Practice Spanish Listening with this little known YouTube feature

One obscure button in YouTube can transform it into a powerful tool to hone your Spanish listening skills.

If you want to practice your Spanish listening, you don’t need to watch Money Heist or Cable Girls on Netflix or buy a selection of Pedro Almodovar’s finest films. Watching any of these is a good use of your time, of course, but the problem with watching drama or comedy series or films is that you don’t know how much dialogue there’s going to be, how fast the speaker will be, or whether they’ll be using advanced or more colloquial forms of Spanish that are a challenge for beginners of intermediate learners.

Even if there’s the right amount of dialogue, and you’re good enough to catch most of it, you’ll still find yourself rewinding – and destroying the flow of the finely crafted storylines – to catch the details of a furious exchange.

But, there is an alternative way of practising your Spanish listening. You can practice different accents – from the thick, rapid chatter of Chilenos and Argentinos, to the slower, clearer tones of Bolivia and Guatemala – different styles of speech, and much more besides.

YouTube is the largest video site in the world and it’s a treasure trove for language learners. Millions of Spanish-language videos are published there every day, and with a few tweaks, you can use them all for your listening practice.

Use the Transcript!

Some publishers who upload their video to YouTube add subtitles, some don’t. Some add them in English, some in Spanish. However, you can get them on any video with a simple trick. Every video uploaded to YouTube is automatically scanned, and the immense computing power of Google gets to work, automatically generating a text transcript of whatever is said, regardless of whether subtitles have been included. Unless the publisher manually turns this off, you can view it for any video.

Use the transcript feature on foreign language YouTube videos into learning resources.

On desktop

Look for the three dots to the bottom right of the video, click on those and then open transcript. Done. You now have a preview of what’s about to be said, and a few seconds to refer back to what’s just been said, giving you that extra help you.

On iOS or Android

Go to settings, captions (second from bottom), select Español, and you’ll automatically have subtitles on any video. It’s not quite as useful as the desktop version, but ideal if you’re downloading videos to watch on the train or tube.

Build your programme

Now you need something to help you sort through the millions of videos to find the ones that will help you. This is where LinguaBuddy can help. We’ve analysed thousands of videos in Spanish and categorised them by topic, country and, crucially, level. If you’re still at beginner or intermediate level, we can help identify non-scary, non-complex videos to get started with, so you can build your confidence and make the most of all those courses you spent your money on.


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