Saturday Spanish #9: A powerful exercise for better comprehension

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In this edition of Saturday Spanish, I’m going to walk you through a simple exercise you can do to improve your listening comprehension.

One of the struggles I hear the most from people is that Spanish sounds so fast — the words all seem to run together. This is an exercise that can help you to start picking more words out of Spanish sentences.

Unfortunately, most learners don’t do much to actively work on their listening skills (outside of whatever exercises they might do in a class setting), which keeps them stuck in a rut.

This is just one way to improve your listening. It’s not something you need to do every day, but it’s certainly worth including in your weekly routine.

Here’s how, step by step:

Step 1: Pick a short piece of video/audio

This is a challenging exercise that requires your full attention for a short period of time. You’ll want a short clip, otherwise it’ll take too long.

Choose a short video or piece of audio. If you find something interesting but it’s longer than 2-3 minutes, focus on one segment of it. 

Here are some options, but feel free to use anything you find interesting. It should have subtitles so you can double check your work later.

More on the beginner side: click here

More intermediate: click here

(both courtesy of, a great resource to check out)

Step 2: Watch/listen to the audio all the way through

The goal: get a general idea for what’s happening.

Don’t try to understand every word. Instead, focus on being immersed and trying to get the general meaning.

Do not read the transcript or subtitles. Move your browser to hide them, or cover them with a sheet of paper.

Step 3: Transcribe

You’re going to write your own Spanish subtitles for this video/audio.

I like to do this on my computer, so I can easily hit the pause button while typing. But you could do this with any device + sheet of paper, too.

Listen to the video again, writing down what you hear sentence by sentence.

When you hear a word you can’t make out, just mark the space with an underline ______ or brackets [……].

Step 4: Fill in the gaps

Now you probably have a transcript with some gaps in it.

Listen to the video one more time, focusing specifically on those words that you missed.

You may find that some words you’d written down are different than you thought.

Step 5: Check your work

Compare your transcript to the official transcript on the video (available just below the videos linked above).

What did you get right?

What did you miss?

Do you notice any patterns on the things you missed? 

Are there sounds that you are consistently misinterpreting?

At this point, you’ve listened to this short clip 3 times. You’re now very familiar with it.

When you finally see the things you didn’t get on your own, those things stick out to you much more clearly.

You can do this exercise with any video or audio that you like. If it doesn’t include English subtitles, you can copy+paste the Spanish transcript into Google Translate and see what you didn’t understand.

That’s all for today. Let me know how it goes and what you think of this exercise.


P.S. I just published a short (2:42) new video on YouTube — How to use “Hay Que” in Different Contexts & Tenses. Check it out here. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Hey there, I'm Connor. I help motivated learners speak Spanish without slogging through grammar books or tapping through every new app. I started Breakthrough Spanish to give more people the confidence and focus to learn effectively Spanish from home. Learn more about me here.

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