Resources For Immersing Students In Spanish Language

Photo by  Jakob Owens

Photo by Jakob Owens


One of my Spanish 1 students came into class a bit early one day and heard the tail end of a conversation I was having with another student who had grown up in Mexico.

How long till I can speak Spanish like that? Is what my bright-eyed Spanish 1 student asked.

Oh, honey!
Is what I thought. But then what I told her was it all depended on how hard she wanted to work, and I reminded her to the language immersion resources that I gave here class.

If you are a language teacher, and you are reading this post, you know that it take so much practice for a student to go from lesson number one to proficiency. And you know that any way to simulate immersion in another country will get the student closer to proficiency without leaving home.

In this article I’ll address resources specifically for a Spanish language class. However, if you teach another language, see if you can find similar resources for what you teach.

Movies And Shows They Already Watch

As streaming TV becomes more common in households, we now have more access to switch the audio and subtitle settings of our favorite TV shows and movies. Just like you and me, your students get hooked on shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime. With a quick switch of the settings they could be immersing themselves in the language they want to learn.

A drawback of dubbed and subtitled shows is that they are not culturally representative. But for Spanish students, we are so lucky that streaming services offer programming from Spanish speaking countries.

When I heard a student say, Oh my gosh, have you seen “Velvet” lately, that was music to my ears. I knew that she had gotten hooked on the Spanish romantic drama, and was inherently listening to so much more Spanish than she otherwise would.

Music With A Beat They Like

When I was a much younger Spanish teacher, I would play Spanish-language music nearly every day. This was back when Shakira still had dark brown hair and was wearing jeans and t-shirts. I used her music to teach grammar and interpretation. Soon my students were singing her music, even when they were still in the beginning levels of learning the language.

Then Shakira released Laundry Service in both Spanish and English, and my students started buying her CDs. Soon they were singing to Shakira in their homes and on the way to school, and practicing what I taught them in class.

You very well may not be using an artist’s music as a teaching tool when they cross-over to the English market. But if you can use music with a catchy beat, students will find themselves singing along even outside of your classroom.

If you want to be more proactive with this idea, encourage your students to find Spanish speaking musicians on Spotify or Pandora, and make Spanish playlists. If you can’t think of anyone new, check out Alt Latino. It’s an NPR program that researches, interviews, and talks about Latino alternative music. I personally have found some of my most favorite artists there.

Spanish Langauge Radio And Podcasts

Everyone has mundane tasks that they need to perform around the house. Maybe they like listening to a podcast or the radio as entertainment while they do something else. (I definitely do.)

One of my favorite Spanish language podcasts is Radio Ambulante. This is NPR’s only completely Spanish language program. Each week the show’s host brings us to a different Spanish speaking country and digs deep to tell us a fascinating story of the people living there.

There is also RTVE Radio, radio (and TV) from Spain. Channels are broken up into themes and regions. The documentaries are on human interest stories, history, and current events. All of this content is in the Spanish language, and culturally authentic.

Noticias ONU is an audio and video resource for those who are interested in learning about what is happening with the United Nations. Topics can be searched by world region, and a vast array of development topics. There are also monthly interviews with influential people. These interviews would be great primary sources for students who need to do either one of the projects that I wrote about in this article on voice, choice, and student inquiry.

Spanish-Language Media

Do your students read the newspaper? They should if they do one of the projects I described here. Check out these sites:

All these sites are current events on Spain and Latin America. They offer great opportunities for students of intermediate and advanced levels to get immersed in Spanish language. They also give great content to dive into culture and society.

Summing It Up

Going back to my bright-eyed Spanish 1 student. She was a great kid, and tried her very best in Spanish 1, 2, and 3. By the time she graduated high school, she could communicate much more than I expected she would.

Why did this happen? She tried.

She dove into the Spanish language and was able to learn in Spanish after she learned the Spanish language. She was such a great example of what you want to see as a teacher. Using these resources, and others, any student can gain proficiency if they want to.

languageBryn Hafemeister3, a