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TV and Movies

Binge-watch these Netflix shows to learn Spanish

Brush up on your Spanish skills the Netflix way with these shows broken down by viewing tastes and dialect of choice.

So much to learn, so much good TV to learn it from.

Feel like knowing more about how the government works? House of Cards and Veep are your best bets. Feeling nostalgic for the '80s? Nothing like Stranger Things or The Americans. There are workplace comedies about the tech world (Silicon Valley), mythic tales about how the not-so-distant future might look like (Humans, Westworld, Black Mirror), and cautionary tales we hope will never come true (The Handmaid's Tale).

You can also brush up on your Spanish while binge-watching. But because not all Spanish is created equal -- neither are all TV viewers -- I break down the best TV fiction on Netflix depending on your tastes and which dialect you want to master.

Here are our top choices depending on your proficiency level:

Advanced

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Río (Miguel Herrán) and Tokio (Úrsula Corberó) in Money Heist.

Netflix

La casa de papel (Money Heist)

Netflix's most-watched non-English series tells the story of a group of mainly good-looking criminals who try to print and steal €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) from the Royal Mint in Madrid while being commanded from the outside by the brilliant and somehow nerdily attractive El Profesor. Needless to say, you'll be rooting for the criminals faster than you can reach for your streamer's remote to press the Next Episode button.

Type of Spanish: From Spain and full of colorful slang. Subtitles are mandatory. I don't care if you spent a whole year in Seville on an exchange program, you're still going to need the subtitles. Because, tell me, do you know the meaning of "Me has cortao el rollo," "me he sobao" or "qué pachorra (roughly translated to "you harshed my mellow," "I fell asleep" and "such laziness"). I didn't think so.

Good for: Fans of Spike Lee's Inside Man who love heist stories with a twist.

In case you want extra credit: Paquita Salas. It's the same accent and a lot more laughs in a story about a show business manager whose career is falling apart.

The House of Flowers

The De La Mora family.

Javier Ávila/Netflix

La casa de las flores (The House of Flowers)

You thought your family was dysfunctional? You haven't met the De La Moras. The patriarch is living a double life with a secret family. The matriarch is finding solace in weed. The younger daughter has a crush on her newfound sister's older brother. The favorite son is having a sexual identity crisis. And the older daughter just can't keep picking up all the slack.

Type of Spanish: From CDMX (Mexico City) with a little bit of poshness. But please don't be fooled by Paulina de la Mora (Cecilia Suárez) and think all chilangos speak like she does. Not even all fresa/posh chilangos do. As you'll hopefully learn by episode 10 of this comedy, Paulina has a very good reason to speak like she does.

Good for: Pedro Almodóvar fans who miss his Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown days and would like to see him making a TV comedy, if he could ever do one set in Mexico City. Also, fans of Manolo Caro, the actual creator of this show.

In case you want extra credit: You might be a little late to the #PaulinaDeLaMoraChallenge party, but that's no excuse not to try to speak like the character from the show, record yourself while doing it and post it.

Intermediate

Cable Girls

The girls in Cable Girls.

Netflix

Las chicas del cable (Cable Girls) 

This is the tale of a group of independent women who work as telephone operators in 1928 Madrid. You have the unhappily married one, the small-towner who just made it to the big city, the rich and rebellious one and the one with a mysterious past that'll unfold episode after episode.  

Type of Spanish: From Spain. Even though it's set in the 1920s, the language on this show is quite contemporary, but at the same time devoid of slang. It's your best bet if you want to opt for a standard language that still has lots of peninsular character.

Good for: Soap opera fans who like their melodrama served with equal parts romance, sex and glamour. Come for the cloche hats, short bobs, flapper dresses and oxford pumps. Stay for the feminism and finding out whether Alba (Blanca Suárez) chooses Carlos (Martiño Rivas) or Francisco (Yon González).

Edha

Juana Viale with one of the fashionable outfits her character sports in Edha.

Fabián Trapanese/Netflix

Edha

Buenos Aires designer Edha (Juana Viale) is presenting her new collection while her dad (and professional partner) tries to find money to keep the business afloat. There's also a storyline involving the city sweatshops where most of the clothes for the big Argentinian labels are produced. And a romantic interest in the form of a trickster turned muse.

Type of Spanish: Argentinian from Buenos Aires, or the kind of Spanish porteños speak.

Good for: Unconventional students aiming for uniqueness. You'll discover a "chongo" is a lover and will learn to appreciate all the poetry involved in a sentence like "Te cayó como el orto la comida" (which you could roughly translate as "the meal didn't agree with you" but that doesn't do it justice, really). Also, you'll get to see the real clothing lines of Argentinian designers like Jessica Trosman and Martín Churba.

In case you want extra credit: You might want to start a glossary with all the highly specific, unique names Argentinians use for different types of garments: you know, "pollera" for skirt, "tacos" for heels, "ojotas" for sandals, "bucito" for sweatshirt...

Narcos

Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar in Narcos.

Netflix

Narcos

If a whole show in Spanish feels like too much, this could be the perfect choice since about half of it's in English. It tells the story of the real Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) and the many efforts from a couple of DEA agents to capture him during the '80s and early '90s. The show perfectly intertwines Spanish and English in the way the real characters must have used both languages.

Type of Spanish: Spanish from Medellin or paisa.

Good for: Even native Spanish speakers can learn a lot from Narcos. Me and my whole family of Northern Spaniards were exposed to a bunch of colorful bad words we hadn't heard before. There's nothing like an Escobar cursing session to appreciate Narcos in its entirety.

In case you want extra credit: This show was developed by Brazilian filmmaker José Padilha, and Moura, who plays the lead and is also Brazilian. Moura is a magnetic actor who does a great job as Pablo Escobar, but he didn't speak Spanish before portraying the character. You might want to try and identify certain Portuguese notes in Moura's Spanish, especially during Narcos' first season. 

Beginner

6

Blanca (Laura Gómez) in Orange Is the New Black.

JoJo Whilden / Netflix

Orange is the New Black

Yes, this show is mainly in English. But some of the ladies at Litchfield Penitentiary are native Spanish speakers, and their conversations in that language tend to be even sharper and funnier than when they speak English.

Type of Spanish: Difficult to pinpoint, but most of the Spanish-speakers in OITNB are supposed to be of Dominican descent.

Good for: Witnessing bilingualism at its best, with some characters going back and forth between English and Spanish and using both almost randomly in a very organic, conversational way.

In case you want extra credit: Look for those kinky phone conversations between Blanca and Diablo. Blanca (Laura Gómez) is as good at phone sex as Pablo Escobar is at cursing.

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