When learning a foreign language, you might find that you need extra resources to help you better retain the language. 

Based on 15+ years of experience in Spanish classes, I’ve recognized that as much as you write and rewrite vocabulary, conjugations, and grammar rules, sometimes it’s simply not enough. 

Reviewing notes and continually copying down verb tenses is, of course, beneficial, but it can become extremely tedious. And as is the case with most tedious tasks, it’s easy to get sick of the writing and re-writing.

If this sounds like you, it’s time to switch it up. Just like how you sometimes need an environment change when doing your homework, there also comes the time when you need to switch up your study methods

To the surprise of some parents (particularly, parents like mine, who, for a while, were pretty anti-screens when it came to learning), TV shows can actually be incredibly helpful when learning a foreign language. Below are some of our favorites for practicing Spanish, French, and Italian! 

TV Shows to Practice Spanish

1. La Casa De Papel (“Money Heist”)

Genre: crime drama

Where to watch: Netflix

La Casa De Papel features a group of criminals who are planning to rob billions of Euros from the Royal Mint of Spain. While the group doesn’t want to hurt anyone, they do have to deal with lots of hurdles along the way. 

This show features useful Spanish vocabulary, conversational phrases, and slang, and also includes language that you may not learn in school. As such, it’s perfect for helping students to better understand realistic Spanish dialogue. 

2. Isabel

Genre: historical drama

Where to watch: HBO Max

Following the life of Queen Isabella in fifteenth-century Spain, Isabel offers viewers a glimpse of a time where women were expected to solely serve as mothers and wives. Isabel is indeed based on the reign of the real Queen Isabella I of Castila, and depicts her fight to obtain and keep her empire and the throne. 

Isabel is full of Spanish dialect that includes conversational phrases and vocabulary, making it a great show to help beginners improve their language skills. benefits of learning a foreign language

3. Gran Hotel (“Grand Hotel”)

Genre: drama/mystery 

Where to watch: Hulu

Set in 1905, Gran Hotel tells the story of a man named Julio, who sets out to look for his sister at the “Gran Hotel,” where she worked, but later disappeared. Along his journey, Julio discovers a ton of perplexing secrets around the hotel.

This show will enable students to get more familiar with conversational Spanish language and to polish their listening skills. 

4. Siempre Bruja (“Always a Witch”)

Genre: fantasy/drama

Where to watch: Netflix

Siempre Bruja is a fantastical series that features Carmen, a seventeenth-century witch. When Carmen makes a pact with a powerful wizard, she is transported to modern-day Colombia. 

This show is a great tool to help students who simply want to advance their Spanish language skills. 

Additionally, Siempre Bruja contains a ton of Colombian slang and lots of characters with Colombian accents. So for learners who want to learn about Colombian culture and history, this is the show. Furthermore, this series will be helpful for students who want to learn about the differences between Mexican Spanish (which is what’s traditionally taught in schools) and Colombian Spanish.

5. Paquitas Salas

Genre: comedy

Where to watch: Netflix

A series which many critics have described as similar to The Office, Paquitas Salas follows Paquita, a talent agent. Although she was majorly successful in the ‘90s, after losing her biggest client, everything started to fall apart at the agency. 

This series shares the struggles that Paquita faces as she tries to look for new talent and maintain a successful agency.

Paquitas Salas is particularly useful for learners who want to practice everyday conversations in Spanish and become more comfortable with simple Spanish dialogue. Featuring short, 20-minute episodes, Paquitas Salas is also a good choice for those who can’t sit for too long. 

TV Shows to Practice French

1.  Les Aventures de Tintin (“The Adventures of Tintin”)

Genre: action/adventure (comic)

Where to watch: Amazon 

Originally a children’s comic book series, Les Aventures de Tintin chronicles the escapades of a young, Belgian detective and his trusty sidekick, Snowy (a wire fox terrier). Together, Tintin and Snowy travel the world and experience adventures. 

Les Aventures de Tintin is great for beginners, although viewers of all ages can find pleasure in indulging in Tintin’s world. The series can help learners improve their listening skills while they learn about French culture. 

2. Le Mante (“The Mantis“)

Genre: mystery thriller 

Where to watch: netflix

Set in Paris, Le Mante revolves around serial killer Jeanne Deber, who, twenty-five years prior, had terrorized the country. However, when a string of murders that seem to “copy” Deber’s style arise (decades after she served her time), she teams up with the police to track down the criminal. 

