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Learn Spanish with Netflix: The Ultimate Guide

By Anthony / November 7, 2015

Immersion through tv shows and movies

Usually when you read anything about learning a foreign language they mention immersion as the best and fastest way to become fluent. The idea is that you surround yourself with the language you want to learn and make it part of your daily life, forcing you to receive the language and produce it.

Why not take that idea and with your nightly Netflix time and immerse yourself is Spanish movies or TV shows? It's easy to do, and if all else fails it's entertaining.

Learning Spanish from Netflix goes beyond just reading English subtitles though, this article will guide you through the different ways you can use Netflix (or any other movie watching platform) to improve your level competency in Spanish. But first here are some of the ways that watching Netflix in Spanish can benefit your language learning regime.

It can improve your vocabuarly

Watching movies and TV in Spanish a great way to immerse yourself and improve your fluency. It helps strengthen your vocabulary by introducing new words and using ones you may already know.  When you watch something in Spanish you not only hear words, you hear them in the context of a particular situation or conversation.

This can help you really absorb the meaning of a new word and pick up on some the nuances of the language. 

You practice your listening skills

You have probably realized that Spanish speakers tend to speak faster than we do in English.  When you're just starting out it seems a lot faster. Watching Netflix in your new language can help you practice keeping up with the natural flow of Spanish and take some of the edge off of the difficulty.

Also, depending on where the movie or tv show is from, you may be exposed to different dialects of Spanish.

It makes learning more memorable 

When you find movies and shows you like you will be way more likely to remember the words and phrases you pick up. I'm currently watching a novela called Pablo el Patrón del Mal that portrays the life of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar.  As a result words like cocaína, traficante, justicia, gobierno, and mafiosos are burned into my brain.

I don't plan on using some of these words very much but if the topic ever comes up I should be okay. The point is the memory of whatever you are watching will help you remember new words.

Because of this Colombian miniseries I will now forever know what cocaína is (not that it's hard to guess)

It's fun

I mean..who doesn't like watching Netflix? You probably do it anyway. Why not do it in Spanish? Even if it's in a foreign language it is still just as entertaining. As you continue to explore more movies and shows made in Spanish speaking countries you're going to be exposed to cultures and parts of history that you otherwise might not have known about.

It's not uncommon for me to watch a historical movie or series and end up reading about their topics on Wikipedia.

This movie depicts the Spanish American wars of Independence, a part of history I didn't know much about

The Three Levels of Watching Netflix in Spanish

1) Watch in Spanish with English Subtitles 

If you are new to the language it might be hard to jump into a movie with zero English. Watching with English subtitles can help you ease into the language. As long as you are actively watching and listening you will be able to pick up some words as you read their translation in real time.

However you don't want to make this a habit as you will want to switch to using no English as soon as possible if you are serious about learning. 

​2) Watch in Spanish with Spanish Subtitles 

Watching with Spanish subtitles is a great way to help strengthen your vocabulary.  The subtitles will help you keep up as you learn to listen in Spanish. It will also help you find any words you don't know.  You don't necessarily have to be at an intermediate level to do this either.  It might be hard at first but watching this way can really benefit a new learner.

3) Watch in Spanish with No Subtitles

This is the ultimate test of your fluency using Netflix. You don't have any subtitles to back you up so you will have to use the context of whatever you're watching to interpret any words you don't understand. This is great practice because you have to do the same thing in real life situations.

This is where the rubber meets the road and you can practice what you've learned through active listening.

Hacks for using Netflix for Spanish

Watching movies in Spanish that you've seen already can help you pick up words faster

1) Some English movies have the options for Spanish audio and or subtitles. This will give you more selection. If you have a movie or show you've seen or know by heart see if you can watch it in Spanish, you might be able to learn new words more quickly. 

2) Try watching children's shows in Spanish, especially educational ones. I found Clifford the Big Red Dog and some episodes of School House Rock in Spanish recently. These shows are already designed to teach children, and they can teach you as well. This is a great  place to start for a beginner.

3) If you're watching on your laptop or phone take screen shots of what you're watching and put them into Anki to help you learn new words. The picture will help you recall the new word when you are speaking.

Use screenshots in Anki to learn more words

4) Read the English synopsis of a show or movie before you watch it. That way you will always have an idea of what is going on and can better focus on what words are said and how they are used. But if you find a movie you think you might really enjoy then maybe you shouldn't read about before hand so you don't spoil the ending. It is all up to you.

5) Get access to Netflix in other Spanish speaking countries to get more Spanish streaming possibilities. Did you know Netflix makes different content available in different countries? A person watching Netflix in Spain will have different options than someone who is watching in the USA.

Use a service like Unblockus and get access to content from other countries.  This service changes the "address" of your computer so that Netflix thinks you are watching in a different country.  This is legal but be warned that you will be violating Netflix's term of service. Use at your own risk. Read more about it here.

Conclusion

You probably already have access to a Netflix account, and you probably use it on a regular basis. You might as well use that time to practice your Spanish and increase your fluency.  It's fun, it's easy to do, and as I am writing this it only costs $7.99 a month. That's a cheap Spanish learning tool if I ever saw one. ¡Buena suerte!

About the author

Anthony

Coffee drinker, Spanish speaker, habitual traveler, taking life one beautiful day at a time.

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