mas despacio por favor
April 20, 2007 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I need to improve my spanish, specifically my listening comprehension. I've done all the Pimsleur and Michel Thomas courses, and I can easily read spanish with very few problems, but I want to get better at understanding native speakers. Anybody have any good resources?

I can read the newspaper, web sites, books no problem, I chat over gchat and aim with my spanish friends all the time but my comprehension of the spoken language is still lagging way behind. I listen to the spanish language news podcast from, and can understand that without problems, but I'm 99% sure the announcer is not a a native speaker, and they don't use a whole lot of tenses either. I try to watch Telemundo and listen to podcasts like Radio Caracol, but Telemundo is just waaaaay too fast and insane for me to do anything but pick out more than a couple of words and Radio Caracol is a little better, but the format of the show (think the morning zoo crew type shows here in the USA) and the low quality of the podcast (sounds like it was recorded in a submarine) makes it hard to understand. What I really need is a recording of a couple of people talking back and forth in a civil manner (without the interruptions and cuts of a talk radio type show - like Radio Caracol) I'm thinking something along the lines of This American Life in Spanish.

Anybody got any resources for me? Any tips on how you improved? Should I just keep watching telenovelas and wait for the day when all of a sudden I get it? Basically I feel like I've gotten to the point where my spanish is good, and I'm having trouble getting to the next level.

PS: to preempt everybody who would like to answer this question with any variation of "the best way to learn is to spend a long time in a spanish speaking country", 1. I've done that before, 2. I'm going to do it again, but can't afford it right now.
posted by youthenrage to Education (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Re: Telemundo - turn on closed captions on your TV. Then you can connect the spoken language with the written words. Since you say you can read it fairly well, this should help your comprehension quite a bit.
posted by desjardins at 9:36 AM on April 20, 2007

I'm not sure where you live but you might also look for a way to interact with native Spanish speakers in your area. I used to teach literacy, for example, to Central Americans. Since their English was pretty bad, we had to communicate in Spanish. Not only that but during our classes they'd chit-chat and gossip with us (the volunteers) and among themselves creating this immersive environment.

I already speak Spanish natively but I know one of the other volunteers was there also to improve her conversational speaking and hearing of Spanish. Win-win for everybody.
posted by vacapinta at 9:55 AM on April 20, 2007

It might not be what you're looking for, but when I was doing my A Level Spanish I subscibed to a Spanish learning resource called Authentik. It's aimed at college-aged students, but contains interesting aritcles about the news, literature, etc.

The reason why I think it might be useful to you is that each issue (I think there are five a year, so that might not be often enough for you) comes with an audio CD which has lots of easy-to-listen-to extracts from TV, radio, interviews etc. Because it is aimed at students studying at quite a high level (as it seems you are) it is real people speaking how people really speak, but they have chosen extracts where it is easier to understand what is being said, due to the clarity of the voice, or speed of talking, or whatever. I found it really useful to help me transition from only being able to understand Spanish when spoken slowly, and being able to understand Spanish on the TV or radio.

I can't see where you're from, but it might be quite difficult getting this outside the Uk, but there must be other things like it that you could look for.
posted by schmoo at 9:59 AM on April 20, 2007

Watching movies dubbed in Spanish with English subtitles turned on has helped me tremendously. Most DVDs now have Spanish as an alternate language on them so you don't even have to change the movies you are watching (..err unless you are watching a lot of movies starring Jenna Jameson and the like).
posted by tr45vbyt at 10:02 AM on April 20, 2007

Desde el baño [iTunes link] is a podcast that focuses on usage and quirks of Argentine Spanish. Hard to know if you'd find it interesting or if it's going to zip by too fast, but the woman has a beautiful, clear speaking voice. (You can visit her web page for more podcasts beyond what's archived on iTunes)

Beyond that, you might want to check out the podcasts from Radio Televisión Española [iTunes link]. There's a lot of content there; it just depends on what your interests are.
posted by veggieboy at 10:46 AM on April 20, 2007

Try telenovelas and music.

Seriously. Pick a telenovela and just watch. You'll pick up more of the language and nuances that way. People speak differently in novelas, some speak more slowly, and others go a mile a minute. But you'll get used to different types of speakers that way. Music is always good for language learning and improvement. Sing along to both ballads and fast rhythmic stuff.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:48 AM on April 20, 2007

I know you've said that Telemundo goes too fast for you, but which shows are you watching? Variety shows, novelas and comedy shoes are going to go at a much faster pace, with more slang. Try watching the national news broadcast- the anchors (at least on Univision) speak very neutral Spanish, broadcaster-style. And since it's the news, you'll likely already know something about what they are talking about, which helps you fill in the blanks through context.
posted by ambrosia at 11:50 AM on April 20, 2007

You can get DVDs of movies you know, but listen to the spanish dubbed version instead. If you already have an idea of what they're saying, it'll be easier to catch the words they're using.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:36 PM on April 20, 2007

I wouldn't recommend movies dubbed into Spanish, because the gestures and the dialog tend to be a bit off. Look for Spanish movies about upper class people (whose Spanish tends to be clearer).
When I took Spanish I had a teacher who used to make us watch Telemundo and write a list of words we understood. I found I got way more words from commercials because they were about products I understood and had pictures to go along with the words.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:20 PM on April 20, 2007

Destinos is free online video created for those learning Spanish.
posted by metaname at 5:09 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I listen to a podcast called "Notes in Spanish Advanced," available on iTunes or at It's free and at a fairly high level vocab- and grammar-wise, but the accent is from Spain, not Latin America, if that matters.

Good luck.
posted by intoxicate at 8:31 PM on April 20, 2007

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