In this guide we’ll look at the best online Spanish courses, programs & software.
We’ve compared course quality, depth, format and cost
to give you our top recommendations.
What Is The Best Online Course to Learn Spanish?
Spanish Course & Program Reviews
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Rocket Spanish Review
I’ll start with my favorite program, Rocket Spanish, which is a relative newcomer to the language learning scene. This company was founded in 2004 but has quickly rocketed to the top of my list. Awful puns aside, this program really is excellent.
It’s thorough. It can take you from zero to Spanish-speaking hero without the need for tons of supplemental material. Its dialogues actually sound somewhat realistic and cover scenarios that could happen in the real world. And they’re often humorous, which helps with learning retention.
The program is organized into several levels, each broken down into segments:
First, there are the interactive audio lessons: These conversational lessons center around distinct themes such as “Making a Friend,” “What Do You Do for a Living?” “Emotions,” and “The Restaurant.” The audio is great quality, and you’re able to play each line back. At the end of the lesson, you’ll find exercises to reinforce what you’ve learned, plus a space for any notes you may have.
Next up, the language & culture lessons: These lessons tackle tricky grammar points head-on. They provide clear explanations on concepts such as: the verbs ser and estar, indirect object pronouns, demonstratives, conditionals, and the subjunctive.
And finally, the survival kit lessons: In these modules, you learn essential phrases and vocabulary for a variety of situations, from discussing a medical problem to figuring out public transportation. You’ll find these lessons especially helpful if you’re headed to a Spanish-speaking area soon and need to make yourself understood right away.
There’s also an excellent, very entertaining travelogue series for more advanced learners, so even once you’ve finished all the main lessons, there’s still more content awaiting you.
The sheer amount of the available content is what sets Rocket Spanish apart from its competitors. It covers the fundamental grammatical structures of Spanish, from the basics all the way up to an advanced level. Along the way, it presents audio dialogues of increasing complexity to teach listening comprehension.
You’ll encounter new concepts in a natural context, which helps them stick in your memory. Grammar explanations are there if you need them, but Rocket also lets your natural intuition do its work.
Another incredible feature: You can download everything once you’ve purchased this course. In other words, you have full ownership over everything once you’ve bought it.
This differentiates Rocket from subscription courses that require you to keep renewing each year or else lose your access to material. Plus, once you’ve downloaded some lessons, you don’t even need an internet connection to work on them!
Finally, Rocket Spanish has a number of tools to help you study and improve. You can save words and phrases to review later, build decks of flashcards, ask questions in an active forum of fellow Spanish speakers and learners, and track your progress.
There are 3 Levels of Rocket Spanish, and you can choose to purchase them individually or as a combination pack.
Rocket Spanish offers good value at competitive prices. The Levels 1, 2, & 3 combo (around $260) is probably the best value on the market right now if you’re serious about learning Spanish. These three levels provide hundreds of hours of lesson time that will keep you busy for a while and bring you up to advanced fluency.
Overall, Rocket Spanish is my #1 pick if you’re looking for a comprehensive, fun, and effective Spanish program.
You can take a virtual tour of the program on YouTube to get a sense of how this program works.
Want more information? For a super detailed Rocket Spanish review see here!
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Fluenz Spanish Review
I came across Fluenz Spanish quite recently, but have quickly formed a positive impression of it. Fluenz has a friendly “tutoring” feel to it, thanks to its host and founder, Sonia Gil.
Fluenz can be downloaded on your computer, used online, or accessed from your iPhone, Android, or iPad. The program includes video tutorials as well as exercises (or “workouts”).
There are tons of images and videos matching up to what you learn. It’s an excellent option for people who are looking for a primarily video-based course.
If you like the dynamic of private tutoring, then Fluenz is also worth a look. You’ll find numerous videos in which your Spanish “tutor” walks you through new concepts, words, and ideas.
Overall, Fluenz’s explanations are great, breaking complex concepts down until they’re simple and accessible. I sometimes found them to be a little slow-moving, however.
The method is based on leveraging what you already know (i.e. English), rather than attempting to learn from scratch via immersion or “natural” learning (as exemplified by Rosetta Stone). Your Fluenz tutor will provide some explanations in English and will relate Spanish concepts to English ones.
