Listening to Spanish is a lot easier to do when you live in a Spanish-speaking country.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t tune your ear to the sounds of Spanish wherever you are, and take the step up from beginner to intermediate level in no time.
There are many ways to practise listening comprehension without even leaving the house, so you can be better equipped to understand native speakers when the time comes.
That’s one of the best elements of working on your listening skills. While it might seem like a passive part of learning a language, if you turn it into an active process it can actually help improve your speaking fluency.
Tune Your Ear
If you want to understand Spanish well, beyond just getting the gist of what someone is saying, then you’ll need to tune your ear well.
What that means is you’ll need to get familiar with the sounds of Spanish and make an effort to retain as much vocabulary as possible along the way.
Work With a Private Tutor
One of the best ways to improve your listening comprehension is to work with a private tutor.
It’s important to receive feedback on your speaking skills, but it’s also good for you to listen to a native speaker or someone who’s fluent in Spanish.
The benefits of working with a tutor is that they should have all the patience in the world, and you can ask them to speak more slowly if you can’t identify a sound.
You can do this in person or with an online tutoring platform like Superprof. If you set up an account on Superprof you can work closely with an experienced Spanish tutor and get to grips with the sounds and pronunciation of the language at your own pace.
Listen to Correct Pronunciation
There are lots of great Spanish listening resources online that can help you tune your ear to correct pronunciation.
One extremely handy website you can use is Forvo.
If you ever have doubts about how something should sound, or what the correct pronunciation is, then type in the word into Forvo and listen to a Native speaker say it.
This is a very valuable resource, and in most cases there are audio recordings from different Spanish-speaking countries.
Establish a Daily Listening Practise
The best way to create a long-lasting habit is to commit to a small action that you do every day.
One way you can do that is to introduce Spanish listening practice into your daily routine.
Listening comprehension isn’t as simple as hearing a word, translating it in your head, and then understanding it in English. There is more nuance involved.
Accents play a part in listening comprehension in another language, as do dialects, cadence, rhythm and myriad other factors.
This shouldn’t deter you from trying, but it does mean that to give yourself the best chance of truly understanding spoken Spanish you should listen to it on a regular basis.
Switch On The Radio
One way to get daily listening practise without needing to do any research, is to put on the radio in spanish. You can easily find the main stations online, so you can stream them at home without being in a Spanish-speaking country.
The great thing about radio is that it can be either a passive or active form of Spanish listening practise.
You can either have it on in the background while you take care of household chores, or make a conscious effort to hear exactly what is being said and see if you can follow the conversation.
Another positive aspect of listening to the radio is you’ll be exposed to a broad range of accents and conversation topics. From the colloquial to the formal, you can find it all with the various radio stations.
That makes it a great way to work on listening comprehension whatever level you’re at. You’ll also get the added bonus of hearing some of the biggest Spanish hits in between the conversation.
RTVE radio station is great for all kinds of music and games, but if you’re just starting out maybe you’d prefer content made specifically for Spanish language, in which case you might like the newsinslowspanish website.
Find Spanish Music You Like
Did you know that getting your groove on to some Spanish salsa or reggaeton can be a great way to improve your listening comprehension?
While it might not be as good as listening to a native Spanish speaker talking at normal speed, there’s no denying the benefits of hearing Spanish lyrics in music.
This should be easy to incorporate into your daily routine, especially if you already listen to music on a regular basis.
To start out, look up some beginner-friendly music that isn’t too fast or difficult to understand.
That means you can probably rule out rap, at least for now anyway.
A good place to start is to look up lists of the easiest songs to understand in Spanish, and then you can go from there.
Get Into A Podcast
Podcasts are rapidly becoming the new radio.
There are podcasts available on nearly every subject you can imagine.
That being said, the podcast craze isn’t quite as big in Spanish-speaking countries as it is English ones, so you might have to look a bit harder to find the right one for you.
A good place to start is with those that are made for language learners. A good example is Coffee Break Spanish, which is hosted by a Scot who’s fluent in the lingo and who’s always accompanied by a native Spanish Speaker.
Once you get comfortable with the podcast format, you can make it a part of your daily commute or listen to it in your downtime. You can also experiment with podcasts that cover different topics when you make the step up to intermediate level.
Get More From Your Entertainment
Once you’ve attuned your ear to the most common sounds, it might be time to switch over your entertainment to Spanish.
If there’s anything better than sitting down to watch your favourite TV show or YouTube video, it’s feeling like you’re learning at the same time!
While you don’t need to watch and listen to everything in Spanish, it’s important to immerse yourself as much as possible. Maybe that means you watch one Spanish YouTube video in the morning every day, or one episode of a Spanish Netflix series in the evening.
As always, the most important thing is that you are consistent with the habit so that you can progress with your Spanish as quickly as possible.
Learn Languages with Netflix
Yes, that’s right, some genius thought to create a Chrome extension designed to help you learn languages as you watch Netflix.
This extension will not only help with your listening comprehension, but will also aid your reading skills too as you are presented with two sets of subtitles.
You’ll also find a catalog of recommendations for TV shows and films that you might enjoy for studying, as well as a pop-up dictionary for those words and phrases you’d like to explore further.
Go Down the Rabbit Hole with YouTube
How many times have you watched one video on YouTube which turned into three, which turned into an hour of video hopping?
I’m guessing once or twice.
YouTube has a wealth of entertaining videos that you can use to your advantage. That funny cat video can be worth more than just a laugh if you watch it with Spanish commentary.
If you’re intermediate level and you enjoy educational talks, you can find hundreds of free Tedx talks given by Spanish speakers on virtually every topic you can imagine.
Or if you’re just starting out you might prefer to soak up some Spanish language knowledge with a native teacher. A great channel for this is ‘Español con Juan’. Juan is from Spain but moved to London to take on a career as a Spanish teacher and he delivers especially charismatic classes on a variety of topics.
One of my personal favourites is ‘Spanish with Vicente’. Vicente is from Spain, and breaks down grammar in a very easy to understand way, so you can work on your writing skills as you listen to a native speaker.
‘Easy Spanish’ is one of the best options if you prefer listening to Latin American Spanish, as they roam the streets of Mexico asking real people their thoughts on a range of topics. It’s also a fantastic channel to watch if you want to pick up Spanish slang.
One of the most important things to consider as you browse these resources is what type of Spanish you want to learn.
If it’s Spanish from Spain, then it’s best to stick to teachers and TV Shows set in the country, and the same applies for Latin America. Otherwise you might make an embarrassing error in your spanish since both types have their own slang and ways of saying things.