Saturday Spanish #5: Don’t try to understand everything

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When you’re watching or listening to something in Spanish — especially early on — don’t try to understand everything.

Say you’ve been learning Spanish for a few months.

You think, alright maybe it’s finally time to watch Money Heist (La casa de papel) and see how much I understand.

​​If you make it your goal to understand the whole show, you will be disappointed.

  • You’ll think, “I’ve been learning for so long, why does every word still run together? Maybe I just don’t have an ear for this stuff.”
  • You’ll obsess over the details (“Why’d she use le there instead of lo?”)
  • You’ll get distracted by impractical vocabulary (you hopefully won’t need words like ‘getaway’ or ‘ransom’)

Instead, just focus on noticing things

Rather than expecting to enjoy the show as you would in English, make the goal smaller.

Accept that most of it will be incomprehensible. Then, see what you can pick out. You can even read the plot summary in advance so you’re not totally lost.

You can do this at the earliest stages, even.

Make it a game.

Pick a 30 minute episode and challenge yourself: “I probably won’t understand any of the details, but what words can I pick out? What phrases can I recognize?”

Give it your full attention. See how many you can pick out.

When you do this, you go from…

  • Frustrated at what you didn’t understand to encouraged by what you do
  • Worried about details to enjoying on the overall story

Building listening skills in Spanish takes a TON of practice.

If you spend that practice time frustrated, or annoyed, or bored, it’s unlikely you’ll stick with it for long enough to see progress. But if you take a more relaxed approach, that progress becomes more likely.

Especially if you’re early on in learning Spanish, this is a simple shift in approach that makes all the difference.

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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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