The power of studying Spanish is incredibly strong. Learning Spanish will allow you to communicate with an estimated 440 million native speakers in 20 different countries.
Starting your journey could lead you to Spain, Argentina, Mexico, or Colombia. But before you land, you’ll need to know how to learn the language to get you started.
Of course, there are Spanish classes, such as those you may have taken in school or those you have seen advertised at university.
Some of you may have attended workshops with evening classes, or started learning Spanish on your own, in front of your computer screen by following online Spanish classes or videos in Spanish.
But one thing that people often neglect is the pronunciation of words. They assume that speaking Spanish revolves around studying grammar and learning words.
There are many ways of improving your Spanish skills, but how can you go about specifically improving your accent and Spanish pronunciation?
Aside from practising, you should try to listen to as much spoken Spanish as you can. By watching TV shows and films in Spanish you could improve your Spanish pronunciation whilst having fun, without even necessarily realising it.
It doesn’t matter if your favourite genre is horror, thriller, or documentaries – you are sure to find something that you love. This is partly in thanks to work by Spanish speaking directors such as Pedro Almodóvar and Guillermo Del Toro who have contributed massively to Spanish speaking cinema in Europe and Latin America, winning 4 Oscars between them including the Oscar for best foreign language film, best picture, and best director.
In this article, I will look at the different ways that Spanish films can help you to improve your language skills. But first I would like to start with a little story…
For over a year and a half, I’ve been learning Spanish.
I grew up in a Spanish speaking environment and learned Spanish, just as many of my classmates did, in high school. Even if I can say that I have a certain advantage when it comes to learning Spanish, it is really only over the last 18 months that I have really decided to learn this language more actively. There are loads of great videos to help you learn to speak Spanish on YouTube, but I decided to expand my horizons beyond these.
As far as my skills are concerned, I can say now that I really speak Spanish without having made a linguistic trip and that I can hold a conversation in this language and still feel at ease.
Of course, I still have other things to learn about this language, especially regarding the different conjugations, but the Spanish vocabulary will come as I use the language more.
Rosetta Stone could act as a complementary tool to learn Spanish
I used Rosetta Stone a couple of times which seemed a quick way of learning Spanish until I discovered the method of “hacking” a language according to Benny Lewis on his website “Speaking From Day 1”.
His method may seem really simplistic because according to Benny Lewis, you just need to speak Spanish to learn the language.
An explanation: the more you speak with the words you already know, the more you will be able to learn new ones and connect them with those that you already know. You can quickly learn this way, and you will enrich your vocabulary and improve your oral comprehension as you do.
Speaking is truly the most important thing when you learn a foreign language and this should be your priority.
After all, would you expect to read a book on cooking and expect to be able to cook perfectly without chopping up an onion or using a saucepan? Naturally, the book can teach you the methods, but you have to practise in order to improve and learn.
The exact same can be said for Spanish. You have to practise talking and listening to Spanish in order to learn. This is where Spanish speaking cinema comes in handy.
Whether they are movies on Spain itself, or Spanish speaking people elsewhere in the world, you will train your ear to understand a variety of different accents and uses of the language.
What’s more, you can any type of film. It could be a documentary or a horror movie; they will both offer you something when it comes to learning Spanish.
There are a number of ways to improve in Spanish, and watching movies is just one of them. It’s not a new fad from a magician’s hat; Spanish speaking movies in their original language can not only help you with your listening comprehension and your Spanish pronunciation, but also how to understand a conversation in Spanish because you hear concrete words with the appropriate intonations.
With new movies coming out all the time, you will never be bored. Classics such as Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother (Todo Sobre Mi Madre), starring Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, and Penélope Cruz, will often feature highly on lists of the best movies in Spanish, but movie streaming sites, such as Netflix, and now starting to change the game.
Whereas before you had to go to the cinema or wait for the DVDs to come out in the shops, movies on Netflix are now available a lot quicker, and with a wider range of choice.
This is important for you as a Spanish learner. Not only can you select from more options, you can also train your ear to a number of different accents, whilst learning about different topics and cultures.
