The Complete Guide to the Intermediate Spanish Level: Courses, Tips and Inspiration
After all the hours flipping through your beat-up flashcards, leaving the folks at the Mexican restaurant blinking clueless because you’ve unintentionally mangled their language… you’ve finished your basic Spanish course!
But believe it or not, the fun is really just beginning.
Let’s take it beyond asking where the bathroom is, telling the time or expressing that you’re happy today, to a level where you can chat about real opinions without native speakers having to speak despacio (slowly).
Today I’m going to introduce you to six intermediate Spanish courses online that not only bolster and fortify your basic Spanish skills, but also let you have really meaningful conversations with native speakers.
- What Is the Spanish Intermediate Level?
- How Do You Know if You’re at the Intermediate Level?
- How Much Grammar Do I Need at the Intermediate Level?
- What Is the Intermediate Plateau?
- 6 Practical Tips to Get Past the Intermediate Plateau
- 6 Intermediate Spanish Courses to Help You Climb Beyond the Intermediate Plateau
What Is the Spanish Intermediate Level?
According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), an intermediate user of Spanish, or any other language for that matter, is an independent user of the language.
If a learner of Spanish is in the B1-B2 levels, they can then be called intermediate, independent users of Spanish.
But what does “independent user” even mean?
We’ll explore this in the next two sections.
How Do You Know if You’re at the Intermediate Level?
“Independent user” is just a fancy way to say that you’re able to use a language to a certain extent without depending on a book, a dictionary or your Spanish-speaking best friend.
Still not sure if that’s you?
OK, then. You know you’re at the intermediate level of Spanish when:
- You can talk easily about simple topics like your family, your school, your hobbies and your free time (B1) or about other abstract and technical topics that you’re interested in (B2).
- You can read and write about your personal interests, your opinion and your dreams (B1) or about practically any topic where you’d be expected to give your personal opinion or a list of pros and cons (B2).
- You can successfully survive almost any everyday short interaction in Spanish (B1) or you can hold a simple conversation with a native Spanish speaker with ease (B2).
Depending on where you are in the B-level continuum, you’ll either be classified as a B1 user of Spanish (this is what’s normally called simply “intermediate learner”) or a B2 user of Spanish (normally called “upper-intermediate learner”).
There are two questions a lot of my Spanish students love to ask:
- How many Spanish words do I need to know to be an intermediate learner?
- How much grammar is necessary?
The first question is very easily answered: The CEFR estimates that you need 2000 words to be at level B1 and 4000 words to be at level B2.
Now the grammar question, that one takes a bit more than one line.
Let’s answer it in the next section.
How Much Grammar Do I Need at the Intermediate Level?
It’d be impossible to answer this question by giving you a number.
Can you imagine? You need “45% of grammar, or 67.9 grammar points.” What?
Instead, I always tell my students to ask about Spanish intermediate grammar with this question:
- What grammar should I be studying at the intermediate level of Spanish?
Now that’s a question I can certainly answer.
If you’re at the B1 level of Spanish, you should be learning:
- The preterite (pretérito indefinido), the imperfect (imperfecto), the present perfect (pretérito perfecto), the pluscuamperfecto and the perfect conditional (condicional perfecto) tenses of the indicative.
- The relative pronouns and the relative clauses.
- The present subjunctive (presente de subjuntivo) tense.
- The imperative mood, both affirmative and negative.
- The first conditional, if you don’t know it yet.
If you’re at the B2 level of Spanish, you should be learning:
- The imperfect subjunctive (imperfecto de subjuntivo), the present perfect subjunctive (pretérito perfecto de subjuntivo) and the pluscuamperfecto subjunctive tenses.
- Spanish verb periphrases (perífrasis verbales).
- The Spanish passive voice.
- The imperative mood with object pronouns.
- The second and third conditionals.
- Spanish most commonly used prepositions (por/para/a/en/de/con/desde/hasta).
- Spanish linking words.
If you’re just starting, I’ll be cheering for you to reach the B2 level in no time! Remember that practice makes perfect, and 15-20 minutes of Spanish every day are better than four hours in one sitting.
If you’re at the B2 level, it’s possible you’ve reached a point where you don’t feel you’re making any progress (or you’re about to reach it).
The good news is that you’re not alone. This is so common that it even has a name: The intermediate plateau.
What Is the Intermediate Plateau?
Simply put, the intermediate plateau is that moment during the B-level journey when you get “stuck” and don’t seem to make any progress.
Although this can happen at any time during the language learning journey, it’s been proven to happen more often during the intermediate stages of learning.
The culprit for the intermediate plateau has nothing to do with you or the language you’re learning. If that were the case, why does almost every student of every language get trapped by the intermediate plateau?
As a teacher, I believe the method of learning is to blame.
In other words, you can’t pretend to learn a language at the intermediate language by doing the exact same things you used to do as a beginner!
