You can improve your Spanish language skills just by sitting on the couch.
You may have heard to this method referred to as “the American way.”
If you thought learning Spanish had to be difficult, you’re in for a surprise.
Plop yourself down in a comfy spot, grab the remote and get started learning Spanish in the chillest way possible.
How to Get the Most out of Watching TV in Spanish
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.
1. 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.
2. 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 you 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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
5. 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 (a) stop pretending you’re learning Spanish when you’re clearly native, or (b) 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.
6. Use FluentU. For inspiration and information, you should click over to FluentU’s Spanish-language video collection. We’ve gathered entertaining clips from all corners of the Spanish-speaking world, covering everything from Nicaraguan boxing to Cuban politics and our favorite translated musical numbers from “the Little Mermaid.” FluentU can help give you ideas about what types of Spanish-language TV to seek out, and it serves as a video-based learning platform in and of itself, as well.
Just a quick look can show you the variety of content available on FluentU.
You can just sit back, relax and read along with the subtitles. Alternatively, you can kick things up a notch with interactive learning features like flashcards and vocabulary lists.
Not to mention, everything’s personalized for your learning level and style based on the content you’ve been learning. It’s perfect for figuring out which types of video resources work best for you!
Learn Spanish on the Couch: Top 5 Spanish TV Shows Available Online Now
This series is available on YouTube and is designed to help you learn Spanish (there are also German, French and English versions). It’s similar to “Friends” in that 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 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, it has Spanish subtitles and 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.
3. En Terapia
“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. You can watch the show on Argentina’s public TV website, where the third season is currently airing.
This series is as useful as it’s pure listening practice. There is 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 storylines 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!” 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. Ones to look for in particular are “piropos,” about catcalling the street, “el mundo donde el sexo no es tabú“, an imaginary world where sex isn’t taboo, and “chicas cosmo” about Cosmopolitan and its effect on women. The second series of “Cualca!” began in late 2014 and various spin-off shows including all or many of the same actors are “Jorge” and “Por Ahora.”
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.
The name of this 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 and enjoy these series. Then you can tell your new Spanish speaking friends all about them. Just don’t blame us if you get addicted!
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