by Patricia Garza
There are more than 45 million registered Spanish speakers in the U.S. which makes Spanish the second most used language in the country-this figure doesn't even include the number of undocumented Spanish-speaking immigrants that reside in the States illegally. With that said, it doesn't come to a surprise that bilingual employees who are able to cater to both English and Spanish-speaking communities are seen as an invaluable assets in the work force-especially in fields where communication with people of different ethnicities is the norm, such as in healthcare, education and customer service. Bilinguals are in such high demand that not only are they viewed as the stronger applicant, but some are even offered higher starting salaries than their only English-speaking competition.
That said, being fluent in both Spanish and English can help expand your employment opportunities substantially. While acquiring a formal education is the best route to take in order to learn Spanish, (especially if you have no prior knowledge of the language) if you do not have the time or the money to return to school (or to even invest in pricey language learning software like Rosetta Stone) you can still learn the language at a collegiate level by checking out a few free online classes. These online classes, which are offered by some of the most prestigious colleges in the country, are designed specifically for eager enthusiasts who have the tolerance to more or less teach themselves a particular subject-the students will not have the option to receive assistance from professors or classmates and will not earn college credit, but through reviewing class material, such as syllabi, notes, lecture slides and video students can essentially learn a subject entirely on their own. While not all of the necessary elements may be included, for instance you may need to purchase a textbook and special software, since the classes themselves are free, it's definitely worth a shot.
With that said, below are some free online courses that are designed to teach students not only how to speak Spanish from a beginner level to expert, but also about the culture of Latinos. After all, it's easier to be invested in learning a particular language when one has an appreciation of its people and customs.
For beginners - These following introductory courses are designed to teach students the foundational linguistic concepts of Spanish while briefly touching on Hispanic culture (some are even taught in English):
Intermediate - Naturally each new class builds on knowledge from the previous one. That said, these following courses are designed to improve oral skills with the use of movie clips and other resources
Advanced - While most likely you still will not be considered "fluent," at this level you should be able to feel comfortable to communicate with natives and write/read on an advanced level.
These are a selection on online Spanish courses offered by a number of US universities. Other online Spanish courses are available.
Article submitted by Patricia Garza, who writes about gadget, technology, design, social media, e-learning related articles at online university rankings.