You can speak well. Reading is a breeze. But you can barely understand when people talk Spanish. Somehow, even though you have a decent vocabulary, the words you hear all blend together. They speak so fast that your brain can’t process the words fast enough. You are left confused and wondering what is the best way to practice understanding Spanish speech.
Can you relate?
It seems like you’ll never be able to understand! You’re not alone. Every language learner faces this problem sooner or later. The good news is all it takes is practice. I’ve got some of the best ways to practice understanding speech for you.
Trouble Understanding Spoken Spanish
I can’t understand! I get it, that was me too. Spanish is an easy language to learn and a hard language to understand in speech. As a language learner, expect to not understand. Here are some important facts to know while learning Spanish.
- Spanish is spoken fast
- The words do blend together, so they are hard to separate
- Strong accents are more difficult to understand
- Regional dialects all have different sounds and words
- Slang is a whole different listening skill
These obstacles to listening comprehension are real. That’s why it’s so important to consider the mistakes learners make. And to correct them with the listening strategies below.
Listen to Spanish from the Beginning
Mistake number one is not listening to Spanish from day one.
I see a lot of people using free apps online feel very confident in their Spanish skill. Only to find out they have no real skill to understand speech. They learn vocabulary, but can’t understand those words when they hear them spoken. It’s not just them it happens in classrooms too.
Let’s face it, whats missing is a focus on increasing your listening skills. Of all the skills, this one is an essential part of any study plan or study routine. It needs to be a top priority. Many learners aren’t aware of this until much later. Unfortunately, the realization of this comes too late, when the learner is already exhausted.
Whether you are just getting started or you’re already at the end of your rope, the next part is for you.
Find Your Learning Motivation
Mistake number two is a bad start and a bad study plan or none of either .
This matters a lot, because learning Spanish takes sacrifice of time, energy and money. The outcome must be worth more than the cost. In the language learning process, you’ll have to deal with negative feelings of frustration, overwhelm, boredom. As a result you’ll probably want to quit.
On top of that life is already full. We have work, family and other commitments that will limit our free time. It’s a fact, most of us are self-studying Spanish in our free time. Who has that? Bottomline, since learning Spanish is important to you, it’s best to start with a solid plan to avoid these pitfalls.
That’s a common story – I tried, but…
Eliminate the learning pitfalls with a solid study plan
Our Goal Setting and Tracking for Language Learners guides are designed to map out a rewards-based study routine that fits your life. Each step will help you set your yearly and weekly skills goals and track your progress to stay motivated and on track to language learning success.
Plan today and start listening tomorrow.
Set Weekly Listening Practice Goals
Beginner mistake number three is not listening to Spanish often enough.
Listening is the skill of understanding speech. Can you understand what you hear others say in Spanish? Are you able to understand individual words or do they just blend together? Or is the accent too thick? Having a large Spanish vocabulary won’t solve these problems.
Certainly, the skill increases over time only with regular practice. I know it’s easy to go through starts and stops, especially when other life priorities suck up free time. Nevertheless, having a short-term target will serve as a reminder to get back on track.
- Set your yearly listening goals
- Break it down into weekly target
- Track your progress – are you ahead, on track or behind?
It should be noted, skill building is a process of transformation over time. In the beginning Spanish sounds like gibberish. Next, you’ll be able to catch bits and pieces. Through consistent skill practice, at the end you’ll understand most of what you hear.
Consistent listening practice is key to increase skill.
Good Spanish Resources for Listening
Beginner mistake number four is not having an audio resource.
Most language learners dream of having regular conversations with a fluent Spanish speaker. Rarely does that actually happen. Next best is immersion, private tutors or a program. All of those options are costly and have their rough edges. So what is the best thing for the language learner to do?
Use an Audio Resource for Listening Practice
Even this is challenging because of the large amount of Spanish audio options available. This causes decision paralysis. Let’s overcome this by narrowing down the selection. It is best to start with something simple and easy to listen to:
- Cooking Shows
- Audio Books
- Kid’s learning shows
- Music with lyrics
All of these are less frustrating than other audio and video sources. They have slower and clearer speech. This makes them much easier to understand for a beginner. Even so, you may want to adjust the playback speed on your audio player settings. Over time as your active listening skill increases, you can speed it up.
Remember the key is to actively listen.
Listen to a Variety of Slang and Regional Dialects
Beginner mistake number five is not listening to different speech styles.
Among Spanish speakers, there is a wide variety of dialects and social variation. Not only is there Spanish and Latin American Spanish, but also each region has several dialects of their own. In addition to dialects, there is formal speech and slang that you hear among the people. For this reason, I highly recommend listening to a wide variety of speech:
- Telenovelas on Netflix or AmazonPrime
Add these regional word differences to your vocabulary studies.
Listen to Spanish Actively
Mistake number six is listening to Spanish passively.
Passive listening is really the biggest mistake a learner can make. Understanding speech is an active practice that requires brain activity. Audio played in the background is just noise. Many assume your brain will pick it up, but it doesn’t. The only benefit is becoming familiar with the rhythm and sound of the language.
The number one priority is to actively listen
Instead, the mind needs to be engaged. This means you are tuned into the words, what they mean and how they are connected together. Your focus is on understanding what you hear.
Unfortunately, most learners set their goal to finish the entire audio. That is impossible to remain actively engaged for 10, 30 or 60 plus minutes. Rather, listen and engage with smaller segments.
Pause the audio or video to:
- Listen and read subtitles at same time
- Write what you heard
- Repeat what you heard (imitate their pronunciation)
- Replay a clip multiple times
- Dig into the meaning of individual word, sentences or phrases
Understanding is a habit. And being able to understand speech only happens when you’ve understood what you’ve listened to. If you haven’t yet, that’s the only thing standing in your way.
To overcome these obstacles you can treat them by their cause. Perhaps during your listening practice time you can include some digging into pronunciation, syllable formation, and special vocabulary for regions or street talk. Spanish has its own rules for the sounds and rhythm patterns. It’s important to include these topics in your study routine.