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Watching TV shows in Spanish

I don't know if this is a stupid question, but is there any merit to watching TV shows in Spanish, with no English subtitles (just Spanish subtitles)? My Spanish isn't very good, but I was wondering if watching TV shows in Spanish would somehow help my learning. Or is it useless to watch TV in Spanish if you barely can make out what people are saying and can't translate everything? Any thoughts?

December 29, 2017



This is a difficult question. I tend to say that watching TV in your target language is always a good idea, if only for the sake of getting accustomed to the sounds and intonation of the language. But on the other hand, you might want to consider how useful it is to listen to people speaking way too fast for you to comprehend a word and thus barely learning new things about Spanish. However, this problem should be solved at least partly by the Spanish subtitles; you could even pause the show at times to rethink what has happened so far.

In any case, I'd at least try it. Maybe you like it, maybe you won't; there's no shame in admitting the latter and there's only more gain in the former (:


I think you will find youtube videos easier to follow. You may want to wait until half way through your tree so you have some reading ability. I think, and I have heard others say the same, that you should go with subtitles in the target language.


Yes, Watch TV shows.. USE the subtitles. Get further along in your tree and watch and listen to Spanish.
And YES again.


Hi Cathy,

I wonder how you can watch Spanish TV shows/videos when you have not finished the DL (incl. reverse) trees or you can already read texts / books on www.bliubliu.com well or listen to native recorded audio.

Personally I like it, that I can listen and read in parallel.
Only listening is too much for me.

How long have you been learning Spanish?

I tried to watch "BigBang Series" in Portuguese BR.
Wow, the syncronized voices are really quite FAST!

I also started to learn Spanish on Lingvist with faster better audio than this TTS stuff, where they read sentences and play the audio.

Honestly, I would not successfully manage to only listen to the sentences, not yet.

Personally I would be searching for "Slow ...." videos, like I hear it more than once for "Slow German".....

Good luck!


Believe it or not, Linqvist also uses TTS, really, really good TTS.


Thank you for your answer! I've been learning Spanish on and off since last summer. It's been a really slow process because I'll go through phases where I don't practice at all. I want to learn Spanish in a interesting and creative way. I like Duolingo, but at times it can become tedious and robotic. That's why I want to watch Spanish TV shows, because I don't like the robotic side of learning a language (ei, doing flashcards over and over again and translating bland sentences)


Hi Cathy,

once I read about different learning type persons:

Someone is more oriented to listening / audio, somebody else more into reading, the other person may be more visual orientated.

The good thing on videos / TV is, that it combines visual + hearing aspects (if it is the "right" material).

I also believe that it would be much easier for me to do this 1,5-3,0 hours / day, instead of being strictly text-(typing-)focused like DuoLingo, Memrise, Lingvist, etc. or audio-only.

It's been a really slow process because I'll go through phases where I don't practice at all.

This sounds like you have been multiple weeks / months OFF?! :-)

I wonder how many times your "forgetting curve" without a proper spaced repetition (SR) interval to review already learned vocabulary and grammar stuff (including verb conjugations, inflections, tenses, etc.) may have already hit you badly?!?

How many times do you have the good feeling, that words and grammar finally "click", when you do N O T see them (e.g 25-50++ times) on a regular basis?
If it may take you more time in finding your proper "Slow Spanish TV videos (good luck!):
You could also try the 100 days free audio course on www.50languages.com.

There is also a free mobile app; text-scripts for each day are available.

And 50languages teaches also some longer sentences with native recorded audio (MP3).


About how many "words" have you already learned (on- or offline) in Spanish since a year which you could e.g practice / review for reading and listening?

3000? 5000? More?

  • I recently "learned" 1000 "words" (and seeing them a bit in action in sentences) in 11 days in my "Lingvist 2017 end of year challenge".
  • I had to invest 20:11 hours (including daily reviews, (too) many repeats of incorrect answers).

