Ever tried to catch a bus in Spanish?
Depending on where you are, you might need to ask for a combi, a micro, a colectivo, a guagua, a bondi, a camión, an autobús… or just a bus!
These regional variations are part of what makes Spanish such a fun and dynamic language to learn.
But you don’t need to be traveling around a Spanish-speaking country to learn them, as long as you have Netflix.
Netflix has been bulking up its Spanish series stockpile over the past few years, and they now have several excellent titles from across the Spanish-speaking world. This gives you the perfect opportunity to hear the language as it’s really used in different regions, without feeling like you’re studying.
Read on to learn about six top Netflix Spanish series that come from six different countries. They include everything from gripping crime dramas to “Mad Men”-style period pieces.
(By the way, still looking for that bus? Use combi in Perú, micro in Chile and Bolivia, colectivo in Argentina and Venezuela, guagua in the Caribbean, bondi also in Argentina and camión in Mexico. Autobús and bus are pretty common throughout the Spanish-speaking world, phewf!)
Regional Spanish Differences to Listen for in Netflix Series
If you’ve been learning Spanish for a while, you may already be aware of some of the differences between Castilian Spanish (spoken in Spain) and Latin American Spanish. Here are some specific differences to listen for when watching Spanish Netflix series, to prevent confusion and expand your overall comprehension skills:
- Most parts of Spain utilize the informal plural vosotros (the “y’all form,” as I like to call it), whereas most parts of Latin America use ustedes (you guys, you all) for both formal and informal situations.
- There are also differences in accent. Most parts of Spain (except for the south and the Canary Islands) pronounce the letters “c” and “z” like an English “th,” whereas in Latin America these letters sound like “s.”
- There are also notable differences between Spain and Latin America in terms of vocabulary. For example, a computer is a computadora in the Americas, but an ordenador across the pond. Similarly, most Latin Americans call juice jugo, whereas Spaniards call it zumo. And so on.
You can find a more complete list of vocabulary differences across the Spanish speaking world here. Keep an ear out for those words as you watch the Netflix shows below.
- Sound complicated? Well, hold on—there’s more! Latin America is a huge region, so as you might imagine, Spanish varies greatly from country to country, in terms of accent, vocabulary and even grammar! We’ve published some great articles on regional Spanish, from Colombia to Guatemala to Puerto Rico and many others.
Fear not, Spanish learner! All of these variations may seem difficult, but nine times out of 10, your regional Spanish will be understood across the Spanish-speaking world. I even think that the regional differences are a lot of fun—it’s super interesting to notice different accents or speech patterns, as well as to learn silly slang from around the world.
How to Have a Productive Spanish Netflix Binge Watch
Netflix is a truly amazing resource for Spanish learners, with tons of high-quality movies and TV shows from around the Spanish-speaking world available to stream. Depending on your Spanish level, there are several strategies you can employ to get superb listening practice out of your Netflix binge-watching.
- Beginner learners can use English subtitles and simply listen while reading along. This can help you train your ear, which has proven benefits for pronunciation and vocabulary development. If you’re trying to learn a specific country’s accent, this method can be very useful.
- Intermediate learners might want to stick with the subtitles but switch them to Spanish. This makes listening comprehension a little easier (since you have the visual reference to fall back on) but helps you get over using English as a crutch.
- I recommend that listeners at any ability level read a brief synopsis of a Netflix Spanish series before watching. Most of these shows have English or Spanish descriptions on IMDB and Wikipedia. If you know the basic outline of the plot, it can become much easier to follow what’s going on even if you can’t understand every single word.
- After watching, you might find it helpful to write a brief summary of what you’ve seen, or chat with a friend about it. This can help you make sure that you actually understood what you were watching.
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For example, you can click any word in the interactive subtitles for an instant definition and grammar info. There are also vocabulary lists, visual flashcards and fun quizzes built into every video. There are more than 2,500 videos from tons of different Spanish-speaking countries, all organized by genre and level so it’s easy to find the ones that work for you. Explore the full library for free with a FluentU trial.
