Advanced Spanish (Resources + Study Guide)
Studying advanced Spanish is one of the most interesting and challenging phases you can enter while learning the language.
Unfortunately, as you probably know, there are almost no advanced Spanish resources or programs online.
In this article, we’ll go over what you can expect at the highest levels of advanced Spanish, talk about how you can create your own effective learning program, and then give you the best tools on the market to conquer it.
I know this because not only do I have a super-advanced level of Spanish myself (C2!), but I’ve learned 5 other languages as an adult into advanced levels.
So let’s go! Vamos!
1. The Key for Studying Advanced Spanish
Let me tell you a story, and see if it reminds you of your own.
I first started learning Spanish as an adult who had a not-so-great track record of language classes in school. So, like most inexperienced-but-hopeful language learners, I turned to two resources for learning Spanish:
- Structured programs in immersion schools, universities, or adult classes
- Textbooks and apps
I combined those two things with a bit of travel.
And do you know what?
They served me amazingly.
I had finally figured out how to learn Spanish: classroom hours, immersion, and a bit of workbook time by myself!
I continued like that until I became (more or less) fluent.
But I was in for a pretty nasty shock.
I had no clue how huge the gulf between intermediate Spanish and advanced Spanish was.
And I was totally unprepared for the fact that there are no real resources made for advanced Spanish students.
After a few years of frustration, I finally mentioned something to my then-tutor. She was helping me with certain aspects of my Spanish (mostly fine grammar points), and during one of our lessons, I developed a sudden case of word-vomit.
Why weren’t there more resources for students like me?
Why couldn’t I find anything to help me now, like I had at the lower levels.
Her explanation blew my mind.
"How could there be any resources for advanced Spanish?"
She began explaining to me that there weren’t any textbooks at the C1/C2 levels because they couldn’t teach you any new grammar or concepts, really.
The biggest difference between the lower and higher levels of Spanish is the sheer size of the vocabulary.
Let’s take a look at some data we have on how many active words students know at various language learning levels.
On the far left of this chart, you have the various levels.
In the orange, you have two tests (the Spanish DELE and Mandarin HSK). These are how many words the test examiners expect students to have at various levels.
Just looking at the orange, you can see how steeply the expected amount of vocabulary you need is. The difference between intermediate Spanish (around 7,000 words) and a solid advanced Spanish (20,000+ words) is enormous.
But now let’s look at the middle of this chart.
Because other researchers found that despite what the tests expect, very few students actually have the quantity of vocabulary that texts expected them to have.
How is that possible?
Unfortunately: grade inflation from teachers or institutions.
And while there aren’t very many amazing ways to figure out how many words you know in Spanish (although I have an article with some information about how you can calculate it), there is one big thing you can take away from this:
Your biggest hurdle in advanced Spanish is going to be vocabulary.
Now don’t worry. Because in the next phase of this article we’ll start putting together a plan for you.
(And it won’t require any textbooks or programs, but it’ll be just as effective. Promise.)
2. Getting Organized
Okay, now that we’ve established that we largely need to focus on vocabulary, let’s start exploring some options for how you can do it.
The Three Common Options
First of all, we need to mostly throw the Big Three (teachers, apps, and textbooks) out the window.
Like I said earlier in this article, there are very few traditional resources at this level of any language because there are very few grammar points or exercises you can do.
So put these three things out of your mind, and let’s look at some other options for making progress with organized and consistent study.
Immersion and Review (The Secret Fourth Option)
Instead, we’re going to focus on getting you that native-level Spanish by focusing our energy on getting you native-level content.
Think about it: kids in schools aren’t using language textbooks in science class. They’re learning science words through lectures, videos, and interactive exercises.
Adults don’t learn about business language with language textbooks either! They learn through real interactions, podcasts, and by interacting with other adults.
The B2, C1, and C2 levels of Spanish can become your playground.
We can free you of textbooks and classes, but all we need is a little organization.
I highly recommend any sort of tracker or bullet journal to keep track of all of the resources you’ll be using.
But if you’re new to trackers and bullet journaling, the free mini-course we have will help you sort all of the resources into different skills so you can actually keep track of how you’re immersing yourself at home.
