Category Archives: How to learn a new language

Spanish movies with English subtitles

Learn Spanish: Spanish movies with English Subtitles

In a previous post, we covered some great ways to learn a new language as well as some ways to learn Spanish for free. Watching Spanish movies with English subtitles and English movies with Spanish subtitles is a great way to learn Spanish (more so practice and build upon)!
It makes the learning process fun and engaging – as you are doing something you find entertaining. More importantly, it familiarizes learners with Spanish outside of the textbook – colloquial phrases, slang words, culture, history, music, and more!

We provide a list of some famous Spanish movies that could help you in learning Spanish.

Remember that it is ideal if you start watching Spanish movies with subtitles only after you know some basic concepts and words in Spanish.
You should at least know about topics like ser/estar, basic verb conjugations, and basic vocabulary in Spanish.
Otherwise, you’d take too long to understand each sentence. You could start by watching movie trailers and then move on to watching full movies.

It is ideal to find movies with both Spanish and English subtitles in the same video. Then you can watch, hear, and read Spanish; and see the English translations all at once. The trick is to watch small sections at a time – with a lot of pausing and rewinding till you understand exactly what is being said and why.
Once you attain a good understanding of Spanish, you could watch movies with just Spanish subtitles. Watching the scenes will give you all the context – and your now developed knowledge of Spanish will help you read what is written. We don’t recommend switching off the subtitles completely just yet – the characters would usually be talking really fast.

So, here’s a list of some Spanish movies you could watch:

Diarios de Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)

Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) is a 2004 biopic about the journey and written memoir of the 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, who would several years later become internationally known as the iconic Marxist guerrilla commander and revolutionary Che Guevara. The_Motorcycle_Diaries - Spanish film with english subtitles

The film recounts the 1952 expedition, initially by motorcycle, across South America by Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado.

El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)

El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) is a 2006 Spanish-language dark fantasy film. Pan’s Labyrinth takes place in Spain in May–June 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil War, during the early Francoist period. Pan's Labyrinth - Spanish movie with English subtitlesThe narrative of the film interweaves this real world with a mythical world centered around an overgrown abandoned labyrinth and a mysterious faun creature, with which the main character, Ofelia, interacts. The film won numerous international awards, including three Academy Awards, three BAFTA Awards including Best Film Not in the English Language

Y Tu Mamá También 

Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mother Too) is a 2001 Mexican drama film directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The film is a coming-of-age story about two teenage boys taking a road trip with a woman. In the United States, the film went on to gain nominations for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, as well as a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globe Awards that year.


Volver (meaning “to go back“) is a 2006 Spanish drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar (one of the most popular Spanish directors). Lead by actress Penélope Cruz, the film features an ensemble cast also. Revolving around an eccentric family of women from a wind-swept region south of Madrid, Cruz plays Raimunda, a working-class woman forced to go to great lengths to protect her 14-year-old daughter Paula. To top off the family crisis, her mother Irene comes back from the dead to tie up loose ends.

Hable con ella

Hable con ella (Talk to Her) is a 2002 Spanish drama written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. The film won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the 2003 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign-Language Film.

Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre (meaning: Nameless) is a 2009 U.S.-Mexican adventure thriller film written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, about a Honduran girl trying to emigrate to the U.S.A, and a boy caught up in the violence of gang life who also needs to escape.

Sin-nombre-spanish-filmFilmed in Spanish, the film’s title means “Nameless”. It won several awards, including the prizes for directing and cinematography at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Learn foreign languages with music!

In our recent blog post on How to learn a new language’ we emphasized on embracing the new language and making it flow with your life.

Our Spanish coaches also recommend finding something you love about the new language and surrounding yourself with it!

Today we talk about one such universal love – Music, and how it can enrich your language learning experience!

There are several occasions when we end up humming and memorizing songs even though we don’t know the language!
Susanna Zaraysky, author of ‘Language is music’ pointed out in her one her interviews:How many of us have sang along to Gangnam Style without knowing what it means!”
Now imagine if you could see the transliteration in your language while you sing along!

Of-course grammar and conversational context is a must and important, but language learning can be enhanced if some singing and music based practice is incorporated in your learning schedule.

