When it comes to learning Spanish, you’re holding the remote control.
You control which channel to watch: telenovela, Latin music videos, and yes, even Spanish newscasts.
In this post, we’re gonna systematically deconstruct Spanish news videos so they become personal language classes.
We’re gonna get into some cool stuff so you can transform any Spanish news clip into an engaging Spanish lesson.
- The Unique Characteristics of News Videos
- 5 Surprising Tricks That Transform Spanish News Videos into Language Lessons
- The 6 Best Sources of Spanish News Videos Online
The Unique Characteristics of News Videos
They’re Condensed Content
When you’re watching the news, I want you to remember this: Broadcasters make sure that every second counts. Why? Because air time is so expensive. This goes for both video and textual content.
Do you know what this means for the Spanish language learner? It means that when you’re listening to newscasts, all you get is lean cuisine—no fluff. No sing-and-dance numbers, no repetitions, no tangents which distract from the main topic.
Everything is laser focused. Every word and every phrase is carefully written to be understood and appreciated by the millions of native speakers who rely on news to get their daily dose of information. As such, the texts read by anchors and recited by reporters are carefully crafted to appeal to the broadest number of speakers and have the maximum impact in the least amount of time.
What that means for you is that you don’t have to wait long for some relevant vocabulary words or useful Spanish phrases to come along. A newscast, in short, is one intense language class where you’re learning something new almost every second. It’s that jam-packed. So if you want to make the best use of your time, make Spanish news videos part of your regular language learning diet. You’ll be brimming with new language in just a few minutes.
News today is divided into neat categories like Politics, Lifestyle, Economics and Entertainment. Each category has a set of vocabulary indigenous to it. Politics, for example, talks about leadership and policy issues. Lifestyle deals with fashion, food and travel.
What’s so cool about newscasts is that they provide you with different angles and tools with which to attack the language. Business news will arm you with a special set of vocabulary, idioms and catchy phrases. So will the lifestyle clips, but the employed idioms and phrases will be unique to their particular subject matter. Watching a full broadcast which covers multiple categories will fetch you a great cross section of Spanish.
One type of news video, in any single field, won’t be enough to make your Spanish click. For example, watching Spanish cooking shows all day long won’t provide you with lessons on how to chat with native speakers about government issues.
If you only use words from economics newscasts, you’ll sound like a professor talking about Argentina’s currency prospects.
But watch what happens when you mix lessons from the different types of Spanish news videos. When you combine the vocabulary, expressions and idioms that you learned from different field-specific news videos, things start compounding very fast. Your Spanish becomes textured, nuanced and has a mix of “flavors” that will rival that of the natives.
So take advantage of the fact that Spanish news videos today are neatly categorized. Master the lessons from each type, then mix them into one enthralling concoction.
At the End of the Day, They’re Stories Worth Remembering
You know what’s so cool about using news videos as language lessons? All the lessons that you’ll ever get are packaged within captivating stories.
For soon-to-be-picked-up words like apoyar (support), empresa (company), retador (challenger), they might very well be embedded in an interesting election story. And as you know, great stories are quite hard to forget, especially if they’re intriguing enough to earn spots in major news broadcasts.
With Spanish news videos, nothing is ever taught to you in a vacuum. You’ve got that one great memory enhancer on your side: Context.
Context anchors the lessons in our brains, whether this context comes in the form of characters in the news story or vocabulary words associated with it (e.g. nouns, verbs or adjectives). The whole lesson comes alive. And it doesn’t hurt that you’ve got moving pictures with real-life characters to provide a dose of reality.
With news videos, you have that in-your-face “realness” that makes the story so compelling and palpable to the viewer. It’s not “in the clouds” fantasy. It’s “on the ground” events. Somehow this can knock learners out of their stupor and say, “This is important. Listen up.” And it does so, albeit indirectly, with the embedded language lessons.
Okay. In the next section, we’re gonna talk about 5 cools ways to approach a Spanish news video so that we can milk it for all its linguistic worth.
5 Surprising Tricks That Transform Spanish News Videos into Language Lessons
1. Watch Parallel Newscasts in English to Get the Gist
The best way to approach Spanish news videos is to first grasp the big picture and understand what the story’s about. At this stage, you’re not interested in any Spanish lessons yet, you just want to know what the fuss is all about.
This is important especially if you’re gonna benefit from context in order to remember what you learned. Because how are you gonna anchor anything in your head if you have no idea what the story’s about? It’ll be like memorizing a list of words from a white piece of paper. Without the big picture, there’s no spice, no story, no drama that’ll make the lessons memorable. They won’t stick unless embedded in a compelling narrative.
