If you’ve ever started a conversation with a Spanish speaker, or walked into a store, and you had everything you wanted to say ready and planned out in your head, but then that person REPLIES in Spanish and asks YOU something unexpected in Spanish that you don't understand… and you panic (“Oh, no!”)… and your brain literally says, “Game over! Abort! Abort!”… Then, THIS is the video for you!
One of the tricks I'll share with you shows you how reading can help you become a better speaker. Another trick lets you mimic the way babies start understanding language… all so that frustrating situation I just described will NEVER happen to you again!
1. Listen to a lot of Spanish
Sí, sí, ya sé que suena a disco rayado (Yes, yes, I know it sounds like a broken record), but really, understanding a language well is one of the most difficult skills to acquire and only comes with a lot of practice. The more you listen, the more you will understand.
The great thing is, with so much content in Spanish nowadays, it’s really easy to find a lot: music in Spanish, Latin series or movies, Spanish-speaking accounts on social media… Plenty of options out there! Also, there’s a way to power up this tip, and I’ll cover that in number 5!
2. Listen to comprehensible input
The best way to improve your Spanish and your listening comprehension is to not only listen to a lot, but to also make sure that input is comprehensible. Si no entiendes nada, no vas a progresar (If you don't understand anything, you won't make any progress).
If you listen to comprehensible input, you can guess words and chunks from context if you hear them over and over. This is also how babies learn their mother tongue. However, there’s a little balance to reach here: make sure the input you are listening to isn't too easy.
If you understand every single word, you won't learn anything either. Push yourself a little, pero tampoco tanto (but not too much, though).
3. Listen to real Spanish
Many teaching materials slow down speech or make it claro como el agua y fácil de comprender (crystal clear and easy to understand). And while this does help a bit, it barely helps you with understanding natural and real Spanish.
To understand real speech, deshazte de las rueditas de práctica (get rid of those training wheels) and get yourself some real street Spanish. There is a great way to do this, but that’s for tip number 4!
Claro como el agua is a chunk in Spanish that literally means “clear as water” and it works similar to the chunk “crystal clear”. I bet you know what that means, but since “clear as water” is not that common in English, claro como el agua is a great chunk to learn by heart. ¿Se entendió? (Understood?) Now you know what to answer!
4. Listen to different people speaking Spanish
Always listening to the same people will make you get used to them and it will be really easy for you to understand them well because they’ll be using the same expressions and have the same tone of voice and accent.
Make sure to listen to a variety of people to challenge yourself to understand new words and accents.
¿Quieres mi consejo? (Do you want my advice?) Subscribe to Spring Spanish!
We have 5 free weekly lessons with a lot of content in Spanish for you to learn and practice and the best thing is we are 5 different teachers with different expressions, accents and voices, so listening to us speaking Spanish will really help you understand different types of native speakers!
5. Listen with a transcript
It's difficult to understand natural speech at natural speed. Many times hearing things over and over still won't help you understand what something means.
This is where a transcript comes in handy. If you listen to something and can read it at the same time, you can understand what they are saying, which vowels they drop, which words they combine.
The more you do this the better your “feel” will get for what shortcuts natives take when speaking. So, use subtitles while watching Spanish movies and series, get the lyrics to your favorite Latin songs, and try to sing along and whenever you see one of our videos, make sure to activate the subtitles. ¡Sácale el jugo a nuestro contenido! (Lit. “Squeeze the juice out of our content!”; more idiomatically, Profit from our content!)
And now that special recommendation I told you about! If you become part of the Spring Spanish Inner Circle, you get to decide which videos we make! Like Spring Spanish Inner Circle member Linda did with this topic. So, Linda, I hope you liked this one and shout out to you!
Now that you know how to understand native speakers, you also have to make sure to speak with them confidently, right? I got you covered! Next up is my article about how to survive your first conversation in Spanish.