Knowing a language includes the skills of speaking it, listening to it, reading it, and writing it. While each one will help with your overall proficiency, these skills also all need specific practice to develop them. You can't only read a textbook and then expect to automatically be able to understand spoken language!
I wanted to share with you one of my favorite resources for helping my beginning students of Spanish develop their listening skills: a free, Spanish-language video series called "Salsa." It is a great way to develop your listening skills. This is a fantastic tool to help you do that, too--I hope you use it!
"Sala" was created by Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). The 42 fifteen-minute episodes are available for free through their website. You can also find them on YouTube. The series uses puppets (like you would see on Sesame Street) and simple storylines based on familiar tales like Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood.
I love these videos. I've spent a long time trying to find a good Spanish-only series that is affordable and also that beginning students can follow--and "Salsa" is it! The videos let you hear comprehensible Spanish spoken by native speakers and used in context. And did I mention it's free?
These videos are made for children, and there are some very simple segments. However, this is still an excellent series, and I recommend it highly for adolescent and adult learners, too.
Materials To Supplement the Episodes
GPB has published some free supplementary materials to go along with the "Salsa" series. I have not found them incredibly useful, but you may wish to check them out:
Links for a transcript of the episode and an extension activity (which is usually very simple) are included at the bottom of the page for each video on the GPB website.
Games: Web-based games to go along with the series are available here. With activities like "I spy" and virtual coloring, though, they do not involve a lot of actual language use.
Teacher support materials: This handbook includes information about the series and about language-learning in general, along with some classroom activities (that usually seem to require a lot of additional materials), synopses of the episodes, and lists of vocabulary.
I have also spent time creating my own materials to go along with the "Salsa" videos:
I created worksheets for my students to use while watching "Salsa" episodes. The worksheets help them listen and focus, but also help them identify and remember the new words they hear. The worksheets for the first ten "Salsa" episodes (with answer keys included) are available in the site's shop here.
I've also found "Salsa" is a great place to begin learning Spanish, so I created a ten-lesson, beginning-Spanish unit based on the first ten "Salsa" videos. The unit includes everything you need, including the worksheets mentioned above, along with lesson plans, slideshows, review games, speaking activities, and more. It's also available in the shop.
Using Episodes Effectively
To get the most out of the "Salsa" video series, try the following:
Pay close attention to while you're watching.
You won't understand every single word. That's okay! Just try to follow the story.
When you don't understand what's going on, try repeating that section of the video and listen again.
Pay attention to visual clues to help you understand, too. What are the characters doing? What do they look like? Where are they? What's happening?
If you still feel lost, try reading the episode synopsis in the teacher support guide. You can also find the episode's transcript with a translation on the bottom of each episode page on the GPB website--but don't rely on this! Only use it if you really can't figure out what's going on and you're really frustrated.
I know it's tooting my own horn a bit, but please do consider using my "Salsa" worksheets and/or "Salsa" lesson plans. They really do help you understand what's going on, and help you learn and remember more of the Spanish being used.
Check Out An Episode
Here's the first "Salsa" episode! See the info above for tips on following what's happening, and for where you can find more episodes.