Learn Spanish by watching movies
Welcome to our first ever blog post! so proud
As you may or may not know, we have launched a Q&A-special during the Covid-19 quarantine time to keep you all from slacking on your language learning. So, the first question we received was for Spanish. Here goes:
“Great initiative, Tanika! As you know, I’m not very good at studying. So, I would like to ask you which movies you could recommend to improve my Spanish?”
This question came from Dominic, who we’ve had the pleasure to work with over the past few months. Dominic and his colleague started to learn Spanish from scratch with our lovely trainer Paula and have managed to get to a conversational level in no time. Now, being in isolation, it would – of course – be a pity to lose this precious progress. Therefore, we made this amazing list, mostly with the help of Jasper Vervaeke, also an amazing Spanish language trainer. Thank you, Jasper!
But before we start, here are a few things to bear in mind:
- Spanish is a very international language. This means that it comes in all sizes and shapes. It is not only pronunciation that can differ according to the region (which is already quite the hassle). There are also a lot of words and expressions that you need to be careful with. We’ll give you an example. Let’s say, one of your friends or a close colleague has an amazing idea and asks for your opinion and you want to say: “Cool” or “Great” or anything that will show that you’re excited about the idea, basically. In Spain, one would say “Guay”, while in Ecuador, one would say “Chevere”. So, if you are watching a Hispanic movie or series, do mind the origins of the actors or the setting of the plot.
How do I improve my pronunciation? Try to repeat some of the expressions or sentences that you like and mimic the original accent as well as you can.
- You may have already noticed that Spanish people tend to speak very fast. This is no different in movies. Do not give up so soon. Try to find movies or series where the actors articulate more. You all know that one sitcom in your mother tongue where people speak super fast and mostly in dialect? Yeah, try to avoid those when looking for something to practise the language with, unless you already have a B2-level or higher. (Don’t know what a B2 is? For now, it suffices to know that it is a very high level of proficiency. We’ll be posting something about the confusion on language levels later on. If you’re interested in that, please leave a comment down below.) Yes, this is vague information. So, to make it more specific: Many people find that the accent from Valladolid is the most comprehensible when it comes to Spanish mainland, while the same goes for Ecuador in Latin-America.
How do I improve my listening skills? Try to really distinguish the different words while the actors are speaking. When speaking at a natural pace, people tend to “bind words together” and drop certain parts of the word.
- The eternal subtitle-discussion. Should I put on subtitles? Should I not? In which language?
Honestly, this is a question only you can answer, but we can make you a list of pro’s and con’s. In general, we would advise to put subtitles. If you already understand enough of the language to watch the episode for a few minutes and capture the gist of what they’re saying, then it may be best to put Spanish subtitles. That way, you can see how written words sound and vice versa. When doing this, you should be able to deduct the meaning of unknown words through context.
If this proves to be too difficult for you right now, then you’re probably still at an earlier stage of language learning and you should put the subtitles in your mother tongue. This will only work if you actively listen to what they are saying, while comparing this to what you are reading! Otherwise, you are just reading the lines and not picking up on anything. There is no such thing as language learning without a bit of hardship.
How can I speak more fluently? It may sound counter-intuitive, but actively watching movies in a certain language can help you speak more fluently as well. Most people are afraid to express themselves, which is normal when it comes to language learning and something a professional can help you overcome, but the first step is always vocabulary. So, the (first) real question may actually be, how do I expand my vocabulary?
You might have to pause your episode once in a while to look up an expression or to rewind and listen to that dialogue again. Don’t do it too often. This may take away your motivation and enjoyment but do try to do it once in a while. You know best how much patience you have. Push yourself a little bit, but not too far. We still want you to grab the remote control every night to watch more, because what will you learn if you don’t feel like watching anymore?
Of course, the list of Hispanic movies or series is endless, but here are some of our personal favourites!
And yes, we’ve got you covered: short description, regions and all.
- Volver: A superstitious village, a dead mother coming back from the dead; an interesting story indeed, full of drama and laughter.
- El laberinto del fauno: Interesting combination of history and fantasy, where a little girl tries to escape the war-filled world by creating her own. Not for the faint-hearted, but no horror either.
- Biutiful: What would you do if you could see your own death? Would you let it guide you?
- Lucía y el sexo: Sexually tinted movie about a waitress who lost her boyfriend and isolates herself on an island.
- La piel que habito: A plastic surgeon creates synthetic skin, allowing to change anyone’s appearance at all time. Turns into a horror movie.
- El Bola: A peek into the life of a young boy, raised in violence and isolation. Watch this when you can handle a heavier subject.
- Amores perros: Do you like different plots that come together in the end in a whirlwind of circumstances? Three of those + drama + action!
- Babel: Another multi-narrative film that won numerous awards with its thrilling storyline.
- Roma (also on Netflix): Best picture of the year 2018, we get a sneak peek into the life of a 70’s family maid in Mexico City.
- El secreto de sus ojos: A glorious mixture of your typical detective movie, revolving around an unsolved murder case, and unrequited love.
- Relatos salvajes: How would you act when you’re in distress? Six short stories show us how people go through tragedies and all its consequences.
- Sos Mi Vida: Martín y Monita: If you want more drama in your life than Sturm der Liebe, this show is for you.
- Pájaros de verano: An anxiously intense movie, showing family drama and the end of a whole era. (Colombia)
- Temblores: The hardships of homosexuality are laid bare in this plot when an evangelical father admits his true feelings. (Guatemala)
- Diarios de motocicleta: Only from 2004, but a classic already. We follow Che Guevara on his road trip through Latin America on his motorcycle. (Latin America)
Series on Netflix
Yes, we know. “Is it on Netflix? I don’t feel like browsing the internet.”
Here are some series on Netflix that are worth binging:
- Narcos (Colombia and Mexico): Narcos shows the dangers a police officer goes through while trying to catch a drug cartel.
- El chapo (Mexico): Again drugs, but this time focused on El Chapo’s rise to power.
- Casa de papel (Spain): Is there such a thing as the perfect robbery? Yes!
- Los días de Ayotzinapa (documentary, Mexico): 43 students mysteriously disappear from a Mexican school in 2014. What does the government have to say?
Do you have any movies or series to add to this list?
Did you watch any of our recommendations?
Let us know in the comments!