Hey, you! Do you find yourself lost in daydreams or mentally preparing your shopping lists while listening to Spanish audio?
Well, you’re off to a good start—listening to authentic Spanish input is always awesome—but if you really want to be an advanced Spanish learner, you also need to become an active listener.
You put on a speech in Spanish and say to yourself, “this time, I won’t even flinch while listening.”
Then you flinch. You miss a word and lose track. You get confused or discouraged. You get distracted. Whatever the reason, you’ve stopped listening actively. Darn!
People always say you should just put on some YouTube videos and jam out to reggaeton to learn Spanish, right?
Yes, but, as you can now see, there’s so much more to it.
When we put on audio or video in our foreign language, our minds sometimes wander. This is normal and, believe it or not, it even happens to you in English while listening to recorded audio or participating in live conversations. The only difference between listening to audio in our native and foreign language is that we convince ourselves that we can’t understand the latter because it’s foreign, i.e. scary.
However, we usually don’t understand because we aren’t properly engaging nor actively listening to the speaker. Of course, while listening to foreign language audio you’ll come across unfamiliar vocabulary and expressions, but, if you’re an advanced learner and are able to listen actively, you’ll be able to deduce what the speaker wants to say in order to clearly receive the message on your end.
Despite your wicked accent, as a non-native speaker, you won’t necessarily be a perfect speaker. But, you can indeed acquire perfect comprehension through active listening. Audio will be your best friend in this approach, but putting on videos simply won’t cut it at the advanced level. Now you also have to engage with your content. It’s tricky, so listen up!
Firstly, let’s explore the audio approach. Then we’ll review some tips and tricks in order to make sure you can actively engage with the content in your audio recordings and videos.
But before we do that, let me tell you about one of the best methods to boost your listening comprehension skills: FluentU.
The Audio Approach to Learning Spanish
- Improve your comprehension and memory. Audio gets your mind listening and thinking in Spanish, within a regular register and natural, rhythmic flow of language. Over time, as you begin listening to longer and more advanced audio recordings, not only will you understand more, but you’ll also retain and remember more! With persistence, your attention span in Spanish will go through the roof!
- Explore accents, rhythms and intonations. Spanish is spoken in over 25 countries! Considering every province within every one of those countries has their own way of speaking, there are a lot of accents out there! From Spain to the Caribbean and Central and South America, you’ve got a diversity of Spanish audio to discover. All this audio helps you get in touch with these regional varieties to improve your listening, speaking and vocabulary.
- Strengthen your general knowledge. Audio not only improves your language knowledge, but also your general knowledge of many subjects such as world events, politics, culture, history and IT. The great thing about audio and being an advanced learner is that you can adjust your audio to your interests and really sink your teeth into the material. Interested in astronomy? Catalonian culture? The humanities? Pick any advanced topic and strengthen both your linguistic and general knowledge!
You listen to learn. Now let’s ensure you’re really learning. Here are my top three tips to get engaged in your audio resources!
3 Top Tips for Actively Listening to Advanced Spanish Audio
1. Learn how to take notes. You’ll require a notepad, a pen and highlighters. Dedicate one notepad solely to your Spanish audio notes. As you listen, write down key words or draw a picture to illustrate takeaway messages from the speech.
Be practical about your note-taking—don’t let it consume your attention because you still need to keep up with your listening along the way. One great trick for this is to develop abbreviated forms for common words. Take a look here for a thorough overview of note-taking.
2. Make your own recordings. This is an innovative way to engage with your audio and speaking. All you need is the built-in recorder on your laptop or computer. Every minute or so, stop your audio or video and reflect on what you’ve been speaking about. Write down little notes in Spanish about the main message in your recording.
Once you’ve finished this, listen to your video or audio again and make notes about any mistakes you’ve made while speaking. Feel free to record again and again until you get everything right, or you could return to the same topic in a few weeks or months and make another recording from scratch to gauge your improvement.
3. Shut out distractions. Turn off your Facebook, your phone, your television. Also, make sure to close all the open window tabs on your computer (all 20 of them)! Distractions and outside noise kill our active listening efforts and also interrupt our work flow. If you’re listening to an audio and stopping every 20 seconds to check a message or respond to something, not only will you waste your time but you’ll decrease your capacity for memorization. Stay present and the language rewards will come!
Now that you’ve seen the audio approach and reviewed active listening tips to engage with audio sources, let’s get to the point of the matter—the audio itself! Pride yourself on now being an advanced learner, but also remember to challenge yourself.
This compiled audio list is meant to do just that, challenge you! At times, you may certainly feel a bit confused or discouraged—after all, you’re finally phasing into advanced audio, which is often made by native Spanish speakers for native Spanish speakers. All you need to do is be very persistent.
What’s the key to persistence? Staying engaged and listening actively, using the tips above as guidelines! By keeping the gears in your brain whirring while listening to advanced Spanish audio, you’re more likely to stay tuned in and understand what people are saying.
Vamos ya (let’s go already), FluentU learners!
The 5 Best Spanish Audio Resources for Advanced Learners
1. Las Noticias Diarias (Daily News)
An excellent online audio source for advanced speakers. Every Spanish-speaking country has an online broadcast available of their national and internationals news. You can usually even download them as podcasts and listen to them in the car or on the train.
Here, not only are you increasing your awareness of global affairs but you’re learning quite advanced vocabulary. This is especially helpful audio if you work in law, government, economics or teaching. You can obtain these daily broadcasts by typing “Radio Nacional de [Country]” or “Diario Nacional de [Country]” into Google.
