In How to Learn a Second Language

Do you know the Best Way to Learn Spanish?

The are many techniques for learning Spanish, but through years of experience of learning both Spanish and French, I’ve found the best way to learn Spanish is watching 100% Spanish programming with Spanish subtitles. It is one of the most effective means of learning and solidifying your knowledge of the language. However, to be the most effective, it must be with native speakers, subtitles that closely match the spoken word, and preferably include access to a transcript and  translation.

Benefits of Spanish programming with Spanish subtitles

Why does it work? When watching Spanish programming with Spanish subtitles, several different things are happening at the same time, all helping you to make lasting connections to learn the language.

1.  Training you ear to native Spanish

Ear training means recognizing natural Spanish rhythms, sounds, intonation, accentuation, word liasons and phrases.  Ear training effectively improves your comprehension by flooding your brain with the language.  As your brain struggles to focus on what you hear, you increase your ability to pick out words that you recognize, and solidify your retention of words that “seem familiar” by seeing and hearing them used in context.  Sometimes you recognize a word only after you have read it, but not when you heard it, which means you just couldn’t “hear” it.  With listening practice you can greatly improve your ear-recognition of words, and their recall comes faster, increasing fluency.

2. Matching word sounds with spellings for reading and writing

At the same time you enhance ear-regognition skills by reading while listening, you also enhance reading and writing skills by listening while reading.  This is especially important for visual learners. I have a particularly hard time remembering a word if I have never seen it spelled. When you write and even speak, you often think of the written word in your “mind’s eye”.

3.  Improving your accent

Anytime you are listening to native speakers, you are are improving your accent.  It may sound counter intuitive since it seems accent would come mainly from speaking, but accent is based more on ones ability to “hear” the sounds, rather than forming the sounds in your mouth.  Hence comes the expression “you have a good ear”.  You must be able to “hear” the word properly before you can speak it with the proper accent. If you can’t hear the difference in the first place, you won’t be able to mimic it in an accent no matter how much training you have on where to place your tongue.

4.  Improve comprehension through study

One of the challenges with real conversation is it’s in real time. There is no rewind button so unless you interrupt the conversation and ask on the spot, unknown words remain unknown words.  With access to the subtitles and a translation, you can use the opportunity to go back and understand what was said and see what you missed. This gives you immediate feedback as well as the opportunity to expand what already know.

Types of practice with Spanish Subtitles

There are a number of ways to get the helpful practice with Spanish programming and subtitles:


  • Documentaries and nature shows (in Spanish w/Spanish subtitles)
  • Spanish movies (original Spanish version w/ Spanish subtitles)
  • Your favorite tv show or movie dubbed (in Spanish w/Spanish subtitles)
  • Spanish programming / telenovelas (in Spanish w/Spanish subtitles)


Problems with generic types of subtitled programing

Unfortunately, with most of the above described options, there are some significant drawbacks.


  • Subtitles aren’t word-for-word accurate with the audio
  • Programming too long (2 hours is a long time to be listening to Spanish)
  • Too much Idiomatic language and slang
  • No available transcriptions or translations


The way to exponentially improve your learning is to have a faithful word-for-word subtitled transcript, as well as access to a full Spanish-to-English translation.  This allows you to go back and understand what was said, pick up on new vocabulary, and then watch it again, with noted improvement.  Just watching a second time can mean a 30% improvement in comprehension and improve retention significantly.

The Happy Hour Spanish Subtitled Alternative

Recognizing the limitations of most available subtitled material, Happy Hour Spanish was developed to provide a user friendly effective language learning approach by incorporating:

  • Word-for-word subtitles in correct time with audio
  • Native Speakers w/minimal slang
  • 5 – 10 minute videos
  • Spanish transcripts and Spanish-to-English translations
  • Ability to be watched more than once

Check out our subscription Online Spanish Course

Whatever programming you choose to watch to practice your Spanish, just remember to take advantage of the ability to turn on the subtitles and watch it more than once when possible! What do you think is the best way to learn Spanish and what has worked for you? Share in the comments,

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