HomeQ&AWhat are your barriers to understanding

What are your barriers to understanding


Barriers to Understanding Spoken Spanish -These are some barriers I’ve encountered in the 2 years I’ve been learning. I would like to hear what barriers others have identified and any strategies for overcoming them.

  1. If you are within your first couple of years of Spanish it is possible that you just plain and simple don’t know enough vocabulary yet to understand common everyday conversations and much less, topics in advanced or specialized areas like for example a business story on CNN español.
  2. If you do not have the ability to recognize (upon hearing) the conjugated forms of verbs without going through “lets see the ending in this case is “…” so it must be “…” type of process then you will have trouble understanding spoken Spanish because the speaker is already several words or sentences beyond you.
  3. You can understand every word in a sentence and still not understand the idea being expressed because you don’t understand the grammar and structure of the sentence. For example recognizing the direct object pronouns from the indirect object pronouns from the reflexive pronouns, etc.. If you are stuck figuring this stuff out, the speaker has left you in the dust.
  4. In understanding what you hear you are associating the sound of each syllable you hear (or think you hear) to the actual words being spoken. This takes hours and hours (and more hours) of listening practice. To hasten the process, it is helpful to read a transcript of what you’re hearing. This process takes many many hours but in so doing you are building the sound recognition capability to understand the words without a transcript. (Thank you Telemundo for providing closed captions in Spanish and English for your Telenovelas)
  5. As you know you are not just associating the syllable sound of one word, but the syllable sounds of several words and paragraphs. The sounds of one word run into another so that at first it is hard to hear where one word ends and another begins. Practice reading aloud sentences and paragraphs the way a native speaker would pronounce them. This is hard but keep practicing the same sentence until you can say it (or come close to saying it) the way a native speaker would say it. I don’t know how, but for me at least, the muscle memory of doing this helps associate the syllable sounds to words and sentences. This has improved my ability to understand spoken Spanish.
  6. Test yourself. When reading aloud are you understanding what you are reading? Or, do you have to go back and translate what you have just read? If you have to go back and translate, you probably could not have understood it if you were hearing someone else say it either. Practice reading aloud and understanding as you read it all sorts of written material (books, magazines, newspapers, etc). This is very helpful.
  7. Differences between speakers. I can understand my Colombian girlfriend, my friend Miguel (an American fluent in Spanish), and Luis Rojas (a Peruvian, with a Spanish podcast) almost 100% of the time, but I have trouble with a lot of other native speakers especially Argentinian accents. Regional and personal accents and idiomatic variations take time to understand. Listen to many different accents and sources. Build your stockpile of idiomatic expressions.
updated ENE 14, 2010
posted by gayland--Smith
Excellent post. - webdunce, DIC 18, 2009

4 Answers


How true this is!! Thanks for the post. I'm not crazy then?!! wink

updated ENE 2, 2010
posted by Jason7R

When I read aloud I actually can't entirely understand what I'm saying :( But I've only been learning Spanish for a few months...even still it's hard to understand spoken Spanish. I understand the grammar and sentence structure well enough but I can't always comprehend it on the fly. If anyone has strategies I would appreciate it.

updated DIC 18, 2009
posted by TheSilentHero

Your emphasis on reading out loud is right on. And saying difficult sentences and words over and over and over and over is absolutely correct. This is exactly how a beginning student like me has to work hard on trying to have smooth conversation skills and getting my mouth and tongue the strength to work correctly.

You really put some time and effort on this post for us -- Good Job!

updated DIC 18, 2009
posted by Daniel

Not only the regional difference, but the speed of the individual speaker. For instance, I can watch some programs for example, "Vida Salvaje" and understand the words even if I don't what they mean, and some others they speak so fast I cannot understand it Vocabulary will also be a problem unless you have large voculabry to begin with.

updated DIC 18, 2009
posted by BellaMargarita
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