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The Telenovela Method, 2nd Edition: How to Learn Spanish Using TV, Movies, Books, Comics, And More

The Telenovela Method, 2nd Edition: How to Learn Spanish Using TV, Movies, Books, Comics, And More

The Telenovela Method, 2nd Edition: How to Learn Spanish Using TV, Movies, Books, Comics, And More

4/5 (5 ratings)
321 pages
4 hours
Feb 6, 2017


After failing to learn a new language on five separate occasions, I taught myself to speak Spanish like a native in just six months by watching movies and TV shows, listening to music, and reading books and comics like Harry Potter and Garfield.

This simple, easy-to-learn technique, that even the most linguistically-challenged can master literally overnight, is used by many of the most respected and skilled polyglots and language teachers in the world, and it’s never really been laid out, explained, and demonstrated in full, point-by-point, step-by-step detail until now.

When characters in a movie or TV show are speaking the dialogue, unless it’s set in a previous period like the 1800s or something, they speak normal, everyday language. So if you wanted to learn Spanish, the type of normal everyday Spanish that native speakers use every day, aka “conversational Spanish”…

Don’t you think that Spanish-language TV shows, movies, music, and books might be a good source to learn from…if only you knew how?

Not only that, but it would be fun, wouldn’t it? Far better than learning the language from some boring, dry textbook or workbook that, even worse, is teaching outdated, formal, “non-conversational” Spanish (look at the dialogue in one sometime: do people actually talk like that? No).

Has this basic technique been used for centuries by language students and teachers alike? Yes, there are records dating back to the 18th century of language teachers using popular media in the language they're teaching to help their students learn it. I'm not claiming to have invented it. What I've done here is, after having used and refined the technique myself for several years, distilled it down to a system that's easy to learn, and which is taught in a format that's organized, easy to understand, and which takes advantage of all the latest technology, such as the all the various resources available on the internet now.
Feb 6, 2017

About the author

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The Telenovela Method, 2nd Edition - Andrew Tracey



Why this method, where it came from,

and how to use this book

and the resources it contains

I love learning new languages. I love learning new languages because I love traveling and meeting people from other countries and learning about them and their culture, and you absolutely cannot do this, I mean really understand them and their culture, without being able to communicate in their native language. There is no getting around this. Languages are a tool to me, a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

Some people learn languages just because they love the act, the process, of learning languages: figuring out the grammar and syntax, learning all these interesting and obscure words and their etymology, learning all the little tidbits of cultural background and history behind certain words and phrases, etc. That’s fine and it’s a part of the process which I enjoy as well. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with it, it’s someone learning about something which interests and challenges them. However, it’s definitely not sufficient reason for me to spend the (not insignificant) time and energy required to learn a whole new language.

I am interested in learning a language only if I am planning on using it to talk to people who speak it, I learn it because it allows me to do so. I am interested in people. I want to be able to talk to, communicate with, and understand them. I want to be able to read their books, watch their movies, and listen to their music. I want to make friends with them, I want to socialize with them. I want to be able to understand them and their culture, I want to be able to participate in that culture. There is only one possible way to do this: learn their language. There is always something lost in translation, usually quite a bit, so that won’t do (translating to or communicating in English, that is).

I just wanted to make it clear the angle that I’m coming from on this, the goals that I have when I learn a language, and therefore the intended purpose of my method, this book, and the techniques taught herein: to learn Spanish so that you can use it, primarily to communicate with native speakers. That’s the point, the overriding objective. You could easily adapt most of the knowledge contained here for other various purposes, other reasons someone might want to learn a language. You could do this, sure, if you liked, so it’s certainly something potentially useful to someone who has an objective other than the one that I have. It’s just that this book is really tailored for people who want to learn to communicate, specifically to speak, with native speakers in Spanish in the same manner in which you and I talk with most people every day in our own native language.

Most people just want to learn to communicate—speak, listen, read, and write—normally like they do every day in their native tongue: that’s who this is for.

