Janisa is a language enthusiast with a passion for food and traveling. She spends her time learning languages, planning travels and cooking.
Can You Learn Spanish With Series?
You probably clicked on this article hoping to be reassured that binge-watching Netflix can indeed make you fluent in a foreign language. While series can be a helpful tool when it comes to practicing languages, the short answer to the question "Can you learn Spanish with series?" is: it depends.
Series can definitely help you to improve your accent and your listening comprehension, but they shouldn't be the only method that you use to get from zero to fluency. Watching a series when you're just beginning to learn Spanish can help you get a feel for the local culture (of the place where the show takes place), begin to get used to hearing the language, and maybe even identify and learn some common expressions and cognates. However, if you begin to watch a show on Day One of your language learning journey, you'll have to read the subtitles for the entire duration of the episode. This may make fun leisure time turn into hard work and frustration if you miss a line or two.
In addition, series cannot teach you how to speak Spanish. You can learn some common expressions and how the meaning could change based on the context, but simply watching a show won't give you opportunities to really practice what you've learned. The subtitles can help you to recognize words when you see them, but you may have difficulties coming up with a given word or phrase when you actually have to use it to express yourself.
The best way to use Spanish-language series to your advantage is to begin once you've already gotten a bit of a base in the language, perhaps after you've been studying for around two to three months. By that time, you'd already have a general understanding of the language and grammar and the overall flow of the language. You'd also know a number of common expressions, so you'll be able to pick out some parts of the dialogue without having to fully rely on the subtitles. Watching an episode or two per day can be a nice way to extend your language studies and incorporate the Spanish language into your daily routine.
Top 5 Series to Watch If You're Learning Spanish
- Soy Luna
- Mi Corazón es Tuyo
Bonus: La Casa de Papel
The Best Way to Use Series in Your Spanish Learning
As a language learner and teacher myself, I absolutely love series. I believe that they've significantly helped me improve my skills in all of the languages I studied so far and helped me sound more like a native.
If you already have a fairly advanced level of Spanish, watching an episode or two each night can help to keep your language skills sharp, especially if you don't get to use your skills in your everyday life.
When it comes to using series to learn Spanish, my advice is to first pick one that's your level and stick to it until you finish it.
Watching something that's your level makes the experience more enjoyable since the speech is mostly easy to understand and you don't have to constantly keep staring at the subtitles just to figure out what's going on. Shows are meant to be enjoyable, so if you are watching something that's not too advanced for your level, you can improve your language skills without having the sensation of actually studying hard! That's a lazy language learner's biggest wish, isn't it?
If you feel that you can more or less understand what's being said by the characters, try to turn off the subtitles after the first few episodes or so. This way, you'll be able to enjoy the show like you would if it were something in your native language. If you don't understand a word or two, it's not the end of the world. If it's relevant to the plot, then it'll likely be mentioned again and again in different contexts. If the term isn't relevant, then not understanding it won't affect your overall comprehension of the show.
Finally, by sticking to just one show until the end, you have more chances of actually finishing the show. You'll only have one storyline to follow and Latin American telenovelas are quite addicting, so you'll want to keep watching them, episode after episode!
1. Destinos (Beginners and Lower Intermediate)
Destinos is a Spanish telenovela, whose main purpose is to teach Spanish. There are 52 episodes, and this series is suitable for beginners and lower intermediate Spanish learners. It is a great way to learn and practice common everyday expressions and also to expose yourself to different Spanish dialects.
This series is not meant for native Spanish speakers, so if you're at an advanced level, it's a good idea to skip this one.
Plot: Destinos is about Raquel Rodriguez, a lawyer that is hired to uncover the secrets of a dying man's life. Throughout the show, she travels to four Spanish-speaking countries (Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico) in order to pursue her investigation. The storyline also contains a number of melodramatic elements.
My recommendation: Destinos is a great option if you're a beginner and are looking for an educational show to watch. It's also a good way to learn about the culture and regional dialects of the various Spanish-speaking countries where some parts of the series take place. Destinos was created for Spanish learners, so it is meant to be easy to understand.
2. Extra (Beginners and Lower Intermediate)
About: If you like Friends, then I'm sure that you'd also like Extra. Just like Destinos, this show was created with the objective of teaching Spanish, and its plotline is quite similar to the American series Friends. Being an educational series, Extra is easy to understand and the episodes are around 20 minutes long, making it a great option for those that would like to have "bite-sized" study sessions. This is a good series for beginner and intermediate levels. There are only 13 episodes in total, so theoretically, you can finish the entire show in one sitting.
Plot: The story revolves around the main character, Sam, who is a native English speaker that moved to Barcelona in order to study the Spanish language. The plot follows Sam's Spanish learning journey with a hint of comedy. He lives with two roommates who are constantly correcting his mistakes, so there are lots of learning opportunities when watching Extra.
My recommendation: Extras is a series that I would recommend for learners that are at a beginner or lower intermediate level since the show was created just for teaching Spanish. Due to its similarity to Friends, if you're already at a more advanced level in Spanish, I would suggest watching Friends with a Spanish audio track. In Extra the characters speak slowly, so you don't have to worry about not being able to understand what's being said.
3. Soy Luna (Intermediate and Upper Intermediate)
About: Soy Luna is an Argentinian telenovela with the main character being from Mexico, so it's a great way to learn some regional slang and expressions from both of these countries. It's a show about teenagers, so even though it's meant for natives, common vocabulary is mostly used and it is easy to understand. It is a telenovela and a lot of episodes have cliffhanger endings, so you're not going to want to take breaks when watching!
