The Ultimate Resource for Intermediate Spanish Listening Practice
Spanish listening practice is a potent way to boost your fluency level. You’ve likely seen endless claims about how one method or another is the key to learning Spanish faster and more efficiently—but the one that stands out is listening. While it may seem far-fetched to learn a language by auditory exposure alone, it is possible!
Keep reading to learn how it’s possible to learn Spanish by listening, discover seven great tips, and access our curated list of links to excellent intermediate listening resources.
Is It Possible to Learn Spanish Just by Listening?
The simple answer to this question is yes, it is possible to learn Spanish just by listening. While the auditory component is just one part of learning a language, it is key to developing conversational skills.
Developing listening skills will increase your Spanish fluency because it goes hand-in-hand with speaking.
If you have kids or nieces and nephews, think about when they first started to talk. First, they spent years listening, then they tried to reproduce the sounds they heard. When you listen to another language and pick up certain phrases, the natural next step is to practice saying them. Once you consciously make the decision to listen closely and repeat what you hear, Spanish listening practice can become your key to fluency.
I think my personal Spanish learning journey could be a helpful example of how this works:
My parents first exposed me to Spanish as a child through books, a few phrases they knew, and basic classes in school. However, since they were not native speakers and my teachers spent about 10% of the class on the listening and speaking aspects of Spanish, I graduated high school unable to speak a word of Spanish.
I traveled to Peru, thinking I could speak the language because I’d passed all my Spanish tests, but I did not understand a single word. Inspired by these challenges, I decided to continue traveling through Latin America and focus on learning the language.
I had one condition, though: no more Spanish classes.
While I was attending a bilingual counseling school in Guatemala, I decided to pay attention to the Spanish translation and take as many notes in Spanish as I could. I listened to the translator, compared the Spanish to the English, and talked as much as I could with my classmates who only spoke Spanish.
Just by listening to them, I learned an incredible amount of Spanish. Within three months I was able to translate for my friends and give speeches—albeit slightly stumbling speeches—in Spanish.
Fluency, or at least my definition of it, came a couple of years later through extensive listening and application of what I heard.
What did I learn by listening?
While in many cases the Spanish classes I had taken failed to help me understand these concepts and their usage, the authentic experience of listening to native speakers helped me gain a true understanding. Here are a few examples:
- The subjunctive tense
- Por versus para
- Verb phrases
- Local slang
- Correct pronunciation
- Tons of new vocabulary
I’ve come to the conclusion that YES, it is possible to learn Spanish just by listening, but it requires a lot of focus. Based on my personal experience toward Spanish fluency, I’ve compiled a list of 7 useful tips on how to improve your Spanish level by listening that will help you reach your goal!
7 Tips on How to Improve Spanish by Listening
Spanish listening practice does not mean jumping immediately into complex conversations and hoping to understand everything. Instead, auditory language practice focuses on one specific area at a time.
1. Explore Resources for Beginner Spanish Listening Practice
I can hear your objection: Wait, I’m an intermediate Spanish speaker! But the truth is, even if you’re at an intermediate Spanish level, your auditory comprehension may be at the beginner level (like mine was after over 15 years of study). If hearing native Spanish conversation overwhelms you, you’ll benefit from starting simple.
In the resource list I provide below, you’ll find videos and podcasts that start with simple phrases and conversations with which you can practice. Thanks to the slower Spanish and clear pronunciation they offer, this type of Spanish listening practice will help you construct a solid foundation for eventually achieving successful listening comprehension amid real-life conversations.
2. Focus Your Efforts on Active Listening
Once you feel ready to dive into Spanish podcasts or conversations with your Spanish-speaking friends, make sure you are actively listening.
You may have heard the phrase “I heard you, but I wasn’t listening to you.” That’s because hearing something is a type of passive listening or unconscious data collection that’s significantly different from listening—and even more so from active listening.
Active listening is a conscious and intentional state of mind you activate while listening to someone speak (in real-time or audio). During active listening, you:
- Summarize and repeat what you’ve heard (to the speaker or to yourself if you’re listening to a podcast)
- Formulate specific questions that relate to the topic and help expand on it (without interrupting the speaker)
- Observe body language in live conversations to give you an extra level of understanding
3. Choose a Word or Phrase and Listen for It
Regularly choose a new word or phrase to focus on and you’ll notice that a wonderful phenomenon happens: you hear it everywhere! Your ears attune to the word, and everytime you hear it a light bulb goes off in your head. This process of vocabulary awareness as well as its pronunciation and usage through Spanish listening practice will significantly improve your long-term memory storage of Spanish words and phrases.
4. Write What You Hear to Improve Your Memory
While some people naturally pick things up easily through listening, other people (like me!) need to see the word or phrase written down to remember it.
Take note of all the new things you pick up through Spanish listening practice such as short phrases or vocabulary lists. For many of us, the act of writing down information improves memory, and what’s more, it provides a handy guide for future use.
5. Ask Comprehension Questions in Spanish
I’m lucky to be married to a native Spanish speaker (who speaks very little English), and the challenges in comprehension have taught me to ask tons of questions all the time. Every time I don’t understand a word or why people use a certain phrase, I ask my husband to explain the context to me. From the day we met, I was asking questions and it’s been five years of miscommunication and poorly formed Spanish questions! But that’s the beauty of learning through listening and asking questions.
Even if you’re not immersed in the language, I encourage you to ask your comprehension questions in Spanish so you can practice using the language both as a form of communication as well as a means to understanding more Spanish. The point is to avoid translating, which weakens your path to fluency.
