Spoken Spanish has a beautiful melody to it—you can almost feel the language breathing, singing and dancing.
Does that mean you need to sing and dance around to learn the language?
Well, the musical route is one way to go.
What if I told you that sitting on the couch is one of the best ways to learn Spanish?
That imprint on your sofa is actually a testament to your commitment to learning, so don’t let anybody knock you for that.
Believe it or not, the sitting position is one of the most commonly used positions in acquiring a second language. Think about it, when you’re in a language class, Skyping with a language exchange friend, even browsing through language apps and programs—you’re always sitting!
So if you wanna learn Spanish, don’t get up!
Watch TV. Better yet, watch Spanish TV online.
Watching Spanish TV Online: The Couch Potato’s Guide to Fluency
Before we get into the lineup of the best channels and programs, here’s what you can expect to gain from this study method.
The 3 Virtues of Watching Spanish TV
For some insider tips into maximizing the educational outcomes of native Spanish content, get started by exploring the great content on the FluentU Spanish channel. You’ll learn how to study Spanish with television, plus some super fun new series to check out and heaps more!
If you want to take your Spanish to the next level with even more great content, be sure to subscribe to the FluentU Spanish YouTube channel and hit the notification bell.
1. Sentences, Phrases and Vocabulary Words in Action
With Spanish TV, you get to witness where the rubber meets the road. Sentences, phrases and vocabulary words step out of the language laboratory and are found in their natural, everyday environments.
Before you only saw “¡Hola!” with perhaps a simple illustration and some immediate context (when people are greeting one another). Watching Spanish TV lets you witness the wider slice of the pie. With a telenovela for example, you get to see what happens before and after the actual “¡Hola!” You can even see alternative contexts in which this word is used.
What happens between friends after they greet each other, for example? You don’t get to see/hear this in language lessons because the teacher naturally wants to reign in the topics. But with Spanish TV, you see all these enriching scenes and nuances in all their glory.
2. Listen Like a Native Speaker Would
In any language teaching material, everything is temporarily slowed down. Pronunciation is slightly exaggerated, and the rate of speaking is artificially reduced. (This is of course for excellent reasons.) But in watching Spanish TV, there is an assumption that you understand the language. So newscasters speak in speeds appropriate for native speakers. Which means, Spanish TV provides language learners with a showcase made by native speakers for native speakers. This helps your ears get attuned to the normal skips and cadences of the language.
3. Make Spanish Culture Come Alive
Spanish TV exhibits the culture and all its vital subtleties—the gestures, facial expressions, headtilts etc. Culture is the bearer of language and it’s very difficult to glean culture from an audio file. You have to immerse in the language and TV provides vicarious immersion that is a lot cheaper than actually moving to a Spanish-speaking country.
Spanish TV unveils the set of traditions, customs and dynamics that make a people unique. And perhaps more importantly, it also shows how people who speak a different language are actually very similar to us—a similarity that goes beyond clothes and a penchant for delicious food, for example.
How to Learn from Spanish Newscasts, Talk Shows and Telenovelas
The internet is such an awesome place to be.
And this isn’t just because of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Spanish learners will quickly discover the treasure trove of resources available around the net. One of the best features of the Internet is that it contains countless episodes of Spanish programs that you can watch over and over. (Hopefully with minimum ads and commercials.)
There they all are, Spanish language TV episodes from decades past and current programs being streamed live—all ripe for a language harvest. You can replay them to your heart’s content without fear of scratching the recording surface.
But if a language learner is to harvest, in full, the lessons from TV, not only do they have to view some programs several times, they should also engage in various watching techniques appropriate for each program.
A newscast, for example, will present you with vocabulary that is field-specific and will require you to listen for “word families”—words that are related to one field. Stories on international finance could throw in words like “bono” (bond), “dividendo” (dividend) and “quiebra” (default) over and over in a matter of seconds. Soon you won’t just be absorbing individual words but bunches of them grouped together by relevance and context.
A talk show will usually be more fluid. Watching a talk show, the language learner has to be more attentive to the conversational aspects of the language—the repartees, banter, comebacks, the give and take. You’ll have to listen for the volume & rate of speaking and the rhythms and pauses as well.