6 Binge-worthy Netflix Series from Across the Spanish Speaking World
There’s no reason you have to learn Spanish from a specific region—but there are many reasons why you might want to. Maybe you have family or friends from your country of choice, or are planning to move there. Maybe you’re really interested in the culture or history of one Spanish-speaking country. If so, watching movies and TV from that country can help you master the particular slang, accent, grammar and usage from that area.
Netflix can be super helpful for locating great Spanish-language content produced in a variety of countries.
“Las Chicas del Cable” (“Cable Girls”)
“Las Chicas del Cable” was one of Netflix’s first Spanish-language original series, and it’s been received well by critics and audiences.
Set in 1920s Madrid, the show is a “Mad Men”-style drama that follows the lives of several young women who work at a telecommunications company.
The show highlights the interesting and complex relationships among its female protagonists, who come from many different walks of life. There’s Alba, a prostitute in legal trouble, Marga, a sheltered villager, Carlota, a high-society lady and others.
Watch this show to be immersed in Castilian (and specifically, Madrileño) Spanish. It’s a great way to train your ear to understand the Castilian Spanish lisp, as well as to familiarize yourself with Spain-specific vocabulary.
“Ingobernable” is another Netflix original series, set in Mexico.
The show follows Emilia, a Mexican First Lady who’s disillusioned with her husband but has high hopes for her country. But when the President suffers a mysterious death, Emilia suddenly finds herself on the run, unable to prove that she herself wasn’t responsible.
“Ingobernable” is a fast-paced crime mystery, with 16 episodes currently streaming on Netflix.
If you haven’t spent much time in Mexico, you might not be familiar with some of the slang and expressions the characters use. Check out our starter lists to Mexican slang here and Mexican expressions here.
“La Niña” (“The Girl”)
If you’re interested in mastering the Colombian accent, or if you love inspiring stories about triumphing over difficulty, you have to check out the Colombian drama “La Niña.”
Loosely based on a true story, the show follows a young woman and former guerilla named Belky who’s trying to find a better life for herself in the city of Bogotá. The show details her journey towards a medical education as she battles the ghosts of her past.
“El Reemplazante” (“The Substitute”)
Interested in learning the fast-paced, slangy, song-like Spanish of Chile? Then check out “El Reemplazante,” a Chilean-produced TV drama set in the capital of Santiago.
“El Reemplazante” follows the story of Carlos Valdivia, a high-powered financial executive who loses everything when he’s fired and imprisoned. Upon leaving jail, he finds himself in his home community of San Miguel, in the South of Santiago. There, his father and brother convince him to get his life back on track by serving as a substitute math teacher.
Unfortunately, “El Reemplazante” only ran for two seasons. But both seasons (24 episodes) are currently available to stream on Netflix.
“Edha” is a dramatic thriller set in Buenos Aires. The title character is a young single mother and a powerhouse in the fashion industry, who falls for a young and mysterious man. Expect crime, set-ups, strange deaths—everything to keep your adrenaline pumping.
Want to bulk up your vocabulary before pressing play? Here’s our guide to Argentine slang and a user’s manual for the indispensable Argentine word boludo.
“Cuatro Estaciones en la Habana” (“Four Seasons in Havana”)
So, this one is technically a miniseries, not a full series—but it still offers four episodes of great storylines as well as Cuban Spanish. Plus, each episode is an hour and a half long, so you’ll have plenty of time to work on your Cuban accent and vocabulary.
Set in Havana in the 1990s, the show follows a morally upstanding police officer named Mario who battles against the corruption and immorality that he sees all around him.
The show is an interesting look into the history of Cuba’s “Special Period” (after the fall of the Soviet Union). “Cuatro Estaciones en la Habana” also won Best Miniseries in 2017 at the Platino Awards, which honor outstanding film and TV across the Spanish-speaking world.
While you’re at it, check out our complete guide to Cuban Spanish.
The Spanish language can be totally different depending on where in the world you’re speaking it. This might seem tricky at first, but don’t let it discourage you! Regional variations are part of what make Spanish such a fun and exciting language to learn!
And with Netflix Spanish series from many parts of the Spanish-speaking world, you’ll be able to master the dialect of your choice while enjoying some quality TV.
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