The process of learning a second language depends equally on your determination as it does on using the right techniques. But finding the right resources to improve your second language can be overwhelming. There is an abundance of resources and techniques on the Internet. This is why we recommend you chose a particular technique for each skill. For instance, if you need to improve your Spanish oral comprehension skills, watching Spanish TV shows is a great option. In this first part of this article, we explain some of the most effective methods of boosting your comprehension through watching TV shows.
The Best TV Shows and Series to Learn Spanish
I’ve found this technique amazing and effective, since it allows you to relax but at the same time familiarize yourself with the sounds and grammar of other languages. In fact, a few months ago I met a Polish girl who told me that when she was little, she used to watch Colombian telenovelas with Polish subtitles. She easily learned pronunciation and new grammar suited to day-to-day conversations. When I heard her speaking Spanish I was surprised, since she had so quickly lost her Polish accent!
Below you will find some Spanish TV shows and series we’ve picked out to help you improve your oral comprehension in Spanish. Some of them are telenovelas, the most common tv shows in Latin America. They are like a sitcom, but far shorter and come to a complete end. Some are like soap operas, some are comedies, while other series are more dramatic and grapple social issues.
El Chavo del Ocho
[Mexico – 1971-1980 – 8 seasons – Sitcom/Comedy]
This timeless sitcom is broadcast in both Latin America and Spain. It is the most watched Spanish TV show in Latin America, reaching an average of 91 million daily viewers. Each episode shows the adventures and misadventures of El chavo (Mexican for kid). El chavo is an orphan from a disadvantaged background who always gets into trouble when playing with other kids from la vecindad (lower-class neighborhood). El chavo is a cheeky yet innocent kid, so in the end, he’s the one who takes the fall for the group.
Language specifications: Perfect for intermediate-level learners and above. The dialogues are short, and the characters don’t speak too quickly. You will hear a lot of Mexican slang, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem as you will get used to it over time.
You can purchase the DVDs here: El Chavo del Ocho on amazon
Yo Soy Betty la Fea
[Colombia – 1999-2001 – 169 episodes – Telenovela/RomCom]
This telenovela was added to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 as the most successful TV series of all time. Yo Soy Betty La Fea is one of the most famous Spanish TV shows of all time. 28 countries around the world have developed adaptations of this show, and 180 have broadcast it. The American version, Ugly Betty, produced by actress Salma Hayek, is one of the most popular. The story is about Beatriz Pinzón, an intelligent young woman who recently got her master’s degree and is on the hunt for a job.
Eventually, she becomes the personal assistant to the CEO of Ecomoda, a leading fashion retail company. She is overqualified for the job but takes it on nonetheless after being rejected at previous interviews. Potential employers chose more attractive candidates over her. To be honest, Beatriz is not a “pretty” woman, but she is sweet and truthful. For that reason, her sexist boss and coworkers demean her throughout each episode.
Language level: This series is geared towards intermediate and upper-intermediate learners. It’s a great way to learn some vocabulary related to the workplace and the fashion industry. The characters don’t have strong accents, and they don’t speak much slang either. You can watch Yo soy Betty la fea on YouTube.
[Argentina – 1970s-80s – Shows/Musical]
Les Luthiers (French for musical instrument makers) are a very well-known Latin American music and comedy group. These guys are a class act, and their numerous Spanish TV shows are full of refined humor and musical skits. Hence their name, they play a homemade instrument each episode, in homage to their fictional character, Johann Sebastian Mastropiero. Sadly, Mastropiero lacks any real musical talent. Sad as it may be, Mastropiero’s failures are a spring of inspiration for the group. The guys poke fun at him in their acts, and it eventually leads them to world recognition and fame.
Language level: Once again, these shows are best for intermediate and advanced learners. The comedians speak slowly and very clearly. They’re perfect for learning vocabulary related to music, history and social aspects of modern and older times. You can purchase their DVDs here: Les Luthiers on Amazon. You can also watch them on YouTube.
Spaniards in London
[Spain – 2014 – 5 episodes – Web series/Comedy]
This is the first Spanish web series produced in the UK. Spaniards in London is about five Spaniards trying to start a new life in the UK. The episodes focus on their experiences learning English and finding housing, jobs and new friends, all the while trying to keep in touch with their loved ones back in Spain. You can watch the episodes here: http://spaniardsinlondon.com/
Language level: This web series is perfect for beginners since it will help you to develop your comprehension skills. I found it particularly useful because each episode has dialogues in Spanish and English (50/50). The show also features English subtitles when the characters speak in Spanish and vice versa, so you will not be completely lost. If your Spanish level isn’t that great, the subtitles are a great plus. You can practice your pronunciation and grammar by memorizing the dialogues.
La Casa de Papel
[Spain – 2017-present – 4 Seasons – Drama/Thriller]
Casa de Papel is a recent Spanish series that first aired on Netflix in 2017. It has been very successful and is still in production. It tells the story of how El Profesor, a very mysterious man, imagined, organized, and carried out the biggest robbery ever attempted: infiltrating the Royal Mint of Spain and printing and stealing nearly 2.4 billion euros over the course of 11 days. He hand-picks the eight best robbers in the country and trains them for two months before the heist.
Language level: Casa de Papel is one of the best TV series to learn Spanish from Spain. Although intended for intermediate and advanced-intermediate learners, it is quite accessible. The vocabulary comes from everyday life, about money and love, and there is a lot of Spanish slang.
You can watch seasons 1-4 on Netflix. The advantage of Netflix is that you can turn on the subtitles in the language of your choice, but we strongly recommend putting them in Spanish.
[US Netflix Series – 2015-2017 – 3 Seasons – Drama/Crime/Thriller]
Narcos is a series that originally began tracing the story of one of the world’s largest drug traffickers, Pablo Escobar, and more generally the Medellin cartel, in the late 70s. The third season shifts focus to the Cali cartel. The series is American but takes place in Colombia. It tells the story of these two huge cartels as they are tracked by the DEA, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which battles drug trafficking. Again, this series has had tremendous success on Netflix.
Language level: The series is both English and Spanish. An agent of the American DEA narrates the first two seasons, in English. However, the action takes place in Colombia so the majority of the dialogues are in Spanish. The main actor, who plays Pablo Escobar, is surprisingly Brazilian. But his Spanish is perfect, and accessible (and he’s a great actor!). There is a lot of slang, and the conversations are sometimes very vulgar. But it’s a narcotrafic series, so it’s probably pretty realistic!
Malviviendo, Vida Universitaria, Calabozos and Other Web Series
Web series are a new and interesting option to watch independent series. Typically, episodes last around nine minutes. They are a great supplement to Spanish TV shows and keep you practicing throughout the day without devoting a lot of time sitting in front of the television.
As we mentioned before, finding the best Spanish TV shows to practice your language skills can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are web series in nearly every genre: comedy, drama, romance, suspense, and even horror. If you are interested in watching other Spanish web series, you can find 50 of them on this website: http://ounae.com/webseries-espanolas-online-imprescindibles/
I hope you enjoy some of the series and have taken this opportunity to learn more about Hispanic culture as well.
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