Using Reddit to Learn and Improve Your Spanish
There’s a reason they call Reddit® the “front page of the Internet.” To most redditors (as Reddit users are casually called), this service is as addictive as, if not more than, Facebook®. No kidding there. In fact, Reddit happens to be the single richest source of almost everything fun on Facebook – memes, jokes, cute cats, you name it. If you’re one of those clinically addicted redditors looking to quit because it’s distracting you from everything you ought to be doing with your life instead, you’re not alone. However, if you also happen to be a Spanish learner, I might have good news for you here. You can turn your addiction into a powerful language-learning hack! That’s right, Reddit can be way more than mindless entertainment depending on how far you’re willing to go tweaking your ways.
I got hooked to Reddit fairly recently. You see, I’m not the quickest when it comes to hopping on to the the latest hip bandwagon the Internet comes up with. But curiosity led me to this service eventually and by the end of last year, I had an mighty active account on Reddit. Initially it seemed like a mind-numbing barrage of information, most of it being fun and intriguing. Goes without saying, Reddit soon became my go-to resource whenever I needed a break from life’s monotony. What I can’t quite put a finger on is when Reddit went from being a mere pastime to a full-fledged addiction. This was a problem.
It’s recently that I stumbled upon an article on one of the Spanish-learning blogs I follow and had an epiphany of sorts. That article gave me a completely new perspective and taught me that there are ways Reddit could be used as a language-learning resource! This was awesome and got me digging for more. I spent the following few days scouring the haystack of subreddits for ones that had anything to do with the business at hand. And I came out with more than a handful. I am writing this post to share my findings with you but let me also put out a disclaimer right off the bat: This is not for the absolute blank-slates. You must have at least a very rudimentary foundation of the language in place before you start getting adventurous with Reddit because most of the subreddits I am going to discuss are meant to help you “polish” your Spanish, not learn it from scratch.
If you have at least a basic understanding of how the language works and can hold a survival-level conversation with a native Spanish speaker, one of the best ways to sharpen your skills is by reading. I mean reading stuff written in Spanish. Of course, there’s a shipload of websites out there for this purpose but why not let Reddit do the heavy-lifting for you? There’s a dedicated subreddit for virtually every country on the planet and most of those have threads in the language spoken in their respective countries. For example, /r/Mexico is almost entirely in Spanish and so are /r/Colombia, /r/Spain, and many others.
The best part about reading threads on these subreddits for practice is that they are not posh literature. These are stuff written by the average Joe like you and I. These are stuff you’re most likely to hear in the streets. So the Spanish you read in those threads is the Spanish you can count on when you’re out there in the real-world with real native speakers.
Oh and speaking of Spanish-language content, do check out Redditores (/r/Redditores) as well. This is a country-agnostic subreddit with purely Spanish-language threads covering a variety of subjects. Yet another country-agnostic board is called Techo Blanco (/r/TechoBlanco), Spanish for White Roof. This one has a vibrant community of redditors who keep the page alive with a constant stream of threads, memes, questions, and videos – all in Spanish!
Once you have your basic sentence construction and grammar down, you’ll need someone help you translate more complex thoughts for you. Having someone else translate things for you is a mighty lazy affair. But if you’re smart enough, even that can drill quite a bit of Spanish into you. The key is to start using the translation right away and use it a lot. The more you use a construct, the better you’ll get at it and the longer you’ll retain it.
Who needs Reddit when there’s Google Translate®? Hope you didn’t ask that question because you cannot be dumb enough to not see how humans are better at it than a stupid robot. One subreddit I find great for the job is called Spanish Help (/r/SpanishHelp); it has real people who are more than willing to translate whatever you throw at them into Spanish. Got a video you don’t understand? Need help translate your favorite Spanish song? A text snippet? Bring it on, there’s always someone eager to crack the code.
Other subreddits dedicated to the job are Translator(/r/Translator) and Translation (/r/Translation), both of which are way more crowded and vibrant than Spanish Help with just one caveat: They are not solely meant for Spanish.
Before we move on, I’d like you to also note Does Not Translate (/r/DoesNotTranslate). This one is dedicated to stuff you cannot usually translate between languages. Why? Because, let’s face it, you just cannot translate everything from one language to another. That’s not how language works. For example, take the Spanish word sobremesa. This word is a compound of sobre (on, above) and mesa (table) and refers to an after-meal conversation at the dinner-table. You can explain the concept in English like I did but there exists no single-word equivalent for it in English. This subreddit consists of thousands of threads discussing such situations in dozens of language. Every thread has the language it concerns in brackets so that you could easily find the language that interests you. This is quite a fun and productive way to kill your time even though it does’t exactly teach you Spanish.