So before diving into any news-based Spanish study session, make sure you get the story straight. Look for international stories that definitely have parallel English broadcasts. For example, news about president Obama will always have English newscasts. Another example would be news that captured the world’s attention, like the Chilean miner’s rescue, Angelina Jolie’s operation, Oscar winners, the earthquake in Haiti, etc.
Once you get the gist of the story, then you’re ready for the language lessons.
2. If Available, Make Use of Both English and Spanish Subtitles
There are news videos that have both Spanish and English subtitles. Make sure you take advantage of them because they serve as additional visual aids for you to follow what’s being said. Remember, news videos are addressing the informational needs of native speakers. So naturally, news anchors don’t care to slow down and stretch out to enunciate every word.
You’re going to be needing subtitles at first. You’ll want them when the anchor or the reporter is talking so fast it’s like there’s a metered taxi waiting to take him to his daughter’s birthday party. (Another solution to fast talking anchors? Replay! The more you do this, the more words you can make out from the strings of sentences. This is actually good practice. Word hunting can make you more attuned to the normal pacing of native speakers.)
3. Mine Each Segment for Vocabulary by Focusing on Field-specific Words
Remember earlier when we talked about field-specific news segments?
Your job here is to hunt for the vocabulary that’s indigenous to the news clip. For example, if the news is political in nature, then be on the lookout for political words. Same with lifestyle news videos. You’ll find it easier to memorize vocabulary that way because the words have a natural affinity for each other, belonging to the same class or category. Plus, since they’re all tied up and packaged in a single story, recalling them will be easily triggered.
After getting your word list together, try grouping them according to parts of speech. So let nouns go with nouns, verbs with other verbs. Again this natural grouping will help facilitate memorization. I hasten to add here that you’ll probably replay the clip many times over the course of studying it.
How many times? ‘Til you’ve practically memorized the whole clip.
After 4-5 times of replaying the whole thing, don’t say to yourself, “I’m sick of this. I already know what this story is all about.” Remember, getting an understanding of the story isn’t the goal. It’s only a vehicle for delivering the vocabulary, grammar, sample sentences, phrases, idioms and expressions to your brain’s doorstep.
You know you’re done with a clip when you’ve gone over it line by line and are familiar with all the sentence constructions. Again, this will be the point when you’ve practically memorized the whole thing. Go deep in a news segment. That means a 45-second clip can easily last you half a day.
4. Translate the Headlines/Titles into English
The process of translation is an interesting one. The words that you translate from Spanish to English and vice-versa stick with you better than words that have been pre-translated and spoonfed.
This is because when your mind grapples with the words, it leaves traces and memories of that grappling process in your head. In short, the “wrestling with words” that you experience during translation leaves imprints that provide trigger for recall.
For example, imagine that you translated the video entitled “Tim Cook donará toda su fortuna” —tackling every word, learning some new rules along the way and coming up with “Tim Cook Will Donate His Entire Fortune.” If you need to recall the Spanish word for “all” in the future, you’ll have the memories of this Tim Cook story. You’ll remember your initial disbelief when hearing that a person would give all his wealth to charity. Then you’ll remember how you came up with the translation of the Tim Cook story, all the noun-gender issues and verb conjugations, etc. When the dots are connected, often at lightning speeds, a bulb will light up in your head. “Todo!”
By translating the video titles into English, you’ll be able to benefit from the brevity and the simplicity of their structure. Why are titles short? It’s a combination of price and punch. Again, if air time is expensive, so is print space. Headline writers wrack their brains coming up with short and punchy titles that encapsulate the whole story in order to entice people to watch (or read).
The titles’ brevity is to every language learner’s advantage because it allows them to see very clearly how the different parts of speech relate to make a harmonious whole. It condenses the grammar rules and shows exactly how they work. You’ll see, for example, how the noun-gender agreement relates to the other elements in the sentence.
Translation is a key exercise that puts your brain through its paces. But it’ll pay off handsomely in the end.
5. Write a 5-Sentence Summary of the Story
When watching Spanish news videos, the ultimate test of understanding is the ability to tell the story using your own words. Use the field-specific vocabulary whenever you can.
Think of it as gossiping. Let’s say you caught a juicy piece of information. Your job is to write a 5-sentence summary of the whole thing so you can pass it through the grapevine.
Admittedly, this is a step or two beyond simple translation of titles, but doing so will give you the chance to actually construct your own sentences from scratch. Because of this task, you’ll be forced to understand simple sentence construction and the different nuances of forming a grammatically sound Spanish sentence. But don’t freak out if you don’t get perfect sentences the first time around. Be patient about the experience and make memorable mistakes. Understand that it’ll feel awkward initially and you won’t even know where to start. (You’ll probably be scurrying back and forth with a dictionary, a thesaurus and a grammar book.)