In one test, carried out by researchers at Edinburgh University’s Reid School of Music, those who learned by singing were able to recall phrases with greater accuracy in the longer term.

Here’s how music can help:

  1. Pronunciation: Music can help you get a better hang of the new accent and pronunciation peculiarities. While learning with music, you listen first and speak later.
  2. Vocabulary: Learning the lyrics of a song helps you expand your vocabulary. Music aids memory and recall. Words and phrases that you hear in a song tend to stick around much longer. Songs also introduce you to some streetwise phrases!
  3. Grammar: Music does not directly teach you grammar but can give you contextual information on usage of words and phrases. For example: ‘Para bailar La Bamba’ translates as ‘In order to dance La Bamba’. Next time when you get confused on whether you use ‘por’ or ‘para’ – this will help! With music, you subconsciously learn the right way to construct sentences.
  4. Culture: Music is a great window into the new culture! It will also be a great ice-breaker while talking to natives!
  5. Its fun! Music activates your senses and gets you grooving – picking up some language while you groove is a big bonus!

Here are some tips on using music effectively to pick up a new language:

  1. Don’t just let the music fade away in the background. Pay attention to the lyrics and phrases – make a list of some of the new words you hear.
  2. Sing-aloud – Listen first and then sing along. This will help you with your accent and will also expand your vocabulary.
  3. Try and get the transliteration of the lyrics to help you understand the meaning of the new words and phrases.

So don’t wait – let the music flow! Here are some links to help you find great world music:

  1. Directory of Radio Stations by Language/Ethnic Group:
  2. Pandora:
  3. Grooveshark:

At CultureAlley, we are fascinated with how music can help in the language learning journey. Here’s a new feature we are experimenting on: – Sing-along with the Spanish lyrics, check the English transliteration, and hover to review important grammar tips. Learn Spanish while you groove to the classic ‘La Bamba’!

Many more hits coming up soon!

Get grooving at the Alley!


Spanish teacher Aroa

Featured Spanish Coach of the month : Aroa Rubio

Our coaches and content experts have played a huge role in getting CultureAlley to where it is today. Every month, we will feature one of our star coaches. Hear about their language learning and teaching journey, and get some expert advice on learning new languages from them.


This month, our featured coach is Aroa Rubio


CA: Tell our readers a little about yourself
Aroa: My name is Aroa Rubio and I was born and raised in a small town in the north of Spain, near Pamplona. Spanish is my first language, even though I started learning English at a very young age. I have been teaching languages, both English and Spanish, since 2005.


CA: What motivated you to start teaching languages?
Aroa: I have always been passionate about languages. English class was always my favorite, and I was pretty good at it, so a lot of other students would come to me when they needed help with the grammar or the vocabulary.

One of my teachers noticed my passion for languages and how contagious it was, as well as how I would break the grammar down to make it easy for my classmates to understand, and he encouraged me to become a foreign language teacher.
The idea had never crossed my mind before, but as soon as he suggested it, I fell in love with the idea of teaching other people about other languages and cultures, so I went to college for it and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Language Teaching.

CA: Tell us about your teaching experience – How long have you been teaching, what kind of students have you taught?
Aroa: I have been teaching both English and Spanish since 2005. I have worked both as a private tutor and as a teacher at a public school. My youngest students were three years old, but I have also had the opportunity to work with a lot of adults.
I have had the privilege of working with people from more than a dozen different countries, teaching them about the Spanish language and culture, but also learning a lot about their culture in the process. I have to say, I absolutely love my job!
CA: Why do you think learning new languages is beneficial?
Learning a new language involves so much more than learning just words.
Learning a new language opens a door to learning about other cultures and meeting a lot of new people. It opens up your mind to different ways of thinking and seeing things. It also keeps your mind young, and it can be a lot of fun!


CA: Please give our readers some tips on learning languages – What should they do, what should they not do, how much time should they devote, how can they practice etc…?
Aroa: Don’t get obsessed with grammar and books.

