Listening to native Spanish speakers is a humbling experience.
They blurt their words out so fast, sometimes it’s impossible to keep up. And it can be discouraging – after all that studying, shouldn’t you be able to understand spoken Spanish better by now?
Why you’re still struggling to understand spoken Spanish
If you find listening to native Spanish speakers overwhelming, it could be because you’re used to the “learner friendly” version of Spanish in textbooks and apps: slow and clear with simple grammar and vocabulary.
These tools are great because they make it easy to get started – like learning to ride a bike with training wheels.
But Spanish speakers don’t talk like that in real life. They mush their words together, mix up grammar structures and use words you won’t find in your Spanish course.
If you want to understand natural spoken Spanish, at some point you need to take off the training wheels and practice listening to real conversations.
With the right tools, it’s simple.
Train yourself to understand spoken Spanish with Juan from Easy Spanish
A brilliant tool for learning to understand natural spoken Spanish is the Easy Spanish YouTube channel.
In his videos, Mexican producer Juan and friends take to the streets and ask questions like “what was the happiest moment of your life?”, “what’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done” and “how do you flirt in Spanish?”.
The conversations are fun, spontaneous and 100% authentic Spanish.
Importantly, Juan adds dual subtitles so you can check what you heard against a word-for-word Spanish transcription, and consult the English ones if you get stuck.
It’s my absolute favourite resource and I’ve recommended it in practically every post I’ve ever written about learning Spanish (see below for a step-by-step guide on how I used Easy Spanish to train my listening skills).
That’s why I’m excited to bring you today’s interview with Juan from Easy Spanish. In line with Juan’s mission of giving you inside access to authentic language and culture, our chat will transport you to a little plaza in Mexico, where you can see Mexican life unfold in the background with builders, policemen, and friends laughing together.
- Why learning Spanish with classes, books and apps is not enough.
- How to train yourself to understand real spoken Spanish, without leaving the house.
- A special technique Juan has used to learn 3 languages.
- Some naughty Mexican slang (caution: don’t use these words with your friends’ parents!)
For extra listening practice, the interview’s almost entirely in Spanish – if you need a little help figuring out what we’re saying, turn on the English subs.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Once you’ve had the chance to watch, check below for details about Juan’s exciting new project, and how you can help him get it going.
Help Easy Spanish go to Spain!
Easy Spanish is an independent project – to keep it going, Juan relies on donations from Spanish learners like you.
His next mission is to record episodes in Spain so he can keep giving you inside access to language and culture from all over the Spanish speaking world.
At the moment, he’s collecting for a trip to Spain via crowdfunding. Can you help?
There are some brilliant bonuses, including:
- Access to a private WhatsApp group, where you can practice your Spanish and follow Juan’s adventures in Spain.
- PDF exercises to help you practice what you learn in the videos
- A private chat with Juan in Spanish about his experiences.
He’s close to his target (but not there yet) so a donation from you could make all the difference!
If you can’t donate, you can still help him by sharing the link to his crowdfunding page. Gracias!
How I trained myself to understand spoken Spanish with Easy Spanish
Here’s how I’ve been using Easy Spanish to improve my listening skills:
- Watch an Easy Spanish video without subtitles (cover them up with a piece of paper, or better get access to videos without subtitles by supporting Juan on his Patreon page)
- Listen again, but this time press pause (space button) after the sentences you didn’t understand. Use the back arrow on your keyboard to skip back 5 seconds. Do this several times until:
- You understand the sentence or…
- if, after listening to the word/phrase several times you still don’t understand, look at the Spanish subtitles.
- Compare the subtitles to the audio: Which parts didn’t you understand? Why?
- If there are words you didn’t know, look them up in a dictionary and write them down to review later.
- If you recognise the words, why didn’t you understand them? Do they sound different to how you expected? Pay attention to how sounds change in fast speech.
- If you need to, check against the English subtitles to make sure you understood everything.
- Continue until you’ve finished the dialogue, then repeat the process with a new video.
By working in this way, you’ll train yourself to understand spoken Spanish and pick up lots of words and phrases that will help you sound more natural when you speak.