Tips for Improving Your Listening Skills in Spanish


BY Ana

December 10, 2016

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practice listening skills in spanish

Listening comprehension is one of the things students of foreign language struggle with the most.

It’s extremely important, however. This article will give you a few quick, easy tips to help you improve this aspect of your Spanish.

Let’s just talk about learning a foreign language.

There are a lot of different mindsets out there about which approach works and which doesn’t when it comes to learning a foreign language.

The truth is, it all depends on you! Some learners are more visual, and need to see things written out. Others are auditory and need things explained to them. Some are kinesthetic, and need to actively participate in the learning process.

It all depends on what works best for you to learn. There are a few things, however, that you should keep in mind regardless of your learning style.

  • Don’t get too overwhelmed! If you feel like something isn’t “clicking” right away, don’t worry. Take a step back and focus on another aspect of the language. Don’t get so hung up on one thing that you overlook how much progress you’ve made or are making in others.
  • Vocab lists are good, not “great.” The best way to acquire vocabulary is by listening to natives speakers, not by studying flashcards for hours and hours on end.
  • Remember, we all hit a wall at some point or another. Don’t give up! Just keep pushing through. It just means that you’re language ability is about to take a huge leap forward. You just have to get there.

The reason why I’m discussing this in this article is simple--listening comprehension is easily one of the most difficult parts of learning a different language. It’s frustrating, and at times, you feel like you’re never going to get it.

In Spanish, this can be even more frustrating because of the huge variety of accents and varieties that make-up the Spanish-speaking world. As soon as you become comfortable with one, you hear another and you feel like you’re back to square one.

The most important thing to remember is this- don’t get discouraged! Just keep at it. You’ll see that in no time, your listening comprehension and, in turn, your overall Spanish-speaking ability, will quickly improve.

Getting down to the matter at hand…

When thinking about how to improve your listening skills, there are several things you can do on a daily basis to take your ability to the next level. Here are few useful tips to get you started.

Remember that you’re still “young” as far as your language ability goes.

Just because you may be an adult in years doesn’t mean that you’re an adult when it comes to your ability to communicate in Spanish. You have to think of listening like you would if you were a child.

Your abilities will be limited at first. But, you can still pick up on a few words here and there, and understand a lot of things from context.

As you go through your day, listening to Spanish (through one of the ways mentioned below, or in one of the ways you already do) focus on what you can understand, not so much on what you can’t. You’ll begin picking up more vocabulary by hearing words used in context, surrounding other words you already know.

Repeat the words you do know, trying to imitate the pronunciation used. Say the sentences you hear over and over again, letting them acquire their meaning piece by piece as you do.

Pay attention to how things are said.

Recognizing how different words are pronounced will help you be able to identify them easier the next time around. In Spanish, pronunciation can be very important! Even though it’s a phonetic language (meaning that words are pronounced as their written) doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always easy to say them the correct way the first time around, or that they’re going to sound how you think they should.

Watch Spanish TV

There are almost always Spanish-speaking stations listed on not only basic cable or satellite TV, but also form part of the regular channels that are available for free on any TV.

This is a great way to listen to Spanish being spoken by natives. Put on a telenovela or the new in Spanish while you’re going about your daily routine-cleaning, cooking, whatever. Any little bit of exposure helps. This article might be helpful in pointing you to the right direction:

Spanish TV Shows

Listen to Spanish music

There are lots of famous Spanish musicians. If you like classical guitar or modern-day hip hop, it doesn’t matter. You can enjoy salsa or mariachi music, or even more modern rock and roll bands. The Spanish-speaking world has tons of musicians who are constantly making great music. You’ll definitely find something you love!

Here is a playlist that you can listen to. Check it out in this article!

best Spanish Songs

Watch Spanish movies

This is a great way to not only hear Spanish being spoken by natives, but also a wonderful way to learn about culture. You’ll hear a lot of colloquial expressions and slang, as well as a variety of different accents and a plethora of new vocabulary. Keep a notebook nearby to jot down any new words you may come across!

Best Movies Filmed in Spain

Watch movies in Spanish

This is slightly different than the point mentioned above. On almost every DVD you come across, you’ll find the option to watch the movie in Spanish!

The difference between watching movies in Spanish and watching Spanish movies is that the dubbed versions aren’t usually as authentic when it comes to language. The colloquial expression aren’t as common, and the overall speaking seems to be a little slower. This is still a great way to pick up on new vocabulary and acquire an ear that’s more accustomed to listening to Spanish being spoken.

Check out YouTube

Youtube offers so many Spanish channels. You can find anything from hair and makeup tutorials to those random, funny videos that are meant to be purely entertainment. Check it out! You’d be surprised what you’ll find.

Find native speakers to speak with

The best way to learn how to understand a language being spoken is to listen to someone speaking! Finding a conversation or exchange partner is very useful. Being able to watch someone’s lips move as they speak will make comprehension easier. In addition, you’ll be able to hear their pronunciation better than you would on a song, or over a recording.

Some great websites to find native speakers near you are: or

Don’t be afraid to use subtitles… in Spanish!

If you’re watching a movie in Spanish (or a Spanish movie…) or TV or YouTube, or whatever, don’t be afraid to use the subtitles if you need to.

Make sure you put them in Spanish, though. That way you can see the words as they’re being spoken, and familiarize yourself with how they sound. Don’t become too dependent on this, though. Try to understand without reading, but if you need to, remember this is a very useful tool!

Make recordings of those tricky words…

In Spanish, as with a lot of languages, there are words that change meaning solely based on the way their pronounced, i.e. where the accent falls. There’s a big difference between papá (accent on the last “a”) and papa (accent on the first). The first (papá) means “dad” and the second (papa) means “pope”. Those are definitely words you don’t want to confuse!

These and other words may trip you up. Words that have the silent “h” for example or words that seem to be twelve letters long--find someone to pronounce them for you, or record yourself saying them correctly and listen to that recording over and over again.

In conclusion...

With a little practice and a lot of dedication your listening skill can improve greatly. The important thing it to not get discouraged! What do you think? Is there anything else that you do to practice listening comprehension that we didn’t mention? Leave a comment and let us know! 

This book bundle also helps!

About the author 

Anastasia is a Chicago, Illinois native. She began studying Spanish over 10 years ago, and hasn’t stopped since. Living in Spain since 2012, she loves Spanish tortilla, vino tinto, and anything that contains jamón ibérico.

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