Is there an auditory equivalent of hindsight—hindhearing, maybe?
If so, I suppose it’s also 20/20.
I thought that was all for fun. Now, looking back, I can see exactly why audio makes all the difference when learning a language.
Why Choose Audio as a Spanish Learning Tool?
- Get up to speed on Spanish conversational skills even faster. If audio is your primary Spanish learning tool, you’ll naturally pick up on conversational Spanish faster (compared to learning with a textbook or flashcards app). You’ll learn how people speak with each other on a variety of topics and in a variety of ways—this helps you practice listening, and it will eventually translate into your own conversational speaking skills.
- Increase your familiarity with the sound, rhythm, tone of the language. It’s true what they say: You need to develop an ear for Spanish. So much of communication is dependent on the sound, rhythm and tone. You’ll sound more like a native speaker if you’ve heard how the language sounds from the mouths of the natives themselves. It’s not something you can pick up with a textbook alone.
- Tons of it is available for free or cheap! Audio is abundant, flowing forth from the internet as if it were an eternal spring. Waxing poetic, but it’s the truth. Anyone can record a song or a language lesson and upload it on YouTube. Anyone can record a podcast and distribute it online. The internet is still a pretty free and untamed place, and anyone can have their say—and you can harness that for language learning.
How to Learn Spanish with Audio
- Leave it on in the background while doing other tasks. Audio is easily the most unobtrusive and unobjectionable way to start practicing any language. You can just put it on in the background while you cook dinner, take a shower, wash the dishes or drive your car around town.
You can leave it on for hours while working or studying and hardly notice that it’s there. Then, no matter what, you’ve at least squeezed some amount of Spanish exposure into your day. Odds are, if you’ve spent some time listening to Spanish audio, you’ve learned or practiced something—and all that fun audio will motivate you to study more that day!
- Zone in, zone out. To really learn from audio, you can’t just have it on in the background all the time. You actually need to pay attention once in a while. Go ahead and zone out while doing other activities. But make sure you zone back in.
Every 15 minutes or so, switch your mental focus and pay careful attention to the words being spoken or sung. Do you understand the gist of the message? The entire message? What words don’t you understand? Look those up if you can. Then go ahead and zone back out, focusing on whatever else you were doing.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself! The zone in, zone out method really helps you avoid burnout. You’ll also want to ensure that you’re choosing audio that’s not completely over your head. For spoken word, be sure you’re choosing appropriate audio materials that suit your current skill level.
If you’re a beginner, pick a podcast for beginners or an audio made for young children. When you devote your attention to the audio, you’ll find words and phrases that are great to learn at your level, and you won’t feel totally overwhelmed.
- Keep a dedicated Spanish notebook. Don’t scribble notes down on any old notebook or sticky note. The fastest way to forget your Spanish lessons is to lose your notes. Looking back on notes does wonders for practice and recall.
Buy a cheapo notebook—or a fancy Moleskine, if you must—and make it your designated Spanish notebook. Resist the temptation to use it for other notes and grocery lists, unless you’re going to write those in Spanish too!
- Print complementary texts out to read along when possible. Plenty of Spanish audio materials come with transcripts. Read these while you listen. Trust me. Listening becomes easier, reading becomes easier. Print out the transcripts, and note-taking becomes easier too.
- Mix and match. Audio isn’t one simple thing—there are many diverse types of audio you can learn with, as you’ll see in this post. Even if you fall head over heels for one type of Spanish audio (news, music, podcasts) be sure to shake things up and rotate what you’re listening to. This helps you avoid getting bored of your favorite stuff. Mixing it up also helps you discover awesome new audio and get exposed to a wide range of Spanish.
Learn Spanish with Audio: 30 Awesome Audio Resources for Constant Spanish Input
You’ve obviously heard of the BBC as a news organization, but did you know that they’ve got tons of tools dedicated to language learners? There’s an entire section of their website devoted to Spanish learning tools—and Spanish audio tools in particular. They’re big on the authentic audio.
For total newbies, their Video Introductions to Spanish feature basic Spanish conversations and come complete with transcripts, worksheets and additional resources for in-depth review of the topics at hand.
What’s there are archived materials which are no longer updated—and some are now unavailable—but there’s still plenty of juicy audio to squeeze out of this site. And from there, you can try listening to BBC Mundo broadcasts.
Here’s one audio tool which has been a major factor for me when it comes to successfully learning languages.
FluentU takes real-world audio clips and videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
This learning program has gathered entertaining audio and video snippets from all corners of the Spanish-speaking world, covering every topic imaginable—from Nicaraguan boxing to Ecuadorian politics and our favorite translated musical numbers from “Frozen.”
To build familiarity with the language, you can just sit back, relax and read along with the subtitles while you listen to the audio more casually. Alternatively, you can kick things up a notch with interactive learning features like flashcards and vocabulary lists. Once you’re done jotting down new vocabulary from other Spanish audio resources, you can add all these words to an individual vocabulary list for review and practice.
Not to mention, everything’s personalized for your learning level and style based on the content you’ve been learning. It’s perfect for figuring out which types of audio and video resources work best for you!
Spotify is a cool blend of music, podcasts and language lessons. To use this audio resource, you’ll need to create an account and download Spotify (either the program or app) to your device, but in my book it’s well worth the memory space.
Type “Learn Spanish” into the search bar in order to find all of Spotify’s Spanish language lesson playlists. There’s a lot of great stuff! The only trick is that you’ll need Spotify Premium in order to select specific lessons to listen to. Without Premium, you’ll need to listen to audio courses on shuffle, which can be slightly confusing if you’re still learning—but it’s great for reviewing topics you’ve already covered. Often, course playlists will only focus on one single proficiency level, so everything being shuffled features content ideal for your level.
