Have you ever thought about learning Spanish by watching Spanish TV shows?
Instead of sitting in a classroom memorising irregular verbs, you could be learning Spanish by sitting on the couch in your pyjamas munching popcorn.
But if it was really that easy, wouldn’t everyone be speaking Spanish by now?
And come to think of it, wouldn’t you have already done it?
Watching Spanish TV shows is a fab way to learn, but there are some pitfalls to watch out for. And you need strategies to make sure that you learn as much Spanish as possible while you watch.
In this blog post, you’ll find recommendations for the 14 best Spanish TV shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime right now. But we won’t leave you hanging there!
You’ll also find advice on how to make the most out of these Spanish TV shows, including:
– How to choose the right series so you’ll get addicted to Spanish TV – and to learning Spanish!
– What to do when you don’t understand (a common problem that’s easy to solve when you know how)
– More than chilling: study activities to boost your learning with Spanish TV shows.
Here to help us out with the recommendations is my friend Fabricio, a polyglot who creates Spanish courses and is currently living in Barcelona.
Over to you Fabricio!
The best Spanish TV shows to learn Spanish
A lot of people still believe that you can only learn a language in the country where it is spoken. It can certainly help, but you have to ask yourself: “why is that?”.
The main advantage of being in another country is the immersion. Listening to people speak Spanish all the time helps your ears get used to the sounds, words and expressions of the language. Since you may not have the chance to live in a Spanish speaking country, you need to create this immersion environment right where you are, and that’s exactly how TV series can help.
Of course, you won’t be fluent after one episode of Las chicas del cable. Learning any language takes time and effort, and it helps to combine watching Spanish TV shows with your Spanish studies.
But by watching Spanish TV shows, you’ll be constantly improving your listening skills. And if you use the subtitles in Spanish, you’ll also improve your reading and pick up vocabulary more easily. It’ll even improve your speaking as you’ll get used to hearing common phrases over and over, and they’ll come to you more easily when you need them in conversation.
Best of all, you’ll be learning and having fun at the same time, genial!
How can I learn Spanish by watching TV shows?
At this point, you might be thinking: sounds great, but I’ve already tried listening to Spanish TV shows and I understood nada.
And even if you do understand bits and pieces, watching TV in a foreign language can feel overwhelming. Where should you start? How do you know if you’re learning?
Keep reading after our list of the best Spanish TV shows and you’ll find a step-by-step guide with advice on:
1. How to choose the right Spanish TV shows for your level.
2. Ayuda! What to do when you just don’t understand.
3. Activities to get the most out of learning with Spanish TV shows.
But first, let’s get to the best 14 Spanish TV shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime to help you learn Spanish.
The 14 best Spanish TV shows on Netflix and Amazon prime
Spanish TV show 1: La Casa de Papel
Let’s start with the big guys. “La Casa de Papel” was originally aired on a regular Spanish TV channel. Later, it was acquired, edited and re-aired by Netflix, only to become one of the most watched foreign language series of the whole service.
It tells the story of a group of robbers who broke into the Royal Mint of Spain, taking hostages as part of their plan to print and escape with more than 2 billion euros.
Netflix has all three seasons on their catalogue, and the fans are eagerly waiting for the fourth season.
Spanish TV show 2: Narcos
Another huge Netflix production, set and filmed in Colombia, it tells the story of Pablo Escobar, one of the most famous drug lords of all time, who became a billionaire through the production and distribution of cocaine. The series also focuses on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who were sent to Colombia to fight the drug cartel. Several different Latin-American accents can be heard, since the actors come from different countries.
Spanish TV show 3: Las Chicas del Cable
A drama series set in 1928 in Madrid, “Las Chicas del Cable” tells the daily adventures of four young women who work for a modern telecommunications company.
Spanish TV show 4: Elite
This Spanish series tells the story of three working class friends who, after the collapse of their previous school, are given scholarships the most exclusive private school in Spain, where the elite send their kids to study.
But it’s not your typical high school drama – in the opening scene, the first character is covered in blood, and no one knows why. Watch the whole series to find out what happened.
Spanish TV show 5: El Chapo
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was one of the most powerful drug lords in the world. The series goes over his beginnings in 1985, when he was a low-level member of the Guadalajara Cartel, his rise to power as head of the Sinaloa Cartel, and his downfall. A good follow up if you’ve already finished “Narcos”.
