You can improve your Spanish language skills just by sitting on the couch.
You may have heard of this method referred to as “the American way.”
Just plop yourself down in a comfy spot, grab the remote and get started learning Spanish with TV shows!
Sure, you could settle into those cushions and read some books, review Spanish current events or watch a movie, but watching Spanish language television comes with some uniquely cool benefits.
Let’s discover them together, then check out 15 of the best Spanish-language TV shows for an awesome couch study session.
How to Learn Spanish with TV Shows
In order for your lazing around to be as productive as possible, there are a number of ways you can aprovechar (make the most of) watching Spanish TV.
- Use subtitles to guide you. You can use English subtitles at first, and then as you get better use the Spanish subtitles so you can read and listen to Spanish at the same time. This should help you notice new vocabulary and expressions, and may also help you to figure out what’s going on.
- Watch TV online. Going online (or having something akin to TiVo) is preferable when trying to learn a language. This means you can pause if you get stuck or just want to get more snacks (to fuel your brain, obviously). You can rewind sections of dialogue again and again until you understand them.
Like most parts of learning Spanish, whether it’s learning the present tense or how to sing your favorite Spanish song, repetition is key. Need to watch a scene 10 times before you understand it fully? No problem.
- Step it up to live television. Eventually, live television will be beneficial by forcing you to listen along without subtitles or functions like pause or rewind. You’ll need to do your best to keep up with what’s being said!
- Don’t stress the details. Even if you do watch something 10 times, don’t stress yourself out trying to remember every single thing you hear. Pick out phrases you think might be useful at a later date and write them down. Try not to overload yourself with a long list of words that you probably won’t be able to remember.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Another thing to remember is not to panic if you don’t understand every word. If you do understand every word, you probably need to either stop pretending you’re learning Spanish when you’re clearly native or watch something more difficult.
“But what can I watch?” I hear you cry. “I live in an English speaking country and I don’t know the first thing about Spanish TV.” The following list should be more than enough to get you started, but it’s by no means exhaustive. If you’re more interested in the dramatic world of telenovelas, check out our post on how to immerse yourself in Spanish soap operas.
- Use FluentU.
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.
Learn Spanish with 15 TV Shows and Study from Your Couch
Settle down and get comfortable, because it’s time to stream some learning! Let’s start with Spanish TV shows available on Netflix. (Please note that show availability may vary by location and the shows on Netflix are subject to change.)
Just sit back and stream these awesome Netflix Spanish series!
“La Casa de Papel” (The House of Paper)
Are you ready to pull the heist of your life? Vicariously, of course!
If so, this superb Netflix series is all you need to make your fantasies become a reality.
Join the enigmatic Professor and his group of skilled robbers on their way to the Royal Mint of Spain, and watch them try to print 2,400 million euro while holding 67 people hostage! It doesn’t get more shocking than that!
“La Casa de Papel” (titled “Money Heist” in English) is the kind of Robinhoodian series each of us surely has dreamt of starring in. These robbers don’t want to hurt people, they don’t want to rob a little family shop or assault old ladies on their way to the market. They want to attack a system that has frustrated them for years by just printing money, so they’re not harming anyone, are they?
Let this Spanish production teach you the kind of Spanish you don’t learn in language schools. After watching this series, you’ll be a master of crime and legal vocabulary without even having to touch a book.
Besides, there are plenty of realistic dialogues and slang that’ll get you closer to the language spoken in real conversations.
“La Casa de las Flores” (The House of Flowers)
If you like dark comedy and drama, you’re in for a treat with this Mexican series.
“La Casa de las Flores” tells the story of the De la Mora family, an upper-class, somewhat dysfunctional Mexican family where dark secrets, betrayal and infidelity are just everyday routine.
As every prestigious family would try to do, the De la Mora don’t want their secrets to see the light of day. This, however, will turn out to be quite difficult from the very beginning, when a surprise suicide opens Pandora’s box (or rather, De la Mora’s box).
Mix this with some of the funniest, darkest moments in television history, and you have the perfect series to binge-watch during a lazy Sunday afternoon.
This is an amazing series to learn Spanish vocabulary related to social topics such as homosexuality, transsexuality, drug addiction, suicide, infidelity and other hot-button topics with a fresa (posh) Mexican accent.
A masterpiece Almodóvar would totally do if he had the time!
“Luis Miguel, La Serie” (Luis Miguel, the Series)
If you like biographies, watching series and good latino music, you’ll love “Luis Miguel, la Serie.”
This series tells the life of music icon Luis Miguel, who you may know from hits like “La Incondicional” (The Unconditional) and “Por Debajo de la Mesa” (Under the Table).
An authorized bio of the singer, “Luis Miguel, la Serie” shows how little Micky starts becoming an international star thanks to his father’s efforts. It portrays the love Luis Miguel has always had for his family (especially his mom and younger brother), and how fame started having an impact on their private lives.
