“When you talk, you are only repeating what you know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”—The Dalai Lama
Let’s get real.
We all learn Spanish for individual reasons but the actual target of language learning is likely the same for everyone: communication.
Whether we’re learning for fun, education or employment, our goal with Spanish (and any language!) is to exchange thoughts with others. And to exchange thoughts, we must know how to listen to what’s being said so we can respond appropriately.
Excellent Spanish listening skills are vital to good communication.
Listening well helps learners grow a core vocabulary and allows for picking up idioms and regional phrases, as well. Slang, too!
The big question is: How can we learn to listen well enough to understand and effectively reply to the Spanish in our lives?
We practice listening in Spanish. A lot.
Fortunately, there are lots of effective ways to improve your Spanish listening skills that you can incorporate into a Spanish language program. They’re engaging and fun, so this portion of your program doesn’t have to be a drag!
Let’s check out some ways to power up your Spanish listening skills—as well as some resources paired with even more tips to really maximize your learning.
The Best Strategies to Improve Spanish Listening Comprehension
Practice Active Spanish Listening
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to practice your Spanish listening skills. Every bit of practice helps and there’s no definitive best way to do it.
Still, you might be practicing a less-than-effective method in your program. If you find that you’re not progressing much in your studies, or you’re doing so very slowly, you might benefit from practicing active Spanish listening.
Active listening means sitting down and giving the audio your full attention.
While practicing active listening, there shouldn’t be a ton of background noise to distract you. Ideally, no background noise is best. Without diversions, it’s easier to actually concentrate on listening.
As you listen, power up comprehension skills by taking notes.
Pause and repeat the conversation, lesson, podcast, story or whatever you’re listening to. Listen to complicated parts more than once—as many times as necessary to fully understand them.
Give your speaking skills a little practice, too: Whatever you’re listening to, repeat what you hear or, better yet, reply to whoever’s speaking. Join in—be active in your practice!
Schedule Time to Learn
Sometimes, you just have to crunch those hours. Making time for Spanish listening practice is essential for success!
Do whatever you have to do to shuffle your commitments so you can schedule more listening practice time into your Spanish program.
Maximize success by establishing a dedicated daily practice time. Just make it part of your day, the way you do with other really important activities—wake up, brush teeth, practice Spanish listening. Easy!
Also, use this time wisely. Don’t listen to the same material or even the same level of material day in and day out. Build upon your previous Spanish listening skills and gradually increase the difficulty to challenge yourself.
Look Beyond Program Walls
There’s more to a Spanish program than coursework, computer activities or the usual drill time.
Look beyond all of that and get out of the box! There are so many things you can do to bring Spanish into your life in a natural way. Here are just a few ideas:
- Go to events where Spanish is being spoken. How better to practice listening than by actually listening—and communicating—with others speaking this beautiful language?
- Attend Spanish movie premiers. If you’re in a good-sized city, this will be effortless. Lots of cinemas run foreign-language films.
Living in a more rural area? You might have to do a bit of searching for this but sometimes libraries host foreign language groups. And those groups? They often show films! Even if they don’t, you’ll be well on your way to accomplishing the following tip…
- Join a club and go to where Spanish is spoken. If there isn’t a Spanish club near you, why not consider forming one? Embrace casual conversations, even on day-to-day topics, or choose a hobby or topic to focus on (how about a Spanish-language book club?). Communication is essential!
The point is to take your Spanish program to the streets—literally.
Improve Your Spanish Listening with 6+ Resources and Tons of Practical Tips
Below, we’ve included resources where you can get some Spanish listening practice, as well as some strategies to improve your Spanish listening comprehension.
You can apply many of the tips from these options to practically any resource you use for listening practice!
Doorway to Mexico
Doorway to Mexico podcasts are geared toward intermediate and advanced learners. They’re so interesting that it’s worth the effort to work hard to get to that level just so you can listen to them!
They cover authentic topics that’ll especially interest anyone planning to travel to Mexico. Ordering in a restaurant, getting around by taxi and even being pulled over by the police are some of the subjects covered here.
Listen for free or pay a fee to access additional materials like transcripts and study guides. I listen without any of the extra resources and enjoy the time spent looking through this Doorway to Mexico!
- There’s an assortment of topics so glance through them and choose the themes that interest you the most. Maybe food or travel?
- These aren’t basic, so don’t be discouraged. If you miss something, listen more than once. Be kind to yourself.
- Jot down idioms, slangy words and new phrases. If you ever go to Mexico, you’ll be prepared with some street talk!
- Expand on your listening practice by pulling in some speaking practice. Respond to the discussions you’re hearing. Many are conversations—join in!
FluentU (Android | iOS)
If engaging Spanish content in the form of videos curated from across the globe sounds interesting (and why wouldn’t it?), FluentU has you covered!
