If there’s one area I wish I could go back in time and work on more it would be listening comprehension. I would place a bigger emphasis on listening comprehension. It’s easy to learn new words if you practice and study enough, it’s easy to learn to read and write if you practice enough, but understanding the spoken word is more difficult. You do not have as much control over what is being said or how it’s pronounced. Native speakers of any language take short cuts to speak faster. They slur words or partially pronounce them. We do the same in English. With all that being said there are many different ways to invest your time to improve your ear’s ability to pick up spoken Spanish. It does not matter what skill or experience level you are, any of these can either help you create a good base of knowledge of pronunciation or assist you in understanding the overall message when someone is speaking. Or if you have spoken Spanish for years this list can help you continue to improve. I still do many of these myself to get better or to maintain my skills. Here are my current top 10.
10. Radio DJs: I’m referring specifically to when there are at least two of them talking to each other between the songs. This is a great way to hear random conversations. Random is good because you cannot predict what will be said, this forces you to rely on your ear.
9. Radio Talk Shows: when broadcasters or DJs invite a special guest onto their show who in turn answer calls from listeners this is a great way to hear more interactions. You can learn more Spanish vocabulary related to specific topics. This is another simple and easily-accessible way to invest your time into improving your listening comprehension.
8. Spanish Songs with Lyrics: Youtube has a treasure chest full of songs that show the lyrics. Many fans upload the song and create their own slide show presentation. First watch the video and read the words many times until you get familiar with all the words. Then listen to the song over and over without the help of the lyrics. This way you do not rely on reading the words, eliminate the visual aid. Check on reggaeton, Spanish pop, salsa or bachata songs.
7. Radio Commercials: Humorous, serious, jingles, real-life situations and more. Spanish commercials on the radio are fun to listen to and will help you to understand the overall message. Even if you just understand a few words you will probably understand what the product or service is that is being promoted. Just turn on your radio while you are driving, listen to the music and to the commercials in between.
6. TV Commercials: The combination of visual aids and audio provide a complete way of learning new words, phrases and above all another way to force you to try to understand what the message is. You will have a much easier time understanding TV commercials versus radio commercials, but I do recommend both.
5. Children’s TV Shows/ DVDs: The simpler, less deep content is easier to follow and refreshing. Many shows use many visual aids and display words with the intention of teaching Latin children how to learn Spanish. For anyone starting out learning Spanish this would the number one way to improve Spanish listening comprehension. This method also serves as a way to learn new vocabulary and how to construct sentences.
4. Comedy Shows: There’s a slew of them. I admit I haven’t watched any in a long while, but they are another less intense, laid back way to practice. Many jokes will go right over your head, but you will pick up more than you think. It’s a great way to learn a bit about the Latin culture to get a little glimpse on their sense of humor. Just be aware some of the humor is a little over the top.
3. Game Shows: I give an edge to game shows over comedy shows because there is more dialogue and less staged situations. Real life, everyday people participate in the show and share many random comments. The shows typically mix in commercials and sales pitches which adds to the variety of topics appearing on the shows.
2. Science and Nature Shows: I place this second simply as a preference. I enjoy watching them. There is a lot of dialogue which enhances your vocabulary. The game shows and comedy shows are great but they can be so goofy that I can only watch for a little bit. Nature shows on the other hand are more interesting to me and I don’t tend to get distracted like I do with the other types of shows.
1. The News: Local news, international or national news. Hands down the best way that tops this list. These are the best types of shows to improve Spanish listening comprehension, vocabulary and grammar. You get it all, visual aids, dialogue, current events for cultural orientation and many different types of accents. Tune into different channels to mix up the stories and accents. You will find that some accents are easier to understand do to their clarity of speech.