To get an idea of how it works, check out this YouTube video in which Sonia Gil explains some basic Spanish phrases.
Like a tutoring or classroom learning, Fluenz Spanish provides a considerable amount of structure. I tend to like some structure with my language learning as I feel it keeps me progressing at a steady pace and understanding the language better.
This structure and steady progression is something that Fluenz and Rocket have in common. Both include some structured lesson plans with the goal of giving you a full and flexible command of the Spanish language.
The main difference: Rocket is currently an audio- and text-based course, while Fluenz leans toward video.
As for cost, Fluenz does run on the expensive side. Purchasing the entire Fluenz Spanish (Latin America) series, Levels 1 through 5, costs $368. You also have the option of purchasing levels individually. Level 1 on its own costs $177, while a combo pack of Levels 1, 2, and 3 runs $298.
That makes Fluenz Spanish one of the more expensive contenders reviewed here. It is a worthwhile investment if you decide it’s the right program for you, but in my opinion, Rocket Spanish has the edge in terms of value.
One unique feature of Fluenz is that it even runs weeklong immersion programs in Mexico City! The immersion program is definitely expensive (as of 2019, it will set you back over $5000 plus flights), but it does look awesome.
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Pimsleur Spanish Review
Pimsleur is one of the big names in language study, and for good reason! Dr. Paul Pimsleur (1927-1976) conducted groundbreaking research on memory and language acquisition, which led him to develop his eponymous language learning method. You can learn more about his life’s work in his book How to Learn a Foreign Language.
So how does the Pimsleur method work? It’s based on a form of spaced repetition called graduated-interval recall.
Let’s say you hear a new word, perro, and you learn from context that it means “dog.” A few seconds later, you hear perro again, and now it sounds familiar. A minute or two later, you hear it again. Then perhaps ten minutes later. And again, the next day, when you listen to your next audio lesson.
In essence, these gradually increasing intervals in between the introduction of a new word or concept help cement it in your memory.
The Pimsleur method remains an effective way of learning the structures and patterns of a language. Pimsleur Spanish moves slowly and methodically, immersing you in hypothetical conversations with Spanish-speaking strangers and prompting you to reply.
This conversational method is a strong point, since it requires you to listen actively and participate, rather than passively absorbing what you hear.
It tends to focus on somewhat realistic scenarios, such as arranging to meet for dinner or drinks. You’ll quickly learn useful phrases such as Vamos a comer, No tengo mucho dinero, and Está bien. In fact, you’ll probably be saying them in your sleep!
On the other hand, if you don’t find its scenarios particularly relevant or useful to you, there’s not much you can do about it.
Note also that Pimsleur is relatively slow-moving and only teaches you a very limited vocabulary. The slow pace does help reinforce concepts, but some learners may find this frustrating. Even after several hours of lessons, you will have learned mostly social niceties and phrases for a handful of situations.
I find that other programs like Rocket Spanish are just as good as Pimsleur at reinforcing new words, while also containing way more words for you to learn. The limited amount of vocab you learn with Pimsleur is, in my opinion, a disadvantage.
The biggest downside to Pimsleur Spanish is probably the price: Purchasing the complete course (Spanish Levels 1-5 Premium; software and mobile app) will set you back around $500. If you prefer to buy the same course in CD format, it’ll cost $1190.
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Rosetta Stone Spanish Review
Rosetta Stone is of course a household name in language learning, famous for its image-intensive and “intuitive” teaching style. The basic concept is that they can teach you a new language the same way you learned your native one as a child, in a natural process that includes lots of images in context.
Rosetta Stone’s method is grounded in immersion. You won’t find explanations in your native language. This is definitely an intriguing idea, and one that I sometimes like: For example, I’m a huge fan of Hans Ørberg’s Lingua Latina series for learning Latin, which operates on a similar principle (Latin only, no English).
Rosetta Stone also includes an audio component, again using only the target language (Spanish audio). Similar to the visual component of the course, the audio does immerse you, but it proceeds quite slowly.
Some programs (like the Michel Thomas Method, reviewed below) include too much English in their audio, in my opinion. But I think Rosetta Stone goes too far in the other direction by using absolutely none. Sometimes it’s incredibly helpful—not to mention way more efficient—to have explanations in your native language.