It’s time for a change in perspective, for a new method.
So, let’s have a look at six useful tips you can easily implement to finally break free from the dreaded intermediate plateau.
6 Practical Tips to Get Past the Intermediate Plateau
1. Keep Learning Vocabulary and Grammar
The fact that you’ve reached the intermediate stage doesn’t mean your work with Spanish grammar and vocabulary is done.
In fact, it’s just getting started!
Learn intermediate Spanish grammar at least twice every week, and try to learn a few new words every day.
To help you with the former, the best thing you can do is to get hold of an intermediate or upper-intermediate Spanish grammar book.
Ideally, it should come with a separate workbook or include grammar exercises you can use to practice what you learn.
To help you with the latter, download a Spanish flashcard app, get a monolingual Spanish dictionary and try simple tricks like changing the settings of your electronic devices to Spanish, using social media in Spanish and labeling your house with post-it notes.
2. Listen to and Watch More Spanish Content
Even though native Spanish content can be used from day one, this is one of those tools that’s a better fit for intermediate and advanced Spanish learners.
As soon as you can, start watching and listening to Spanish content that was created for native speakers. This is really one of the best ways to bring your learning out of the beginner stage of memorizing phrases and into the advanced stage of actually having natural conversations.
Authentic content will show you how the words and grammar concepts you’ve been studying are actually used in conversations. It’ll also expose you to other aspects of the language that you might not find in a formal learning environment, like slang and filler words. Plus, it’s fun! And that’s important in maintaining your motivation to learn.
So how do you add authentic Spanish content to your learning routine? Seek out Spanish podcasts, radio shows and Spanish audiobooks catered to native speakers of the language. Watch Spanish series and Spanish movies that are available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO or Disney+, or whatever your streaming platform of choice is.
Watch them in Spanish (of course!) with the Spanish subtitles on, wherever they’re available. When you feel comfortable enough, leave the subtitles out of the picture!
Be aware that adding native Spanish media to your study session won’t necessarily be easy, especially if you’ve never learned with authentic content before. You might have to look around before you find something that’s actually at your level, or that includes subtitles that aren’t computer-generated gibberish.
That’s why it’s a good idea to ease into this kind of content.
For example, instead of diving straight into watching the news in Spanish, you can try the News in Slow Spanish podcast, which slows down the speech to a speed that intermediate learners can keep up with.
And instead of trying to watch an entire movie in one sitting, you can watch shorter videos on FluentU, a program where authentic Spanish videos like movie clips and news segments are paired with learning tools. FluentU is meant to help learners study with native content: The subtitles are accurate and have a built-in contextual dictionary, and videos are organized into six difficulty levels.
3. Practice Reading and Writing
Reading and writing are two basic language skills that get most often ignored (or, at the very least, overshadowed by speaking and listening).
Try to add reading in Spanish to your daily routine, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes.
There are plenty of different reading resources for intermediate learners you can choose from, so be picky and enjoy your reading.
Additionally, you can give reading out loud a try. It’s been proven to improve pronunciation, rhythm and intonation, so it’ll get you ready for your conversations in Spanish.
As for writing, you may be surprised to learn this, but it’s actually one of those things that’ll get you out of the Spanish intermediate plateau the fastest.
Adding writing to your Spanish study sessions won’t only help you remember word spelling better but it’ll also help you memorize new vocabulary, put new grammar constructions and rules into practice and, most importantly, find your Spanish voice.
Writing is like speaking in silence, so it’ll also be a great tool to break the shyness barrier and start talking like a native.
4. Speak Spanish as Much as You Can
This should be obvious, but just in case you were living under a rock, let me say it again: The more you speak Spanish, the better you’ll get at it and the faster you’ll get past the Spanish intermediate plateau.
From Spanish language exchanges and Spanish tutors to speaking to yourself in front of the mirror and practicing Spanish shadowing if you’re still not brave enough to get out there, the possibilities to practice Spanish speaking are huge.
Take advantage of them!
5. Take an Intermediate Online Course
Last but not least, you can take an intermediate Spanish course to fire those neurons up and rise above the intermediate plateau like a Spanish phoenix.
Intermediate courses, especially if they’re taken online, are an easy and often cheap way of getting your progress restarted.
There are a gazillion Spanish intermediate online courses you can take, but I want to make things easier for you.
That’s why I’ve gathered six of the best Spanish intermediate courses you can find online and have added them here, so you just have to click on their link and start learning.
6 Intermediate Spanish Courses to Help You Climb Beyond the Intermediate Plateau
If you want to learn Spanish in context, the way it’s spoken by natives, this app for iOS, Android and browsers is one way to start.
It turns authentic, bite-sized Spanish videos into immersive language lessons through interactive subtitles—just tap on a word for a contextual definition, pronunciation and examples of the term in different contexts.
