Enjoy a Telenovela and boost your Spanish

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By Lucía Rodríguez

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In the Latin culture, telenovelas are all over television and immensely popular. Just like sitcoms and TV dramas are talked about here in the States, telenovelas are the topic of conversation in social settings, the workplace, and even schools.

In a Telenovela, soap opera for the newsies, you will find all drama: evil twins, murders, betrayals, unknown siblings, cheating, wicked stepmothers, lost parents, unexpected pregnancies, even family returning from the dead. Themes vary from dirty business to finding your lost mom.

You can find these amazing series in Spanish, and yes, they have a special value for Spanish  learners. Does not matter if you like the good one or the bad one, telenovelas can offer you more than entertainment. These dramatic programs will boost your Spanish for sure.

You can think why  a telenovela could be a good option for Spanish language learners if you have other options like videos, movies and news broadcasts. Well, the answer is because while you watch this drama you want to talk about it with your partners in crime, let’s say you chit-chat about it.

¿Piensas que Paula está embarazada? Sí, Juan se va a morir. Y entonces mi mamá es mi padre? When you begin to explore this strange alternate dimension—where people kill, die, concede to love and burn with fiery hate on a daily basis—You will find that the sheer diversity of telenovelas means that there’s something out there for everyone.

Why Learn Spanish Through Telenovelas?

  • Diversify your Spanish. You’ll learn words and expressions perfect for explaining all kinds of crazy situations. Don’t know how to talk about heart-wrenching tragedies, devastating romances, criminal activity or conspiracies? Now ‘s your chance.
  • Pick up this useful vocabulary by watching characters denounce their lovers and demand justice for the wrongdoings of others.
  • Repetition. In any telenovela, you’ll be expected to follow about eight different intertwined storylines. Even the writers seem to understand that they’re overloading you with information, so they’ll bombard you with the same phrases and key vocabulary words from scene to scene, trying to help your brain connect different events and relationships more easily.
  • Choose what you love to watch. What do you like to watch? Crime, medical drama, historical fiction, mystery, suspense, fantasy, science fiction, wacky slapstick humor, romance, high school coming-of-age stories—telenovelas have seriously gone in every possible direction.

The Telenovela Approach to Learning

  • Real-world Spanish is spoken at a very fast rate. Grab onto whatever words and sentence fragments you can to catch the gist. You’ll soon find yourself starting to hear certain key words and phrases repeated frequently. Eventually, you’ll piece it all together!
  • Want to learn slang, expressions and accents from any region? Pick a telenovela that comes from the country you want to learn about! You’ll get glimpses of society and culture, as well as hefty doses of colloquial language. Characters are often caricatures, they will help clarify types of speech in your mind and help you categorize new vocabulary and accents.
  • Learning to let go. Until now, you’ve carefully listened to scripted audio and dissected sample conversations word by word. In the real world, you won’t get that chance. Let telenovelas be your gentle introduction to Spanish listening comprehension. You’re not going to understand everything. Heck, you’re not even going to understand most things if you’re anything less than fluent. Watch some shows without taking notes or looking up words, and see how much you can learn from passive listening.

Some Telenovelas for Spanish language learners.

1-Yo soy Betty, la fea.

Originally produced in Colombia and aired in 2000, the massive international appeal of this Spanish telenovela has generated dozens of remakes and reruns. It was remade in 2006, starring America Ferrera for American television.

The plot follows Betty and unattractive but brilliant economist working as a secretary in a fictional fashion empire. Despite her impressive credentials, she is often dismissed because of her looks. She falls hopelessly in love with her boss but keeps her feelings hidden because of her looks.

Thanks to her brilliant wit and financial acumen, she can save the company and her boss from ruin. Creating an elaborate financial scheme that saves the company, she proves her worth to her boss.To assure Betty’s loyalty to the company, her boss follows the advice of a friend and starts romancing her. The obvious ensues, the boss falls for Betty in the end.

Betty La Fea is hailed worldwide for the way the show subverts stereotypical “beautiful heroine” characters and focuses rather on the intelligence of the main protagonist.The sing-song Colombian accents, along with regional slangs, may toss you a curveball. However, it’s relatively similar to many other Latin American accents and will serve you well to learn.

2- Corazón salvaje

Corazon salvaje won Best Telenovela of the Year in 1994.It’s the story of gruff Juan del Diablo who grew up fatherless on the beaches of San Pedro. He’s actually the love child of wealthy landowner Francisco Alcazar.

As is the tradition of telenovelas, this is a journey of romance and rivalries, of deception and broken promises. 

The language is slightly elevated, subtly majestic. “Corazon salvaje” will be good practice for language learners who aim for a deeper mastery of Spanish.

3- La Mentira

La Mentira explores another classic trope in telenovelas: the revenge plot.

In the story, our hero Demetrio returns to his family’s Mexico tequila plantation after a stint in Europe to find that his brother, Ricardo, has recently committed suicide.

So, naturally, Demetrio finds a letter from a mysterious woman saying she never really loved Ricardo, that she aborted his child, spent all his money, and is going to marry someone else. He also finds a V-shaped brooch which must belong to the woman who drove his brother to end his life

What does Demetrio do? He swears revenge, of course.

This brings him to the Fernandez-Negrete family and the cousins Virginia and Veronica (funny how that V-shaped brooch works as a clue), and through various shenanigans, he comes to believe Veronica is the one he’s looking for and sets in motion his various revenge plots. He’s successful.

Oh come on, you didn’t really think it was that easy, did you? It’s a telenovela, it’s never that easy.

By the way, the Spanish learning comes in when you’re screaming Spanish phrases at your screen.

4- La Reina del Sur

Even though there are only two seasons, many consider this telenovela quite a refreshment from others.

It is based on a true story, and it is about a girl whose boyfriend gets killed. She has to run away, so she escapes from Mexico to southern Spain. There, she starts working in a bar and meets Santiago, who gets involved in drug trafficking. Eventually, she becomes popular as one of the drug lords whose life is never dull.

If you don’t know which dialect to practice, this telenovela will solve all your problems. From Mexican Spanish to Castellano, you’ll practice not only accents but also Mexican and Spanish phrases too.

5- Kassandra

With Coraima Torres and Osvaldo Rios as the protagonists, this Venezuelan telenovela became one of the most famous ones from 1992 to 1994.

Kassandra is a gypsy girl whose faith you can follow in 150 episodes of this telenovela. Well, actually, she isn’t a real gypsy girl but the granddaughter of a wealthy man in Caracas who was replaced by another gypsy baby at birth when her circus was in town.

However, she doesn’t know that yet, and after 20 years, the circus shows up in the town again. Then the drama begins. Kassandra falls in love with a young man, gets married, and he gets killed on her wedding night. He also has a twin brother, who shows up after all that drama to find out who killed his brother. Of course, Kassandra is accused of murdering her husband and ends up in jail. But just for a while because she manages to prove that she isn’t guilty.

And this is only one part of what is happening in the telenovela. If you watch it, you’ll see many more dramatic events, twisting plots, but also bad people being punished at the end.

Watching this telenovela will help you get to know the Venezuelan accent better and learn some typical Venezuelan phrases.

Final recommendations

Once you watch a telenovela until the end, you’ll be hooked. You’ll spend hours binge-watching all of them. Yes, some of them can be funny, others have too many complicated relationships, but learning language this way is not only effective but entertaining, too.

If you want to improve your oral comprehension check out in this blog, our amazing stories in Spanish.

Then you will have what to talk about with friends and teachers and discuss life, love, culture, and many other topics, all in Spanish, of course.

With love (a telenovela love), your friend,

Spanish Perfecto.



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