Studying Spanish

I’ve been getting several emails lately on resources for medical Spanish, so I thought I’d not re-invent the wheel.

First things first: I try to keep an updated list of my all-time favorite resources here. You should check it out, there’s some good stuff there. If you think there’s anything I should add, let me know!

Grammar and Vocab Basics & Dictionaries: I really like Duolingo and Fluencia as good beginner-level review of vocab and grammar. is my preferred online dictionary, and they have a grammar review section as well. I haven’t used this site much, but a quick browsing of Conjuguemos looks promising for more grammar review–they have four “por vs. para” exercises, which is always my nemesis!

I have a couple of Larousse apps as well for my iPad and iPhone…I like using the Spanish-Spanish dictionaries whenever possible! I have a little Medical Spanish app on my phone as well, to look up quick vocab and phrases…sometimes I’ll just browse phrases while on the bus or when I have a few spare minutes.



Medical Spanish Texts: McGraw-Hill’s Spanish for Healthcare Professionals has been my go-to…I like how it mixes grammar and thematic vocab, and it also gives a variety of vocab based on colloquial use (usually noted by location: Mexico, Spain, Caribbean, S.America).

The Yes/No Medical Spanish is also useful…but for basics, not for developing fluency in conversation. It’s geared towards being able to do a really basic exam and history, by asking yes/no questions. Of course, the first thing you’ll learn in nursing school is that open-ended questions are the preferred method of establishing rapport, or “therapeutic communication” as the nursing lingo will have it.

Online Audio: I love Batanga–it’s a Spanish-language version of Pandora. Great way to be introduced to new musicians. I also listen to Radio Bilingüe for news and music. They have a great 15-minute weekly news podcast that’s really good, and usually it’s slow enough that I can understand most of it. Much better than BBC Mundo, which goes way too fast for me!

Classes: Honestly, I think in-person once (preferrably twice) a week class is the best way to deepen Spanish if you’re not a native speaker. At least for me, I need the consistency–and the knowledge that I’ve made a financial investment in my learning–to help keep me motivated.

If in-person classes are not an option, another possibility is online tutoring, whether with someone you know, or through a school. I went to Mexico last year and studied for three weeks in Cuernavaca, a city known for its language programs. It’s not a beach town, but there are many lovely things about being in a smaller, less touristy city. I ended up at CETLALIC, a super awesome, progressive Spanish-language school. They’re inspired by the work of Paulo Freire, are LGBTQ-inclusive (all their home stay families go through a training before they’re allowed to participate), and they also do online weekly Skype lessons for $20/hr, which I’ve been doing on and off as my schedule allows. I can’t recommend them highly enough! In fact, I’m headed back in June for a quick week of brush-up, and hope to return for a longer three-week stint again in September.

The Bottom-Line: It sounds cliché, but try to read, speak and listen to at least a little Spanish every day. I challenge myself to try and explain the pathophys or pharm stuff I’m learning in Spanish (to imaginary patients if I don’t have Spanish-speaking ones to work with). It’s an art to be able to not only translate drug info but also make it understandable. How does insulin work, in Spanish…GO!

If you can, start a conversation group. It can be hard to keep up in school, but when you can, it’s worth it. Habla, habla, habla, cada día!

What are your favorite resources? How do you find ways to practice your Spanish every day? Have any study abroad/language programs you’d recommend? Share them in the comments here, on Facebook, or @radmidwife and I’ll add them to my list!



One thought on “Studying Spanish

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s