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I can barely understand Argentinian and even European Spanish on TV

[deactivated user]

    I grew up on Spanish-language telenovelas, mainly from Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia. The first one I remember was 'Andrea Celeste'. Many more followed. Most were dubbed but a few were with subtitles, and I got really used to Venezuelan, Colombian and Mexican/US Spanish speech. I have taken French at high school (up to B2, now between B1/A2) and recently took a Spanish A1 course.

    Is it common for others as well to be able to understand Mexican/US, Venezuelan, Colombian Spanish but to struggle with European Spanish and even more with Argentinian? I can barely make out the words in the original (and best! :P) 'Lalola'! 'Aqui no hay quien viva' is only marginally better but they also speak very fast and I can't make out their words one from another as I can in most Mexican/USA/Venezuelan/Colombian productions. :) I do understand the news at TVE better however, maybe in those comedy series they speak even faster than irl for making the characters look exaggerated?

    I'd like to ask for any recommendations for interesting TV channels - Latin American, US or Spanish ones (that are better than TVE, the things they show on TVE bore me!).

    May 19, 2018



    I started learning Brazilian Portuguese, but couldn't understand people from Portugal at all. So I did Memrise's European Portuguese courses, which reinforced my Portuguese grammar while giving me an ear for another dialect. When it was finished, I had no trouble making out what they were saying (where it had been gibberish before).

    There is less of a difference between the dialects of Spanish than those of Portuguese. So if you try a course in that dialect you'll open your ears and your mind to their style of speaking.


    Here is Memrise's European Spanish. If you're already at level 7 in Spanish you'll probably want to skip to course 2 or 3. You'll learn new phrases and reinforce what you already know.

    Sadly, I don't have resources for Argentina Spanish, but you can find practice partners from all countries on Tandem. You can search by country. I've been speaking with an Argentine man and the conversations are really interesting. For me, it's Peruvians that I can't understand, so I practice with a Peruvian police officer and help him with English.


    I don't have any channel recommendations since I watch loads of TVE and have liked most of the things I have seen on it.

    But I will say that yes, people from Spain, especially those from Southern Spain, speak really quickly. They also drop Ss and do a lot of other things that make them extremely difficult to understand--for everyone, not just Spanish learners.

    What I love is watching a show or two on TVE then listening to one of my favorite podcasts that features mostly Mexican and U.S. speakers. It's like training at altitude for a race at sea level.


    But the TV shows made in Spain usually don't have normal people with southern accents, only comic characters or foreigners ("the guy from Cordoba"). So, the question is about the northern dialects, very conservative about consonants.


    I have watched a few reality shows on TVE, and they have included people from all over the country. In fact, I thought I understood Peninsular Spanish pretty well until I started watching a reality show with a cast that is mostly from the south. My mind was blown. There was one woman from Cordoba that I never once understood. Not a word.


    Yes, they have people from all regions. I commented thinking about fiction. I worked with a man from Cordoba and my colleagues (speakers of Chilean Spanish) had some trouble to understand him. The funny part is his pronunciation was almost identical to Chilean with a different intonation (plus aspirated j's and dropped r's). I think they couldn't understand him because of surprise of a guy not speaking "like Spaniards do".


    It is normal, every time that I find a new channel on you tube where the people who speaks have a different accent it takes some time to familarize with the way that they pronounce and their expressions.

    It took me a lot of videos to understand the Alex James speaking in his channel on you tube, the same happens with other languages each country have their own particular way to work on languages.


    Here's a way you do better. Exposure. You've gotta do it more or else you won't understand it. I suggest, if you are able to immerse yourself knowing the grammatical rules, you should go to the "Labs" tab of Duolingo and select podcasts.


    Eh, the Duolingo podcast is in slo-mo Spanish. The OP already understands normal speed American Spanish. I do as well, and I found the Duolingo podcast infuriatingly slow. And it is mostly in English. That would be a step backward for him. He should just listen to more Spanish from everywhere until he feels comfortable with all of it.


    Mmm, it is a little unusual. If you make a broad classification of varieties of Spanish , there are 2 types: "Spanish from highlands" and "Spanish from lowlands" (they aren't exactly spoken only there, but it is very useful as summary). Highlands Spanish is conservative in consonants and lowlands Spanish is innovative in consonants.

    Mexican, "Colombian" (in fact, a very special type of Andean Spanish spoken in the highlands of Colombia) and the prestige dialect of Spain are "from highlands" and Venezuelan (a subvariety of Caribbean Spanish) and Rioplatense belong to "lowlands". Then, you are used to both types. What could be the problem?

    With Spanish from Spain, maybe the rhythm (it is my problem, being a native speaker), pronunciation of z (like English th in thanks) and s (similar to English sh) and vocabulary. With Rioplatense, maybe pronuncation of y/ll (like zh or sh), intonation and vocabulary.

    However, I suspect the main problem is another one. Telenovelas from Mexico and Venezuela aren't spoken in natural language, they use "diction for telenovelas", slower, artificial and (I'm sorry) actors and actresses are usually bad or at least too histrionic [search for "Maldita lisiada", it is epic]. Telenovelas from Colombia are (or used to be) good and they speak more similar to real life. In Argentina and Spain characters speak almost like in real life, except for less cursewords.

    [deactivated user]

      Ok, so until I become more immersed into the language, Mexican and Venezuelan telenovelas are a good start then with their clear intonation and diction. I can follow them with (re)watching undubbed Colombian, and then Argentinian ones (that's how I rate them on 'difficulty' to understand separate words and phrases, maybe it depends on your native language, mine is Bulgarian). As for Maldita Lisiada - scenes like these are rare in the most telenovelas I've seen actually. This histrionic overacting is more common in Turkish TV series, which, unfortunately have largely replaced Latin telenovelas on Bulgarian TV. Most Latin novelas are quite good.


      Give a chance to Colombian telenovelas from 90' and 2000's. They have good screenplays, interesting characters (more realistic), better acting and almost real Colombian Spanish (pretty understandable for a student, because it is conservative and slower than other varieties). "Café con aroma de mujer", "La Potra Zaina", "Yo soy Betty la fea" or "Pedro el Escamoso" could be good start points.


      Chilotin, where do you find these? YouTube, Netflix?


      At TV, but they are very famous, especially Betty. I found lists in Youtube with all chapters of Yo soy Betty la fea, Café con aroma de mujer and La Potra Zaina.


      Thank goodness for Mexican telenovelas!


      I also learned my Spanish in Mexico and found Argentine Spanish difficult to understand the first few weeks I was there. With time, it became easy. However, I find the education level of the person speaking is a better indicator of whether or not I will understand them. Throughout Latin America, there are so many aboriginal languages that many people speak a mixture of a native language and Spanish. In Bolivia I heard parents speak in Quechua and children answer in a mixture of Spanish and Quechua. Poorly educated people may not even be aware when a word is Spanish or their native language. I rarely understand plumbers in any country. If they're trying to tell me why my sink is leaking everywhere, I usually just take a wild guess at what they've said.


      I think your idea about education and bilingualism is, in general, wrong. I'd say a non-native speaker would understand more easily an illiterate peasant from Argentine Patagonia or a seller of tortillas from Mexico City with primary school than a rich businesswoman from Chile or a young playboy from Mexico. In Spanish and, I suppose, in most languages, upper classes develop codes of language than allow them to recognize their members. One time I couldn't recognize the language of a woman speaking Spanish: she was using the high-class pronunciation of my own country, with weak consonants, whispers and no pauses. I've never experienced something similar with peasants, fishers or another people with scarce formal education, but the opposite.

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