The lucky chosen person to play the role of Luis Miguel is none other than the amazing Diego Boneta, an additional bonus to a biographic series that’s a must-watch for every Latin music lover.
This is the perfect opportunity to do a double favor to your Spanish: on the one hand, you get to hear delicious Mexican Spanish while watching the series. On the other hand, you can pick some of Luismi’s songs and work on the lyrics! Translate them into English, learn them by heart and sing with him… The sky is the limit.
Imagine a school for the rich where three working-class teenagers get sent to with scholarships. Add a murder, drugs, teenage Millenial drama and a whole lot of high-school clichés that get actually explored and explained, and you have “Élite.”
Even though it seems to be a series for the young, “Élite” can be treated as a series not for the faint of heart. Sexuality and related theme are all over the place. Discovery, exploration, betrayal, etc., are all surrounded by the shadow of a murder, and no one knows who’s responsible (or so it seems…).
“Élite” takes place in Las Encinas school, located in the mountains of Madrid. The language you’ll learn from it is the Castillian variety, but since it’s a series about teenagers, slang and informal conversations between friends make up most of the dialogues.
Don’t miss this flash-forward-style series and try not to bite your nails too much while watching it! Mystery has been served.
“La Reina del Flow” (The Queen of Flow)
Boy, do I love a Colombian telenovela full of twists, revenge and cliffhangers!
“La Reina del Flow” tells the story of Yeimi Montoya, a 17-year-old girl with a talent for writing lyrics who gets wrongfully sent to prison for 17 years for the murder of her family. Now at 34, her only wish is to take revenge against the person who sent her to prison.
If this isn’t dramatic enough for you (I mean, telenovelas need to be dramatic, am I right?), her former crush has stolen her lyrics notebook and become a rich reggaeton singer!
If you like reggaeton music and enjoy powerful women taking back control of their lives and standing on their own feet, you
ll thoroughly enjoy this thriller series.
Delve into this musical telenovela and improve your Colombian Spanish while enjoying good music and dialogues related to the music industry you’ll surely not find anywhere else!
When I was looking for shows to add to this list, my sister-in-law told me that I had to include “Fugitiva,” and she was so right!
For starters, I love, love, love Paz Vega. I think she’s so underrated despite being one of the best Spanish actresses. Besides, “Fugitiva” is an amazing, fast-paced series that gets you glued to your TV screen from the very first minute. I watched the first season in one day!
“Fugitiva” tells the story of four days (yes, it’s that intense!) in the life of a mother who sacrifices everything she has in order to save her children. It’s an ode to powerful women, to women who, like Magda, believe they’ve suffered enough and it’s time for them to take their lives back.
The story starts with Magda and her kids getting kidnapped, and that’s all I can tell you without giving you spoilers. You really need to watch this one.
“Fugitiva” is a Spanish language feast. You get to hear Mexican Spanish, Castillian Spanish and, if you’re a good listener, Vega’s Andalusian accent, which I, an Andalusian guy myself, find simply amazing.
If you like crime series about people who exist in real life, this one’s for you.
Based on the life of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, “El Chapo” is a series packed with action, drugs and violence. It tells El Chapo’s story from when he became a teenage drug dealer to when he became the most powerful and famous drug lord as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. The series also covers his downfall, reaching as far as the year 2016.
Due to the ongoing theme of crime and drug dealing, I wouldn’t recommend you watch this if you don’t enjoy violent series or movies. It doesn’t get more violent and illegal than in this series. You’ve been warned!
But all in all, “El Chapo” is one superb piece of art worth a watch even if just for the sake of good action. You may even start secretly rooting for him here and there when you discover how sinfully clever and creative he can be!
Use this series in order to improve your Mexican slang, especially the type related to everything that can be illegal. The dialogues are very well structured and give a sense of real-life informal conversation (despite the specific crime topic), so make sure you don’t miss this if you’re planning to visit Mexico soon!
“Vis a Vis” (Face to Face)
Najwa Nimri, Alba Flores, tax crimes and a prison… Need I say more?
The title of “Vis a Vis” is based on phrase that comes from a French expression meaning “face-to-face,” but the show’s official English title is “Locked Up.” It depicts the story of Macarena Ferreiro (amazingly played by Maggie Civantos), a very naive woman who falls in love with her boss.
This will change her life forever, since she starts committing tax crimes for him until she gets sent to prison. There, she’ll have to learn firsthand about the harshness of prison life, the difficulties of having to adapt to her new reality and the pain (literally) that the relationship with other inmates can be.
My brother says “Vis a Vis” is “El Chapo” meets “Orange Is the New Black,” but I haven’t seen the latter, so you had better decide for yourself.
I highly recommend this series if you’re interested in exploring woman-centric relationships with a pinch of violence, as well as getting a glimpse at what it’s like to be incarcerated and having to overcome the trauma of a whole new existence.
As for the Spanish you’ll learn, get your brain ready for a lot of money-related new vocabulary and some prison slang along the way.