Find something you love about the new language, like the music or the movies, and surround yourself with the language. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  Just have fun with it!
CA: Tell us about your most interesting experience while learning or teaching Spanish/English yourself
Aroa: One time one of my students who had been learning Spanish with me for a few months had to cancel his lessons for the week because he was going on vacation.
I encouraged him to try to find people to speak Spanish with while he was on vacation. Well, when he came back from his vacation he told me that he happened to run into a very famous singer that spoke Spanish, and was able to speak to him in Spanish!
CA: Tell our readers about your journey with CultureAlley and how you have worked with CultureAlley to spread the love for language learning
Aroa: I started tutoring with CultureAlley since they started, which I consider a huge privilege! I am also helping with developing new lessons for their Spanish course. I have also enjoyed their Punjabi lessons, as I already speak some Hindi but have been trying to learn some words to communicate with all my friends who speak Punjabi. They have such a great team, I am definitely looking forward to working with them and to learning with them in the future!


CA: Anything else that you want to add that the students will find interesting?
Aroa: I am not only a language teacher, but also a language learner! I have taught myself Hindi, and now I am working on my fourth language, Portuguese!

Learning a new language? Make it an experience!

There is no denying the benefits that learning a new language brings in. A broader perspective, cognitive benefits, expansion of your cultural horizons, a boost to your CV, and so much more!

Learning a language is not easy. It requires constant effort and dedication. However, it wouldn’t be wrong in saying that learning a language has never been easier. Today, you can learn languages from the comfort of your home!

A few things, if done right, can transform the way you learn your next language. If we were to summarize it – don’t make language learning a new ‘task’ – let it flow with your daily life-style.

  1. Plan
    • Why do you want to learn a new language?
      Know your need before starting up a new course. Are you traveling? Are you taking up a new language with an aim to converse well? Is it for school? Is it for a professional reason? Are you dating someone who speaks another language?
      Knowing the need is essential to pick up the right learning plan. For example: If you truly want to start conversing in the new language, then just memorizing a few phrases is not useful.
    • How much time do you want to spend each day?
      This is less of a question and more of a check point – plan to spend some time each day. Learning a new language requires continuity. Having bouts of learning followed by long breaks causes loss in efficiency.


  2. Get the essentials right
    Memorizing a few phrases seems easy, but unless your purpose is just getting through a couple of days in a foreign country, just knowing a few phrases doesn’t help.
    So, get some essentials right. It might seem easier to start at the wrong footing but in the long run undo-ing all the ‘memorization’ techniques will take much longer than starting with the right base from the beginning :)

    • Know the grammar essentials to compose simple sentences yourself. ‘Maria want juice’ may communicate your purpose but sounds pretty unintelligent!
    • Learn basic pronunciation peculiarities – Knowing all pronunciation DOs and DON’Ts takes time, but get some peculiarities right from the start. You don’t want to be wishing ¡Hola! as H-O-L-A in Spain :)


  3. Listen-Read-Write…Speak!
    Alright, so now you have started your journey right…Great! The next step is to apply the learning in all possible forms – so listen, read, write, and speak!

    • Listen – Rather than reading from a book and decrypting pronunciation – just grab some audio lessons and hear the pronunciations! Include listening in your practice schedule – solve at least a few listening based questions every time you practice!
    • Write – Now you may question, I only want to learn how to speak the new language why should I write? Well, writing is different from ‘scripting’. Just ensure that your practice has some modules on listening and writing – you will catch so many of those small peculiarities while you write – something that are almost impossible in other forms of practice.
    • Read – Comprehension practice is another great way to see the essentials being put to use. When you read real-life examples and the usage of the words in context, you automatically build your vocabulary. Mugging up 1000 words is easy but it is just as easy to forget them. Hence, learning with context is very important.
    • And of-course speak! Speak, practice, make your mistakes and learn from them.


  4. Let it flow with your life
    As we said earlier, while dedicated effort is important, let language learning flow with your daily life.

    • Next time, try making your grocery list in the new language
    • Pick up some music in the new language
    • Watch a short movie
    • Try reading a news clipping
    • Talk to natives
    • Go to a restaurant that serves the local food

    Slowly, let the new language become a part of your routine and you’ll see how it grows on

  5. Embrace the culture!
    We cannot emphasize enough on the importance of understanding the new culture. If you are going to be living in or traveling to a new country or even conversing with natives – knowing a little bit about the culture will go a long way!
    Greeting norms, gifting norms, heritage, music, dance, movies – there is so much to know and why shouldn’t you!

So get on to the cultural voyage, pick up a new language and do it right!