If you're a new Spanish learner you probably can't help but notice the lack of practicality in many language courses. Sure, a given course might give you a slew of grammar rules or basic phrases, but more often then not the content just isn't that applicable in the real world.
Enter Gritty Spanish, an entire program centered around teaching students everyday conversational Spanish that they can actually use in real life.
In this review we take a look at this unique, and in many ways effective, course. We'll look at some of its strengths, as well as some of its weaknesses.
Let's dive in!
Review of: Gritty Spanish
Use: Audio based program for learning conversational Spanish
Great for learning conversational Spanish, not great for grammar
Versions from $44.95
Use as much or as little as you want
Ease of Use
Simple to use: just listen, read, or repeat
More of a learning tool than structured course
I Don't Like
Gritty Spanish is an audio based learning program centered around a series of recorded dialogues. Each dialogue has two recordings (one faster and one slower), as well as written transcripts in both English and Spanish.
This program isn't a full on Spanish course, and it doesn't pretend to be. It's true strength is as a Spanish learning tool.
Gritty Spanish uniquely tackles the challenge of Spanish fluency by exposing students to a variety of Spanish accents, colloquialisms, and even swear words. No other Spanish course or program can boast such a practical approach to expanding your Spanish vocabulary.
The conversations are centered on everyday informal interactions you're likely to have on the streets with native Spanish speakers.
Versions starting at $44.95
How Gritty Spanish works
Gritty Spanish has two main components: a collection of recorded Spanish dialogues, and the transcripts for those dialogues which are in both Spanish and English.
A short example of one of Gritty Spanish's recorded dialogues.
In total Gritty Spanish (part one) has 31 dialogues (aka episodes). On average the episodes are around five minutes long, but some go as long as ten minutes and others are as short as two.
The episodes and transcripts aren't set up like a Spanish course, in that they don't systematically walk you through the language. Gritty Spanish is design to be used as a resource you can use in the best way you see fit.
How to use Gritty Spanish
Improve listening and accent
One obvious use for the episodes is improving your listening skills. The transcripts will also help you learn whole phrases and words in context, which is a great way to improve your vocabulary skills.
You can even go so far as to mimic the native speakers in the recordings. Try playing back the audio line by line and do your best to repeat what you hear. You can also record yourself repeating a line and compare it to the recording of the native speaker(s).
Build conversation skills
Using the dialogues you will learn to use new words in the context of a larger conversation. This is powerful.
One great way to increase your conversational ability is to take whole phrases from different dialogues and start mixing and matching them as best you as can to express yourself.
Just make sure that you practice in such a way that you receive feedback from native speakers, so you can correct any mistakes you might make.
You can do this either by writing it out on an online journal like Lang-8 or the community journal on Italki. Both sites will let you post written entries for free to be corrected by native speakers.
You can also practice using the phrases you learn while practicing with a language partner or friend. Just be careful with the curse words (obviously)!
Gritty Spanish is great for picking up regional accents and slang
Strengths of Gritty Spanish
You will learn colloquial Spanish (and curse words)
Spanish courses almost always emphasize the most polite and formal uses of a foreign language. This is great in theory, but more often than not the focus on formality can make it difficult for students to understand the language as it's spoken on the streets or in everyday life.
However Gritty Spanish lives up to its name and gets down to the nitty gritty of the Spanish language. You will learn how to curse and, more importantly , how to speak and understand informal Spanish.
There aren't any other courses or programs I know of that do this in the thorough and comprehensive way that Gritty Spanish does.
If used right it will increase your conversation skills
Another common pitfall of language courses is that they don't teach students in a way that's practical.
When this happens grammar and correct speech are emphasized to a fault and learners are left with basic sentences that they're not likely to say in real life such as: "I am wearing a red shirt" or "The cat is drinking milk".
Again Gritty Spanish shows its strength where other programs fail. These dialogues are about as practical as it gets. If you study and use the phrases and vocabulary from Gritty Spanish you will attain a conversational level of Spanish a bit quicker than other alternatives.
You'll also be speaking the language in a manner that is closer to the way native speakers use it in everyday life.
Exposes you to different Spanish accents
While all variants of Spanish are mutually intelligible, many students will struggle with understanding the different dialects. Depending on where a native speaker is from, some Spanish sounds get added, dropped, or even morphed.
If you're accustomed to hearing one type of accent (let's say Mexican), then it might be hard for you to keep up when talking to someone from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
The actors in Gritty Spanish are from all over the Spanish speaking world. If you work through the dialogues you will encounter an array of different accents.
Shortcomings of Gritty Spanish
Best used with some foundation in Spanish
This program is ideal for students who already have some experience in the Spanish language. You won't find anything in the way of grammar lessons or explanations, so if you're completely new to the language things could get overwhelming.
Not a lot of structure
This program is designed as a Spanish learning resource. If you're looking for a structured or systematic Spanish course this probably isn't the best option for you.
What other people are saying about Gritty Spanish
Gritty Spanish is just that: gritty, and Spanish. It’s real, down and dirty, colloquial Spanish for those who want to really speak like a native speaker. Well, a potty-mouthed native speaker! You’ll learn almost every possible insult and curse word from the Spanish-speaking world.
Even if you’re not a swearer in your regular speech, knowing this stuff in case someone comes at your with a mouthful of sweary insults is still priceless. Think of it as the self-defence of the language world. This makes for much more interesting and engaging content that your bog standard ‘¿qué tal? muy bien gracias’.
Alternatives to Gritty Spanish
20+ minutes a day
Rocket Spanish is built around recorded audio in the form of dialogues. The dialogues have English explanations and usually teach the language in "chunks" or phrases versus individual words (this is great for conversational Spanish).
Rocket Spanish also has a hefty literacy component. Rocket Korean is more comprehensive overall and teaches writing and reading.
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Spanishpod101 features audio lessons in a podcast format. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary, and are centered around a recorded dialogue between two native speakers.
The teachers (aka podcast hosts) do a great job of keeping things engaging.
Spanishpod101 is a substantial Spanish learning tool. The site features transcripts for each lesson, and there is also a flashcard system for learning new words.
If you want to get down to the meat of Spanish conversations then Gritty Spanish may be the program for you.
The program does an excellent job of exposing you to everyday Spanish as you're likely to hear it used on the street. Few other courses or programs do this as well as Gritty Spanish.
If you're big on having real Spanish conversation, and aren't as into grammar tables and useless phrases, then I recommend you give Gritty Spanish a shot!