3 Spanish online dictionaries to enhance your knowledge

There are a number of great tools out there to assist you with language learning. Here are the 3 main dictionaries I’ve used over the years to help with my Spanish, and why I think they can be useful for language learners at any stage.

WordReference

This is always my first port of call whenever I need to look up what a word means or find out how to say something in Spanish. It has improved greatly over tim and now includes a great range of uses for each word.

One great feature is that it tells you which Spanish-speaking countries words are used in. This can be great if you want to learn the vocabulary of a particular country, or to know what to use at school (it’s usually best to stick to the words used in Spain for anything to do with school, as this is what is taught).

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Another great aspect is the WordReference Forum. For any word you search for, there will also be a list of forum entries where people have asked about the usage of certain words or phrases. Some words have very specific meanings in certain circumstances, so this can be a great place to look.

A final feature that people may find useful, especially at an early stage of learning, is that WordReference can give you the full conjugations of verbs in all tenses and moods.

Linguee

On Linguee, type in a word you want to know the translation of, and it scours the Web for sites that have this word in both English and Spanish translations of their page, giving the full sentences the word is used in for both languages. In this way, you can see the different ways a word can be translated in different contexts.

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Diccionario de la lengua española, RAE

This is a lesser-used site, but one that can be extremely useful in finding out the various meanings of Spanish words. Unlike the previous two sites, this dictionary by the Real Academia Española is only for the Spanish language, and all of the definitions are given in Spanish too – there are no English translations, which can make this difficult to use if you don’t have a good grasp of Spanish. However, if you do this can be a fantastic tool, and one which I find particularly useful when doing translation work.

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Beyond this, simple searches on Google can often bring up forums that have the information you need. Just always be careful to look at a few to find consistent answers, as some people might say things which are inaccurate or use words only used in certain countries, meaning you may not be understood.

3 apps I’ve used to improve my Spanish

Nowadays there are more and more ways to learn and practice whatever skill you want to online, and this is no different in terms of learning languages. Outside of language learning apps such as Babbel (one of my favourite apps – see our next post about this), here are 3 apps you can use to improve your Spanish in your free time.

BBC Mundo

This app gives you all the news you would normal consume from around the world, but in Spanish! They have long, detailed articles related to all topics you might be interested in, so you can find out what’s going on in the world while improving your Spanish at the same time! If you’re only interested in certain topics, the app also neatly divides articles under different tabs such as ‘Tecnología’, ‘Deportes’ and ‘América Latina’, so you can easily read up on your interests. The app also includes lots of videos to give a more visual aspect.

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Netflix

This is one you will all be familiar with. There is ever more Spanish language content on Netflix, giving you a wide selection of films and shows to choose from. If you are not quite yet fully confident, use subtitles to help you follow what is going on: I recommend Spanish subtitles over English to help you get used to understanding the Spanish for what it is, instead of trying to always translate it in your head which can make learning as you get more advanced more difficult. But if you need to, and this is hampering your enjoyment, of course use English subtitles. Then, to test yourself try to watch small sections without the subtitles to see how much you can understand.

What can also be really fun is watching a series you’ve already watched in English but with Spanish audio instead! It’s very easy to change this setting on Netflix, can mean you already know what is going on in the episode, and can provide a good laugh hearing your favourite characters speaking in very different accents. I’ve watched ‘Friends’ with Spanish audio before, and it was very entertaining.

Netflix on TV

Quizlet

Here we have a fantastic app for practising your vocabulary. You are able to make up your own sets and vocabulary lists and then learn the words in a variety of different ways. There is a flashcard mode, a mode that gives you short tests on the words and others where you have to match words with their translations in a game which is like Pairs. If you use Quizlet on desktop they also have a great game called Gravity. Meteors with words on them are approaching your planet, and you must type their translations out before they crash into the planet and as you go through the levels you have to do it faster and faster (I’ve played it and, trust me, it’s very fun).

Not only can you make your own sets, but you can also access sets other people have made on the site which could save a lot of time. For example, if you want to find lists of word for certain GCSE topics, just type into the search ‘GCSE Spanish’ followed by the topic and lots of results will come up!

N.B. I recommend keeping your sets to 25 words or less, as beyond this they can become too difficult to remember

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Looking for more recommendations of ways to further your Spanish? Drop us an email and we’ll see if we can help