What better way to improve your Spanish than simply by kicking back and watch movies! Doing so can expose yourself to the many different accents and slang from Spanish speaking countries.
One of the difficulties when learning Spanish are the many different accents and slang that’s used amongst the Spanish speaking countries. Simply put, a word in one sentence may denote something positive in say for example Mexico, but can mean the opposite in Colombia or Spain -- based on the slang of the country.
Most people learning Spanish will likely be exposed to, and soak up, a single accent. And while it's true that by studying one accent you can still communicate and understand most of what everyone else is saying, but it's really important to know the basic differences in pronunciation and slang between Spanish accents in order to avoid potential misunderstandings. As a huge fan of movies, and someone who believes there’s no better way to learning a language than immersing yourself in it, I want to suggest the following movies which you can watch to learn and differentiate various Spanish accents on your own.
Here are the movies below, and first on the list:
El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)
This is a dark fantasy movie set in the era of the Spanish civil war. All of the actors and actresses are Spanish. Note that the movie is intended for an adult audience, so they do speak with curses and slang throughout the entire film. Furthermore, if you are used to the Spanish from Latin America, then you’ll notice peculiarities such as the word gracias (thank you) being spoken in a more nasal tone -- like if you said grathias. Similarly you would hear them say vosotros, instead of ustedes, while talking about more than one person.
You will also notice that some words are commonly used in Spain, but not used in Latin America. For example, there are certain words that have very different meanings, like the verb “coger” which is used in Spain. “Coger” is used to express that someone is grabbing something, but in Latin America, they would use “agarrar” for grabbing instead.
Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales)
This movie is actually comprised of a collection of six short stories, so it will be easy to watch just one or two at a time if you are short on time. Or if you just want to pace yourself and practice in short periods of time per day. This is another movie for adults with no censorship or shortage on curses and slang. It is set in modern times Argentina, each short story depicts a different set of characters and situations, which is really helpful because there is an abundance of vocabulary for you to soak up as a result.
One of the main things you’ll notice in this movie is that instead of “tu” for the second person singular, they always use “vos”. This is similar to saying “thou” in old English folk tales. Additionally, the actors/actresses pronounce the “ll” as “sh”, instead of the “y” sound that you may be used to from other accents.
Los colores de la montaña (The Colors of the Mountain)
This Colombian movie is about a group of kids living in a rural location, but surrounded by violence. The armed conflict in the movie is juxtaposed to normal kids playing soccer and going to school. Colombia houses a lot of different Spanish accents, such as Costeño, Rolo, or Pastuso; depending on what part of the country you are in, but it’s still overall a very neutral sounding Spanish.
While enjoying this movie, it’s worthy to keep note of the slang words and phrases like:
¿que hubo parce? (what’s up dude?).
el parche (the crew, the homies).
Such phrases are used to enrich and contextualize this movie. That is it from my side.
I hope that you will be able to make use of these suggestions, as I picked only recent movies, which are probably way easier to find on dvd or on a streaming service.
Anyways, as always, the best way to experience an accent is to talk with a native, but these movies will help you to at least understand the basic differences, and get you to become a little more familiar with certain slangs specific to a country before talking with someone. Good day, happy Spanish learning and movie watching.