Now, if you don’t want to use it that’s fine–you just need any sort of way to make sure you’re actually using the immersion tools here on a daily-ish basis.
(Because while working without a textbook might be freeing in some ways, it’s also extremely hard to stick to a schedule and see your progress!)
The Forgetting Curve
Now, that’s all good and fun.
But for a kid who’s growing up in a Spanish-speaking country, they have 24/7 immersion in Spanish for 20 years.
And I bet you don’t.
So how can we make your immersion more effective for reaching your advanced Spanish goals?
The forgetting curve is an amazing hypothesis and has been proven true again and again over the past 100 years. (Yes–one hundred years!)
The first slope (starting where it says “first learned” in orange) is what happens after you learn a few new words.
Within 3 days, you’ll have forgotten about 60% of those new words.
But: when you review that word the next day?
Your slopes get less and less steep–meaning you are significantly less likely to forget the new words.
And the best part? You can wait further and further between reviews!
Immersion x The Forgetting Curve
Our magic formula for rocketing off in advanced Spanish is going to be doing home immersion and reviewing the new words you learn.
There are two great systems you can put into place to review:
For individual words you really want to nail, check out the flashcard apps that are based on the science of the forgetting curve:
And here are my pro-tips as a super long-term flashcard user:
- Make sure all file have sound and audio files
- Make sure you’re seeing both sides (so you’re both recognizing the Spanish word, and reproducing it from memory)
- Do them every day–skipping even one day will create a huge flashcard debt that you’ll hate!
A DIY Review System
More of a pen-and-paper person? Here’s how you can DIY an effective review system:
- Get a blank journal, numbering 52 pages with the first dates of the next 52 weeks of the year
- This week, pick a vocabulary theme (“cooking”, “business”, “fine art”, anything) collect all of the new vocabularies you encounter this week
- Using the sequence 1, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, etc, find those weeks in your planner. On the pages for those weeks, you won’t learn anything new: just write “review week 1”. Do the same type of immersion and study those written words.
- When you get to your next free page (should be Week 3), repeat with a new theme!)
Now, that’s a really crude start for vocabulary–but it’s mightily effective.
Whether or not you want to follow it (these type of review systems require a ton of maintenance), here’s how we’re going to tie it all together.
Speaking & Writing (The Advanced Spanish Cornerstones)
Now, speaking Spanish isn’t just saying random words over and over again. It’s stringing them together in coherent sentences inside of even larger and more coherent thoughts!
No matter what you decide to do with immersion and flashcards, speaking and writing are going to be where you truly experiment, practice, and flourish.
But: how can you build in repetition into a chat or writing exercise?
Specifically for my languages, I’m trying to study at an advanced level (French and Catalan), I created a massive list of vocabulary-building topics.
Here’s how I suggest using these topics for learning advanced Spanish:
- Pick a theme of the week.
- Find all of the YouTube videos, podcasts, and everything else you can on it. (I’ll help you find a ton in the final section of this article.)
- Every day, use 1-2 of the questions on those lists as writing prompts.
- (Optional: if you look up words, put your favorite in a flashcard app or other spaced repetition system.)
- At the end of the week, use the list with an online tutor through a site like iTalki
Rinse and repeat as needed!
Now, finally, after a ton of talking about how important immersion is for vocabulary building, let’s jump into some of my favorite tools!
3. Advanced Spanish Immersion Resources
Think of this section as a giant index of all of my favorite tools.
Bookmark this article on Pinterest or your browser to refer to it again in the future as you explore various Spanish topics.
But today, feel free to jump in and see what catches your eye for your first week of at-home advanced Spanish immersion!
Reading & Writing: Your New Best Friends
There are two poles of vocabulary usage:
High-usage words like go, do, being, but, it, some, and and.
And low-usage words like crochet, whiskers marble, antenna, or sonnet.
Low-usage words don’t necessarily mean harder words (most 5-year-olds know what part of an animal’s body whiskers are), simply that they’re less used.
(Although, some low-usage words like erudite, abattoir, petrichor, or diaspora may be confined to more academic or literary spheres, and thus be harder for plenty of native speakers.)
Reading is by far the fastest and most effective way to come into the low-usage vocabulary.