When I was twelve I started teaching myself French using an old Berlitz book from the ’50s and a Pimsleur French audio course I talked my parents into getting me for my birthday (this was so long ago they were cassette tapes, not CDs) and I loved it, I relished every little bit of progress I gained each day, every new word I learned, and when I finally figured out how to do that oddball French R that’s sort of a dry gurgling sound in the back of the throat I was like a kid that just opened a present on Christmas morning and discovered that it was exactly what they wanted. Then I got to high school where I had my first language classes ever, and they were in my beloved French. This was when I got a dose of the nasty, hard reality that are most language classes…

At the time, I really loved French, but memorizing dozens of conjugation charts and vocabulary lists, doing boring exercises for homework from an outdated textbook that taught the sort of French no native speaker would ever use in real life, and almost never, ever actually speaking any, you know, French very quickly put an end to that. I somehow plowed my way through four years of that and managed decent grades, but it really turned me off to language-learning for a while. After struggling to teach myself French and suffering through four years of terrible classes, I ended up under the impression that learning a language was very difficult, time consuming, and not much fun at all. Regrettably, this is what most people who have had language classes in school end up thinking, particularly if you’re from an English-speaking country where language classes are notoriously bad and very few native English speakers end up learning a second language.

In the meantime I messed around with German a little bit in anticipation of a school trip to Germany (it was a week long and included a couple of days in Switzerland and Austria, both German-speaking countries), as well as some French in my spare time, but the time-consuming schoolwork I had to deal with coupled with my negative experience with language classes meant that I didn’t do too much in that regard while in high school.

When I got to college I encountered a friend of a friend (only met him twice) who was in the process of learning Spanish because he worked in a restaurant with a bunch of native Spanish speakers, had always wanted to learn the language, and saw this as his opportunity.

The way he was doing it was by watching telenovelas, which is what soap operas are known as in Spanish (novela = novel, and tele is short for televisión, so telenovela = television novel, makes sense), and then learning Spanish from them by looking up every bit of Spanish they used (words, grammar, expressions, everything), either in a dictionary or, if that didn’t cut it, by asking his coworkers the next time he saw them. I met him once more about a year later and he was completely fluent. I asked him if he had gotten that way simply from watching Spanish TV and then looking up anything he didn’t understand: yup, pretty much. That impressed me at the time and stuck with me until a few years ago when I made the decision to learn Spanish. I decided to take his basic concept and play with it, the first big change I made being that I would use the internet as much as possible since I was aware of just how powerful a tool it was for learning pretty much anything. What evolved over a period of a couple of years of trial and error was what I call the telenovela method.

I want to make something clear: neither my acquaintance who originally inspired me nor I invented this concept of using popular foreign language media to learn that particular foreign language. There are records of language teachers dating back to at least the 1700s using this technique where they would have their students read, watch, or listen to music, books, and plays in the language they were learning and then do whatever was necessary in order to understand it, as well as, when possible, imitating the native speaker until they sounded just like them. This basic (and rather obvious) method has been around for a very long time, probably because it is so obvious. It’s just that now we have the internet as well as all the prior knowledge and experience of those language learners and teachers who have come before us, so now what I’m presenting to you is one of the most recent and refined versions of this particular method that takes advantage of all the recent advances in technology as well as all the knowledge we now have about how we learn languages.

Here’s why I like this method:

Most importantly: it’s fun, it doesn’t feel like work. I can’t possibly emphasize how important this is, even though it might seem like it’s not, even though it might seem like a trivial or silly requirement. ‘Fun’ will do more to actually make you succeed at learning a language than any other factor, bar none.

Why? Because it keeps you interested, it keeps you paying attention, it keeps you coming back, it keeps you from giving up, it keeps you from getting bored (which inevitably leads to you giving up). Don’t overestimate your self-discipline, even the most determined and disciplined among us would be helped immensely by making the process fun and interesting versus not. At the very least, you’ll accomplish a lot more in a lot less time and with a lot less stress if it’s fun and you will therefore do it whenever you can (because, of course, you enjoy it), even when you don’t have to, which means that you learn more, faster.

This is in contrast to when it’s not fun, when it’s just more work, and therefore you only do it when you absolutely have to and you don’t learn as much, it takes longer, and you’re much more likely to give up before really accomplishing much of anything, least of all your original goal, which for many of you is to become fluent in the language.

Make it fun.

You learn Spanish as it’s currently used right now by native speakers, that is: you learn modern, contemporary Spanish, precisely the kind you want to learn if you want to be able to converse with native speakers and you want to sound just like they do. You learn to speak exactly as they do.

