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Learn Spanish Fast: Watch a Telenovela

Updated on August 20, 2014

Spanish-language Soaps -- a Fun, Plot-driven Learning Tool

Spanish students: Have you had it with verb conjugations, with figuring out whether to use le, la or lo and -- last but not least -- with making sense of that baffling "Mode" your Spanish teacher calls the Subjunctive?

Take some of the stress out of your less than pluperfect life and watch a Spanish-language telenovela. Telenovelas are soap operas; Mexico's telenovelas are considered the best among the millions of viewers worldwide who enjoy this genre. In the United States, the Univision and Telemundo networks offer the most telenovelas, and these networks come with basic cable in many of the U.S. markets.

So sit back, grab the remote and enjoy a telenovela. Be sure to set the subtitles to Spanish so that you can read the action while watching the actors love, fight and stab each other in the back. (I promised this would be more fun than conjugating verbs!).

Why telenovelas?

...Or, Then What Happened?

People love a good story -- A main character with goals and aspirations. Conflict that prevents our hero from getting the girl or the guy. A villain. Business deals gone bad. Telenovelas are a great tool for learning Spanish. Because they are plot-driven, the characters are not overly complicated and much can be figured out by watching a character's body language alone. Each episode ends with a cliffhanger, so you WANT to tune in again same time, same station. What a motivator! Add to that subtitles in Spanish, and you soon learn to get a good feel for conversational Spanish.

Are you a beginning Spanish student? Do not fret. Start out by watching English-language subtitles. Slowly you will find yourself picking up bits and pieces of conversational Spanish.

Telenovelas from Amazon

En Nombre Del Amor
En Nombre Del Amor

My all-time favorite telenovela. En Nombre del Amor transcends the genre. Carlota -- one of television's all-time great villains, in any language.


Seduction on the beach in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Filmed on location in the colonial city of Merida.

Mi Pecado
Mi Pecado

The title of this one is "My Sin." Need I say more?

Corazon Salvaje
Corazon Salvaje

Love on the high seas and in the Mexican port city of Veracruz, home of "La Bamba."

Soy Tu Duena
Soy Tu Duena

Mexican singer/actress Lucero stars in this horse opera set in the high plains of Mexico. No cowgirl should be allowed to show so much cleavage.


New Telenovela premiers in the U.S.

Televisa presenta "Hasta El Fin Del Mundo"

August 2014 marks the U.S. debut of the Mexican telenovela "Hasta El Fin Del Mundo." (Until the End of the World.) It is the comedic love story of a voluptuous, blonde gourmet-chocolate artisan and her chauffeur, a race-car driver.

photo credit: Alejandro Linares Garcia, wikimedia commons.

Help! - What does this mean in English?

Once you are hooked on a telenovela, you will want to look up those words you desperately need to know. Here is the best tool I know of to help you do just that.

Oxford Spanish Dictionary
Oxford Spanish Dictionary

The gold standard of Spanish/English dictionaries. I keep mine next to my computer. Entries describe in which Spanish-speaking country a word or idiomatic expression is used. Think British English versus American English -- this dictionary will help you keep it straight.l


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    • profile image

      poutine 5 years ago

      I guess that would help for practicing spanish. But I find that the actors talk way too fast.

    • profile image

      Li-Li-ThePinkBookworm 5 years ago

      A good lens overviewing a fun method of learning Spanish.

      Li Li

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 5 years ago from Western Mass

      good, unique idea

    • retro-gamer profile image

      Howard 5 years ago from Michigan

      I agree about watching Spanish programming to learn the language. My wife watches Telenovelas and my favorite that I enjoyed a few years back was Sonar no cuesta Nada.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Really love watching one of these but I never finish to the end.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I have watched quite a few of these, the main problem though is the type of Spanish that you end up learning, especially if they are Mexican ones, because Mexican Spanish is different to the other Hispanic countries in the Americas. Well they are all different actually, especially in Paraguay where the Spanish is mixed with the local Guarani Indian language and they speak faster than the small print on a tv commercial. You get some that are Brazilian too, dubbed into Spanish or with subtitles. I find the subtitled ones quite good for learning as well, since I can read them. Good ideas, and listening to a language is the best way to learn it.

    • profile image

      brelokzz 6 years ago

      Telenovelas are a highly entertaining way to learn a language. thanks for the tip :)

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 6 years ago

      This works! When I was a hotel manager, struggling to communicate with my Hispanic team members, I started eating lunch with them and watching novelas. Not only did my Spanish improve, but I got hooked on some of the shows.

    • Monika Weise profile image

      Monika Weise 6 years ago from Indianapolis, IN USA

      I may try this method of learning Spanish. Great lens!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I have thought of learning Spanish. We have a lot of Hispanics in this area. They seem like such a happy people .. I'd like to be able to talk with them. I think your suggestion may be a good way of picking up some Spanish. Thank you.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 6 years ago

      What a pluperfect idea to watch telenovas! My significant other watched English TV and movies for years to perfect his English. It wasn't his only means of learning, as he had studied it in school, but it helped his fluency and helped to know idioms and slang. The pictures give a context for the speech you hear. He swears by it! HIs native language is Chinese.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 6 years ago

      What a pluperfect idea to watch telenovas! I love it. Watching TV is how my significant other learned a lot of slang and idioms. His native language is Chinese.

    • Joyce Mann profile image

      Joyce T. Mann 6 years ago from Bucks County, Pennsylvania USA

      @Frischy: !que bueno!

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Fantastico! Me gusto las telenovelas! :-)

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 6 years ago

      You will learn Spanish fast if you talk to a person who knows Spanish.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 6 years ago

      Definitely a great suggestion for improving Spanish :)

    • linhah lm profile image

      Linda Hahn 6 years ago from California

      Great idea! I want the soap that has witches in it, anybody have a title for me?

    • profile image

      bossypants 6 years ago

      Love this idea and loved reading your lens! I remember just enough espanol from high school to pick out a few words but native speakers speed along and leave me in the dust. Watching Soaps, though, sounds like fun immersion!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      When I used to travel for business, I'd always entertain myself by watching tv in the country's language. I had the most fun with spanish soaps! Had NO idea what they were saying but their actions spoke more than the words. Fun lens!

    • Barbie Crafts profile image

      Barbie Crafts 6 years ago from United States

      This is just what I think I need to go to the next level with my spanish....thanks.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      I took several Spanish classes when I lived in South Texas. Listening to telenovelas is a great way to tune your ear and pick up a wider vocabulary in Spanish.