My Teacher Messenger’ which is where you can get direct help from a native Spanish speaker, the Word Bank and Phrase List have value depending on your own needs and learning style. I personally love the Word Bank feature and use it a lot.
These features work as glossaries that you can save words to and even use the in-built flashcard program.
Does the SpanishPod101 (Innovative Language) approach work?
This is really the most important question at the end of the day.
A while back, I sent some questions over to Innovative Language to get their response.
Here’s what they told me:
On SpanishPod101’s teaching methodology:
Innovative Language believes in practical expressions, aligned to CEFR proficiency levels, in the natural context of native speech. Most lessons, then, begin with a dialogue in which a language skill is introduced in context. The rest of the lessons then go on to talk more about the cultural context in which the dialogue takes place, and the key vocabulary, phrases, morphology, and syntax that allow the learner to carry out the particular language task.
This is an approach I’ve personally argued for many times.
In fact, grammar study is not as important as people think.
This certainly provides an explanation as to why their grammar content is so minimal.
SpanishPod101 uses real language and authentic listening material so the explicit grammar teaching is minimal.
I asked about Innovative Language what kind of freedom SpanishPod101 teachers have when creating new content:
The native speakers who create the content have a lot of freedom to choose what they teach, though we have a few standard series, such as Survival Phrases, that teach roughly the same kinds of expressions across all of our languages.
Innovative Language lessons are aligned to CEFR levels, and we typically ask that teachers try to teach to a standardized set of internal Can Do statements when preparing the dialogues and the grammar and vocabulary information.
It’s clear that the SpanishPod101 teachers have flexibility to be creative with what they teach and how they do it (to an extent).
But it should be emphasized that while it can be a good thing (for variety’s sake), it can also lead to haphazard content structure.
SpanishPod101 have done a good job maintaining consistency on quality and content, and the ‘Learning Paths’ feature I mentioned at the start has certainly helped in this regard.
I think it’s a terrific learning platform and one of the better Innovative Language editions available.
If you’d like to try SpanishPod101 out then you can make a trial 7 day account right here.
Used SpanishPod101 before? Like it? Comment below! 🙂