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Making the Most out of Using Films & TV Series

So to improve my Spanish listening skills, I'm now watching films and TV series. However it's really frustrating because I can understand a bit but there's a lot I struggle to understand.

So I was wondering: is there a way to make the most out of using films and TV series to learn Spanish (or any language)? If I keep watching them will I gradually start understanding more and more until it just clicks? Or will I have to pay close attention to speaking patterns etc.

Thanks for your time! :D

July 8, 2017



I watched a show that had a Spanish audio and sub option, and I used Spanish audio & subtitles. People have different opinions on using subtitles. I say it's safe for a little while, but you do want to get used to the sound without text. It may be easier with subtitles b.c listening is key in language learning. This show, I binge-watched, and after a while I no longer was looking at the subtitles, and then turned them off. Eventually I was thinking in Spanish for I'd say around 2 minutes before I caught myself and then felt such joy ^_^


I do the same thing and turn on close-captioning. Some people talk faster than others and I can pause, rewind, or whatever is necessary to understand. Watching with subtitles in English (or other native language) isn't all that helpful, but I really like them in the same language.


Stick at it, and accept that it'll take ages.

To start with, you'll be aiming to pick out a word here and there. After a while, you'll be able to pick out quite a few words and the occasional phrase. As time goes on you'll be able to pick out more and more, and gradually your listening skills will improve.


Exposing yourself to more Spanish (in any way, but films and TV are great ways of doing so) is guaranteed to improve your comprehension of it.

By listening to it and actively trying to understand it, I think you will start to understand more and more. It's so frustrating at first when you only understand parts of what they're saying, I know what you mean!

I will leave it to other people to suggest actual ways of making the most out of films and TV series because I'm not sure, but I do know that with some time & perseverance & practice, progress will be made!!

Out of interest, what are your favourites of the Spanish TV shows or films that you have been watching?


I can't recommend any Spanish TV shows for you, but I have watched a lot of TV in German for practice. It really does help!

My biggest recommendation is not to give up in the beginning when it seems really hard. Find shows that you like because that makes it more fun and you are more likely to stick with it. Easier shows, even children's shows, are good to start with, but also don't be afraid to try harder shows too. If you can find a show you have seen in English that is dubbed in Spanish, that can be helpful since you already know what they are talking about. I also find that shows with a setting and plot are better than documentaries because there are usually more context clues for picking out new words.

After watching a few children's shows in German, I found a regular TV show I had seen in English that was dubbed in German. It had no subtitles and was way above my comprehension level at the time, but I tried it anyway. At first, I understood about two words every five minutes. Half the people had incomprehensible regional accents. It all sounded so strange that I got headaches from watching it. But I kept going. Every time a word jumped out at me, I would pause the show, look up the word, and then rewind and listen to the conversation again. Very slowly I started understanding more and more. While I understood practically nothing at the beginning, by the time I finished all six seasons, I could understand 50-70% of what was being said. After watching the series a second time, it was more like 80-90%.

Watching shows in your target language and persevering even when it is challenging really pays off! Good luck!

  • 1803

This is exactly my experience too. The only way how to get most of it is to stick with it. After watching tons of material and just like you at first understanding nothing, I can now watch any random show and be pretty comfortable. The other day I caught Startrek in German on German satellite TV and it felt like they were talking silly easy language compared to other things I have watched. Then I remembered trying to watch this show over 6 months ago and understanding nothing. Just like you I watched other foreign shows dubbed in German. I think it's important to watch something that you know at first, it helps to eliminate a bit of that headache stage :-)


I like to get a TV show or movie that has subtitles in both my native language (English) and the language I am studying. I would watch the movie or show once without any subtitles to see how much I could understand. I could almost always follow the story, even though I would miss details. Then I would watch a second time with English subtitles to see what I had missed. The I watched again with the subtitles in the language I was studying (if these were available). Finally I would watch it all again without any subtitles. I found this helped a lot, though it is true it is best to pick a movie you won't mind seeing several times. I also would watch short segments of news programs, pick out works I could hear but did not know, then make flashcards of this new vocabulary. I would study the words, then watch the segment several times.

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