To learn Spanish on the internet is the ideal situation for many people, as work, family and other commitments often meaning that they rarely have sufficient time to go and enroll in a formal after-hours or part-time class.
The good news is that it has never been easier to learn Spanish on the internet, and there are many good programs and sources of information out there for you to access.
There are some free Spanish tutorials, audio lessons, and vocabulary lists available, and these are fine as basic introductions or overviews of a topic. However, as with anything free – it's not always the best quality and you are rarely going to go through things in the correct order. It depends what you want to indeed achieve. If you're just looking to learn a few basic words and phrases, that's fine, but if you're serious about wanting to really learn spanish on the internet, then it may be useful to approach it in an organized way. You need a good foundation.
Online forums and groups like those at About.com offer a great free way to get some exposure to the Spanish language, and it's always full of really helpful people. Sign up is easy, just go to About.com and search for "Spanish forums".
There are a few really good paid-for programs out there, and these take you step-by-step through the learning process from beginner to advanced. They will often provide you with some free tutorials too just to get you started.
Programs like "Rocket Spanish", "Learning Spanish Like Crazy" (particularly if you want to learn Latin American Spanish) and "Rosetta Stone Spanish" (mainland and Latin American) are available over the internet and can also be listened to / used in your car, at home, on your way to work etc. The Rosetta Stone program has a system on the Internet which lets you access it at any time and from anywhere. This is great because when you have some free time you can make the most of it. This extra functionality is reflected in the price. So, while it is the more expensive product on the market, it may suit your particular taste and learning style. They have a free demo of this system on their website – check out my resource box at the bottom for more information.
How fast you will pick up the language depends on your ability, the amount of time you can devote to it, and various other factors. Some programs say you can be speaking Spanish within three months, but I think that's a little exaggerated – I would try to aim for about six or more. Give yourself time to assimilate and understand everything, and just practice, practice, practice.
Hasta luego, Pablo