The Importance of Listening With Purpose: How To Improve Spanish Listening
When I start my lessons with a new group of beginners, one of the questions I most often hear is how to improve Spanish listening skills.
Oral comprehension can be challenging and offers no shortcuts. You have to dedicate time and effort to improve your listening skills.
Read this article to discover how to improve your Spanish listening skills, including practical tips. You’ll have an opportunity to practice your Spanish listening comprehension right here with helpful audio clips.
Why Is Spanish Listening Practice Important?
In most cases, you learn a language to comprehend and connect with other people. You want to travel to new countries and have a friendly chat with locals, discover local food, and access things hidden from regular tourists. You want to make friends, to talk, to understand others, and to make yourself understood.
All of the above is achievable with excellent listening skills. To hone excellent listening skills, practice is key.
Students who start learning a language as teenagers or adults tend to struggle with oral comprehension initially. Why? The sounds in other languages may be different than in your mother tongue or correspond to different letters.
Native Spanish speakers tend to speak fast and fuse syllables. You have to understand how they do it to understand what they say, and to be able to imitate it yourself.
That’s why listening practice is so important. Only after you successfully comprehend others and associate sounds with letters can you improve your fluency and speaking skills.
How To Improve Spanish Listening
The good news is that you can improve your Spanish listening skills with a strong strategy.
Keep two crucial elements in mind if you want to learn Spanish listening:
- Know the theory behind sound and the “tricks” native speakers use
- Listen as much as you can, both passively and actively
1. Know the Sounds and Tricks of Native Speakers
Although Spanish is a phonetic language, meaning you usually hear what is written, some sounds correspond with different letters and some letters are pronounced in multiple ways.
To learn more, check out:
- An Expert Guide to Spanish Allophones and Phonemes
- Confusing consonants in Spanish
- A Complete Spanish Pronunciation Guide for Beginners
Another important thing to consider is how native Spanish speakers stress words and sentences. To get some theoretical preparation, read How to Write and Pronounce Spanish Accent Marks.
And now, the greatest secret to understanding what may seem like one giant run-on sentence to an untrained ear – a sinalefa. A sinalefa occurs when one word ends with a vowel and another starts with a vowel, too. A native speaker will pronounce these words as a single word, for example:
una amiga (a friend) becomes unamiga
Now that you know what you might expect from a native Spanish speaker, let’s see how to improve Spanish listening skills in a practical way.
2. Listen Passively
How to improve Spanish listening skills? By listening. That’s the only way.
There are two ways to improve Spanish listening comprehension: passively and actively. What’s the difference?
When you listen passively, you’re usually doing other things at the same time. Your focus is not exclusively on what you’re hearing around but on something else you’re doing. Nonetheless, you’re still hearing things.
It’s like when you drive a car and listen to a radio station and talk to the person next to you. You’re not focused on what the radio broadcasts but you will still get the weather forecast.
That’s why you should listen passively as much as you can. Are you washing the dishes? Turn on your computer with 8 YouTube Channels With Spanish Stories and Read-Alouds for Kids. These are easy videos that will help you to get used to intonation, accent, and even get some words and simple phrases.
Download 5 Spanish Podcasts for Beginners, listen to them passively, and later, when you have more time, look at the transcripts and turn them into more active listening.
3. Listen Actively
So, what’s active listening? This is when all the great progress happens. Here are some tips on how to improve Spanish listening through active listening:
1. Know the topic you’re going to listen to. You can predict the vocabulary and guess words more easily.
2. Listen to the same material more than once. Check the script after the second listening and then listen again. You’ll see that you can hear and understand more.
3. Slow down the playback speed if needed. If you’re watching Youtube videos, you can do it in the setting options in the left bottom corner. If you use other audio files, you can use specific software, such as Audacity.
4. Write down new words, phrases, and complete sentences. Try to repeat them, copying not only the pronunciation but also the stress and intonation.
5. Create a bank of your audio files and come back to the past listenings periodically. You may be surprised how much your comprehension improves in a short period of regular ear training.
Time to Practice Your Listening Skills
Would you like to know how to improve Spanish listening right now? Click on the following Spanish listening audio files and challenge yourself. How much can you understand?
The sentences at the beginning are easy; they’re based on Spanish and English cognates—words that are similar between the two languages.
Later, it gets a bit more challenging. Remember, you can listen to the recording more than once!
Ready? Let’s have some fun.
La cafetería vende un horrible cereal con chocolate.
The cafeteria sells a horrible chocolate cereal.
El hotel está en el hospital.
The hotel is in the hospital.
El área original del zoológico está en el mapa.
The original area of the zoo is on the map.
Pablo tiene el teléfono original de Apple.
Pablo has the original Apple phone.
Estudio biología en la universidad.
I study biology in university.
Me llamo Octavio y vivo en Guatemala.
My name is Octavio and I live in Guatemala.
Mi mamá me ama y me mima.
My mom loves me and pampers me.
El carro de Roberto es amarillo.
Roberto’s car is yellow.
Gerardo está harto de comer helados.
Gerardo is sick of eating ice creams.
Me gusta el agua de jamaica más que la horchata.
I like hibiscus iced tea more than horchata.
How much were you able to understand? Save the link and come back to these audio files after some time to see your progress!
If you want to know how to improve Spanish listening in the long run, the answer is: by being consistent. Follow the tips in this article and organize your daily listening routine. Stick to it for at least a month and see how fast you can advance.
Keep your final goal in mind. You want to improve listening to travel and communicate with other people. But even without crossing the border, you can find many interesting Spanish-speaking friends in your area. Did you know that in the United States alone, there are approximately 53 million people who speak Spanish? The US is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. According to CNN, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US who speak Spanish in their homes.
If you are serious about becoming bilingual, start today! Sign up now for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Let our friendly and professional teachers from Guatemala help you improve your listening skills and reach your fluency goals in a 1-to-1 conversation! Check out our affordable pricing and flexible programs!
Join one of the 40,000 classes that we teach each month and you can experience results like these
“This is the best way for your kid to learn Spanish. It’s one-on-one, taught by native Spanish speakers, and uses a curriculum.”
– Sharon K, Parent of 3
“It’s a great way to learn Spanish, from native Spanish speakers in a 1-on-1 environment. It’s been fairly easy to schedule classes around my daughter’s other classes. The best value for us has been ordering multiple classes at a time. All the instructors have been great!”
– Cindy D, Parent of 3
“HSA offers very affordable, quality, one on one classes with a native speaker. My son has greatly benefited from taking classes. We have seen his confidence increase as well as his pronunciation improve, because he learns from a native Spanish speaker. HSA has quick, personal customer service. Our family has been very pleased with our experience so far!”
– Erica P. Parent of 1
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