This series is perfect for anyone who craves suspenseful drama. Meanwhile, the show includes lots of tough vocabulary words, making it a great pick for more advanced students.

3. La Forêt (“The Forest“)

Genre: crime thriller

Where to watch: Netflix

La Forêt details the mystery of Jennifer, a teenage girl who disappeared in a forest in the Ardennes. Ever since a little girl mysteriously emerged from it prior to Jennifer’s disappearance, this forest has presented an air of mystery. And over the years, the forest has caused multiple disappearances of various girls. 

Along with a teacher, the police begin an investigation to find Jennifer. Throughout the journey, they uncover various secrets tied to the forest. 

This fun show includes a lot of easy-to-understand dialogue, making it the perfect series to help beginners sharpen their French listening skills. 

4. Dix Pour Cent (“Call My Agent!“) 

Genre: comedy

Where to watch: Netflix

Set in Paris, Dix Pour Cent follows the daily lives of film agents at a top talent agency. As the agents try to make and keep their famous clients happy, they simultaneously aim to exploit and profit from the clients’ success. 

This series is particularly unique, as it includes cameos of real Hollywood actors and actresses who play themselves. Dix Pour Cent is a great show for those who want to learn about French celebrities and the culture around the French movie business. Meanwhile, it provides lots of familiar vocabulary as well as native expressions. 

5. Le Chalet (“The Chalet“)

Genre: crime thriller

Where to watch: Netflix

In this crime series, a group of childhood friends have a reunion in a remote chalet. Le Chalet chronicles the aftermath of the reunion, when a landslide destroys the only bridge connecting the group from the rest of the world. 

The friends find themselves stuck in a remote village in the French Alps with no phone or internet connection. The only connection they have to the world is the company of the last six members in the French village. As the series progresses, surprising, dark secrets from the past arise. 

This show offers more fast-paced dialogue, and it’s thus a perfect aid for students who are more intermediate/advanced in French.

TV Shows to Practice Italian

1. Il Commissario Montalbano (“Inspector Montalbano“) 

Genre: crime drama

Where to watch: Amazon

Il Commissario Montalbano takes place in a fictional Sicilian town, Vigata. The series follows Salvo Montalbano, police chief of Vigata. Often, Montalbano is out and about solving cases linked to the mafia. Every episode features a new, complicated case, and viewers get to watch Montalbano solve each one.

This series offers a wide range of Sicilian language, which makes it a good show for advanced Italian students. 

2. L’allieva (“The Student“) 

Genre: comedy drama

Where to watch: Tubi TV

In this drama, Alice Allevia is finishing up med school. Both of her parents are doctors, so Alice constantly sees them going through a range of emotions when they are forced to watch their patients suffer. 

L’allieva tracks Alice’s journey in realizing she doesn’t actually want to be a doctor, but instead wants to go into forensic medicine. 

The series provides students with lots of conversational phrases and expansive vocabulary.

3. Zero (“Zero“) 

Genre: superhero fiction

Where to watch: Netflix

In Zero, our main character, Omar, is a shy teenage boy of Senegalese descent who lives in public housing in Milan. But Omar is no ordinary boy. When he experiences intense emotions, Omar turns invisible. So he becomes a superhero, largely in an effort to protect his and the other children’s public homes from building developers. 

With the characters speaking very clearly, students don’t need to work hard to decipher the dialogue in Zero. Additionally, the series includes various slang phrases and allows students to learn about the culture in different (both affluent and low-income) areas of Milan.  

4. Incastrati (“Framed! A Sicilian Murder Mystery“) 

Genre: crime comedy

Where to watch: Netflix

In this Sicilian murder mystery, two TV technicians, Valentino and Salvo, find themselves at the scene of a crime. The two try to clean up and stay clear of suspicion, but Valentino ends up forming a relationship with his former classmate who, coincidentally, is the deputy chief of local police. 

This show is more geared towards advanced students, as the dialogue is often fast-paced. Furthermore, the series contains lots of conversational slang which can help students get a better grasp on conversing in Italian.

5. I Medici ( “Medici“)

Genre: historical drama

Where to watch: Netflix

Known as the Godfathers of the Renaissance, the Medici family was an extremely powerful group of citizens in Florence and the leaders of the largest bank in Europe. 

I Medici follows this family during Renaissance Florence, with each season chronicling the main events that occurred during particular moments in the Medici history. 

This series can help students not only improve their language skills in Italian, but also provides some context around the culture of Renaissance Italy.