You don’t learn anything outdated, obscure, or restricted only to more formal environments. You’re not taught to be ‘overly correct’—yes, you can be ‘too correct’ in that nobody actually talks like textbooks are written, no one obeys all the official rules of grammar for their native language when they speak it and if they did they would sound very strange indeed. You don’t want to sound like that.

There’s a balance to be struck between sounding intelligent and educated and sounding just plain weird by speaking in a very stiff or overly formal way.

In relation to the previous point, you learn common slang and curse words. You need to know these regardless of whether you intend to use them or not because if someone else uses them when speaking to or about you, then you’re going to at least want to know what they said, now aren’t you?

Because it uses material that you, personally, are interested in, you therefore remember what it is that you learned. You learn much more than if it were not entertaining or interesting, and you do so much easier.

If you watch a TV show or movie that someone else has chosen that you’re not the least bit interested in, how much of what you saw will you remember later? You don’t pay attention to it, do you?

Now, how about if it’s a movie or show that you like and want to watch: how much of that will you remember later? See what I mean?

Availability, cost, quantity, and quality of resources. This one is extremely important. You’ll be using the internet, DVDs/Bluray, books, and television (any one of them alone will work or any combination of them). Also, honestly, if you don’t have cable TV that’s not really a problem if you’ve got either a TV, a computer with a optical drive, or a computer with internet access. In fact, as long as you’ve got just one of these you can do this.

A lot of the resources are free. Did you get that? Free. This is like getting a college course where you don’t pay for tuition, room, board, or books—it costs you almost nothing. And the stuff that does cost money is not only entirely optional but also fairly inexpensive (e.g. DVDs and books that can be had off of [jungle website] for a few dollars each).

Plus, it’s more fun and believe me (I’ve taken Spanish and Russian in college and French in high school), a lot more effective than a college course, too. You can’t beat that.

It gives you something to talk about with native speakers. People always know about and love talking about current events and contemporary popular culture such as movies, TV shows, and music that they personally like. People do not know about nor wish to speak with you about I’m allergic to shellfish. or Where is the library, Juan? that you learned from your textbook.

This is massively important and useful when you start talking to natives via language exchanges, which is the last part of the learning process where you take everything you’ve learned and apply it—it’s what truly turns you into someone who’s fluent in the language and can talk like a native speaker. I’ll tell you all about them, how to find them, the best ones, and how to use them


At the end of each chapter will be a list of relevant resources, some of which may have been referred to in that chapter. Additionally, I’ve done over seven hours of videos demonstrating the various concepts in this book and those can be accessed through the following two webpages (they’ll redirect you to the appropriate playlists on either YouTube or iPlayerHD):

http://howlearnspanish.com/bookvideos or (if you cannot access YouTube or it goes down):

http://howlearnspanish.com/bookvideosbackup (this is the iPlayerHD back-up of the same videos that are on YouTube)

In the e-book version of this book these resources will be live links, in the print addition they will simply be the URL which you can manually type into your browser’s address bar at the top in order to get to.

A short note concerning the aforementioned videos. I have uploaded these videos to two different hosts: YouTube and iPlayerHD. Why? Two reasons:

Each one serves as a backup in case the other goes down.

Some people can not access YouTube because the country they’re in blocks it, such as China, Iran, Pakistan, and possibly Germany due to GEMA (I’m a little unclear on this, but the research I’ve done says that the majority of YouTube videos are blocked in Germany, so I’m taking no chances). This second reason is the primary reason that I decided to pay for a premium video hosting service (iPlayerHD) in addition to using YouTube, so if you’re in one of those countries, this was done mostly for you.

When watching the YouTube videos: I highly recommend that you watch the 720p version if your connection can handle it (you can adjust the quality simply by clicking on the little gear icon in the bottom right hand corner of the video player window).

The videos that are not public (basically all except the resources videos are private) are available only to people who have the link to them and are solely intended for people such as yourself who have purchased this book hence the reason that the only place I have given out the links to them is in this book, but I have not password protected them or otherwise secured them.

Why? Because I care far more about ensuring that my paying customers, my readers, have immediate trouble-free access to them than I do about stopping the occasional pirate here and there. It’s why the e-book version of this book doesn’t have [jungle website’s] optional DRM on it ([jungle website] allows the author to enable it or not at their discretion). Doing that sort of thing is almost entirely pointless and, in fact, counter-productive as it inevitably causes problems for legitimate customers who aren’t attempting to do anything nefarious.

