Watching TV to learn Spanish language and history

If you’re thinking about perfecting your Spanish and getting to know Spanish culture, sooner or later you’ll consider flipping the TV on to watch a Spanish show. It’s cheap, comfortable, and lately it’s even educational. Have you noticed how many TV series out there are based on Spain’s history? Below you’ll find a quick round up of examples:

–     El ministerio del tiempo (the ministry of time): this new show is one of the latest big surprises of the small screen. Packed with time travel and adventure, many insist that it’s the Spanish version of Doctor Who.

–   Cuéntame (tell me how it happened): one of Spain’s most popular shows, reminiscent of The Wonder Years, tells the story of a middle class Spanish family during the final years of the Francoist dictatorship and the following transition period to democracy.


–    Isabel: the story of Isabella the Catholic, the queen who was instrumental in uniting all the kingdoms of Castile and Leon to form Spain. The show was a social phenomenon that popularized interest in the Spain of the Middle Ages, an era that had seemed forgotten.

–   La Huella del Crimen (marks of the crime): this Spanish TV classic aired back in the 80s but today you can easily find episodes on the internet, episodes that tell some of Spain’s darkest tales. The philosophy behind the show becomes quite clear right from the opening, when a voice plainly states “The story of a country is also the story of its crimes, crimes that have left a mark”.

–    Amar en tiempos revueltos (To love in troubled times): the queen of the after-lunch soap operas from 2005 to 2012, this series tells the stories of characters living between the beginning of the Second Republic, the Civil War, and the first few years of Francoism.

–    El secreto de Puente Viejo (the secret of Old Bridge): another telenovela which on this occasion transports us to the first two decades of the 20th century (a period that has not been studied much). The show, with a carefully polished production and surprisingly historically accurate language, takes place in a fictitious town located in the north or northeast of Spain.

Some of these series are no longer aired, but you can easily find episodes online. So fire up your screen, curl up on the couch, and prepare to dive into action, drama, and romance all set in Spain’s most tumultuous eras!

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