The following tools can help aspiring Spanish speakers:
The best English/Spanish dictionary on the web. Features tens of thousands of region-specific colloquialisms. Forums are frequented by native Spanish speakers from all over the world who are happy to answer your questions. Mobile app is free and works well.
Want to know if the word or phrase you’re thinking of is correct? Google it in quotation marks and see how many search results appear. If the number is in the tens of thousands or greater, there’s a high probability that what you searched for is correct. If there are some–but less than tens of thousands of–results, remove the quotation marks and search again. If what you entered is close to the accurate word or phrase, Google will suggest it.
If you want to learn the most popular way of saying something in Spanish, compare the number of search results of different phrases with similar meanings, in quotation marks. For example, compare the number of results for “a lo mejor” (“maybe” in English) with the number of results for “tal vez” (also “maybe” in English). Note which sites are listed to learn regional preferences.
Streaming Spanish-language video is an effective way to train your ear.
YouTube offers countless hours of free video in Spanish. Some videos feature closed-captioning, which allows you to read as well as hear what people are saying en español. Documentaries are especially useful tools for beginning and intermediate students because they feature slow, relatively-simple, grammatically-correct dialogue. I’m amassing a collection of my favorite documentaries en español on the Videos En Español page.
Netflix isn’t free and offers significantly fewer videos in Spanish than YouTube, but the quality of entertainment can be superior. Netflix’s original content is also subtitled in English and Spanish, which can help intermediate and advanced students learn advanced vocabulary while practicing thinking in Spanish. Personally, I’m a fan of three series:
El Internado Laguna Negra. This highly-rated mystery/suspense series, which aired in Spain from 2007-2010, can keep you hooked for thousands of hours. (Each episode is just under 90 minutes, and there are 7 seasons.)
El Tiempo Entre Costuras. This critically-acclaimed miniseries from 2013, based on the critically-acclaimed novel of the same name, is a historical fiction masterpiece. Not only is it a tremendous drama, but it’s also a historically-accurate glimpse into life in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and World War II.
La Niña. A recent highly-rated Colombian historical drama centering on the struggles of an ambitious medical student who spent much of her childhood kidnapped by a guerilla group.