  • It was really tough for me; and because of those pesky repeats and SR reviews I could not learn more words no matter how hard I tried.
    Example: If you make a break just for 45-90min. you will find 60+ words later in your repeat stack which prevents you from learning new words)

  • That is, those 1000 words have been added to my "words list" (incl. verbs person conjugations, plurals, past tense, etc. - so not all unique words).

  • In comparision: DuoLingo shows me 3461 "learned words" in the words tab for my finished Portuguse tree after 1,2 years (Duo is a long route!), where about 3 grammar skills (including words) are even NOT added (not included in the API stream, probably a bug).

  • More comparisions:
    Memrise shows 4834 "learned words" after 1 year (probably including word duplicates from multiple courses, who knows) on some basic (not intermediate/advanced) Portuguese BR courses (across) where I e.g review the DuoLingo clone course daily, and others/completed courses varying from weekly to no-regular-review ;)

Personally I do think I would have to start at least 3-4 more intermediate/advanced 3000-5000+ courses to fill the required vocabulary to be "ready" for some TV listening challenges - I may be wrong.
I once read that not the total vocabulary counts what you have learned you could understand / read passively, but better to focus on less vocabulary but use it actively.

I once found a Spanish listening-only course on Memrise, which requires you to correctly type the sentence, which was said.
Hopefully I have added it to my course list...


If you're struggling to understand it, it's probably better to use English subtitles. That way you at least find out what is being said and can connect the two, else you're only learning what you can decipher from context. As your Spanish improves you can at some point decide to take the training wheels off and switch to Spanish subtitles.

I've mainly learnt English from watching TV as a kid.


The problem is I watch the shows on Hulu, which only offers subtitles for the language you are watching in. So a show in Spanish will only offer Spanish subtitles. :(


Try VLC VideoLan media player.

It includes the VLSub 0.9 (there is also 1.1 available for download) plugin, where you can search for subtitles and select in what language you want to have them.

It will auto-download the select subtile as a .SRT file.

Those SRT files seem to be once ripped from DVDs or Bluerays, and sync in time (hence SRT includes timing information) with the original video.

You can add this subtitle file in VLC when you play a video e.g syncronized (without subtites).


I watch sesame street/ plaza sesamo clips on youtube. I think it is ideal since it is created for learning, there is lot’s of repetion which is helpful for learning and yet it’s still cute and funny. I try to watch each clip a few times and I pick up more with each viewing.


That is a great idea, by forcing yourself to understand what they are saying you will make it easier to pick up a sense for the language. Watching someone speak can also help you get a sense for what is being said versus just hearing it, it trains your brain to react to the language. You should avoid programs that are dubbed from another language into Spanish, you want to see their faces form the words. One site that has a lot of programming with Spanish subtitles is http://www.rtve.es/. Some of the programs may be available in your area. When I was a child learning English, I would parrot what was being said in English on television, much to the annoyance of my parents, but it accelerated my understanding of the language. This approach works for a lot of people, don't be afraid to give it a try.


Yes, there is a great deal of merit to watching shows in Spanish. But what you get out will depend on how much you put into it. First focus on hearing the music of the language. The rise and fall of pitch and volume, the rhythm and beat of the syllables. Emotions are expressed differently in different languages. Try to pick up on them. Watch people's gestures and facial expressions. Watch their mouths and throats as they speak and try to imitate them. You might see that they say their b's and v's differently. A Spanish v is not the same as English -- or French or German, for that matter. It's an Arabic v. You can learn more from tv and movies than you can from an online course. What you see & hear on tv is real Spanish, as it is spoken by real people in the real world. As you get better at hearing the sounds, try to hear words and phrases. Repeat them. Try to say them the exact same way you hear them. If it's a question, make sure it sounds like a question when your are imitating them. Walk before you run. Before you can translate anything, you first have to have the listening skill to mentally shape words out of a string of sounds. The only way to learn that is to simply expose your ears to the language for hours at a time.


While I certainly agree with your main point, you can certainly give a massive jump-start to this process with some pronunciation pointers like in this video and the two subsequent ones (there's also a series for European Spanish). And there will come a time when wading through the Spanish phonology article on Wikipedia will probably be worth the while.

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