Do you often find yourself humming your favorite Disney songs?
Do you scoff at the idea that cartoons are just for kids?
Would you like to use your love of colorful moving images to help you learn Spanish?
If so, perhaps it’s time to animate your education.
Cartoons are a highly entertaining way to improve your Spanish.
They can easily help you learn new vocabulary, polish your listening skills and even work on your pronunciation.
You’ll probably even find that a lot of your favorites are already available with Spanish audio.
With the further addition of English subtitles, cartoons can become one of the most convenient, effective and flexible learning tools out there.
Whether you’re a complete beginner just getting used to spoken Spanish or an advanced learner looking to fine-tune your conversational skills, a little animated enjoyment may be just what you need to stay motivated and keep your learning going strong.
But Why Cartoons?
Hey, it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid, teen or adult. Cartoons are just fun. Watching them on a regular basis never feels like hard work, and it’s regular practice like this that helps you improve your language skills quickly.
Additionally, the familiarity of cartoons and the fact that they’re usually geared toward children makes them perfect for language learners.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to understand the basic idea of what’s happening even if you don’t catch every word. Besides, as already mentioned, many cartoons are available with Spanish audio and English subtitles, which allows you a lot of flexibility in terms of how you can use them for learning material.
If you’re an advanced learner, on the other hand, you’ll be able to understand more, but cartoons will still provide you with an opportunity to practice your skills in an entertaining context.
What’s more, while cartoons are usually intended for children, the language in them is still mostly used at a normal conversational level. It is, however, slower than most conversational Spanish. This is helpful for all learners, as it buys you time to think about things like vocabulary and verb conjugations.
When it comes to learning with cartoons, there are a variety of different techniques you can use, but it pays to be flexible and give yourself access to the greatest number of learning options. Since cartoons with subtitles aren’t at all hard to find, seeking them out will give you more material to work with. Here are some great sources to check out.
Sources for Finding Cartoons in Spanish with English Subtitles
YouTube is a great option in general for language learners. With the right search terms, you can find plenty of videos in Spanish. For example, you might try searching “dibujos animados en español con subtítulos en inglés” (“cartoons in Spanish with English subtitles”).
One great type of cartoon video you can seek out is movie song clips. Song clips from animated movies are an excellent tool for learning Spanish. You can easily find Spanish versions of many songs in popular animated movies. Many have both Spanish and English subtitles, so you can see the meanings of the Spanish version of the song and get to see the words you’re hearing, too.
Songs are also really helpful because they’ll get stuck in your head, and before you know it you’ll know them by heart. This is tremendously helpful with vocabulary, which from song to song will vary and add diversity to your vocabulary, helping you learn many different words you can use in daily conversation. If you know a word you’re looking for was in one of your favorite songs, all you need to do is replay the song in your head to remember what it is.
Let’s look at some of your options:
- “Pocahontas”: “Colors of the Wind,” “Just Around the Riverbend”
- “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”: “God Help the Outcasts”
- “Mulan”: “Reflection,” “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”
- “Brother Bear”: “No Way Out”
- “The Little Mermaid”: “Kiss the Girl”
- “Hercules”: “I Won’t Say I’m in Love”
- “Tarzan”: “Son of Man”
- “The Lion King”: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”
- “Bolt”: “Barking at the Moon”
- “Aladdin”: “A Whole New World”
- “Frozen”: “Let It Go”
- “An American Tail”: “Somewhere Out There”
FluentU is an online immersion platform that gives you access to a whole wealth of video material with convenient interactive captions in English and Spanish. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, cartoons, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Since these videos are handpicked from all over the Internet, sorted by level and often in cartoon format, you’re sure to find animated learning material that’s perfect for you.
Choose any video that strikes your fancy! You’ll see how many Spanish vocabulary words you can learn from it, and you can even look at the transcript of the dialogue and practice vocabulary before watching the video.
