Television is an amazing tool for immersing yourself completely in a language. When I was first learning Spanish, I used to watch The Simpsons re-runs regularly. It took me a while to understand everything, but I eventually got there. These days, there is so much choice of what to watch and its hard to narrow it down. So I’ve done some of the legwork and give you the following recommendations. I guarantee that if you binge watch all of these amazing series, your language skills will take a big leap. Not only will your listening and comprehension skills improve, but you’ll also see a massive difference in your pronunciation and level of vocabulary.
If you like these, you may like my other post: Five bands you should be listening to if you’re learning Spanish
1. Cable Girls – Las chicas del cable (Netflix)
Set in Madrid in 1928, this series tells the story of four girls and how their lives change as they begin work at the telecommunications company in the capital. The visual metaphor of the connections made by the cables is reflected in the storylines: lives become entwined, attachments are made and broken, the past finds them.
Not only is it great for the Spanish language learner’s listening skills but it also gives us a glimpse how life was in the Spanish capital in the years before the civil war, and importantly, what life was like for the women of the time.
Netflix has given this title a 15 rating.
2. The Ministry of Time/ el Ministerio del Tiempo (TVE & Netflix)
This is Spain’s version of time travelling adventure, slightly Doctor Who-ish but this series focuses on time-travel through the history of Spain. A secret government agency employs people from the past and the present to keep events in order. They walk through doors in a secret underground location that send them to the point and time in history that needs fixing. During their adventures, the team meet some of Spain’s greatest and worst historical characters, including Velazquez, Lorca, Dali, Lope de Vega, Franco etc. It’s great for Spanish students to learn about different points of Spanish history and get an overview of the country throughout the ages. It also brings the characters from history to life and can help students better understand the socio-political context of events when studying for A-Levels, for example. The series is very addictive and can be binge-watched on Netflix with English subtitles. The trailer is enough to get you hooked.
Netflix has given this a ’15’ rating.
3. Velvet (Netflix)
Set in 1950s Spain, the story is a must for all hopeless romantics out there. It tells the love story between Alberto Márquez the rich son of the owner of major fashion house, Galerías Velvet and Ana Rivera who works for the company as a seamstress. For Spanish students, the plots and language are fairly easy to understand. From a cultural point of view, the series shows the radical social gap between rich and poor during the Francoist years.
Netflix has given this title a ‘Guidance’ rating.
4. Cuéntame cómo pasó
This series is Spain’s longest-running television series ever. It first aired in 2001 and has now run into its 17th season, all of which are available to watch on Television Española (tve.es). The first few seasons cover day to day life for middle-class family, Los Alcantara during the final years of the Spanish dictatorship. Narrated by their youngest son, the first episode, set in 1968, sees the family buying their first television. Each season covers roughly a year in history (some periods are shorter, others are longer) and we see how fashions and social convention changes for the family as each year passes. Season 9 deals with the death of Franco and the subsequent seasons follow life through the transition to democracy. As you can imagine, this series is great for Spanish students to learn about the recent history of Spain.
5. El Vato (Netflix)
This is a bit of an outsider but my personal favourite. Set in Los Angeles, the series tells the story of a Mexican singer and who has come to the United States in pursuit of fame and glory. With him are his band of friends who also double up as his management and songwriting team. The story follows the twists and turns of trying to make it big in a chaotic city like LA. Based on the life of the singer El Dasa, who also plays the leading role, this tale is biographical. For Spanish enthusiasts, this is a great way to get exposure to the Mexican accent and their colloquialisms. You’ll soon be ending every sentence with ‘güey‘ and mixing up some English with your Spanish: “Me gusta el way of life aca”, one of my favourite Spanglish moments in the series so far.
Hope you enjoy!
(C) Stephanie Burgess-Arteaga, 2018
All information correct at time of publishing. Please check with providers for title ratings etc.
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