In the meantime, check these ones out!
- Diario de las 2 Podcasts (Spain)—1-hour news segments available 7 days a week that cover global affairs, Spanish politics and European sports.
- RadioNacional (Peru)—40-minute daily news segments focused primarily on Peruvian national news and current events in South America.
- RadioNacional (Argentina)—1-hour segments 7 days a week that cover Argentine national news and sports.
2. Discursos Formales (Formal Speeches)
More formal speeches are sometimes difficult to understand because they’re long and touch on many sub-topics. They may also use jargon or more advanced vocabulary.
However, through repeated listening they’ll make your comprehension impeccable. The United Nations has a whole online audio library of speeches from presidents, economic ministers and political activists, available in the 7 official languages, Spanish included!
For the best results, I find that listening to the same speech 3 times in the same week combined with effective note-taking gives nearly immediate results.
Check out these two UN speakers, and then President Correa of Ecuador at the Summit of the Americas:
- Hugo Chavez at the UN. Given at the UN 1 year before former president Chavez’s death, this speech covers topics ranging from socialism in Venezuela and economic ties to the West to US-Venezuela relations. Chavez is an incredibly gifted and entertaining orator, and he likes to use quite colorful descriptions and vocabulary! The speech is around 40 minutes and is an excellent listen if you want to orient yourself to formal political speech.
- President Mariano Rajoy at the UN. This speech delivered by Rajoy covers topics such as the state of Spanish politics, the Euro-zone economic crisis, unemployment and Spanish diplomacy. Rajoy is a bit of a dry speaker, but for anyone interested in nailing their Castilian accent, developing advanced political vocabulary or perhaps understanding more about the unemployment situation in Spain, he’s quite an excellent source.
- President Rafael Correa at the 2015 Summit of the Americas. This speech is short and focuses mainly on Ecuadorian relations with other Latin American countries in both Central and South America. Correa is a neutral-toned speaker yet quite charming. The link above will take you to speeches given by other Latin American leaders at the Summit as well.
Like the UN speeches? Check out the UN Radio in Spanish, which offers daily podcasts with up-to-date information on global affairs and UN missions.
3. Conferencias Universitarias (University Lectures)
If you want to listen to something academic and learn something new, why not do it in Spanish?
Talk about strengthening your comprehension and general knowledge! The lectures you can choose from range from history and art to accounting and graphic design. Pick something you’re genuinely interested in and chances are you won’t only actively listen, but you’ll really engage with the language and topic at hand. That’s a total win-win for you!
Check out online university lectures at…
- FundacionMapfre—An amazing web resource that has compiled lectures covering over 50 topics in Spanish! Topics include history, economics, political affairs and psychology. Take your pick, put on your headphones and start expanding your knowledge—all in Spanish!
- Universidad A Distancia Madrid—This site has over 14 categories available on the left tab from accounting and translation to criminology and humanities. Go ahead—pick your area of interest and start learning today! If you’re a university student, try picking your major from the left tab and listening to a lecture that covers similar topics to the ones you’re currently covering in class.
4. Cursos a Distancia (Online University Courses)
Why just listen to one lecture when you can listen to a whole set? Nowadays, knowledge and language learning go hand in hand. There’s no reason for you to step foot in a university classroom or incur the costs of attending a Spanish-speaking university, simply sign up for an online university course!
Sign up at Coursera with over 72 university level courses in Spanish on a variety of topics, in Spanish or Spanish subtitles!
Enroll in these two interesting 2015 courses summer session courses!
- Ser más creativos (Be more creative)—This course from the National Autonomous University of Mexico encourages you to enrich your life and work with creativity.
- Bajemos la temperatura—por que se debe evitar un planeta 4 grados más cálido—The title of this course from The World Bank Group is a statement in and of itself, saying “Turn down the temperature—why we should avoid having a 4 degrees rise in temperature on our planet.” The information contained here is important for you, and for all of humanity, to know.
Want a more full-time commitment?
Take an online course, get a certification or even complete a degree in Spanish by distance-ed through the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia. Since you’re bilingual, why not enroll in the part-time Tourism degree?
5. Podcasts Avanzados (Advanced Podcasts)
Podcasts are the classic, go-to resources for advanced Spanish audio. This is the quickest, least time-consuming way to get solid audio practice in on a daily basis. Downloadable audio files and transcript PDFs go a long way as well. The sites below have a number of activities that tag along with interactive worksheets.
- Notes In Spanish—This site is fantastic for learners who are on tight schedules. Advanced audios range from 10-15 minutes (all available in MP3 for download) and come with 2-3 worksheets to make sure you develop your vocabulary and writing alongside your comprehension. Only have an hour to spare for listening practice? Pick from over 50 advanced audio topics and get going on your listening and worksheets today!
- SpanishObsessed—This is a creative blog set up by a Spanish-speaking couple that go around the world interviewing and talking to a wide range of friends and individuals in Spanish-speaking countries. The great advantage here is that you get to listen to accents from all over the Spanish-speaking world within open and naturally flowing conversations. The site is set up for advanced learners, and if you really like the audio conversations, you can enroll in the Spanish Vocabulary Power Course for only $45 (USD).
And, of course, if you’re traveling, working in a Spanish-speaking country or now call one home, don’t forget to actively listen to all the chit-chat around you. Oh yeah, there’ll probably be people talking at you every day in shops, at work and on the street, so be sure to take full advantage of that!
Don’t take notes or make mini-recordings, but do make sure to stay present, listen actively and engage.
Hasta la próxima amigos! (Until next time, friends!)
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