How to Understand Native Spanish Speakers

Understand Spanish grow your oral receptive skills

Having a hard time understanding native Spanish speakers? Don’t worry! I have some tips to help you understand Spanish.

But first, let’s start with the problem.

Why is it so hard for me to understand Spanish?

Before you learn a language you understand nothing. The assumption is that the more you learn the more you understand. The reality you face often is that you understand less Spanish than you would like to.

When someone speaks Spanish, you often say:

  • Mas despacio, por favor.
  • No comprendo.
  • ¿Qué?

After saying this a million times, you’re anxious every time a conversation pops up. You try to avoid it, then you freeze in conversation, then you walk away embarrassed, and then you criticize yourself for the failure, again.

Learning a language is hard, but not impossible.

Do you know how you can learn to understand Spanish? Don’t worry! I’ll show you right now.

Receptive Skills

Sometimes we group listening and reading in one group, the receptive skills. Listening and reading involve receiving information. They are passive skills:

  • Reading
  • Listening

They can be contrasted with the productive skills: speaking and writing.

Why can I understand what I read but can’t understand spoken Spanish?

When you understand what you read and can speak Spanish, but can’t listen and understand, you need to grow your listening skills.

If you can’t understand a movie, a song, or a conversation then your listening skills have been neglected. They stayed behind while reading and speaking skills jumped ahead.

Here is what you can do to improve your listening skills.

Close-up Photo of a Woman Listening to Music

Understand Spanish Even More

There are two things I know about you:

  • You understand your native language, and
  • You can understand some Spanish.

This means you are ready to move forward with these listening tips.

Benefits of Listening Skills

Listening has many outstanding benefits. Developing listening skills is essential for personal and professional development. It connects us with others in meaningful ways and advances our abilities in the workplace too.

So, if you’re anything like me, you forget in the hustle and bustle of life how important it is to grow this ability. But the benefits go far beyond skill.

Here are seven reasons to listen more, and a few ideas for sneaking in more listening.

Improve Communication

Listening improves communication. The exchange of thoughts, ideas, wants and needs only happens with listening. Being fully present in a conversation involves listening with all your senses: sight, sound, etc… When you listen this way in Spanish, you can communicate so much better. This passes on to your native language too.

Listening is one lane on the two-way street of communication.

So listen actively.

Make Friends

Listening creates and maintains friendships. When you understand what matters most to a person, it creates a deeper connection. You get them. Your interest in what they have to say shows them value. Many relationships have suffered because of the language barrier.

Research shows the more positive relationships you have, the less stressed and more positive you will be.

Resolve Conflict

It’s no secret that listening helps resolve conflict. Listening helps you to be able to understand the problem. Many a conflict has been caused by a misunderstanding. Don’t let that be you.

Increase in Knowledge

Listening is how we learn. Knowledge and information is passed from one person to another. You can learn more about different people and cultures.

Empowers Your Leadership

Listening is persuasive and places you in a position to lead others because you understand them. Much can be accomplished personally and professionally with feedback and collaboration.

Improves Health

Yes, listening improves your health. The better you understand, the more health benefits there are for you

Understand Accents

Of course, listening will help you to understand different accents.

Effective listening takes time and effort, but the payoff is huge.

But I don’t like listening…

So, what do you do when you don’t have Spanish speakers around you? Sometimes it’s hard to come up with something natural to listen to. It’s not as fun as traveling to a country where they all speak Spanish.

Listening can be pretty boring, but here are five ways to liven up your listening time:


Instead of reading another book in English, listen to an audiobook in Spanish. The audiobook can be information or a story. Some books have a lot of dialogue that shows how conversations flow.

Listen to a snippet and pause, check the text, then repeat. You can compare what you heard to what the text says. That’s a listening skills check.


Instead of watching that English movie, pick one of the Spanish movies or episodes. There are a lot of them from different countries with different accents. This will prepare you to understand anyone. Find one that has a theme or setting that interests you.

Watch a snippet and pause, check the subtitle, then repeat. You can compare what you understood to what the subtitle says. That’s another listening skills check.


Instead of your regular news channel, watch a Spanish news report. This is multitasking. You can stay up to date on current events while you practice listening. The reporters speak clearly and at a slower pace than a normal conversation. They cover a variety of topics and everyday events.

Listen and take notes.


While you’re driving in your car play some music in Spanish language. Some devices show the music lyrics. Sing or say along. Listen and compare what you understood with the written lyrics. That’s another listening skills check.

Social Media

Instead of going on English social media, find reels or videos in Spanish and follow them. You’ll encounter Spanish in the wild with slang and all.


I do this all the time. If you pay attention Spanish conversations are going on around you often. It’s not malicious, it’s for educational purposes.

I want to hear not just what they say but how they say it. Next time you’re at the store, walking down the street, at a restaurant, or at the public pool, listen up. It’s also entertaining.

Action Tip!

Listen to Spanish every day.

How to understand Spanish even more

1. Make a goal

Just as you would with any goal, make it specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Set your listening goals in increments: Listen for 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, and so on. By being specific about the time and amounts, your goal will be an easy task. Make listening a regular habit and it will become a part of your life.

2. Get some headphones

Get some headphones that you’re excited to use and keep them with you. Put it on your desk and carry it in your bag with you wherever you go. You might listen more often than you planned. Watch for wireless Bluetooth headphones with a case so they are protected when you take them with you.

3. Set an alarm

If you have a hard time remembering, consider setting an alarm on your phone or setting a timer to remind yourself. Make it a habit to listen daily. Try to connect it to another part of your routine, such as when you eat breakfast, drive somewhere, go to bed, get home from work, and so on.

4. Keep resources handy

The key to remembering to listen to Spanish regularly is to keep your resources available. Save your movies, shows, and news on your home screen. Add resources to your phone since you always have it with you. Keep your headphones on your desk, in your bag, or on your bedside table, so you’ll be reminded every night. This will help you to take action.

How long does it take to fully understand Spanish?

This varies based on your native language skills, your learning style, and how you practice. The typical range is anywhere from 2-5 years. If you’re taking a relaxed pace, it will take longer.


You can overcome the obstacle of not understanding Spanish by listening. There are many benefits to understanding others in your personal and professional life. That’s why you should take advantage of the many listening sources available.

So make a listening plan and listen regularly.

Your Next Step


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