Train Your Ears Using The Stairstep Approach

by Joe Previte on

When I first started watching native content in Argentinian Spanish, it would take me SO LONG to get through one episode of a show. I’d have to pause a million times. I’d see a new phrase and have to search the depths of WordReference forums just to get through a scene.

Then I’d rewatch the episode at least two more times. It was brutally painful. Why did it feel like they were speaking on 2x?!

Luckily, this feeling has disappeared.

Now, I’m at a Level 6 comprehension level with native content. I can throw on a video and it just flows.

I don’t need subtitles. I don’t need to do word lookups. It just clicks. And it’s awesome.

How long did it take to get there?

I want to preface this that I spent a lot of hours. I don’t keep track but it took me two years to get here…So it’s not a quick journey. Granted, I have a family, a full-time job and other things so you might be able to go faster.

I think my peak input would be 4 hours in a day? So if you have that kind of time or more, you could probably get to this point 2x faster than me.

And I want to help you get there which is why I want to introduce you to the approach I used so that you can do the same.

The Stairstep Approach

Imagine a staircase where each step is a level of comprehension. At the ground floor, you’re a Level 2/3 in terms of comprehension. And at the top is Level 6 comprehension where it’s all automatic.

To get there, we have to go one step at a time starting with easier content and increasing the difficulty incrementally.


Here’s the content I suggest starting from least difficult to most difficult:

Dreaming Spanish - Agustina

Dreaming Spanish is well-known catalogue of comprehensible input. One of their teachers is actually from Argentina and her name is Agustina. You can find videos with her ranging from Super Beginner to Advanced.

Start here and watch her videos until you can watch Advanced videos without subtiles comfortably.

Traé Alfajores

This is a podcast made by a native Argentinian guy. Think of this is a bridge to native content. It’s at a slower pace because it’s made for learners, but because it’s a podcast, you have no visual context.

I also picked this because there is only one host. Less mental overhead for you as the learner.

That means you really need to stretch your listening skills. He does offer transcripts for free online if you need them here.

Once you have a Level 4/5 comprehension level with this, move on to the next step.


Our first true piece of native content! I say this because this is made by Argentinians for Argentinians (well, Latin America in general). Do not be surprised if this is really hard.

What I like about this show is:

  • it’s modern (season 2 came out in 2023)
  • it’s a good plot (kinda sci-fi/magic)
  • it’s made for a younger audience so language isn’t difficult

I’d categorize it as “slice of life” so you’ll find common expressions here.

TV shows and movies move at a different pace so you may have to watch with subtitles in the beginning. Your goal though is to get to a point where you can follow along comfortably without subtitles.

Once you can do that, move on to the next step.

Conrado Ev

Next up, we have an Argentinian vlogger. Again, native content made for natives the it’s going to get more difficult. He has videos where he’s right in front of the mic and you hear him clearly.

But then he also has videos where he’s walking around, or you can’t see his face and read his lips.

Most of the time though it’s just him so your ears don’t have to jump between different speakers.

Once you feel comfortable watching his videos without subtitles, move on to the next step.

Salud Mental con Alan Disavia

Heading back over to podcast land, this is a show with a single host, but no transcripts available (at least last time I checked).

He talks about a variety of topics. My favorite is his sleep hypnosis episodes. I like these because they’re slow and calming.

Once you feel comfortable with these, move on to the next step.

Urbana Play 104.3

There may be a jump in difficulty here. This is a local radio station in Buenos Aires so that means the hosts are going to talk really quickly.

What I like about Urbana Play though is they do interviews with guests and their mics are so good which means you get a really crisp audio.

You can listen live (they livestream on YouTube/Twitch) or you can look for interviews they do (like one with Messi).

Don’t worry if you need subtitles for this one for a while. That’s expected.

Once you feel comfortable with this, move on to the final step.

Antes Que Nadie

Congrats on making to the final step of the staircase! This is going to be the most difficult level so have patience. This is one of the many shows on LUZU TV which is livestreamed on YouTube/Twitch.

It’s a group of people (I think they’re all influencers?) who talk about random things, interview guests and just talk about life. It’s entertainment mainly.

What makes it difficult though is:

  • you have 4 hosts
  • they talk over each other
  • they don’t always talk directly into the mic

This is hard mode. If you can comprehend what they’re saying without subtitles, you’ve made it.

And an added bonus/challenge is understanding Whatsapp voice messages. They have guests answer questions or share stories which they play on air. Some of these have terrible quality so it’s great for you as a learner.


I lay out this approach to share what worked for me with the hopes that it can also work for you :)

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out Refold which inspired a lot of ideas in this approach and convinced me to use immersion learning to take my Spanish to the next level.

Also, don’t be a stranger! Sign up for the newsletter, hit reply and keep me posted on your language learning journey. I love meeting other people studying the Argentinian dialect :)

avatar of Joe Previte

Hola, soy Joe 👋

I studied abroad in Buenos Aires in 2013. Now I’m teaching my daughter Argentinian Spanish 🇦🇷. I created this newsletter to share everything I learn with you.