But just keep on doing it. Keep turning in those 5 sentences per story. They’re hard work because they’re intense language exercises. Over time, when your Spanish begins to hum along, you’ll realize that Spanish news videos stop being language lessons. You don’t even think about mining the vocabulary words because they’ve become too easy. The videos become nothing more than stories. They’re just about the news now.
Welcome to the world of advanced Spanish.
The 6 Best Sources of Spanish News Videos Online
Still on the hunt for the hottest sources of Spanish news videos online? Well, your quest is about to end. Here are 6 that will keep you engaged, entertained and informed while using the above strategies for learning.
CNN en Español
It’s good to start with the grand poobah of news networks: CNN.
It launched a 24-hour Spanish language newscast in March of ’97, broadcasting to the USA and Latin America with some shows simulcast with Canada. Two years later, an independent feed for Mexico was established. Prime time shows like Perspectivas provide international and domestic news that’s perfect for the language lessons we’re talking about.
If you want high-quality Spanish language reporting, CNN en Español should be your first stop.
If you want to get an even broader spectrum of videos, not just news broadcasts, then check out FluentU.
The program curates a library of authentic videos that include all kinds of clips besides news. Each video comes with dual-language interactive captions that not only allow you to follow the story, but also actively teach you Spanish in context. You can save any word as a multimedia flashcard and start creating your own decks and vocabulary lists.
Personalized quizzes are also offered to help you review the material. These quizzes also include “speaking questions” that let you say your answers aloud, giving you the chance to work on your Spanish pronunciation.
Euronews is a multi-language news channel headquartered in France and created in 1993.
What does “multi-language news” mean? It means you can listen to the same news segment in about 14 different languages. Simply pick “Español” at the top of the website’s homepage and you’re good to go.
What’s cool about Euronews is that you can listen to both Spanish and English broadcasts of the same segment. So in order to get the gist of the story, you might wanna listen to the English presentation first. When you switch to Spanish, you’ll already have a grasp of the big picture. Alternatively, you can test yourself by watching the Spanish version first and checking your comprehension with the English version after.
Not only that, the segments are transcribed so that you can follow along by reading the text while the presenter is talking. So even if the presenter is talking at a pace you’re not yet accustomed to, you have the text to help.
All in all, Euronews has got all cylinders firing for informative and timely language lessons.
Antena 3 is a Spanish channel owned by Atresmedia Televisión. It was created 25 years ago becoming Spain’s first private television station.
The Antena 3 website is lushed with news videos that go beyond the political, business and economic front. There are stories about Justine Beiber, Kate Middleton, the latest Hollywood blockbusters and even Formula 1.
Don’t think that all news should be serious and said with a stern face. Antena 3 has wide selection of videos pop culture, fashion, food, technology and health.
So if it’s Spanish circuit training that you want, head on to Antena 3 and start warming up those linguistic muscles.
Univisión is a Spanish language station with programming dedicated to Hispanic Americans in the US — offering a variety of telenovelas sitcoms, sports action, reality shows and feature films. According to Nielsen Media Research, largest Spanish-audience following in the world.
Univisión also has an awesome collection of news videos that are neatly categorized into: Immigration, Money, Health, Technology, Education, Entertainment and Lifestyle.
If you want to learn Latin American Spanish, Univisión will let you in on the action. But in addition to teaching you Spanish, it will also inform you on the most pressing issues by the Spanish-speaking population in America.
That’s like hitting 2 birds with one click.
Excelsior TV is the newest member of this bunch, first airing in 2013. It’s related to Excelsior, the newspaper, owned by the Image Group. Claiming to be a leading news portal, the channel is briskly gaining a following in Mexico.
Going through Excelsior TV’s videos, you get a sense that the outfit is run by young, bold and energetic individuals. With sections like their “girl of the day” videos, you may also get the feeling that it would be very hard to be bored with news-oriented lessons here. But make no mistake, it still features news and analyses of politics, current events and economics, as well as commentaries on things like sporting events and showbiz.
Check out their website or their YouTube channel so you can see for yourself!
So, I do believe you’re all set now.
5 things to make those Spanish news videos worth every second and 6 places on the web where you can find the most interesting news-related content. At this point, the only thing you need is the commitment to watch, listen and write.
I look forward to the day when these Spanish videos cease to be language lessons and become just plain old news for you.
That’s the day when you’ve arrived.
When that happens, you’ll have reached a level of proficiency which makes every native speaker slow clap at your achievement.
For now, keep working hard to earn that applause!