Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning

The Telenovela Method, as explained by Andrew, is a great way to learn languages quickly, which a recent study suggests actually helps your brain grow. The main reason I like this method is the authenticity of language and culture which is usually lacking from language learning resources. Finding subtitles to go along with the movies or TV series can be a problem though, especially with telenovelas.

Ugly Betty Adaptations in Spanish

The most famous telenovela and the original Ugly Betty, Yo soy Betty, la fea, was made in Colombia and you can watch all of the episodes (many with subtitles in Spanish and English) at The European Spanish version, Yo soy Bea, also has a quite a few episodes on though not all have Spanish subtitles yet.

The Mexican version, La Fea Más Bella, is available on DVD through as a shortened/edited version with English subtitles only.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning Mexican version of Ugly Betty

Mexican Telenovelas

If you are interested in using Mexican telenovelas to learn Spanish, I highly recommend Las Tontas No Van al Cielo. It is actually better than La Fea Más Bella, even funnier and much more addictive. The DVD available on is, of course, a shortened version of just over 15 hours but the editing was actually done quite well. There was only one storyline that I don’t remember seeing the end to, but everything else made sense.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning Best telenovela ever.

The male lead is Jaime Camil, who was also the male lead in La Fea Más Bella. The female lead is Jacqueline Bracamontes… who also had a small role in La Fea Más Bella. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that the theme song, Esto es lo que soy, is sung by Jesse y Joy, my favorite Mexican band.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language LearningThis dude is hilarious.

If you prefer to have actual DVDs so you’re not stuck in front of a computer all the time, there are a lot of Mexican televenovelas sold on for less than $10 each. They will be the edited versions because the full versions that aired on TV are more than 100 hours long and that is a LOT of DVDs. They tend to only have English subtitles but their price is rather cheap for how many hours of Spanish you’ll get to hear. If you don’t mind using the computer, Andrew also has lists of sites for watching Spanish-language TV online as well as Spanish videos with Spanish subtitles.

Ugly Betty Adaptations in Languages Other than Spanish

For Portuguese, Brazil has Bela, a Feia and many clips can also be found on Youtube. There are no French or Italian versions, but Germany has Verliebt in Berlin and you can get the (many) DVDs which include every single episode on from third-party sellers (region 2 only though!).

There are two versions in Dutch, Sara from Flemish-speaking Belgium and Lotte from the Netherlands. A few clips from Sara can be found on VTM’s site and LotteTVChannel is still uploading all of the episodes of Lotte to Youtube. Plus Lars Oostveen is the male lead. You should recognize him as Sam Scott, a.k.a the American, from the Extr@ series. Now you get to hear him speak his native language.

Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning

And he’s instantly ten times cuter when he speaks Dutch.

A few other adaptations of Ugly Betty exist in languages such as Greek, Croatian, Polish, Russian, Tagalog, Mandarin, etc. but I don’t think they’re available on DVD. Some clips may be available online though.

Update: Learn Spanish by Watching Telenovelas (with recommendations for more telenovelas to watch)

  • Great post and list of telenovelas, and thank you for the link to Andrew’s post as well! When my partner was learning German a few years ago, me and him both got really into the series going along with the BBC’s Deutsch Plus books. They look terribly 90s now and the plotlines might not be the most amazing, but it’s still great fun to follow and Nico, the naive Romanian in Germany, is great to watch! (

    And let’s not forget Deutsche Welle’s much more contemporary Telenovela for German Learner’s called Jojo sucht das Glück. Jojo sucht das Glück – Folge 1 | DW.DE

  • I like to read to learn, but I do use programs like these to maintain my listening ability If like Jamie Camil he´s currently Por Ella,Soy Eva.

    • Thanks Margaret! I didn’t realize he was in another telenovela right now. I wish I could watch it. Hopefully it will be available on DVD soon.

  • Canedolia

    My new year resolution is to learn Spanish and I was a bit stuck for inspiration, so this post came at the perfect time. Thanks, Jennie!

  • Betty C.

    A lot of my students seem to be making progress by watching American TV series. I don’t think they have a particular method, but it seems to help out with a lot of language elements. It’s also interesting to see more and more of them coming in with an American accent rather than the RP they were supposed to be learning in lycée…

    • That’s good to hear. 🙂 Watching TV is fun AND educational!

  • Thanks for the links, Jennie, and that’s awesome to hear that this is working so well for you and you’re enjoying it so much! This is precisely why I advocate this method: it’s fun and effective at the same time, and the fact that it’s fun significantly contributes to how effective it is, especially in the long run (persistent consistency, right?).

    I’ve never heard of Las Tontas No Van al Cielo but I’m going to go check it out now!

    I personally prefer to work with DVDs as it’s easier to find ones that have Spanish subtitles than it is to find videos online of entire shows or movies that have them (though that is now slowly changing), but I try very hard to recommend free online sources since “free” is really important to a lot of people…it actually makes me a bit hesitant to recommend DVDs because they do cost money and I don’t want people to think I’m just recommending them to get affiliate sales or something like that.

    Keep up the good work and keep us posted, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions (same goes for anyone else! you can get me via my <a href="; contact form on my site).



  • A Romanian in Germany sounds familiar. I must have come across Deutsch Plus a while ago but didn’t get into it. I’ll take another look, thanks!!

  • jhaberstro

    Do you have any suggestions for French? There is Extr@, but maybe you know something that is authentic from France?

  • xbsvf

    I like the Mexican telenovelas, e.g. Tierra de pasiones) because they seem to speak very clearly, easier for a gringo to understand

  • joker159

    hey cool!, I’m the boy version of ugly betty, I can relate myself seeing her

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