You’ll never have to worry about finding accurate subtitles, or stopping to flip through a dictionary—all the definitions and examples you need are accessible right from the captions. Hover over any word or phrase to see the translation, along with a helpful image. Click to word to go deeper, see example sentences, listen to the audio pronunciation and add the word to your custom vocabulary lists.
That’s right—you can even use awesome active learning tools like vocabulary lists and multimedia flashcards to study and reinforce the newly-learned language from your videos.
Plus, FluentU will allow you to keep track of all your progress along the way.
Many DVDs offer Spanish audio and various subtitle options. All you need to know is where to look. When selecting your DVD, pay careful attention to the packaging (or “Product Details” if you’re searching online).
If you’re looking to purchase an English-language cartoon to practice your Spanish, just make sure that it offers both the dubbing and the subtitling.
Once you have the DVD in your DVD player, you’ll want to look at the menu. Normally, there is an option for “audio setup,” “languages,” “options” or “settings.” The language settings will be one of these places, depending on the DVD. From there, you can set the dubbing to Spanish and the captioning to English.
Having both Spanish audio and English subtitles is key. It will allow you to listen in Spanish and refer back to the English for additional assistance.
When you have the English subtitles to fall back on, it makes it a lot less likely that you’ll get frustrated or overwhelmed and quit. Think of the English subtitles as a familiar friend holding your hand and walking you forward in the learning process.
How to Learn Spanish from a Cartoon with English Subtitles
You can watch cartoons simply for entertainment. This will help familiarize you with Spanish. However, to learn more quickly, you can use a leveled approach and watch a cartoon several times, taking a new step toward familiarizing yourself with the language in the cartoon each time. These steps will help ensure that you get the most out of your viewing.
1. Just enjoy the cartoon.
Especially if it is your first time watching the cartoon in Spanish, it is helpful to just sit back and enjoy it at least once. This will help you become familiar with it. If you want to read the subtitles, you certainly can, but it isn’t essential at this point.
If you haven’t watched cartoons in Spanish before, this first viewing will help you get used to the change. Also, just hearing the spoken Spanish will help you with your own pronunciation. There is plenty of time to worry about learning later. For now, just sit back and enjoy.
2. Read the subtitles.
For maximum learning, you’ll eventually want to watch the cartoon again. When you watch again all depends on what works for you; it could be immediately or weeks later, but sooner is usually better since it will ensure the cartoon is still fresh in your mind.
Regardless, when you do get around to watching again, try reading the subtitles while you listen to the Spanish audio. This way, even if you don’t know all the words, you’ll have a guide to help you understand what’s happening.
3. Jot down words you don’t know. Look them up.
The next time you watch the cartoon, jot down the words you hear that you do not immediately know. Look them up in a dictionary. This is important because subtitling does not always line up exactly with the spoken language. Therefore, you might not have the precise meaning of a word until you look it up.
4. Don’t look at the subtitles, but try to catch everything.
Now that you know the meanings of all the words, try to watch the cartoon without looking at the subtitles. You might even try turning them off entirely. Try your best to catch everything you hear. Making an effort to understand everything you hear is a strong step toward fluency.
5. Try to sing/speak along with the cartoon.
You’ve seen the cartoon several times now. Try singing or speaking along with it. This will help cement your newfound vocabulary and improve your speaking skills.
6. Try to translate as you watch without looking at the subtitles.
Pause after a sentence (or brief clip) and say it aloud in English. Or try translating word-for-word in your head as you watch. If you can do either, you’ll know you’ve gotten the vocabulary down, and you should have no trouble using it in conversation.
7. If you have watched the cartoon often enough, try to sing/speak without watching.
It’s fun. It’s catchy. Why not repeat it? Your pronunciation will get better and better. Additionally, the more you practice the vocabulary, the more easily you’ll remember it. Once you get to this point, you’ll remember the vocabulary in the cartoon decades later even if you don’t get around to using it immediately.
If you enjoy the wonder and magic of cartoons (and who doesn’t?), it’s time to animate your learning and take your Spanish to the next level!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.