*A quick but important note about specific online retailers: This is one of the most petty, petulant things I’ve ever heard of and I’m sitting here making this last-minute edit right before publication because I’ve only just now been told about it. If I even mention, by name, the competitor of a bookseller that this book is sold through, that bookseller will refuse to sell this book. Yes, that’s right: if I mention that one online retailer named after a jungle in Brazil, then the other one that rhymes with Yarns & Mobile will refuse to carry this book, and vice-versa. All the DVDs and books recommended in this book were found, by me, on the site of the retailer named after a Brazilian rainforest – it is there that you should search for them.

To get around this I shall henceforth refer to said retailer as [jungle website].

I hope that’s clear enough, and I strongly encourage you to let said retailers know how stupid and childish they’re being by doing this. I’d like to point out that the initial draft of the e-book version of this book not only mentioned said retailer but actually linked to all of the recommended resources on said retailer’s site in order to make things easier for you so you could just click on them to be taken that product’s page.

Here’s what I’m going to tell you in this book:

How the Telenovela Method works, the basic principles behind it.

The resources you need to do this: the websites to use for reference, where to watch telenovelas and other Spanish-language TV shows online for free, DVDs and books you can use, where to ask questions about anything that might confuse you, where to find Spanish-language newspapers and magazines online for free, etc..

The actual Telenovela Method. This is where I actually explain, step-by-step, how to do it. Mind you, this guide is a general one and we will need to modify the method slightly depending on whether this is our first viewing of a movie or TV show or not, and also based on the material being used (movie, book, comic, newspaper, etc.)—I will cover how to apply the Telenovela Method to specific forms of media (movies, books, etc.) in later chapters.

How to specifically work with telenovelas and other TV shows. This will include where you can view them online for free in addition to where to get them on DVD, and I even managed to find websites where you can not only view full episodes for free but also which have Spanish and English subtitles on all of them.

Movies! My favorite. I’ll tell you how to use them and why they are my personally preferred choice of material to work with, plus I’ve got a huge list of movies you can get off of [jungle website] that are in Spanish and have Spanish subtitles for you: that list alone is worth the price of this book.

Music, how to use it with the Telenovela Method, where to find Spanish-language music online, and where to find the Spanish lyrics and the English translation of them for free.

Books, Magazines, Newspapers, Comics, and Kids’ Books. I’ll teach you how to use the Telenovela Method with written material, and I’ve got a fantastic little trick that I use with books where you get a Spanish and an English version of the book (this is known as using parallel texts). Additionally, I’ll show you where to find books online for free to read as well as all the other sources such as newspapers, comics, and magazines.

How to immediately start applying what you’re learning by using it to communicate with native speakers. You can do this using only written communication via a fantastic website called Lang-8, or you can do it by speaking during what’s called a language exchange where you practice your Spanish with a native speaker who helps you with it in exchange for you helping them with their English. You’ll use a free program called Skype (you’re probably already familiar with it) that allows you to make free phone calls via the internet to anyone else with a Skype account (accounts are free), you just need a microphone and speakers or headphones (if you both have webcams you can see each other in real time during the call, very cool—yes, Skype supports video conferencing).

How to put together your own person method that is the most effective one for you. Everybody has different needs, preferences, and a different optimal learning style. I’ll show you how to adapt what I’ve taught you to yours. Also, I’ll give you some specific examples of systems that you can use to get started right now.

Some extra tips and additional resources in the appendices including a list of movies in Spanish that have Spanish subtitles which are available on [jungle website], a list of websites where you can watch Spanish videos that have Spanish subtitles online for free, and a list of free online Spanish lessons and courses that you can use to help get you started and/or as a reference to look up anything you don’t know.

Section I:


Chapter 1:

How My Method Works, Why It’s Awesome,

and Why Most People Who Try to Learn a Language Fail (and How to Prevent that)

How it works and what you’ll be doing

The way the Telenovela Method works is by using popular Spanish-language media, that you would otherwise enjoy consuming if it were in English, to teach you Spanish by making you learn the

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What people think about The Telenovela Method, 2nd Edition

5 ratings / 2 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    Giving tips to learn a new language, here for Spanish, also gives Useful digital sources for Spanish learners.
  • (5/5)
    Wonderful book. Has a step by step process for learning a language and many resources.