A How-To Guide on Spanish Listening Practice
Most discussions around learning languages center on whether it’s better to focus on learning grammar (reading and writing) or on speaking the language. This debate tends to overlook a fourth skill that’s proven to be fundamental to the language learning process: listening.
Today, we’ll delve into the topic of whether you can learn Spanish simply by listening to it, how to enrich your Spanish listening practice, and the best audio resources available online, organized by learning level.
Can You Learn Spanish Just by Listening to It?
Learning a language is a process that includes four main skills:
Some learning methods prioritize one of these skills, while others focus on different ones. The truth is that a balanced approach that includes all of them is your best option.
That said, recent research does suggest that you can improve your Spanish just by listening to it. While these studies are non-conclusive, the reality is that listening as a method of learning a foreign language is gaining recognition among academics and linguists. This highlights the need to do more listening activities.
How to Practice Spanish By Listening
First of all, if you want to practice Spanish by listening, you need to make sure to engage in active listening. This simply means that you pay full attention to what you’re listening to and enrich it with activities that ensure you’re making the most of this activity.
In contrast, passive listening allows you to do other things while you listen and leaves it to your subconscious to do the hard job of learning. This concept is controversial when applied to learning a language, and while it can be used as a supporting activity, it shouldn’t be your main approach to listening.
If you’re ready to start your Spanish listening practice, follow these simple steps to make the most out of it:
1. Introduce Spanish listening practice into your daily routine
Make room in your schedule for at least 10 minutes a day dedicated to listening to Spanish.
2. Create an outline of what you’re listening to
This simple activity makes sure that you’re paying attention and helps you understand the message.
3. Alternate short and long materials
By doing this, your ear will become accustomed to different voices, accents, and rhythms of speaking. Start with short audios definitely, but once you get comfortable, try a longer podcast or even an audiobook.
4. Draw pictures
This is another simple exercise that helps you pay attention. Draw pictures of the content of your Spanish listening practice for visual reinforcement—and to avoid getting distracted.
5. Make predictions
Just like when you read a book and try to guess how it will end, do the same with your Spanish listening practice. Guess what’s going to happen next.
6. Slow down the playback speed
This is a more technical piece of advice, but it’s still possible with the use of specific software such as Audacity. YouTube also allows users to change the speed of play. It’s especially recommended for beginners.
7. Jot down phrases or words
Write down things that caught your attention or that you didn’t understand, and do some research about it afterwards by looking up its meaning.
8. Gamify your Spanish listening practice
Make it fun! For example, you can set a goal of new words learned for every practice and then try to break your own record.
9. Record yourself talking (and then listen to yourself!)
You’ll be surprised by how good you sound in Spanish, and it will help you detect pronunciation mistakes.
Spanish Listening Practice by Level
While it’s recommended to engage in Spanish listening practice at every learning level, it’s also true that this practice takes different forms in each of them. With this in mind, I’ve organized the following ideas by Spanish level.
Spanish Listening Practice for Beginners
When you’re just getting your feet wet in a new language, every sound is a challenge. That’s why it’s so important to start with the right materials and why a native Spanish speaker and slowed-down audio resources can make a great difference.
Listening Resources for Beginners
- Take classes with a native Spanish-speaker teacher
This is the most recommended way to start your Spanish listening practices. A native teacher provides you with the natural sound of the language and knows the needs of beginners. The best part is that you can try out a free class here at HSA with a teacher from Guatemala, where they speak one of the most easy-to-understand Spanish dialects.
- Spanish Podcasts for Beginners
Most of the following resources include podcast transcripts that guide you through your Spanish listening practice and help you better understand the meaning of the message.
- SpanishPodcast.net offers themed conversations with the accent from Spain.
- Notes in Spanish features podcasts for all levels with transcripts and worksheets, also with Spain’s accent.
- Coffee Break Spanish provides lessons of basic Spanish with activity worksheets (Spain accent).
- News in Slow gives you the daily news in slow Spanish (Spain accent).
- Spanish Stories for Beginners
- Watch Spanish stories on YouTube and enrich your activity with a series of questions and exercises that you can download and print.
- Audio Articles and Dictation Exercises
- Kwiziq offers a large collection of audio articles and dictation exercises divided in learning levels from A1 to C1 (Spain accent).
- La Edad de Oro is a collection of stories for children by Cuban author José Martí.
- YouTube Channels
- Spanish Academy TV produces videos about all things in Spanish with an easy-to-understand Guatemalan accent.
Spanish Listening Practice for Intermediate Learners
At the intermediate level, you can add a new element: a language exchange partner. Now that you know your basic Spanish, you can engage in a conversation with a non-professional native speaker and benefit from it.
Listening Resources for Intermediate Learners
- Spanish Listening Exercises
- Listen to a Native Spanish Speaker
- Visit Spanish Listening to choose from more than 400 videos made by speakers from every Spanish-speaking country.
- Podcasts for Intermediate Learners
Spanish Listening Practice for Advanced Learners
When you’re an advanced learner you can actually use your Spanish listening practice to build upon your knowledge. Give yourself new challenges, such as listening to songs and watching movies in Spanish.
Listening Resources for Advanced Learners
- Spanish Listening Exercises
- Try out the advanced listening exercises from kwiziq.
Listening + Speaking = A Powerful Combination
Even though Spanish listening practice should be an important part of your learning process, it has to be accompanied by Spanish speaking practice.
The combination of listening and speaking creates an active learning process that will help you achieve your goal of learning Spanish. This balanced approach of listening and speaking is backed by academic research and is proven to be the most effective way of learning a language.
Speak and Listen Today!
Now you have some of the best strategies and resources out there to enrich your Spanish listening practice at your fingertips. Now you can put it to use by signing up for a free class with one of our native, certified teachers from Guatemala and engage in a conversation where you’ll practice your listening and speaking skills at the same time!
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