That’s because a sentence like “había una amarillento choza en el espeso pantano” might be full of low-frequency words in spoken Spanish.
But to write “there was a yellow-ish cabin in the dense swamp” is a perfectly normal way to set a scene in a book.
The good news is, I have two fantastic resources for you!
But of course, reading isn’t the only way to find plenty of low-usage words. So onto the next batch of resources!
Now let’s talk about the easiest types of immersion: the type you do just hanging out and listening to!
There are 4 main ways you can get that type of listening practice, so let’s lay them out here (with plenty of additional resource links!)
Spanish Podcasts for Native Speakers
Spanish podcasts about super niche topics are going to be amazing for your learning. Finding some related to your jobs, special-interest topics, or with super-involved storytelling will help you pinpoint and practice some amazing words… all while going about your day-to-day life.
Here are my personal favorite Spanish language podcasts for advanced learning:
- Platzi (business education)
- El Washington Post (news, politics)
- Leyendas Legendarias (creepypasta, occult, true crime)
- Libros para Emprendedores (business education)
- Radio Ambulante (storytelling, journalism)
- Marketing Digital (digital marketing)
- Geek Lasagna (nerd culture)
- La Brega (7 episode documentary, history)
- Fausto Seasons 1, 2 (true crime)
Advanced Spanish YouTube Content
Similarly, you can find great YouTube content that’s made to educate native speakers about virtually any topic. The only ones to avoid here are going to be casual vlogs because, while that genre can be fun, you’re not likely to run into a lot of low-frequency words in casual content.
Spanish Language TV & Movies
Yes yes yes, you can use basically any TV or movies to learn Spanish.
But here, you’re going to be finding more spoken language and less of those low-frequency words.
So instead of giving you any title recommendations (my friend Ingrid has a bunch on her blog), I’m instead going to recommend that you use the Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension.
Look up all of the new words you haven’t encountered before. And bonus: if you pay for the premium extension, they’ll automatically import it all into an app like Anki for you.
Spanish Language Music
Finally, yes you can use music for advanced Spanish studies!
After all… did we all not learn the world iman from Despacito?
But, like with movies, just don’t get too passive: look up new words constantly and commit them to memory.
Embodying Advanced Spanish
But you’re not learning advanced Spanish to become a passive listener right?
There are ways you can fully connect with Spanish that are not only creative but will involve all of your body’s senses for long-lasting, personal connections with the language.
Here are two ways I love to connect with Spanish in a deeper way.
Moving Your Body to Spanish
I’m obsessed with Spanish language yoga and Zumba.
While you likely won’t encounter a ton of new vocab (unless it’s specific song lyrics or parts of the body), I use yoga and Zumba playlists every week as warm-ups to study sessions.
Cooking in Spanish
You have to cook… why not do it in Spanish?
The easiest way is probably finding recipes online–just google the dishes you’re most interested in and “receta”.
All of your new, low-frequency vocab is going to be a gem.
The Power of Dialects
Now, you’ve likely heard the advice “pick one dialect and stick to it”.
Sure…. or don’t.
There’s something wonderful about falling in love with one version of Spanish. For me, that was Mexican Spanish–the language of my friends, favorite cultures, and favorite cities.
But in my own advanced Spanish studies, I’ve challenged myself to learn Puerto Rican Spanish–an American home-grown Spanish that’s popular where I live.
There are dozens of reasons to pick up a new dialect: fighting boredom, falling in love with a new culture, or just getting to know Spanish in a new linguistic light.
Those are just two ideas. But if you look at the Puerto Rican post as a guide, you can see how complex and fantastic diving into any dialect is–especially if you’re feeling fatigue or boredom with your current studies.
Final Thoughts on Advanced Spanish
This whole guide is what you make of it.
Advanced Spanish can be one of the easiest levels of Spanish studies you have. It’s full of culture, curiosities, and the full richness of the Spanish-speaking world.
But it can also be the hardest level, without guides or set programs. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
No matter how your Spanish studies go, I hope you find the thousands of hours of activities in this article enjoyable and interesting.
Feel free to leave me a comment below if you have any questions or want to see recommendations for anything else!