One of the best Spanish learning sites I’ve ever tooled around on is the BBC’s interactive language program Mi Vida Loca. Truly multimedia, it’s part film, part grammar and vocabulary text, and part video game. And it’s free! The storyline is that you’ve been given the keys to a friend’s flat in Madrid, only to discover that her sister Merche is crashing there already. Merche comes off as an oddball at first—extremely paranoid, but also extremely friendly. And in order to challenge your language skills, she speaks no English. Luckily, you have a virtual friend who pops up on occasion to act as your dictionary, cultural reference, and pronunciation guide.
You quickly come to find out that Merche is a journalist working on a big story about environmental concerns with tourist developments in the Canary Islands. Her research has landed her on the wrong side of some very dangerous people, which explains her paranoia. It’s also reason enough for her to drag you around different parts of Spain. All the while, you’re put into useful situations: ordering at a restaurant, asking for directions, booking a room, renting a car, and even getting some help at a drug store (gulp!). You also sit in on a Spanish class run by one of Merche’s friends (portrayed by the BBC employee who helped develop the program), try your luck at crossword puzzles and other language games, and finish up the series with a skills exam to see how far you’ve come. And trust me, by the time you get to the end, you’ll have picked up quite a bit of Spanish. For that reason, the series is particularly good for folks preparing for a trip.
Since the film takes place mostly in central Spain, castellano is generally used throughout. So expect to hear some “th” sounds and vosotros forms—though you do get a taste of español de Canarias in the last few episodes. And just as American and British English vary in vocabulary occasionally, the same is true for Castilian and Latin American Spanish: billete instead of boleto for instance. But that shouldn’t stop you from using this fantastic program. You’re bound to meet and speak with a Spaniard at some point in your life. Better yet, just start planning a trip to Spain! That’ll justify this course for sure.