Improve Your Accent
There’s a subreddit called Judge My Accent (/r/JudgeMyAccent) which does exactly what it says: It helps you hone the sound of your Spanish. Well, not just Spanish but whatever language you fancy learning. The idea is simple: You record yourself speaking Spanish, save the recording with a filename (well, duh), and upload it to any of the free audio-sharing services out there such as SoundCloud® and Vocaroo®. Once you have your audio recording up, just pick the link to it and post it as a new thread on this subreddit asking for fellow redditors’ opinion on your accent. Some might have constructive feedback, others mean. But at the end of the day, this is the best way to polish your pronunciation and diction without risking a real-life ridicule.
Find Conversation Partners
Language Buds is where you find people to practice your conversational skills with. The subreddit sits at /r/LanguageBuds and has a rich community of eager learners for company. Just post a new message with the language you’re learning and would like to practice (Spanish), your level of proficiency (Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced), and the language you’re fluent in. In case you’re not sure of your level, take the free PeppyBurro test and find out. This will attract people who are fluent in Spanish and seek to practice the language you’re fluent in. Call this mutual back-scratching if you will but heaven knows how incredibly powerful the idea is when it comes to gaining speech proficiency.
There’s no quicker way to get fluent in a language than by stepping out of your comfortable cocoon and actually speaking the language you’re learning. It’s not easy but it’s way more doable than you think. Give it a shot and I promise you’ll surprise yourself. Other subreddits that serve more-or-less the same purpose are Exchanging Languages (/r/ExchangingLanguages) and Language Exchange (/r/Language_Exchange).
General Language Learning and Linguistics
There is a very generic subreddit sitting at /r/LanguageLearning for language learners of all kinds. Here, you’ll find everything from suggestions to resource-links and from tips to even conversation-partners. Of course, given the subreddit covers all languages ever invented, you’re gonna have to do a bit of digging to fish out threads relevant to Spanish. But they’re there for sure. Oh and don’t forget to check out the “Related Subreddits” section on this one because that’s where you’ll find a bunch of super-useful subreddits to complement your Spanish-learning experience.
Then there’s this subreddit called Linguistics (/r/Linguistics) which is meant for the language-nerds among you. If languages and the way they function fascinate you to the extent of you calling yourself a maniac, this is where you should be all the time. The subreddit discusses topics like “The History of Consonant Mutations in Celtic Languages” and “Evidence of Anglicisation in Spanish Pronoun Use.” Feeling dizzy? Told you, this is only for the maniacs who live, eat, and breathe languages. Although scarily nerdy, this subreddit can be impressively fun and informative if used as a pastime hangout whenever you need a break. Give it a shot.
Spanish Learning, Finally!
LANL Spanish (/r/LANL_Spanish) is exactly what you’ve been waiting for all this while. The LANL here stands for Learn A New Language. With a little more than 2,000 registered users as of today, this is a fairly active subreddit and is specifically meant for Spanish learners like you. No hardcore linguistics, no jargon crunchers – just plain-vanilla Spanish-learning.
Got an expression you want explained? Unsure of how to use a particular conjugation? Confused between two cognates? This is where you throw in questions like these for native speakers to answer. Once in a while you might even stumble upon a language-learner seeking conversation partners like you. In short, this subreddit is a one-stop-shop for everything that has anything to do with learning and improving one’s Spanish.
Another, much richer subreddit serving the same purpose is Learn Spanish (/r/LearnSpanish). With at least seven times the user base, Learn Spanish is obviously more active with more content than LANL Spanish. Yet another fun subreddit, and an even richer one at that, is /r/Spanish.
What I listed above is just the proverbial tip of the Reddit iceberg. There are virtually infinite number of subreddits that cover every aspect of language learning in general and Spanish in particular. You just have to look around. And if you do come across any that you feel deserves to be known, please don’t forget to share it with the rest of us in the comments below! If you already spend an ungodly amount of time on Reddit, at least make it count. Remember, anything you do on the computer can be hacked into teaching you Spanish. Anything.