The Complete Guide to the Intermediate Spanish Level: Courses, Tips and Inspiration
Congratulations—you’ve finally finished your beginner Spanish course!
Now it’s time to take it beyond asking where the bathroom is to a level where you can chat about real opinions without native speakers having to speak despacio (slowly).
In this post, I’m going to define the intermediate level, explain how you know you’ve reached it, summarize intermediate grammar, introduce you to eight intermediate Spanish courses online and more.
- 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
- 7 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 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.
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 2,000 words to be at level B1 and 4,000 words to be at level B2.
Now the grammar question, however, takes a bit more than one line to answer.
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 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
- The perfect conditional (condicional perfecto)
- The relative pronouns and the relative clauses
- The present subjunctive (presente de subjuntivo)
- The imperative mood, both affirmative and negative
- The first conditional
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)
- The pluscuamperfecto subjunctive
- Spanish verb periphrases (perífrasis verbales)
- The passive voice
- The imperative mood with object pronouns
- The second and third conditionals
- The most commonly used prepositions
- 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 is better than four hours in one sitting each week.
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.
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 level 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.
Then, 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.
You should also check out these intermediate Spanish phrases commonly used in conversation.
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.
To add a visual component, watch Spanish series and Spanish movies that are available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, 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.
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 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 varied.
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 courses you can take online, but I want to make things easier for you.
Below are eight of the best intermediate Spanish courses online, so you just have to click on the links you’re interested in and start learning!
7 Intermediate Spanish Courses to Help You Climb Beyond the Intermediate Plateau
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Sign up by November 28th to receive a 60% discount with our Black Friday sale!
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 from the Coffee Break Spanish program are the intermediate 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 every 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 Spanish tongue-twisters, jokes and so much more.
Season 3 of this course not only builds your grammar and elucidates on complex grammar issues or sticky idiomatic expressions, but it also deepens your understanding of the language as a whole.
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 their mouth moves as they pronounce words, and any accompanying gestures.
That’s why YouTube is an excellent source of Spanish instruction. I recommend, in particular, the Dreaming Spanish channel.
This YouTube channel 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, you can check out the premium version of Dreaming Spanish as well.
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 help you out.
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.
7. Fluent Spanish Academy
Fluent Spanish Academy was designed by well-known polyglot Olly Richards and specializes in the intermediate stage of learning.
You’d be hard-pressed to find something better suited to the needs of the intermediate Spanish student.
Through short stories, authentic audio, goal setting, monthly challenges, progress tracking and live coaching, you’ll feel incredibly encouraged to achieve fluency.
Early intermediate learners may also enjoy using the Grammar Hero and Conversations courses, which are designed to help you set up workable, step-by-step systems for learning intermediate Spanish (among other languages!) and beyond.
8. MIT OpenCourseWare
A free Spanish course from the legendary MIT? Yes, please!
You won’t get college credit or a grade, but you can otherwise do the course for real by following the syllabus and downloading the included free materials.
The intermediate levels begin with Spanish III, but look over the syllabus first to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
If it’s completely alien, try Spanish II first. If it seems too familiar, you might enjoy a specialized course on a topic like oral communication, composition, history or literature—see what’s available to get the intermediate Spanish course that suits your needs.
And that, my friends, is how you learn intermediate Spanish.
I’ve just given you eight intermediate Spanish courses that are at your disposal, right this instant. The question I have for you now is: Why are you still reading this?
Off you go with your new Spanish learning!