Spanish TV show 6: Isabel
“Isabel” is a Spanish historical fiction television series, originally produced by and broadcast on a Spanish TV channel. The series is based upon the reign of Queen Isabella I of Castile, through her childhood, wedding, and arrival to the Crown, and even the beginning of Christopher Columbus’ journey to America.
Where: All three seasons are currently available on Amazon Prime (and you can watch a full episode here!)
Spanish TV show 7: Gran Hotel
The series, available on Netflix, was filmed at the Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander and takes place in 1906–1907 in Spain, during the reign of King Alfonso XIII. A working-class boy arrives at the luxurious Grand Hotel to visit his sister Cristina, who works there as a maid. He is told by a waiter that Cristina was fired for theft a month before, a story he does not believe. He is convinced something happened to her at the hotel and there was a cover-up. He takes a job there as a waiter to investigate his sister’s disappearance.
Spanish TV show 8: Vis a vis
Last but not least, “Vis a vis” was also originally aired on Spanish TV, and it tells the story of a young woman who goes to prison because of crimes she committed because of her boss, with whom she fell in love. If you like “Orange is the New Black” this may be a good follow up.
Where: Amazon Prime and Netflix.
5 of Katie’s favourite Spanish TV shows
Note from Katie: I’m currently learning Spanish and watching a lot of Spanish TV shows, so I thought I’d add a few of my favourites too!
Spanish TV show 9: Club de Cuervos
This Mexican comedy series tells the story of feuding siblings Chava and Isabel Iglesias after they inherit their late father’s football team.
I’m not a fan of football but I love this series – the characters and storylines are developed with a playful humour that has me giggling all the way through.
And with all the gueys, netas and pinches, it’s perfect for learning Mexican slang.
Spanish TV show 10: Paquita Salas
Another one of my favourite Spanish shows on Netflix is the comedy Paquita Salas. A washed-up agent to the stars, Paquita was big news in the 90s but is now struggling to keep her agency afloat.
The straight-faced humour reminds me a lot of The Office, and the actors are fantástico.
Spanish TV show 11: Made in Mexico
Ahem… I also happen to quite like watching reality TV, especially if it’s in a foreign language because it’s guilt free – I can be a couch potato and learn a language at the same time!
It’s also the best way I know to train yourself to understand native Spanish speakers, as the conversations are more natural compared to scripted Spanish TV shows.
Made in Mexico is about as glossy as they come, and very addictive.
Spanish TV show 12: High seas
Secrets, murders, fires…
In this glamorous Spanish series set in the 1940s, two sisters are stuck at sea and strange things start to happen.
Spanish TV show 13: House of flowers
What happens when you find the body of your fathers’ ex-lover at your parents’ anniversary party?
This gloriously over-dramatic series explores the secrets of a family-run flower shop. A bit like a telenovela, but with a really smart, dark humour.
Spanish TV show 14: 45 rpm
I just started watching this series yesterday and I’m already hooked. Set in Madrid, it follows music producer Guillermo Rojas as he tries to launch a sub-record label. Amongst a backdrop of rock music and booze, the series also deals with challenges of the changing times, like Rojas’ assistant’s struggle to be taken seriously as a woman in the workplace in 1960s Spain.
How to learn Spanish by watching TV shows
So now you’ve got some great Spanish TV shows to choose from. You can watch them as a beginner, but since they’re aimed at native speakers, you’ll probably enjoy them more if you’re already at an intermediate level or above as you’ll be able to understand more of what’s being said and pick up new words without too much effort.
That said, it is possible to enjoy Spanish TV at lower levels too, you just need a slightly different approach. In this section, you’ll learn how to improve your Spanish by watching Spanish TV shows at any level.
You’ll also learn:
– How to choose the right series to get you hooked on Spanish TV shows (and consequently learning Spanish!)
– Study strategies to make sure you’re learning lots of Spanish while you watch.
Which series should I choose?
The most important thing is to choose a show you really like. It’s pointless choosing a drama/thriller like “The Walking Dead” if you don’t like this genre. You’ll get bored and drop it in no time.
Try to think about the kind of series you get hooked on in your native language and look for something similar.
– Into gangster films? Narcos might be your thing.
– Reality TV junkie? Go for Made in Mexico.
– Fan of Orange is the new black? Vis a vis could hit the spot.
How can I choose the right show for my level?