The curated library has videos appropriate for every skill level, including aspiring advanced learners. It also includes a large variety of topics, including clips from popular shows like “Money Heist,” educational and inspirational talks and even silly skits involving cats and shenanigans… all in Spanish and at your level.
As you discover advanced vocabulary and phrases in the videos, you can add them to your custom vocabulary lists for more targeted review with typing and speech exercises later on.
Plus, these multimedia flashcards can be followed up with personalized SRS (spaced repetition system) flashcards, reinforcing everything you need to close the gap between intermediate and advanced.
2. Coffee Break Spanish: Season 3
The award-winning Radio Lingua network has created two courses that are perfect for intermediate and upper-intermediate learners.
Seasons 2 and 3 are natural extensions of the first 40 lessons that introduced Spanish in its most basic form.
Season 3, in particular, is an excellent tool to push you beyond the upper intermediate level, and into the start of the advanced level. If you need help on your subjunctive and want to master your Spanish verbs and pronouns, then the 20-hour audio content, supplemented by hundreds of pages of notes and exercises should get you into your Spanish groove.
The whole course is divided into 40 lessons, and each lesson features a conversation between teacher Mark and native speaker Alba.
They talk about any topic under the sun: travel, current events, language learning, etc. That’s the first part of the lesson.
The second part is where teacher Mark dives deep into explaining the grammatical rules, idiomatic expressions and vocabulary used in the conversation.
In between the lessons, there’s some light-hearted intermission that involves some Spanish tongue-twisters, jokes and so much more.
Season 3 not only builds your grammar and elucidates on complex grammar issues or sticky idiomatic expressions, but it also deepens your understanding of the language.
3. Notes in Spanish
The folks at “Notes in Spanish,” Ben and Marina, believe in teaching the right vocabulary, the right verbs and only the most useful grammar—leaving the esoteric Spanish words and finicky grammar points to the academics.
Thanks to their program, you won’t be an intermediate learner—you’ll be a soon-to-be-advanced learner!
With “Notes in Spanish,” you get carefully structured podcasts about the most useful elements of the language. Topics covered include Facebook, fast food, Harry Potter and other things you’d actually talk about in everyday conversations.
In addition to the free podcasts, they also have a paid “super pack” that includes a full transcript of the podcasts, a vocabulary list, a grammar list and some very useful exercises.
4. Dreaming Spanish
The advantage of video lessons over audio podcasts is that you have a visual connection with your teacher. You see how his mouth moves as he pronounces words, and any accompanying gestures. That’s why YouTube is an excellent source of Spanish instruction. I recommend, in particular, the Dreaming Spanish channel.
Dreaming Spanish is a YouTube channel that uses the ALG method and Comprehensible Input theory to teach Spanish in an engaging way that’ll stick.
It has plenty of lessons catering to beginners, intermediate and advanced learners.
Dreaming Spanish videos discuss current events, culture and tips for learning Spanish. But here’s the catch: Every bit of content is in Spanish!
Plus, different dialects are represented, depending on who’s presenting the video. Whether you’re learning Spanish from Mexico, Spain or somewhere else, you’ll find something here for you.
For even more intermediate Spanish content, consider supporting the channel on Patreon, where two new intermediate / advanced videos are uploaded every day.
5. Practical Spanish
Practical Spanish is a short overview of intermediate-level Spanish, making it perfect for those who need a fast and focused survey of the trickier aspects of Spanish grammar.
If you learn best in text form and are someone who needs to tame the present and past subjunctives, learn when to use por and para, or can’t wait to learn the many different ways se can be used, then this mini-program will give it straight to you—sans all the trimmings.
Though there are only a few sections, there’s actually a lot of information to take in. Every topic is explained in detail, with plenty of examples and audio readings of said examples.
I recommend giving this one a full read-through, then coming back in future sessions and really focusing on each topic one at a time to make the most of this resource.
6. Study Spanish
Have you just completed your basic Spanish course and discovered that you still think it’s hard to understand native speakers? Do you find yourself translating in your head first before you actually speak?
Then this program is for you.
Study Spanish believes that a focus on communication is the way to get past the intermediate level. On their companion website, you’ll find a series of units for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners. Most units are supported by quizzes and a unit test to make sure you understood everything you learned.
To use the guided course, you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee. However, even without the subscription, you have full access to every lesson on the website, including pronunciation examples, detailed grammar explanations, over 50 themed vocabulary lists and conjugation information for all the tenses.
In other words, this is an amazingly comprehensive and indispensable tool you’re sure to come back to again and again during your studies.
And that, my friends, is how you learn intermediate Spanish.
I’ve just given you six intermediate Spanish courses that are completely at your disposal, right this instant. And the question I have for you is: Why are you still reading this?
What are you waiting for?
Go on. Off you go with your Spanish course!
Stay curious, my friends, and as always, happy learning!