Learning a new language has never been so accessible, with most of us having a fantastic learning tool right beneath our noses: TV. Watching Spanish-language television helps to improve your ability to listen to and speak the language as well as amplify your vocabulary. Netflix is your friend here, as it has a great variety of Spanish-language shows (there are over 70).
When you want to wind down and relax but still want to keep your language skills sharp, challenge yourself by choosing a Spanish-language series or film and take yourself on a fun new adventure as part of your language-learning journey. Here are some of our favourite Spanish shows on Netflix which we highly recommend watching.
Yes, you’ve probably already heard of it. La Casa de Papel has taken the world by storm and is now in its fourth part of the series set in Madrid. Called Money Heist in English, the drama begins with a major heist on the Royal Mint of Spain (Casa de Papel), carried out by the crème de la crème of extortionists. The criminals in question are named after world cities, so here’s an opportunity to learn some travel vocabulary too!
Like many other Spanish Netflix shows, there is a consistent (unreliable) narrator who describes the action as the plot unfolds in well-articulated Spanish, a great aid if you find the dialogue difficult to follow at the beginning. The nature of the drama means it is compulsive watching and will surely get you hooked in a matter of days, so you’ll be improving your Spanish without even realising it! The series has thus far won several awards and is definitely worth a watch.
By watching a variety of different genre series as well as ones created in different Spanish-speaking countries, you will enrich your vocabulary while exposing yourself to the different accents and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. One series from Latin America that we really recommend is:
Narcos has been a prominent series for years and became such a success that they created a Mexican version too – Narcos: México. The series is based on the rise and fall of drug lord Pablo Escobar, who became a rags-to-riches story owed to his successful and large-scale production and distribution of Colombian cocaine.
Well documented in this thrilling serial set in his native Colombia, series 1 and 2 follow his rise to power and wealth, constant confrontation with opposing entities, philanthropic side and his personal life. Series 3 takes a different turn and looks to the infamous Cali cartel in southern Colombia.
Narcos is actually a mixture of English and Spanish, as dialogue constantly flips between the two. This means it is a great gateway series for Spanish learners before complete immersion in the Spanish language and is also good practice for those whose language skills are a bit rusty.
The American DEA agents live up to their gringo reputation and speak mostly in English, while Pablo, with some exceptions, converses in Colombian Spanish with his family and peers. Narcos also gives an insight into the varying accents that exist in Colombia, especially the paisa accent, endemic to Medellín and its proximity which was famously Escobar turf.
Fun fact: Wagner Moura who plays Escobar in the series is actually a Brazilian actor from Bahia.
Watching Spanish period pieces is a great way to improve your Spanish as you not only learn new words, accents and colloquialisms but you can also learn about the culture and language of different places and time periods. We list here three great examples of Spanish period dramas which span a variety of different pivotal eras in Spanish (and World) history, from the early 20th century to the swinging 60s.
This art-deco Spanish hit is filled with drama and scandal, a real ‘page-turner’ of a series. It is another show well-known for its silky Spanish narration by the main character, who ensures you are clued up with everything that is going on… until she leaves you on a cliffhanger, that is.
There are 5 series to sink your teeth into for a marathon of Spanish television. The cable girls’ story begins in 1928 at the telecommunications company where they work in Madrid, and their lives gradually become intertwined in some way or another. The series tells their story until the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 – and it’s certainly an emotional one.
Netflix treated us to 4 series of Velvet and then teased us again with a spin-off, Velvet: Colección, to catch us up on how the lives of the characters had progressed. Set in late 1950s Madrid at the Velvet fashion house and then branching out to Barcelona in Colección (set in 1967), Velvet follows the dreams of the seamstress and aspiring designer, Ana Rivera, surrounded by entertaining supporting characters.
With the addition of supporting characters who came from their rural towns to work in Madrid, you are exposed to a variety of accents and Spanish slang words (if you are a beginner, pop on subtitles for Pedro as he does speak quite quickly, but it is part of his character’s charm).
Gran Hotel is a Spanish show that has been around for a bit longer than some of the others, first airing in 2011. It follows the lives of the owner’s family and the workers of the aristocratic Gran Hotel in Spain at the turn of the century. It is filmed at the regal Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander, providing a perfect setting for four series.
One of the great things about modern Spanish dramas on Netflix are the overlapping cast members. If you are an avid watcher, then you will start to recognise different actors from all of your favourites. For example, Yon González plays the protagonist in Gran Hotel and also plays a pivotal role in Las Chicas del cable. These overlaps allow you to familiarise yourself with their accent and speech intonation, which could help greatly especially if you are a Spanish learner.