Plot: The story is about a Mexican girl named Luna Valente whose greatest passion is rollerskating. Her parents work in a mansion and shortly after the beginning of the first episode, they receive an irresistible job proposal, which involves moving to Buenos Aires and also include a full-ride scholarship for Luna at the city's best private school. Luna needs to adapt to a new country and lifestyle, make new friends, deal with bullies, and of course, get good grades at school! Luna knows that she was adopted and in Buenos Aires, her parents discover something that leads them to believe that Luna may in fact be Argentinean.
My recommendation: I personally love Soy Luna and it is one of my favorite series. The dialogues are easy to understand and since this series is intended for a native audience, it isn't boring to watch if you're a more advanced learner. It's really funny and colloquial language is used. There are 220 episodes and the full show is available on YouTube. I'd also recommend watching Soy Luna if you like to rollerskate since that is the main characters' main passion and it's possible to learn some new moves from the series.
4. Violetta (Intermediate and Upper Intermediate)
About: Violetta is another Argentinean telenovela with a lot of music and original soundtracks. Some people say that Violetta and Soy Luna are very similar (with Soy Luna being considered a knock-off of Violetta by some). However, both shows have very distinct plotlines. This series is also suitable for intermediate learners, but it can be enjoyed by advanced learners too since it wasn't created for the sole purpose of learning Spanish. There are 3 seasons and a total of 240 episodes.
Plot: The story is about a teenage girl named Violetta with an amazing talent for singing, that she is unaware of. Violetta is raised by a single father and she spent most of her childhood in Madrid, but later moved back to Buenos Aires (where her family is originally from). She began taking music lessons and new teacher (also her deceased mother's sister, but neither Violetta nor her father is aware of that) helps Violetta uncover her talent for singing. This is a romantic comedy with a lot of side stories and love dramas taking place at the same time.
My recommendation: I recommend Violetta to those that enjoy telenovelas and have lots of time to spare. With nearly 250 episodes, this isn't a series that you can binge-watch in a week. The show is set in Argentina, so it is especially useful for those that would like to focus on the Argentinean dialect.
5. Mi Corazón es Tuyo (Upper Intermediate and Advanced)
About: Mi Corazon es tuyo (which translates to "My heart is yours") is a Mexican telenovela and it is an adaptation of Ana y los 7, a Spanish series. There are a total of 176 episodes that are approximately 45 minutes long, and the series features the Mexican dialect. It is meant for a native-speaking audience and the storyline may be hard to follow at times, so it is best suitable for upper-intermediate and advanced learners.
Plot: The story is about a businessman named Fernando who is faced with the seemingly unfeasible task of raising his seven kids as a single father. He hires a nanny to help with this feat and finds himself falling in love with her. Ana, the nanny, is also an exotic dancer and must hide her double life. Fernando's children are best defined as "difficult," but Ana is able to quickly form a bond with them.
My recommendation: This is a great series to watch if you already have a good grasp of Spanish and would like to get more exposure to the Mexican dialect. It's a fairly long show, so it's bound to keep you occupied and will definitely boost your Spanish skills.
Bonus: La Casa de Papel
About: Who hasn't heard of La Casa de Papel (Money Heist in English)? It's been released worldwide and is available in multiple languages, including English. It is a crime drama series filled with elements of mystery and suspense. This was originally meant to be a Netflix mini-series, but due to its immense popularity, it got extended. In addition, watching La Casa de Papel in its original language can be a great way to have fun and boost your language skills at the same time!
Plot: The storyline follows the Professor, a criminal mastermind who engages eight thieves in getting hostages and locking themselves in the Royal Mint of Spain. Meanwhile, the professor must do what it takes to carry out his plan. The Professor's identity is unknown at the start, but that may not last. His perfectly organized team may not be as perfect as he had thought . . .
My recommendation: La Casa de Papel is a great option if you are tired of telenovelas and would like something different. The show is suitable for all levels (of course it would depend on how you'd like to watch it). Complete beginners can watch the English version to get a feel for the Spanish series-creation style and get an understanding of the story. Intermediate learners can watch it with Spanish subtitles or watch the show in English first to have an idea of what's going on. If you're at an intermediate level, then I would recommend watching the original version without any subtitles to see how well you can understand native Spanish speech!
The series that I have described above are just some of the many good and entertaining Spanish-language series. Watching shows in your target language can be a fun pastime and it can greatly boost your language skills. Shows from different regions can provide insights to the local culture and dialects as well.
I hope that you've enjoyed this post and if you have any questions, please leave a comment below!
© 2020 Janisa
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on July 23, 2020:
This is very helpful. I majored in Spanish in college, but I am looking for new ways to improve my abilities (especially since I left a job with native speakers). Thanks.
Sam Shepards from Europe on July 20, 2020:
Nice to see La Casa de Papel on this list. The others seem to be too much telenovela or soap for my taste, but I guess they are excellent for learning Spanish what it is all about in the end.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 18, 2020:
I once knew a retired teacher who volunteered her time in coaching students for their exams. She watched Spanish television channels to sharpen her understanding of the language. Your examples of what to view if a beginner, up to an advanced stage of learning Spanish is helpful. Thanks for writing this article.
Janisa (author) from Earth on July 17, 2020:
Thanks for the comment! Series are a great way to supplement your studies in a fun manner if you've already got the basics down. If you're just starting out, then it may be a bit frustrating and overwhelming.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 17, 2020:
This is a good article for someone that is already studing Spanish to perfect the common phrases, etc.