Hey you, listen up!
You didn’t hear me?
You want me to repeat that and talk slower?
Wow, I guess you really can’t understand me when I speak.
Let’s not have your Spanish students become that person who can’t understand anything in conversation.
You know, the one who nods politely until they’re asked a direct question–and then they say they didn’t understand.
Listening to Spanish passively–that is to say, without really paying attention and comprehending all of it–is easy enough.
However, discerning meaning from what you hear is a bit more complicated.
This is especially true if you’re listening to a native speaker.
Along with Spanish conversation, Spanish listening often presents one of the biggest challenges for students.
How to Get Authentic Audio for Your Spanish Language Listening Activities
Practicing Spanish listening and improving related skills is vital to any student’s ability to thrive in Spanish class—and in the real world.
They’re going to need it if they travel abroad or decide to take the AP exam.
One key element to incorporating useful and positive learning exercises into your class is to ensure you have the right tools.
Thankfully, today’s technology has made obtaining authentic Spanish audio from native speakers as easy as clicking your mouse. For the following activities, you’ll need to use varied resources.
Diverse audio input strengthens all-around listening and conversational skills, and prepares students for the huge range of situations they’ll encounter outside the classroom. Shake things up and try to track down these different types of authentic Spanish audio.
- Native Spanish Speakers Doin’ Their Thing
You can visit a number of sites providing free audio clips. One of the best is called Spanish Proficiency Exercises by the University of Texas. It features clips of native speakers talking about diverse topics and categorizes the clips by Spanish level. There’s something useful there for all proficiency levels. There are also many podcasts that you can incorporate into your class, some of the best podcasts for Spanish learners are listed here.
- Spanish Audiobooks
Listening to Spanish audiobooks is perfect for grasping the pronunciation used by native speakers. You can download tons of Spanish audiobooks for free thanks to the internet, and some are even featured in their entirety on YouTube.
For instance, the entire audiobook for “Harry Potter y La Piedra Filosfal” is available, and so is the audiobook for “El Hobbit.” You can also purchase audiobooks online from sites like Amazon if your school is willing to cover the expense. Public libraries generally offer a good selection of audiobooks nowadays, so be sure to check your local library first.
- Radio Talk Shows
Another category of authentic audio for use in your class is Spanish radio talk show clips. These can be news shows, which can be found at sites like the BBC Spanish language site or the Spanish language version of NPR.
Of course, those sites are just the tip of the iceberg for options to use in class. For Spanish radio talk shows, you can check out this site for Puerto Rican radio, the European site Listen Live, which streams radio programs from all over Spain, or Radios-on-line, which is a resourceful site featuring live streams from programs all over the world.
With all of these resources available at your fingertips, the below activities will be easy to incorporate into your classes.
4 Spanish Listening Activities to Perk Your Students’ Ears Up
1. Directions from Native Speakers
It’s all well and good if you can manage to ask someone where to find your destination in Spanish while traveling abroad. However, this generally tends to be the easy part.
Natives sometimes speak quite quickly, to the point where a Spanish newbie cannot understand the response.
Students will benefit greatly from listening to native Spanish speakers giving directions, especially if they end up spending any time abroad.
A great way to practice is to do an activity in class where your students listen to native Spanish speakers giving directions and try to figure out the correct destination.
To find examples of Spanish speakers giving directions, visit a website featuring clips like this one by the University of Texas or browse YouTube.
During class, give each of your students a blank piece of paper. Have them draw out maps based on the directions they hear. At the end of each clip (you can play it multiple times), have students compare their results to see if they ended up in the same location.
2. Similar Word Differentiation
One of the trickiest aspects of Spanish listening comprehension is differentiating words that sound remarkably similar.
Prior to the active listening activities, play short audio clips for them to listen to carefully. These should feature native Spanish speakers pronouncing certain words that emphasize letter sounds. FluencyProf offers a number of clips which are suitable for use in class.
Lingolex is also a fantastic site for listening to the proper pronunciation of Spanish letter sounds.
After you feel your students have a strong sense of the proper pronunciation of the letters of the Spanish alphabet, it’s time to conduct a brief activity for practice and reinforcement.
Prior to class, type up a list of word pairs that sound similar in Spanish. This list should highlight words that vary by only one letter or so, like perro andpero.
In class, ask your students to split up into pairs. Have the students take turns reading one of the two similar words while the other guesses which word the first student said.
An alternative to making this activity a partner exercise is to play the similar sounding words as said by a native speaker. A really nifty website to use as a resource is called Forvo, which offers the pronunciations of any Spanish word you can think of by speakers from multiple countries.
Learning to detect subtle differences between Spanish words will quickly boost their skills and make them sound more like natives themselves.
3. Spanish Talk Radio Listening Comprehension
Good morning everyone, and welcome to our radio talk show! You’re in for quite a treat today, as we plan to discuss the latest in celebrity gossip as well as breaking news!
Listening to talk radio can be simultaneously obnoxious, entertaining and a good way to pass the time. Talk show hosts are often hired for their unique, booming vocalizations of words. The overall quality of their speaking voices is ideal for clarity over the airwaves.
Therefore, listening to talk show hosts from Spanish speaking countries can be a great way for your students to practice language acquisition.
There are many websites where you can find clips from Spanish radio show broadcasts to play for your students. You can focus activities around Spanish language radio in a number of ways. One option is to play a number of clips for your students and ask them to guess which country each host is from. Another idea is to play a clip and then have a class-wide discussion about the content of the clip.
You can also conduct this activity using songs from different Spanish speaking countries and have students guess where the singer or band is from. For this option, it’s best to use more obscure bands or singers so that students won’t know beforehand where they’re from.
4. Spanish Audiobook Listening Activity
Involving tales with which your students are familiar, such as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “The Hobbit,” or “The Hunger Games,” is a great way to keep them intrigued and entertained throughout language lessons. Listening to books such as the aforementioned in class is a wonderful activity to utilize in Spanish class.
An ideal way to incorporate Spanish audiobooks is to play descriptions of various characters or locations found within them. For example, play a passage describing Ron Weasley or Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series. Then, see which student can guess whom, where or what the passage describes first.
As mentioned in the opening section of this post, audiobooks in Spanish can be found on Amazon, via podcast or on YouTube.
Of course, the above activities are just a few of the many ways you can incorporate listening activities. Get creative with your activities and try your best to keep them fresh, fun and intriguing for your students!