Practicing your Spanish doesn’t necessarily mean studying verb tenses at your desk. Instead of becoming bored with traditional learning methods, we have a better suggestion: try watching TV in Spanish.
If you’re really looking to improve your listening and finally understand what native Spanish speakers are saying, watch a Spanish TV show. You’ll benefit from great listening practice – and might just get hooked on the plotline of your new favorite series, too.
Sit back, relax and enjoy your new Spanish listening skills.
Of course, watching TV shows in Spanish requires a few adjustments for success. Here are a few tips so that you make the most of your listening practice:
Below you’ll find 25 Spanish TV shows organized into sections for beginner, intermediate and advanced. The best way to practice listening is to find a show that you really like. This will motivate you to watch often and understand what’s happening to your new favorite characters.
Remember that if you’re a newbie to Spanish, you’ll need more basics before you can watch Spanish TV shows and understand what’s going on. That’s why this strategy for practice listening is most suitable for students that are late beginners or higher.
Destinos is another soap opera developed in the U.S. for learning purposes. It was made in 1992, so it’s not exactly your modern TV show. However, the content is spot-on for practicing listening – and all 52 episodes are available on the Learner site. Destinos is the story of LA lawyer Raquel who travels to Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Mexico to find her client Fernando’s long-lost stepchild. It’s complete with a love triangle, a review of all Spanish verbs and exposure to multiple Spanish accents. Destinos can be a little goofy, but the great listening practice is worth it!
Extr@ is another language-learning soap opera made in the U.K. in the early 2000s. It’s a Friends copycat, aimed at teaching Spanish in a fun way. For modern viewers, its old-school style is a bit cringe-worthy, but it’s great for learning and it’s available on YouTube. (Many would say the episodes are so bad, they’re good.) Extr@ is ideal for learners who love family dramas and want to focus their listening on intimate conversations. It’s also a shorter TV show (only 13 episodes) compared to other soap operas.
Narcos is a bilingual Spanish-English TV show that follows the life of Pablo Escobar and his notorious cocaine trade in Colombia. Narrated in English by an American DEA agent, this TV show is a great mix of Spanish and English for listening practice. Check it out on Netflix.
La Usurpadora is a classic 1998 Mexican soap opera that’s a thumbs-up for beginners. The best part? The complete TV show (102 episodes) is available for free on YouTube. La Usurpadora follows the story of Paola and Paulina, twins separated at birth. Paulina grew up poor but honest; while Paola is rich and scheming. During a chance encounter, Paola forces Paulina to temporarily replace her at home so she can jet off with her lovers. Can you say drama? This soap opera is excellent for boosting vocabulary and listening.
Spaniards in London is a great mini-series to practice listening. It’s made in both Spanish and English, which gives your ears a chance to pick up new phrases more easily. It’s all about a group of young Spaniards trying their luck in the U.K. The five episodes of this mini-series are golden – and free to view on YouTube.
Unlike the others on this list, El Chavo del Ocho isn’t a soap opera – it’s a sitcom. For those that prefer more comedic material, El Chavo is a fantastic choice. At its peak, El Chavo had 350 million viewers per episode, so it’s not just a great listening practice but also an iconic example of culture in Latin America. The sitcom is available on Netflix in the U.S., which is great because it includes subtitles. There are also key episodes available on YouTube. El Chavo is the nickname of the protagonist, a poor orphan who often gets into trouble with his neighbors.
Cualca is an Argentine TV show created in 2012 in order to highlight social issues. It consists of mini-episodes, each with its separate characters and plot that sheds some light on feminism, racism, homophobia and other prejudices. These mini-episodes are great for practicing listening of the Argentine accent in a bite-sized package. All of these episodes are available for free on Vimeo. Cualca has a sarcastic, humorous style with something for everybody to enjoy.
En Terapia is an Argentine dramatic series that follows the sessions of psychologist Guillermo Montes as he treats several patients. As a drama, this show is more focused on the characters rather than the plot. The characters speak clearly and slowly, which is great for beginners to practice listening. All three seasons are available on YouTube.
You may be surprised to know that Ugly Betty was originally a Colombian soap opera called Yo Soy Betty, la Fea. It’s one of the most popular TV shows in the world and widely considered the most successful soap opera in Latin America. This show follows the ugly Betty Pinzón, a witty economist who works for a fashion business EcoModa. This show is all about her relationship with her own appearance, her boss Armando and her definition of success. Yo Soy Betty, la Fea is a can’t-miss TV show to practice listening and it’s truly binge-worthy. You can watch the first season on Netflix, as well as many other episodes for free on the RCN channel.
Gran Hotel is a Spanish TV series set in Spain from 1906–1907. The show kicks off with Julio realizing that his sister Cristina has gone missing at a luxury hotel. He takes a job at the Gran Hotel so that he can investigate his sister’s disappearance with the help of the hotel owner’s daughter Alicia. A brilliant period drama mystery that will help you practice listening at the same time. All three seasons are available on Netflix, so get going!
La Reina del Flow is another unique Colombian soap opera that follows the story of Yeimi Montoya, a songwriter who is wrongly imprisoned after being set up. After she’s released, Yeimi takes on a new identity and goes after the man who stole her songs and tore her family apart. You can get hooked on this popular series on Netflix.