And as you know—you won’t understand everything immediately. The fun of it requires a simple 4-part formula:
1. Ask questions.
2. Make mistakes.
3. Learn from what you hear.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
If you are using remote Spanish listening practice resources, like apps, podcasts, or videos, then I highly suggest you seek out a language partner with whom you can talk in Spanish to enhance your listening comprehension!
6. Don’t Fret about the Grammar
The beauty of Spanish listening practice is the hands-off approach to grammar. Instead of intensive classes with lists of verb conjugations, you hear real-life applications of the grammar where knowing the exact verb tense the person is using doesn’t have to be top priority in your conversation. What’s more important is that you gather the basic meaning of the words.
For example, in my experience learning the subjunctive mood, I actually corrected the native Spanish speaker the first time I heard it because I thought that conjugation didn’t exist. Once I realized there were more tenses than my high school Spanish classes taught me, I began listening intently for this tense in every conversation I had.
This takes us back to #2, where you focus your efforts on active listening. While I didn’t understand the rules of usage for the subjunctive, I started knowing when it felt right to use it. Actively listening will build your gut feeling of when to use different tenses and prepositions. Even if you can’t explain why, you know what’s correct and incorrect.
7. Find the Perfect Learning Environment for You
My personal experience with Spanish listening practice is completely immersive, but it doesn’t have to be the same for you!
If you would like to learn on your own, there are plenty of fantastic resources (which you can find below!). Try some podcasts or authentic Spanish radio on your way to work, and you’ll still see impressive results.
Another option is Spanish listening practice with a partner or group. You could choose a private tutor, your native Spanish-speaking friends, or your local Latino community. Pick whichever option is most accessible and comfortable for you!
Resources for Intermediate Spanish Listening Practice
Now that you have all the tips to maximize your learning potential, let’s look at some of the available resources.
Podcasts are the perfect way to listen to Spanish on the go. Download some of these podcasts for your commute to work or your early morning jog. Even if you listen to just five minutes a day, you can learn plenty of Spanish vocabulary.
- News in Slow Spanish. This resource has dozens of great podcasts about a wide variety of themes. You can listen to the latest news, scientific discoveries, and advances in art. Be sure to follow along with the audio by reading the transcript.
- Duolingo. Duolingo is much more than just an app! You can listen to their stories on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. They also have helpful transcripts for you to read while you listen.
- Audiria. This site offers plenty of podcasts for every level and subject. You can choose your lesson about books, press, culture, or grammar. Practice what you heard with the multiple exercises they offer.
- Coffee Break Spanish. This website provides numerous free lessons and podcasts for Spanish learners of all ages. You can find their audio resources on Spotify, RSS feed, Apple podcasts, and Google podcasts. With a premium account, you can also access bonus audio, lesson notes, and video lessons.
Instead of binge-watching the latest Netflix series, try watching some videos for Spanish listening practice!
- SpanishPod101. These Spanish listening practice videos have the Spanish and English phrases on the screen so you can clearly see and understand what the person is saying. Plus, there are helpful images to guide you along with the video.
- Fluent Spanish Academy. These videos include real-life Spanish conversation to help you get accustomed to how native speakers talk.
- MySpanishTV. These listening exercises divided into short phrases give you enough time to repeat and practice what you hear.
- Spanish Academy TV. This YouTube channel has dozens of videos, from preschool lessons to conversational Spanish listening practice. With accompanying blogs and PDFs, you’ll get lots of chances to practice what you have learned.
Podcasts and videos tend to focus more on teaching the language. If you are interested in more language immersion, try Spanish radio. You can pick the radio station based on the type of Spanish you want to learn. Be prepared for some fast-talking radio hosts! However, with the above tips, you’ll still be able to pick up a lot of new Spanish.
- Radio Nacional de España (RTVE). This Spanish radio page has tons of great audio for Spanish learners.
- Cadena SER. You can listen to the Spanish radio directly from Madrid through this site.
- Radio Fórmula. This Mexican radio station has several videos with audio you can listen to, as well as a link to listen to the station live.
- Radio Deportes. If you are a sports fanatic, this page is perfect for you! It features plenty of video and live audio information tracking your favorite teams.
Of course, we can’t talk about auditory comprehension without including music! Listening to Spanish music is an incredible way to pick up new phrases quickly. Make sure to have a list of the lyrics to your new favorite songs handy to study the words.
- Classic Spanish Songs. Some Spanish songs have lasted through the decades and are a must-have for any Spanish learner. This playlist includes everything from La Bamba to La Mañanitas.
- Spanish Coffeehouse / Café con Leche. If you prefer more chilled, relaxed songs, then this playlist is perfect for you!
- Best Spanish Love Songs. The romantic Spanish language is a great way to learn about that is through top love songs.
- Clean Songs for Spanish Class. When you’re learning the Spanish language, you can end up listening to songs full of vulgarities without even knowing it. The songs on this playlist are clean and fun, so you can use them with your family or class.
Nothing beats real-life conversation with a native Spanish speaker. If you are looking for someone to practice your auditory comprehension with, sign up for a free trial class today. All of our teachers are from Guatemala, and they use a large portion of the class to focus on conversation. Try a class and see for yourself how they can help you improve your Spanish listening skills today!
Looking for more Spanish resources? Check out these posts!
- Latin American Food: 15 Must-Try National Dishes of Latin America - January 2, 2021
- The Ultimate Guide to Subjunctive Conjugation in Spanish - December 27, 2020
- Estar Subjunctive: Present and Past Tense Subjunctive - December 23, 2020