“El Marginal” (The Marginalized)
Miguel is a former Argentinian cop who gets sent to prison undercover to try to find out the whereabouts of a kidnapped girl. Once inside and under a false identity, he’ll have to infiltrate the internal corrupted hierarchy of the prison and try to make friends with the right people at the right time in order to save the child.
But what would happen if he suddenly got trapped inside that prison, with his new false identity, no one knowing he’s there and just treated as any other inmate? Basically drama would happen—and attempts to escape, too.
Violence, intensity, aggression, dangerous felons and a cop trying to escape prison. If this doesn’t make you want to watch “El Marginal,” then do it for the amazing Juan Minujín and his delicious Argentinian accent.
If you want to learn Lunfardo like a boss, give this series a try!
Don’t have Netflix? No problem! You can still watch awesome Spanish TV shows online… for free! Check out the following few shows!
This 13-episode series is available on YouTube and is designed to help you learn Spanish (there are also German, French and English versions).
In a similar vein to “Friends,” the story revolves around a group of friends living in Barcelona. An American guy, Sam, comes to stay with the two girls, Ana and Lola, and the series is about the group’s adventures and Sam’s attempts to learn Spanish. His mistakes often lead to quite ridiculous misunderstandings, as anyone learning a language will surely understand.
Because the series is designed specifically with language learners in mind, the characters speak slowly and clearly and often repeat themselves. The Spanish characters correct Sam as he makes mistakes and there are recaps every now and then that go over the language Sam is learning. The series is light-hearted and fun, though the canned laughter in the background can be a bit irritating.
In terms of language level, this series is perfect for elementary to intermediate level students. Even beginners could gain something from the show as it’s quite easy to tell what’s going on from the context and the recaps. It’s also good revision and entertainment for higher-level students.
Another series designed especially for Spanish-learners, “Destinos” is TV series made in the early 1990’s which aims to teach Spanish in the style of a telenovela.
The story is about a lawyer, Raquel Rodríguez, who travels around to Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Mexico to discover a secret about Don Fernando, who receives a mysterious letter concerning his past.
Each episode has accompanying grammar and vocabulary exercises and the words you’re learning appear on the screen. At the end of each episode, Raquel Rodríguez recaps what’s happened in the episode and asks questions for the viewer to respond to. Nowadays, the series looks very dated, but spotting those 90’s fashion mistakes is all part of the fun.
The language level is suitable for beginners, but gets more complicated as the series progresses. Don’t be put off by the first episode, which has a long introduction to the series. Stick with it and you’ll see that “Destinos” has a lot to offer someone who wants to learn the Spanish basics.
As Raquel Rodríguez travels the world, different types of Spanish are also spoken, which is useful to get used to varying accents and vocabulary.
“En Terapia” (In Therapy)
“En Terapia” originally began as an Israeli show, but has been replicated all around the world in countries such as the USA, Romania, Poland, Japan and Argentina.
The premise of the show surround a psychotherapist who sees four different patients in a week and then tells his own supervising therapist about his patients in the last episode of the week. With each week, you learn more and more about each character until there’s some sort of climax at the end of the series.
This series is useful for pure listening practice. There’s no “action,” so to speak, just each character sitting on the couch telling their story to the therapist.
It can be useful to watch the Argentine version of this show if you’ve already seen the American “In Treatment.” The characters and story-lines are very similar, although a few things are changed slightly for cultural reasons. If you do already know the story, you can just pay attention to the language.
“En Terapia” can be fairly difficult to follow because of the lack of visual cues, but it’s a fascinating insight into Argentine culture, and is especially interesting because Argentinians are known for their love of therapy. If you can follow this one, it’s definitely worth it.
“Cualca” (Any [Slang])
“Cualca” stars Malena Pichot, an Argentine comic, and was originally a segment in the Argentine show “Duro de Domar.” It’s now available to watch on YouTube.
These short sketches, where the five comics who created the show play all the characters, are parodies of everyday situations. They cover everything from catcalling in the street, Cosmopolitan and its effect on women and even an imaginary world where sex isn’t taboo.
These short sketches are great for picking up Argentine slang and are funny even if you can’t understand every word. More advanced Spanish speakers will be able to grasp the more subtle jokes, while those with intermediate Spanish will still be able to get the gist of what’s going on in most episodes.
“Malviviendo” (Bad Living)
The name of this Spanish TV show translates to “Bad Living,” which is exactly what the series is about.
Set in Seville, “Malviviendo” follows the lives of a group of friends living in the fictional neighborhood of Los Banderilleros. The characters consume a lot of cannabis and experience various life problems together. As well as being about “bad living” the show also parodies other hit TV shows such as “Dexter,” “The X-Files” and “The Wire” among others.
“Malviviendo” is good for learning Spanish slang related to drugs and relationships (which is coincidentally some of the most popularly used slang). The characters talk pretty quickly, so this show is probably suitable for more advanced learners.
So, sit back on the couch, enjoy and learn Spanish with TV shows with these entertaining options. Just don’t blame us if you get addicted!
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