Some shows might not be the best option depending on your level. Giving a popular show in English as an example, I was a huge fan of “Game of Thrones”, but when it comes to using it as a study tool, it’s a pretty complicated series, especially for beginners. Being an epic story, some “older” vocabulary is often used: words like “jester” and “dagger”, which are practically useless at this stage; and the fact that each episode lasts about 1 hour makes it difficult to follow.
The best way to find out whether a Spanish TV show is suitable is by putting yourself to the test! Choose a show and play an episode with the Spanish subtitles on. Yes, both audio and subtitles in Spanish! Watch the episode for a few minutes.
..you could follow the Spanish TV show
Great! From now on you will only watch this and other series with the Spanish subtitles on, listening and reading at the same time. This will help you memorize and see the usage of words you already know and, especially, it will help you understand what’s being said by getting your ears used to these sounds while you read the words. If you find words or phrases you don’t know, you can pause the episode and write them down or add them into a flashcard app such as Anki. Over time this will become more and more natural and, when you feel comfortable enough, you may even abandon the Spanish subtitles.
…it was too hard to follow
No hay problema! If you found it very difficult to follow the series with the subtitles in Spanish, you still have some options. In the next section, we’ll look at activities that you can try when you don’t understand.
Ayuda! What if I don’t understand the Spanish TV show?
1. Try the Language Learning with Netflix app
If you struggle to keep up either because:
– There are too many words you don’t know
– They speak too fast
…there’s an amazing Chrome extension that will help. It’s called Language Learning with Netflix and has interactive subtitles that you can click on to get the definition in your native language. It also pauses automatically after every line to help you keep up. If you only do one thing after reading this blog post, give it a try – it could transform your Spanish!
2. Use the Spanish TV show as as a study resource
If the series is too hard to follow when you watch it like a TV show, no hay problema!
As long as you have subtitles (most of the Netflix series do), there are plenty of study techniques you can use with the TV show to keep learning Spanish. Read this post for a list of ideas:
OK, so you may not get to kick back and relax with this one, but it’s still a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom memorising lists of words for stationary.
2. Start with a learner series
One of the reasons Spanish TV series can be tricky to follow is that they’re designed for native speakers – that’s people who’ve spent their whole lives (at least 105120 hours for an 18 year old) listening to Spanish. No wonder they’re tricky for learners!
If Spanish TV shows aimed at native speakers go straight over your head, try a series aimed at learners.
Spanish Extra is a great place to start.
3. Watch the Spanish TV show with subtitles in English
Another option is to try using subtitles in your native language, just to get your ears more used to the new sounds.
One of the dangers with this technique is that you focus too much on reading the subtitles in your language, and you don’t benefit much from the Spanish audio.
One thing you can do to get around this is to pay as much attention to the audio as you can. You’ll notice that many words and expressions are repeated quite often by the actors.
When this happens and you don’t know them, write them down in your study notebook or add them into a flashcards app such as Anki. If you can’t identify the words by ear, write down what’s written in the English subtitles and use a dictionary to translate it or just google it. Alternatively, you can flip to the Spanish subtitles to see the expression written down.
In the meantime, keep studying Spanish, learning more vocabulary and over time you’ll notice that you understand more of the sentences without even reading the subtitles anymore. At this point, take the test above again to check if you can already move onto the Spanish subtitles phase.
More than chilling: activities to boost your learning with Spanish TV shows
Sometimes, when you’re watching Spanish TV shows, it feels mágico. You’re sitting there in your sweatpants eating ice-cream and learning Spanish at the same time. It’s a win.
But then a niggling doubt creeps in… is this enough? Shouldn’t I be doing more to learn Spanish? While watching Spanish TV can do a lot for your listening and speaking, there are more focused activities you can do to accelerate your learning.
The best bit – they still involve watching TV!
Check out the post below for some handy study strategies you can use to learn Spanish by watching Spanish TV shows.
Over to you
While we were writing this post, we asked the joy of languages community for their recommendations, and we got even more suggestions for the best Spanish TV shows. Click on the links below (comments box for Facebook) to see what people said.
Do you ever watch Spanish TV? Got any good recommendations?
— Katie Harris (@Joyoflanguages) May 21, 2019
Have you tried watching Spanish TV shows to learn Spanish before? Did you find it useful? Have you got any other good ones to add to the list?
You might like these too…
– 5 Smart ways to learn a language by watching films and TV.
– Become fluent in Spanish in 1 year without leaving the house: A step-by-step guide.
– Improve your listening in a foreign language, the ultimate guide.
– Still can’t understand spoken Spanish? Learn how with Juan from Easy Spanish.