I have been studying Spanish for quite some time now. I have also spent three separate weeks in Spanish speaking countries in just the past year. However, I am still really struggling to understand conversations in Spanish. I am able to catch a few words or phrases here and there, but I am very disappointed in my progress in comprehending what people are saying to me. I always have to ask them to repeat themselves very slowly. When I try to watch Spanish television, I am only able to understand the general idea of what is going on, but miss out on on the details. Am I expecting too much too soon, or is there a better way for me to improve in this area? Thank you for any suggestions.
How can I improve my ability to understand conversations in Spanish?
If you already know a lot of the basic stuff, try watching the Learn Spanish 4 videos. They are completely in Spanish. I am not a native speaker, and I do try to speak slowly so you can understand, but it may be a stepping stone to help you get used to hearing and understanding. Then you can move on to other things like the radio or a news program. Good luck!
I think that one of the best ways is to record TV programs (especially soap operas [telenovelas] the stories are usually very stupid [in my opinion] but the dialog tends to be "everyday" Spanish). The reason for recording is so that you can listen to the program several times. The first time you will be figuring out the story line and general topics that are being discussed but you will probably miss out on many of the details (of how things are said). However, once you know (roughly) what they are talking about you can begin to concentrate on how they are expressing themselves. With repeated exposure you can begin to ask yourself "How would I say this?" "Is this a better (or, simply, a different) way to say something?" As more of what's being said becomes familiar to you you can focus your attention on the "troublesome" parts.
I lived in Argentina for two years and when I first arrived I felt that I had a decent grasp on Spanish, but it took me three weeks of constant exposure (12+ hours per day) before I could begin to separate sentences into words. From there it was much easier and I could understand and speak understandably after about six weeks (meaning I did not have to ask people to repeat themselves and I rarely had to repeat myself).
My suggestion would be to immerse yourself as much as possible. It sounds like you are already off to a good start.
I think that fluency comes with immersion in the language. Two years studying A level and five years in Spain has not made me fluent because there are things like UK tv and expat friends to distract you!. I progess most of all through conversation with Spanish neighbours when I can ask them to slow down and repeat.
You are doing the right thing to watch Spanish tv but try to record it and play back as often as necessary. The news is good because the context is usually clear from the video reports.
usually it takes awhile to get some things, but also, not all spanish speaking countries use all the same words. i spent a year in school studying spanish, and just in a year i completed the first level of spanish. i believe that it may take some time before you are able to speak fluently. however, my friends dad is able to actually understand more in conversations that others are having rather than actually being fluent himself. i hope this helps you.