How to improve your Spanish listening skills

Listening skills are perhaps the most difficult to improve when learning a foreign language. You may not realise that your listening is improving as you still cannot understand everything, but IT IS gradually improving. The more Spanish you listen to and the more often, the faster your listening WILL improve. Here are the best ways to help your listening skills in Spanish:


1. Listen to Spanish music, with the lyrics at hand. Listen over and over again until you understand the words. You may need to look up the odd word.

2. Watch Spanish films with the subtitles in Spanish or English. Spanish subtitles will help you catch words you missed or see spellings. By reading the English subtitles you can see how English expressions are translated into Spanish. Popular Spanish films include:
– Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno)
– Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella)
– And your Mum too (Y tu mamá también)
– All About my mother (Todo sobre mi madre).
Tips: Watch films all the way through to get a complete picture of the storyline and then rewind to the beginning and watch small sections at a time. To get the most out of this, make notes of new words and expressions you hear.

3. Watch Spanish TV when in Spain or via the Internet. This is a very popular and successful way to improve your listening and general language. I have met several people who taught themselves Spanish just through watching television. By hearing the language and seeing the action/image at the same time this really helps your understanding and retention.
– Lingus tv features videos at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels including scripted dialogues for you to follow.
– Search on You Tube for Spanish soap operas “telenovelas” with English subtitles.
Also watch news programmes online such as:
– RTVE – watch videoclips on a variety of news stories.
– Euronews
– Telecinco
Tips to get the most out of listening to Spanish news:
– Set aside a regular time to listen to Spanish news. Short but regular sessions are best.
– Choose topics that interest you. International news, the environment, science, finance, technology and sport will be easier to understand than domestic news items.
– Read up on the subject in English beforehand to find out the details.
– Watch all the way through and then go back and watch smaller sections.
– Listen several times so that you get used to the language.
– Try to answer; who, what, where, when and why.
– If possible, follow the transcript of the story. Euronews offers scripts of video stories but some words may be different from the newsreaders.
– Note down new words and phrases.
– After a few weeks, listen again to the first item you listened to and you will surely notice a difference as to how much you now understand.

4. Listen to Spanish radio.
– Radio Nacional
– Cadena Ser
– Onda Cero
– Los 40 Principales (mainly music)
Escucha en directo = Listen live

5. Listen to Spanish podcasts. These can be downloaded for free from iTunes. Other popular Spanish podcasts on a variety of subjects for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners can be found at:
– Notes In Spanish
– Audiria
– Español Podcast

6. Listen to natives. Spend as much time as you can in Spain and listen in on other people’s conversations – on the bus, plane, in bars or just walking along the street.

You may find listening very difficult at first and feel like you can’t understand anything, but if you stick at it, it will get easier and you will understand more and more each time as you get used to how the language sounds.

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