Good conversation consists of 2 things – speaking & listening. If you’re doing all the talking and not listening, you can’t possibly have a good conversation. And if you’re just listening and not actively participating, it’s not really a conversation, is it?
Most students have a difficult time listening. It makes sense because it can be frustrating when you don’t understand the other person, especially when it’s a native speaker. Maybe they’re talking too fast or using vocabulary that you don’t understand. Maybe you’re in your head trying to figure out how you will respond. Whatever the reason, listening is a skill that you will need to develop if you want to reach a good level of conversation.
So how do you develop your listening skills? How do you get to a point where you can understand native speakers? It’s a very simple answer, but one that many people find frustrating – just listen. That’s it. It’s a skill you need to develop, and like any other skill, it takes practice. It means actively listening, even if you’re frustrated and not understanding the majority of what is being said. It means not tuning the other person out because you’re lost. It means trying to hang in there and listen to native speakers as much as possible.
TV series are one of the best ways to develop your listening skills, because you can also see what is going on. Visuals always help. Telenovelas are one of the best options, because practically everything happens at one point or another, and you can see the story develop over time. They also tend to repeat the story to different people, which allows you to hear the same thing several times, just in different forms or from different characters. Movies are shorter, which means that a lot more happens in a shorter time span, not always allowing you the time you need to figure out the storyline. Podcasts are great for higher level students who are trying to further develop their listening skills.
So it’s very simple: Make sure that you are taking the time to listen to the language. Since it can be frustrating, do it in short increments..10-20 minutes at a time, but often.
My favorite ways to practice, by level:
Advanced Beginner (A) – http://www.learner.org/resources/series75.html
Intermediate 1 & 2 (B1 – B2) – Telenovelas + https://www.newsinslowspanish.com/latino/
Intermediate 3 & Advanced (B3 – C1 ) – TV in general + movies + the news
Advanced 2 (C2) – Podcasts (my personal favorite: http://radioambulante.org/) + movies + tv in general + the news