One example that springs to mind here is the acclaimed Colombia Wild Magic (Colombia Magia Salvaje). This documentary is about the Colombia’s hugely diverse range of ecosystems, animals, and plants.
The Colombian accent is good to learn Spanish because it is generally quite neutral which makes it easier to understand (although it is slightly stronger in some parts of the country). Therefore with this documentary, you won’t only have a chance to test yourself with a new accent, but you can also learn about the fascinating nature that Colombia has to offer.
Why not sit down with a nice glass of wine and stick on a classic from Spanish cinema? (Photo from Visualhunt).
When it comes to using Spanish speaking movies to learn Spanish, consider the following pieces of advice:
As you will be reading, you have to spend a lot of time watching a movie with subtitles.
Oral comprehension is therefore strongly solicited here, in the same way as using Spanish podcasts to learn Spanish does.
During your Spanish learning journey, you have undoubtedly learned new Spanish grammar points.
And through watching Spanish speaking films, perhaps by streaming on Netflix, you will have better understood some things that used to be confusing to you.
Learn the basics of Spanish grammar.
How many times have you told yourself “Oh, now I feel I know when to use that expression!”
With the viewing of Hispanic movies, you will be able to use the Spanish grammar you have learned in your classes with confidence. Nothing can beat seeing a real life example to show you how to use a grammar point.
Spanish movies can contribute to your Spanish vocabulary in immeasurable ways. Through using real life words in real life contexts, they will allow you to learn conversational Spanish in a way that textbooks struggle to do.
When it comes to watching Spanish movies online, your Netflix subscription will allow to you to stream a number of different titles on your computer, or even on your smartphone or tablet through the Netflix app.
If you are still developing your level, you can turn on the subtitles option so that you can see the translation of what is being said. Whilst watching the movie, try to pick out individual words and match them to the translation that you read at the bottom of the screen.
When you think you have it, check with an online dictionary such as Word Reference, to see if you go the spelling right.
As your level develops, you can turn off the subtitles off and see how much of the vocabulary you understand without the English translation in the subtitles below.
With the best Spanish movies, you can associate an image with a word or sentence, and enrich your vocabulary according to the situation.
It is easier to discover and remember the meaning of a word by immediately remembering a particular scene or a shot of a movie. This is especially the case for colloquial words.
Let the Spanish Force awaken in you!
If you want to learn Spanish quickly, little tips like this can help you along the way. For a speedy learning process, you will need to employ all of the tricks in the book to remember vocabulary, and associating words with images in a film is one way of doing this.
What’s more, you are more likely to remember these words because you will be focused on the film and therefore you will make the mental connection.
This sometimes isn’t the case when it comes to textbooks because there is more of a tendency to drift off if you are not fully engaged with the content.
Now with Spanish movies you can control any conversation in Spanish and you have the context in which to use your vocabulary and your idiomatic expressions.
If you are in your car and start speaking to yourself in Spanish, you will then have a great ability to repeat dialogues of Spanish movies, you can practice Spanish and make your accent extremely convincing after a certain amount of time.
By using this new technique of learning Spanish with learning movies, you will feel more confident and more natural than if you spend all day listening to a guy repeating “Me llamo Edgar, como está usted?” (My name is Edgar, how are you?).
It is safe to say that what you learn with this method will probably be more useful than what you have learned in a book.
Discuss your favourite Spanish films over a cold beer with your friends!
Learning Spanish means being able to share and communicate with this constantly evolving language.
Of course, Spanish language classes are not excluded, they will be an excellent starting point and will provide you with a solid foundation, but to enrich your Spanish vocabulary, to speak fluently, to progress in terms of Spanish oral comprehension, you must immerse yourself in the culture and daily life of the people who speak the language.
Knowing how to speak like them and using the same idiomatic expressions as they do, will help you to enrich your vocabulary whilst integrating yourself into the Spanish speaking culture.
Seeing action movies, romance movies, adventure films or comedies in Spanish will give you the opportunity to hear this language in various contexts, with accents and varied intonations. You will understand some jokes and adopt new cultural references.
So if becoming fluent in Spanish is your aim, find your favourite Spanish filmmaker and binge away on all of their best movies!