And with so many options to choose from (and more added regularly), it’s impossible to run out of material!
- Start where you are. If you’re a beginner to Spanish, choose beginner-level videos. Videos are labeled to indicate their target audience. Intermediate? Choose from that level. Just begin listening at a level that’s comfortable for you.
- When you hear an unfamiliar word or phrase, use the interactive subtitles. Just hover over the word as the movie plays for an instant definition and more info! Add words to your vocab list on FluentU to practice them later.
- Take the adaptive quizzes to make sure you understood and remembered every word correctly. The algorithm will remember your previous learning and give you a completely personalized experience!
- When you can, close your eyes and just listen—don’t watch! I know this one’s super tough because the videos are all worth watching but trust me, you’ll benefit from focusing on listening. Besides, you can always go back later to watch what you miss.
The free podcasts on Radio Ambulante (literally “Walking Radio”) are entertaining, exciting, enlightening—and educational!
These podcasts feature Spanish stories and interviews from across the globe. Many countries are represented and the various dialects, regional context and cultural insights are very interesting.
English and Spanish transcripts are provided with each podcast.
- Listen without reading the transcript. The podcasts are read by native speakers and are pretty straightforward so intermediate level learners shouldn’t have any issues falling into these stories.
- Beginning learners, note unfamiliar vocabulary as you hear it. Pause, note and define—and make your vocabulary grow with every new story!
Podcastsinspanish offers short podcasts for all levels. This one’s a budget-friendly option—absolutely free! Listen to as many as possible to gain some excellent learning skills.
Additional resources like worksheets and transcripts are available with paid memberships. They make a nice addition but are certainly not necessary.
- Choose the appropriate level for you. Keep in mind, though, that leveling up as you get more proficient is important to overall growth.
- Transcribe what you hear. Pause and repeat to catch every word, if necessary. Consider the writing practice a bonus! If you paid for extras, compare your transcript to the official one and note where you struggled.
- If you opt for the free version, you might find a dictionary or translation app useful.
Gritty Spanish (Android | iOS)
Audio stories are available on the Gritty Spanish app and include side-by-side transcripts. Each transcript also notes the characters in the story and where they’re from, so you know exactly what kind of accent or dialect you’re hearing.
The stories are interesting but it bears noting that Gritty Spanish is intended for adult audiences. The content is “gritty” and deals with topics for mature learners like getting drunk, partying, being sick and others in a similar vein.
- Use the “slow mode” option to slow down stories if you find you’re having trouble understanding them. When you’re ready, go to full speed to hear speakers using a natural conversational pace.
- Download episodes to use offline so you’ll always have listening material at hand!
“Destinos” (“Destinations”) is a Spanish telenovela (soap opera). If you’re not familiar with telenovelas, you might be in for a pleasant surprise—that is, if you’re a fan of episodic shows.
My aunt calls telenovelas “mis historias” (my stories) and plans her entire day around watching them, but that’s a whole other story. The point is, many people watch and love them. You might, too!
“Destinos” is a 52 episode series that takes place in Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Mexico. All of these locations are shown in the episodes so this is a nice way to see spots you might have on your must-visit list!
- It might seem obvious, but start with the first episode. As the story progresses, the plot and character roles become more intricate. It’s better to get everyone straight in your head from the beginning so there won’t be any confusion!
- There are fun quizzes and review sections at the end of each episode. Take the time to do these. It’s a chance to clarify anything you didn’t understand.
- Included grammar practice and vocabulary lists supplement this Spanish listening practice. Don’t disregard these opportunities to grab some extra Spanish skills!
Back to the Basics
Spanish-language listening practice options are all around you. Here are a few more:
- YouTube has tons of listening practice videos. This beginner video from Eko Languages is a great place to start.
- Spanish music? It’s all listening practice—and besides, it’s entertaining. While it’s recommended to actively listen, sometimes it’s okay to not focus on active Spanish listening and just enjoy the music. You’ll still pick up bits of language without really trying if you keep background music playing.
A quick search in your preferred music app will give you many options!
- Have fun with Spanish tv shows. They provide lots of listening practice and, if you tune into something silly, lots of laughs.
I have a soft spot for “Los Simpson” (“The Simpsons”)—maybe you’ll get a kick out of Homero and the gang, too!
Comprehension, fluency, communication—all are dependent on good listening skills.
Listening is an absolutely essential part of any Spanish program. Don’t waste precious time putting off gaining proficiency in this skill.
Spend enough energy on Spanish listening practice and you’ll see how quickly your language skills increase! Practice enough to communicate like a native, improve your Spanish listening skills and you’ll soon understand every Spanish word and phrase that comes your way.
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