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Best resources for learning Spanish

Tsukemono Tsukemono (New) New Nurse

Specializes in Med/Surg. Has 8 years experience.

I just recently started working in a heavily Spanish-speaking population in California. I myself have no real knowledge of Spanish, except for the little I remember from high school and the bits I've picked up along the way. It's nowhere near as much as I need to communicate with my Spanish-speaking-only patients. Of course, we have translators in the hospital, people on the unit that are fluent in the language, and phone numbers/video chats that we can use to communicate with our patients. But, I still feel like I'm doing them a disservice by not being able to know what they need every time I go in the room, or know how to ask them questions regarding how they're feeling as I do my hourly rounds. I can't have a translator at my side at all times and I don't want to pull other employees from their jobs. What resources have you guys found useful in situations like this? Any help would be appreciated. One of my co-workers said I'd pick it up along the way, but that could take a while. She also said "conversational Spanish would be too formal". I'm not 100% sure what that means as I'd assume conversations would typically be informal, no? Thanks so much for any and all assistance you can give on this!

LibraNurse27, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community Health, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown. Has 8 years experience.

Hi, I am not a native Spanish speaker and I am fluent in Spanish. I learned a lot in high school but didn't become fluent until I also worked in a heavily Spanish speaking clinic. The best way to learn is to practice with native speakers. I also used a program called Talk To Me, kind of a much less expensive knock off of Rosetta Stone, LOL 😃 I hear Rosetta Stone is really helpful. I am so glad I learned because I am one of 2 Spanish speaking nurses on my unit and I use my Spanish every single shift. It is so nice of you to want to learn! I've found patients really appreciate any effort, even if it's just greetings or basics. That is why I speak a tiny bit of Cantonese with an absolutely terrible accent!

HiddencatBSN, BSN

Specializes in Peds ED. Has 10 years experience.

I learned some important phrases and learned some vocabulary that was commonly coming up. Pain, hungry, thirsty, bathroom. Basic medical history vocabulary (allergies, medications, common medical problems). I focused on yes/no questions. My goal was to be able to handle minor stuff without having to do a full interpreter- would the guest at the bedside like water? Are they having pain? Feeling same, better or worse?

I listened closely to the interpreters, chatted with them and asked them for phrases (we dispensed a ton of meds so I learned how to write dosing directions in spanish). I googled some basic grammar, made the duolingo owl really disappointed in me with sporadic use. I was always quick to involve interpreters for anything beyond “small talk” but I found as time went on I could communicate quite a bit and understand even more.

I think any form of grammar and sentence construction you like plus creating a list of most common vocabulary items plus really listening to the interpreters to be pretty helpful.

I use DuoLingo each day. It’s a free app. I know enough to get by and keep learning. You could download it and try it out perhaps.
it has helped me communicate with Spanish speaking patients and families.


Specializes in Med/Surg. Has 8 years experience.

Thank you everyone! I was using Duolingo to learn French before I had started working again, so now I have started using it for Spanish as well. I am also going to look in to Rosetta Stone and RS alternatives.