Also, keep in mind that Rosetta Stone creates a very artificial sense of “immersion.” The program builds up very methodically, so you’re very prepared for everything you see and hear.
But in a real immersion environment, you would encounter more challenge: a constant barrage of new words, unfamiliar accents, and varied situations. Personally, I find that the challenge of true immersion (whether gained through traveling or listening to more complex audio) pushes me to learn more quickly and effectively.
In addition, Rosetta Stone tends to use a “cookie cutter” approach, recycling the same images and concepts for multiple different languages. As a result, some of the content feels a bit off or culturally irrelevant.
For this reason, I prefer programs like Rocket and Fluenz, which are more in tune with the Spanish-speaking world (as large and varied as it is). These programs manage to convey at least a little cultural knowledge.
In sum, I’m not completely sold on Rosetta Stone’s methods, though I can see why they might appeal to some learners.
One thing I do like: You can opt to participate in live tutoring, 25-minute sessions with an actual human teacher and up to three other students at your level.
This is a nice feature, since conversing with native speakers and clarifying any points of confusion with them is a great way to learn. Live tutoring is a premium feature, so tutoring sessions come at an extra cost.
These tutoring sessions, however, do follow a set program, so you can’t necessarily tailor them to your interests. (For this, I’d try out italki, which allows you to schedule conversations with native speakers and get real conversational practice).
Rosetta Stone is a subscription-based program. Although Rosetta Stone is known for being quite expensive, the prices were slightly more reasonable than I expected. A 3-month subscription goes for around $60 (or around $20/month). A yearlong subscription is around $130 (a monthly cost of $11/month). And a 2-year subscription goes for about $180 (a monthly cost of $7.50/month).
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Living Language Spanish Review
Living Language Spanish is a subscription-based program that offers comprehensive courses as well as more specialized ones designed for travelers and professionals.
If you’re only looking to learn a bit of Spanish in the short-term, then the subscription model may make sense and be affordable for you. However, if you want a stronger grasp of Spanish, I think there are better programs out there.
The content contained in Living Language Spanish simply doesn’t compare to the breadth and depth in my top pick, Rocket Spanish, or in the runner-up Fluenz Spanish.
Living Language lessons include a variety of reading, writing, grammar, and audio exercises. You’ll encounter typical exercises like flashcards and sentence-building activities.
There are plenty of images and visual aids, though the program doesn’t aim for “natural” or “intuitive” learning (like Rosetta Stone), instead opting to give some explanations in English.
This program was once known for its live e-tutoring feature. However, as of June 30, 2018, e-tutoring is no longer offered. So, if you’re looking for live tutoring, I would recommend italki instead, or simply finding a tutor the old-fashioned way (e.g. via a university Spanish department).
As for cost, Living Language is similarly priced to Rosetta Stone: A 3-month subscription to the Spanish comprehensive course is currently $50 and a 1-year subscription is $150.
Finally, what about the shorter specialty courses like Passport Spanish, Business Spanish, or Spanish for Librarians?
You’re probably better off buying a simple phrasebook instead, which will likely be cheaper and just as effective. Any decent Spanish phrasebook (or travel guide to a Spanish-speaking area) will teach you important words and phrases for travelers to know.
As for the others—medical, business, library science—you may find them useful. They essentially provide vocabulary, phrases, and sample conversations relevant to each specific context. Spanish for Librarians, in particular, offers the cost-effective option of subscribing for one month for just $15, so that may be worth a try.
If, however, you need a strong grasp of Spanish for your job, you’ll need a more thorough and comprehensive grasp of Spanish than these short specialty courses can provide. In that case, I recommend the higher-ranked Spanish programs above.
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Michel Thomas Method Spanish Review
Finally, I’ll discuss Michel Thomas Method Spanish (MTM), a program that is also quite popular with new Spanish learners. This course is based on the classroom learning experience.
In the very first lesson, you join teacher Michel Thomas and two other students in a lesson, becoming the third student in the virtual classroom.
The teacher leads the lesson, prompting responses from students (including you).
MTM’s first ground rule: It’s essential that learners never “worry about remembering” and “therefore never to try to remember.” He places the responsibility of remembering entirely on the shoulders of the teacher in an effort to create a stress-free environment for the learner.