In addition, listen for the “canned responses.” Every language has canned responses—answers to questions like, “How are you?” or “How’s the family?” They are small talk material that, you can bet your bottom dollar, will be covered coming into any conversation. So it would serve you very well if you have canned responses for them. It’ll make you sound fluent and culturally attuned in no time.
Finally, telenovelas. They’re not only peppered with twists and turns, dead people coming back to life, evil twins plotting others’ downfalls and amnesia for the whole family. Telenovelas are a great way to learn about common Spanish phrases. If you listen very carefully, telenovelas are written for the broadest number of viewers, so they make sure that the characters are speaking in commonly understood lingo.
Watch telenovelas and you’ll bump head on with the most common phrases in the Spanish language. Not only that, with the benefit of visual context, you’ll easily remember these phrases and learn the proper context in which to use them.
So, can’t wait to watch Spanish TV? Next we’re going to look into some resources that you can check out online. We’ve made sure that we’ve covered a lot of ground so we’re featuring channels from various Spanish-speaking countries, from Spain and Mexico to the United States and Peru.
7 Online Resources to Get Your Spanish TV Fix
Keep in mind that online television can be fickle—the channel websites occasionally take down certain shows or episodes and then make others available. When in doubt, simply pay a visit to the TV channel websites provided here and take a look at what’s new. There’s always something to watch!
1. Azteca (Mexico)
Azteca, together with rival Televisa, rules the Mexican airwaves with content that covers the whole spectrum of programs including news, variety shows, telenovelas, sports, cartoons and talk shows.
Azteca aired telenovelas like “Bellezas Indomables,” “Súbete A Mi Moto,” “Se Busca Un Hombre” and “Pobre Rico, pobre.” It also produced U.S. based show formats like “¿Quién quiere ser millonario?” (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) and “Desafío de Estrellas” (a singing talent show similar to “American Idol”).
One of Azteca’s more popular shows is “Montecristo,” a story about a young man who has everything—love, looks and wealth—and whose life is turned upside down by the treachery of people he trusts the most. Diego Olivera stars as Santiago Díaz Herrera in this fencing-inspired Mexican rollercoaster that’ll make you reach for your seats as well as that Spanish dictionary.
2. Antena 3 (Spain)
Antena 3 is one of the leading television channels in Spain and is a sister of company of Onda Cero—one of the country’s leading radio stations. Antena 3 offers a complete set of programs and provides up-to-the-minute news, showbiz gossip, business analysis and sports updates.
The channel is most famous for “El Diario” (a daily talk show hosted by the sharp Sandra Daviú), “Noticias” (by Matías Prats) and dramas and sitcoms like “Manos a la obra,” “Canguros,” “La casa de los líos,” “Los ladrones van a la oficina,” “Hermanos de leche,” “Vecinos,” “Cañas y barro,” “Compañeros” and “Un paso adelante.”
One of their hit programs is “Aquí no hay quien viva” (No one could live here)—a sitcom about the inhabitants of a building in Calle Desengaño. Witness the comedic turns of the lives of the characters who each have an eccentricity that makes the whole neighborhood a very interesting and exciting place to live. “Aquí no hay quien viva” would very easily prove that, when it comes to sitcoms, there’s no such thing as a language barrier.
3. Caracol TV (Colombia)
Caracol TV had its roots in radio. It has come a long way since 1954 and is one of only two private national broadcasters in Colombia. With its slogan, “Nos mueve la vida” (We are moved by life), Caracol TV brings only the best shows for its televiewers.
Caracol TV is know for dramas like “La Saga, Negocio de Familia” (named Best Soap Opera in Colombia for 2005), “La bella Ceci y el imprudente” and comedies like “La suegra” and “El Secretario.” The channel also features reality shows like “La Voz Colombia” and “El Desafío.”
“El Desafío” is very much like the celebrated “Survivor” where contestants are isolated on an island and compete for cash and other prizes. In this format, there are 3-6 teams composed of 6-7 people (depending on which season). Each team has different living accommodations. One team will be in luxury and will even have kitchen staff to prepare their meals, and another will have to hunt in order to survive.
