If there’s one thing I’ve figured out over the years, it’s that learning a language needs to be fun.
Sure, you’re going to have to put the hard work in and get your head around all those complex grammar points at some stage. But if you see the process of language learning as a trial, you’ll never make real progress.
Whether you’re learning Spanish or could just do with a bit of a refresher, watching a Spanish series or film can be a fantastic way to get some practice in.
It’s a cracking way of working on your listening and expanding your vocab, all whilst you get a bit of an insight into the culture your target language is intertwined with.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big believer that keeping up with pop culture is a massive part of studying or maintaining a language.
And let’s face it, it’s much easier to justify a good Netflix binge when you can disguise it as Spanish practice.
I for one have been doing plenty of series bingeing-masquerading-as-improving-my-listening-skills over the years, so I’ve built up quite the library of material that I thought it was high time I shared.
Here are a few of my favourite films and series for Spanish language learners:
My favourite Spanish series
- Casa de Papel
This is Spain’s biggest Netflix original show, and everyone’s obsessed with it. It’s called ‘Money Heist‘ in Engish, but that doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head.
‘The Professor’ recruits the ultimate group for the ultimate robbery, holing up inside the Royal Mint with dozens of hostages.
Brilliant characters, great acting. Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
- Vis a Vis
This is another one that will keep you biting your fingernails. A woman gets sent to jail for fraud and things only go downhill from there. Think Orange Is the New Black in Spanish. Find it on Netflix under its English name: Locked Up.
- Gran Hotel
Period drama fans will love Gran Hotel, set in a fancy hotel at the beginning of the 20th century, with plenty of upstairs-downstairs dynamics.
There are plenty of seasons and episodes to keep you happy, as you follow the relationship between Alicia, whose family owns the hotel, and Julio, one of the servants. Intrigue and drama. Usually available on Netflix in the UK.
- Tiempos de Guerra
Another fantastic period drama, this time set in Morroco, this series is called Love in Times of War in English. Upper-class nurses from Madrid are sent to Melilla during the Rif War. Addictive stuff.
- Tiempo Entre Costuras
I’m currently getting stuck into this sensational period drama (English title: The Time in Between) which starts just before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936) in Madrid, and follows the protagonist, Sirah, a seamstress, whose adventures take her to Morroco and Portugal, and involve her in intrigue and espionage. Available on Amazon.
I inhaled the four seasons of Velvet within weeks. 1950s Madrid, high fashion, high drama. What more could you want? Will Ana and Alberto ever find a way to be together? Available on Amazon.
This is another one I’m currently enjoying on Amazon, at Ale’s suggestion. The first series is set in Madrid just as the Franco dictatorship is coming to an end and everything’s starting to change. It follows an average Spanish family trying to navigate the new world emerging.
This series started in 2000 and is still running, with most of the same characters, so it’s a total Spanish institution, great for plenty of cultural insights. It would take you years to catch up on it all, but you can get started on Amazon.
Sit back and enjoy this telling of the story of the legendary Queen Isabel of Castille, who defied the gender norms of the 15th century in a fairly spectacular fashion, uniting much of modern-day Spain and conquering the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, the Kingdom of Granada. She’s a controversial character, but she makes for great television.
My favourite films for Spanish language learners
There are plenty of Spanish films out there of varying quality, but these are a handful of my favourites, for if you’re looking for an evening’s light entertainment rather than a new favourite series.
- Perfectos Desconocidos
This film was originally made in Italian, and there’s also a French version. Spotting the differences (beyond the language) between the Spanish one and the other two is totally fascinating way to spend an evening. Trust me.
Four couples agree to put their phones in the middle of the table at dinner and read out any messages, and it all, rather predictably, goes very wrong.
- Ocho Apellidos Vascos
A classic. Known as Spanish Affair in English, the famous Andalusian comedian Dani Rovira falls in love with a girl from the Basque Country, and hilarity ensues. There’s also a sequel, Ocho Apellidos Catalanes.
- Perdiendo el Norte
Post the economic crisis with absolutely no jobs in Spain, overqualified Spanish young people try their luck in Berlin (Off Course in English).
- Toc Toc
Toc Toc is a comedy about six people with various psychological issues who find themselves together in the waiting room, wondering why their therapist hasn’t shown up.
- Palmeras en la Nieve
A slight change of tone, Palm Trees in the Snow is a beautiful (but very long) film set between the modern-day and 1950s Equatorial Guinea, when it was still a Spanish colony.
Have I missed out your favourite? I always love a recommendation – leave me a comment and let me know!