Mar de Plástico is a Spanish murder mystery series set in Almería, which is known for its “sea of plastic” because of the agricultural greenhouses there. The protagonist, veteran Aguirre, leads the investigation of the disappearance of Ainhoa, the mayor’s daughter. This town is also rife with racial tensions from the recent black migrants. This series is available on Netflix and is great for any Sherlocks out there.
Ingobernable is a Mexican political drama along the lines of House of Cards. Political scandal is everyday business for the First Lady Emilia and President Diego. As they work for peace, they face huge political obstacles. This TV show will expose you to the Mexican accent, while enjoying some political drama. Watch both seasons on Netflix.
Las Chicas del Cable is a period drama that starts in 1928 Spain and involves romance, politics and the role of women in society. Four women start working at a telecommunications company as “cable girls” and each has her own dreams and struggles. All four seasons are available on Netflix.
La Casa de Papel is a must-see TV show for advanced listeners, as it’s the most watched non-English TV show on Netflix. A group of eight takes on the challenge of robbing and printing money at the Royal Mint of Spain, led by the Professor. Narrated by Tokoyo, the series follows the highly-planned assault and the dramatic twists and turns of the group. There’s lots of slang in this series and every little detail counts, so it may be a good idea to watch it on Netflix with subtitles.
Salvados is a different kind of TV show than others listed here. It’s a documentary-style series of interviews by Jordi Évole with a variety of world leaders. If you want to get a more in-depth understanding of news topics, while practicing listening, try Salvados. It’s critical, interesting and will get you thinking. The first two seasons are available on Netflix. The complex nature of the questions and topics make this TV show best for advanced listeners.
Elite is a Spanish TV series full of high school drama and scandal. Three lower-class students join a top private school after their school collapses. The clash between classes divides the students into groups of friends and enemies. With the high school drama of 13 Reasons Why, Elite is quick-paced, filled with slang and requires some concentration to understand well. Get ready for some serious binge-watching on Netflix.
Another high-quality TV show for advanced learners is Isabel, which tells the story of the Queen of Castille as she grows up and becomes one of the greatest leaders in Spain’s history. The show is spoken in old-fashioned Spanish, which makes it a bit challenging to understand. If you’re a fan of historical drama, such as The Crown, Isabel will capture your interest. You can watch it on Amazon Prime.
Vis a Vis is a women’s prison thriller following protagonist Macarena who is locked up after committing accounting fraud for her boss, who she fell in love with. During her sentence, she becomes a different person in order to survive. Vis a Vis is dramatic and intriguing, and well worth watching. It’s got a lot of prison slang and is fast-paced, which is why it’s best for advanced learners. Watch all four seasons on Netflix.
Malviviendo takes place in Seville, Spain with assorted characters who are living “bad lives.” These friends smoke weed, struggle with their relationships and try to get by in a complicated world. It’s funny, bitter and realistic as can be. If you’re looking for a series with a more realistic angle, this one is for you. All three seasons are on YouTube. The tricky aspect of this TV show is the slang, but after listening to a few episodes, you’ll pick up some common words.
If you’re a sci-fi nerd or history buff, El Ministerio del Tiempo is a good pick for you. This TV show follows the members of the Ministry of Time, a secret government organization that protects the doors of time from travelers trying to manipulate history. This TV show has three seasons available on Netflix and it’s an intriguing “blast through the past” of Spain’s history. It’s also excellent listening practice, covering several different accents and time periods.
Velvet is a Spanish rom-com starring a seamstress and the son of a rich fashion entrepreneur. Set in 1950s Spain, this TV show is both drama-riddled and lovely to look at. A classic Romeo and Juliet plot line about family disapproval in love. All four seasons are available on Netflix. If you’re struggling to understand the quick dialogue, try turning on the subtitles!
Tiempos de Guerra is a period drama set in 1920s Morocco during Spanish rule. All 13 episodes are available on Netflix. Surrounding the events of the Rif War, this TV show follows a group of Spanish nurses sent to Morocco. Their lives are filled with the horrors of war and the hope of romance.
When Gonzalo de Montalvo’s wife is murdered, he becomes the anonymous Águila Roja to avenge her. Set in 17th century Spain, his investigative work involves protecting the monarchy from a secret society called the “La Logia.” This adventure TV show has a whopping 9 seasons that are available for free on the RTVE site. The accents can be a little challenging, but after a few episodes you’ll get the hang of the slang.
La Catedral del Mar is a Spanish TV show that takes place in 14th century Barcelona. The saga of the Estsanyol family begins with Bernat and then continues with his son Arnau, who works as a stonemason for the famous Santa Maria del Mar cathedral. This show gives a historical lens to class divisions in the 14th century during the start of the Inquisition. You can get listening practice by watching the first season on Netflix.
We hope you’ve found a TV show or two to help your listening practice. Remember that watching TV shows is just one way to practice your Spanish. Looking for more ways to get listening practice? Check out some of these ideas too:
Forget about hitting the books to study your Spanish. Use these learning tips to get listening practice in a fun way and improve your Spanish for the real world.