Sounds like a good way to learn Spanish, if you ask me.
4. TV Pública (Argentina)
Evita Perón had something to do with the birth of TV Pública in Argentina. She sanctioned its import of television equipment. The year was 1951, everything was still black in white.
Today, 2015, everything is in bright colors, digital and in HD.
TV Pública is big on soccer, uh, I mean football. In fact, it holds the broadcasting rights to both Argentine Primera División and Primera B Nacional matches.
In addition to news, cultural and educational programs, the present programming includes: “Economía sin corbata,” which discusses Economics in a more casual manner, “Cocineros Argentinos,” featuring yummy food from Latin America and “Los siete locos y los lanzallamas,” a TV adaptation of the work of Roberto Arlt, an Argentine novelist.
Making waves right now is the drama “En terapia,” a collection of intersecting stories that find their way inside a psychologist’s office. It’s about family, love and the daily struggles that makes us all so human. With this in your language learning programming, you’ll definitely have more than your share of insights to offer others during Spanish conversation time.
5. Univision (United States)
Univision programming is aimed mainly at the Hispanic-American population in the United States. According to Nielsen Media Research, Univision has the largest Spanish-speaking audience in the world. So much so that it has begun to rival America’s big 5 networks ( ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW).
The company is headquartered in New York and has its production facilities in Miami, Florida. Recently, it had former president Bill Clinton rally advertisers in its upfront presentation, pushing for even greater diversity in U.S. network programming. (Univision is prepping the ground for an IPO and is hoping to raise $1 billion at a valuation of $20 billion.)
Univision has strong ties and carries content from networks in Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico’s Televisa, Venezuela’s Venevisión, Chile’s Canal 13 and Argentina’s TV Pública.
Some of its well-known shows are “Sábado Gigante” (which after 53 years of airtime will take its final bow in September), “Teresa,” “La sombra del pasado” and “Hasta el fin del mundo.”
In addition to content from its partners, Univision produces original content like “Cosita linda,” “La esquina del diablo” and “El Chivo.”
“El Chivo” is based on the life of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, who was a former cattle thief but rose through the ranks to general and led a coup against Eusebio Porras. Get a peek at a dictator’s tumultuous life in this explosive telenovela.
6. TV Perú (Peru)
TV Perú began in 1958 as a joint venture between the Peruvian government and UNESCO. As a state-controlled station, one of its mandate is the promotion and spread of Peruvian culture through programs and documentaries like “Reportaje al Perú” and “Costumbres.”
TV Perú was the first in the country to broadcast in digital format. At the height of the Korean Wave, TV Perú aired Korean dramas like “All About Eve” and “Wish Upon A Star,” dubbed in Spanish. So if you feel like learning Spanish while watching Asian actors and actresses, then this one will be a Twilight Zone experience.
7. Venevisión (Venezuela)
Lastly, we come to Venevisión, one of the largest media provider in Venezuela.
In 1961, the network, which is the home of the Miss Venezuela Pageant, signed agreements with America’s ABC to broadcast each other’s content. In 1995, it was the first TV station in South America to add Second Audio Program (SAP) sound and closed captioning to its news and movie offerings.
Besides the usual suspects, the telenovelas, Venevisión also airs comedy programs like “El Chavo del 8” and “El Show del Vacilón,” Lifestyle shows like “Arquitecto de sueños” and “Sexo al desnudo,” and children’s shows like “Atómico.”
With its slogan, “Mucho más que ver” (Much more to see), we have a feeling that we will see even greater things from Venevisión.
So all you couch potatoes who wanna learn Spanish, what are you waiting for?
Get the bucket of popcorn from the microwave and the cold soda from the fridge. It’s time to get serious with this thing.
And if you’re really serious, FluentU is brimming with videos that don’t just entertain you to no end, they have been specifically made to hit the spot and teach you a thing or ten about Spanish. FluentU’s videos are Spanish lessons on steroids and will be an utter delight for couch potato language learners like you.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Go check them out!