Michel Thomas insists that his method has no homework: “It’s very important not to review, even mentally, what you’ve learned. Let it be absorbed and internalized and become knowledge. And what you know, you will not forget.”
Maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist, but…No homework? No reviewing?! I’m not entirely convinced by this idea.
Michel Thomas emphasizes the importance of learning in a relaxed, stress-free environment, and I do largely agree with this. But for me, regular review and reinforcement is essential. Sure, I don’t want my Spanish study to feel like a terrifying high-stakes round of Russian roulette, but I can handle a little review!
This course might, however, be suitable for learners who tend to get stressed out about learning languages or who really are looking for this chilled-out vibe.
Another drawback is that the early lessons I sampled contain a lot of English. Of course sometimes English explanations might be necessary, but in my opinion, MTM lessons have too much English, not enough Spanish.
The result is that your Spanish listening comprehension skills probably won’t advance too much using the Michel Thomas Method. There simply isn’t enough spoken Spanish content to train your ears and brain.
As someone who finds listening comprehension one of the more challenging aspects of language learning, I definitely need a program that contains more spoken Spanish and full conversations.
However, I will say that the English explanations are generally very clear and straightforward. Overall, MTM is great at making grammar concepts accessible and understandable to learners. You’ll learn various essential patterns and build on them to construct full thoughts and sentences.
As for cost, Michel Thomas is reasonably affordable, with the Foundation Spanish course (8 hours of audio content) priced at $100. Intermediate Spanish is priced at $90. Other courses focused on expanding vocabulary are available for $50 to $75.
I do think you get better value from Rocket Spanish—its Level 1 is priced at $100 just like MTM’s foundational course, but you receive more content with Rocket.
Which Online Spanish Course Should You Buy?
Although I have pretty definite personal preferences, all of the programs listed above have something to offer. No matter which program you choose, the most important thing is to stick to it. Study Spanish consistently, every day, ideally for at least an hour per day.
And no matter which program you choose, don’t expect it to do all the work for you. Don’t be fooled by advertising promises that you can reach total fluency fast with only ten minutes a day or something ridiculous. Learning a new language takes time, dedication, and active concentration. If you put in the time, you can make incredible progress.
Now all that said, some programs are generally more effective than others. I’ve highlighted Rocket Spanish here because I think that it is the best out of the many options currently available. It’s well-structured, broken into bite-size segments. It contains vast amount of high-quality audio. And it also has a number of tools and techniques to help you study and stay motivated.
I’ve also highlighted Fluenz Spanish as a solid choice for those of you who like video lessons and who want the feel of a private tutoring session without actually hiring a tutor.
And I have a soft spot for my #3 pick Pimsleur. I’ve picked up Pimsleur courses for quite a few languages from my local library, and I’ve noticed that I remember things I’ve learned from Pimsleur very well.
All of the programs listed allow you to sample their lessons with a free trial, so I recommend taking advantage of that if you’re on the fence about which program to buy.
- Rocket Spanish offers a free trial.
- Pimsleur offers free trial lessons in Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish.
- Fluenz Spanish offers sample lessons on their YouTube channel.
- Rosetta Stone offers a free demo of both Castilian and Latin American Spanish.
- Living Language Spanish offers a free trial lesson.
- Michel Thomas offers a free lesson and a free booklet. You can also get a sense of the MTM by watching this documentary, available on YouTube.
As you weigh the pros and cons of each program, here are some questions to consider:
- Does this program provide good value? How much content is there for the price I’m paying?
- Do I enjoy working through its lessons? Am I likely to stick with it?
- Can I download or acquire hard copies of the material? Do I have permanent access to what I’ve bought?
- Are the dialogues and audio scenarios reasonably plausible? Do they teach useful real-life phrases?
- Is the course backed by up-to-date research on learning and language acquisition? What teaching methods does the course use (e.g. spaced repetition, humor, introducing new words in context, etc.)?
- What supplemental tools (e.g. flashcards, forums) does the course provide? Are they any good?
- Do I want a program specific to Latin American Spanish or Castilian Spanish?
Once you’ve made your choice, commit to getting the most out of it. With regular practice, you’ll soon enjoy the satisfaction of making steady progress.