Watching movies and tv shows is a good way to learn and practice Spanish. However, a lot of people just use these resources as a way of relaxing and being in touch with the language. But if you really want to make the most out of this activity, you need to take active action to improve your command of the language.
So if you’re wondering how to learn Spanish through movies and tv shows, in this article we’ve compiled a list of 7 different ways to practice and improve your Spanish with these resources. Make sure to read the descriptions and to implement other activities that you think may help you in your learning journey.
Hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll know what to do to learn Spanish with movies and tv shows.
1. Work with your captions
When watching a movie to learn Spanish, the best thing you can do is to set the language to Spanish and use the captions in your mother tongue as a supporting tool. The way you use captions will mainly depend on how comfortable you are with the language. Let’s break it down.
So, if you’re a beginner learner, you definitely want to use captions in your mother tongue. That way you can follow what’s going on at the same time that you start getting familiar with the Spanish pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and speed.
One thing you can do as a beginner learner is to remove the captions in one scene and try to understand what happened. You can confirm how much you understood by repeating the scene with captions.
On the other hand, intermediate and advanced learners can work with audio and captions in Spanish to push both their listening and reading skills. In addition to this, working with Spanish subtitles can also help you check how to build structures in Spanish which can be tricky for some learners.
Depending on their confidence level, intermediate and advanced learners can watch the movie without captions and just focus on the listening part.
Take Note: If you’re a Spanish beginner, you may feel more comfortable watching a movie that you’re very familiar with in your mother tongue. Just make sure you set the language to Spanish. Eventually, you’ll want to push yourself and try movies or tv shows that you haven’t seen.
2. Identify useful vocabulary
One of the advantages of using movies or tv shows to learn Spanish is that they both use simple and common vocabulary that most Spanish speakers understand and use. As a result, these resources are a great source of basic words, idiomatic expressions and slang words for you.
In order to learn vocabulary from a movie, try to identify verbs, words, phrases and expressions that are repeated constantly throughout the movie. This may mean that this vocabulary has a high usage and that you can use it in your everyday life.
Additionally, look at how these words are used and by who: are they being applied in a formal or informal context? Are they only used by young people? Doing this will not only allow you to identify popular words, but also the situations where they’re applied.
Finally, make sure to build a list with vocabulary that you consider that may be useful for your daily-life interactions. So, for example, if you use Spanish for your work, you may want to learn formal words, greetings and courtesy phrases. But if you’re a student, you may want to focus on learning slang words and other expressions that young people use with their friends.
The idea of this activity is to use the movie to learn words, idioms and slang phrases that can actually be useful in your Spanish conversations.
3. Identify meanings based on the context
When learning new vocabulary, many Spanish learners memorize the meaning of a word just to find themselves in a situation where this word wasn’t used as they thought it would be.
In Spanish, many words have different meanings depending on the context where it’s being used as well as the elements that surround it. Just to give you a quick example:
Laura nos contó que vi a Clara en el cine
Laura told us that she saw Clara at the movies
Laura se equivocó y contó mal el dinero, nos hacen falta 50 pesos
Laura made a mistake and miscounted the money, we’re missing 50 pesos
Learning all the meanings of a word may be difficult at the beginning, for that reason, it’s important that you’re able to identify how a word is being used in a specific context.
You can use movies to develop this ability: if you hear a word that you thought you knew, pay attention to the scene and the conversation held in that particular moment. Based on this information, identify the possible meaning of the word and double-check with your captions.
Once you gain more confidence in your Spanish skills, you will be able to infer the meaning of a word just based on the context where it is being used. Of course, you can start training this ability when watching movies.
4. Focus on a Spanish Dialect
Even though Spanish speakers from different countries are able to understand each other, each country has its own Spanish dialect. In other words, they have their own set of vocabulary, pronunciation and, sometimes, grammar rules.
All these characteristics are reflected in movies and tv shows. So if you already know that you need to learn a certain type of Spanish, the best thing you can do it’s to choose tv shows or movies from that country. That way, you’ll be exposed to the Spanish dialect that you need.
If you decide to do this, you should keep an eye on grammar particularites (i.e. vosotros vs ustedes, conjugation of verbs in Spanish Rioplatense) as well as specific vocabulary and pronunciation. You may want to take note of:
- Idiomatic expressions
- Slang words
- Phrases to express emotions
- Words to refer or call another person
- Usage of pronouns
Tip: Movies for kids or dubbed movies use a more standard vocabulary since they’re trying to reach an international audience. This is good if you want to practice and learn Spanish standard structures. Just be aware that you may not learn a lot of informal vocabulary.
5. Identify the general idea of a conversation
Due to the accent and the speed, a lot of learners have issues keeping and understanding a conversation with a Spanish speaker. Since for many people the goal of learning Spanish is to have conversations, it’s important that you start training your listening and comprehension skills with a movie.
In order to do this, choose a scene with two or more characters having a conversation, set the audio to Spanish and deactivate the captions. Listen to the conversation and try to get enough information to understand the main idea of the interaction.
You want to have a very good understanding of what’s going on: so if you were part of the conversation, you would be able to answer or provide an opinion on the topic presented. In this exercise, you don’t need to understand every word that is being said: you just need a solid idea about what’s going on.
For the sake of making the most of this exercise and pushing yourself, try to work with a movie that you haven’t seen many times. Even though this is an artificial situation, a movie can help you improve your listening and comprehension skills. That way, talking to Spanish speakers will be easier for you.
6. Comment on the movie with your friends
Watching a movie in Spanish is a great way to improve your comprehension skills and the best way to make sure you understood it is to talk about the movie with some friends or classmates that are also learning Spanish.
If you and your friends are interested in learning Spanish with movies, Amazon Prime has a feature to create a group to watch a movie together.
Although this is a cool activity to do with your friends, you can also use it as study time. In order to do that:
- All of you should take notes about vocabulary and idiomatic expressions that caught your attention.
- Share your vocabulary list with each other (maybe someone found a word that you missed).
- Discuss your favorite scenes in Spanish: that way you can practice your conversation.
- Ask each other questions about the movie to check your comprehension.
Amazon Prime also has a lot of Spanish movies and shows that can help you during your learning process. However, in order to use the ‘group feature’, all the people involved need a Prime subscription.
Also, this feature doesn’t include live video which means that you won’t be able to see your friend at the same time that you watch the movie. If you want this type of experience, you may need to try another platform.
7. Practice what you’ve learned
In order to learn Spanish and have a better command of this language, you need to practice the concepts and the words that you learn as much as possible. When using movies, something that you can do is to write sentences and examples practicing your new vocabulary and structures.
Additionally, you should also have a list with vocabulary that can be useful in your daily life. Once you have identified words and expressions that you can use, make sure to start adding them to your conversations.
Pay attention to basic interactions that are presented in the movie (such as taking a taxi, doing groceries or ordering in a restaurant) and try to emulate them whenever possible.
A lot of people use movies and tv shows as a fun and different way to practice Spanish. But aside from being an entertaining activity, there’s plenty of things that you can learn with these resources.
In order to help you with your learning process, in this article, we discussed different ways that you can use movies or tv shows to learn Spanish. Remember that these ideas are just a small guidance and that you can combine them with your own activities.
Next time you watch a movie, you’ll be able to take action and start improving your Spanish.