May 31, 2021
If you’ve been following me a while on Instagram, you might know one of my major life goals is to speak Spanish fluently.
My mom is fluent in Spanish and it was her first language. She tells me stories of Kindergarten and First Grade where she knew the answers to questions but didn’t want to raise her hand to answer because she only knew how to say it in Spanish.
I don’t wish my mom did anything different in raising us – truly – as I am a big believer that our life journey is meant to be a part of our experience for a reason. If, however, I did wish there were something I could change, it would be that she’d taught us Spanish. She’d tried, and I remember learning words here and there (especially my facial features, like ojos, boca, y cabeza, or common expressions I’d hear, like “aye que linda” or a favorite of my uncles, “que cara faya” 🙄), but with my dad constantly asking her what she was teaching us, she said we’d picked up more English than Spanish and she’d just stopped.
Regardless, speaking Spanish is a strong part of my background and I wish to someday teach my own children so it’s something I’m working on bit by bit to get better at.
I’m sharing what I’m learning on this journey with you in case it’s something you’d like to learn too. Being bilingual is certainly a wonderful skill to add to the resume, but also nice for one who desires to travel so that you could actually communicate with the locals (that’s how you learn all the best kept secrets instead of just the tourist spots 😉).
I’d once asked my aunt (who is fluent) what recommendations she had for helping me improve my Spanish speaking abilities.
One of the things she mentioned was listening to radio and TV shows in Spanish.
It wasn’t until recently, while I was sitting at a Spanish restaurant with my mom, that I’d realized why listening was so important. At the restaurant, I’d requested no tomatoes with my food, and the cook came from the back to ask me a few more questions. But she assumed I could speak Spanish, and as I listened to her speak, I realized just how delayed my response was as I was trying to translate the few words I’d picked up in my head.
It made me realize the importance of Listening Fluency.
It is just as important to know what words to string together to speak the language, as is the ability to immediately hear and understand the language. We do it so effortlessly without a second thought with our first language (and if you’re reading this, I presume that’s English). While you’re reading the words on your screen, you’re not thinking of how to translate them. Or how you might formulate a response and translate it back. It’s just such a part of who you are, such a habit, that it just happens without hesitation.
But hesitation is exactly what I did as I listened to the sweet cook speak to me in Spanish. I heard her words, tried to figure out which ones I knew, then remember what those words were in English, then piece together the gist of what she asked me, then think of what I wanted to say in response in English, then translate that in Spanish. Yeah, I know, sounds like a lot. 😂 All of that with what must have been a deer-in-headlights expression on my face. 🙈
I must admit, I didn’t really like the way that felt.
I decided to work on improving my listening fluency.
So I set out to find shows on Netflix to listen to in Spanish so that I could become more familiar with listening, picking up on words, effortless translation (or immediate understanding without the need for translation), and repeating words and phrases to increase my own vocabulary.
I also thought it might be a fun way to learn the language vs a more academic style of listening to words and phrases directly translated like you hear on “Learn to Speak Spanish” CD’s (not that this not an effective way to learn, but I wanted something in addition). So I figured, if you’re interested in the storyline of a TV show, then listening and learning becomes something you really want to do instead of forcing yourself to do simply because you want to learn the language.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I googled “Shows in Spanish on Netflix”, there are lengthy blog posts dedicated to this very topic.
Below are a few shows I found that might pique your interest. I want to note too, that the blog post I found also indicated the accent associated with the show, and since I am Puerto Rican, I prefer to speak as close that accent as possible. My first preferences were (based on the available options) Colombian and Latin American vs European Spanish and Mexican. The four shows below reflect those preferences, but if you’re looking for more recommendations, head to the original blog post here.
This is the show I started with (I’m currently really into period dramas!) and after just one episode I was hooked.
It’s about the story of a white girl named Victoria who is saved and raised by slaves in Columbia, and later returns to fight for the freedom of her adopted family.
Side note: it takes a bit of mental energy to try to follow the show reading the subtitles in English while simultaneously listening to the words in Spanish and enjoying the storyline as it unfolds. I can’t imagine trying to follow multiple storylines at once, so I’m working on one at a time.
The next few recommendations I haven’t started watching yet, so the descriptions are directly from Netflix.
In 1950s Spain, the heir to a fashion house romances a beautiful seamstress who works for the company, despite the objections of the family.
Seventeen years after being wrongly imprisoned, a talented songwriter seeks justice against the man who caused her downfall and killed her family.
A former Colombian guerrilla fighter faces challenges as she reintegrates into society and tries to overcome her traumatic memories.
Okay, you have to let me know what you think! I started with La Esclava Blanca (and love it so far!), but if you’ve seen any of the other ones, let me know what you loved/hated in the comments below!
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