Browse “Genres & Moods” and click “Latino” to scroll through hundreds of Spotify’s Spanish-language music playlists. As a huge aficionado of Spanish-language music, I’ve got to tell you, they really know their stuff. You can kick off with some Top 100 or Top 50 playlists that do countdowns of the best classic hits, romantic ballads or modern pop sensations.
You can select playlists by genre (bachata, salsa, boleros), by region (Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Puerto Rico), by artist (Celia Cruz, Daddy Yankee, Luis Miguel) or by vibe (upbeat, sentimental, etc.).
These courses were originally designed to teach Spanish to government officials and diplomats in the 1960s. Now, they’re available to all of us thanks to the magic of public domain. You’ll be able to teach yourself excellent Spanish with PDFs accompanied by evenly-paced audio.
There are even courses created to acquaint you with Spanish language and culture in different regions, as well as more professional courses for anyone interested in speaking just like an honest-to-goodness diplomat.
Audio-focused courses for all levels of Spanish students are available on Spanish Obsessed, a fun website launched by an international, bilingual couple with a shared passion for teaching and learning languages.
You can access tons of Spanish audio files (with typed-out transcripts and notes) for free by visiting their homepage and selecting your current level of Spanish.
If you’re already on board the audiobook bandwagon, then you’ve probably visited the huge collection of public domain audiobooks on LibriVox before.
You can quickly and easily browse all the available titles by language (click here to see what’s available in Spanish). Click “Advanced Search” to sort by language (Spanish, naturally) and other key factors (like title, author, release date and so on).
They’re constantly upping their game and adding new titles by having international volunteers read and record texts in their native languages. Feel free to give them a hand with English or any other language you speak natively. It’s a great project!
7. Loyal Books
Loyal Books is very similar to LibriVox in mission, content and volunteerism. They’re focused on amassing a giant collection of audiobooks from around the world with the help of eager volunteers.
Head over here to find a title that you can’t find on LibriVox, or to hear the same title read by a different native speaker (or with better audio quality). Click here to see what’s currently available in Spanish.
This website (the title of which translates to “Spanish audiobooks” in English) is all about audiobooks, but it’s not entirely what you’d expect.
The titles here are not the complete versions of any works, but rather, they’re summaries and analyses of those works. The “free” page rotates titles and offers nice 30-40 minute summaries, all read aloud clearly, that you can use to practice your listening skills. You can pay a few dollars here and there to access the rest of their offerings if you like what you hear, and want to explore other titles.
This is an institute of higher learning in Mexico which prides itself on non-traditional methods of education and learning. One nice program they have going is a student-led endeavor to record audiobooks. In particular, they’re focused on having native-speaking students record the classics in Spanish.
At any given time, you can find a collection of 8-10 complete Spanish audiobooks on their website. The selection occasionally changes when they’ve completed a new audiobook. From their site, they link you out to iTunes U, where they’ve made the audiobooks available for free streaming or downloading in 20-minute chapters.
This expansive website for Spanish speakers and students offers a huge selection of audiolibros (audiobooks) and even videolibros (videobooks) where the text appears on-screen while the book is being read.
There’s a bunch of other useful stuff here apart from audio, all free to download, including:
- complete e-books
- textos paralelos (parallel texts, bilingual readers with text in English and Spanish side-by-side)
- Spanish news with transcripts and quizzes
- free quizzes on vocabulary and book content
You already know and love our old friend Amazon, I’m sure. Amazon has a reputation for making everything you could possibly want available at your fingertips, either to access online or have delivered straight to your home. Spanish audio is definitely something it can deliver.
- Audible — For listening to audiobooks, audiobooks and more audiobooks.
- Kindle — For reading e-books, but has some cool audio features which you’ll learn about if you keep reading.
- Amazon Prime — Free delivery on many items, plus access to Kindle and Prime Streaming for movies, music and more excellent audio.
Audible and Kindle are more interconnected than you might have known. You can use Whispersync and Immersion Reading to sync up your e-books and audiobooks.
If you own the audiobook and e-book for the same title, Whispersync lets you move between reading and listening without skipping a beat—if you listen mid-way through a book chapter, Whispersync will mark your e-book read until the same point. This means you can easily switch between reading and listening as needed. Here’s the page where you can shop for e-books that are all ready to go with Whispersync.
With a Whispersync e-book, you can do Immersion Reading. This actually gets the audiobook and e-book totally synced up to the point where you can read and listen at the exact same time. Check out which Kindle devices allow this feature here.
Word Wise is another nice feature, which means that the narration is already baked into the Kindle e-book download. Learn more about this here!
The best audio courses on Radiolingua for Spanish students include “Coffee Break Spanish” and “One Minute Spanish.” Each of these has its own unique approach to teaching Spanish and is suited to different Spanish skill levels and learning preferences.
- Coffee Break — Relaxed audio and video lessons that run about 15 minutes each, perfect for your coffee break at work. They’re suitable for newbies and more seasoned students, as you can choose from a variety of levels.
- One Minute — For complete beginners starting from scratch, perfect for travelers with limited time to prepare for a big trip to a Spanish-speaking destination. As the title implies, the lessons are just one minute long!
Would you like to learn more about the whole Spanish-speaking world? You can do that while learning the Spanish language itself, thanks to Lenaglia. This course offers 30-minute podcasts about Spain and the countries of Latin America—all in Spanish.
This site offers educational podcasts hosted by native speakers, as well as complete Spanish language courses and e-books with accompanying MP3 files. The website’s name can tell you two things, if you’re able to decipher the Spanish words used. Try sounding it out!
Ke Rapido is a funny, casual way of writing qué rápido—a Spanish phrase that translates to “how fast!” It could be used as an exclamation, and one you may well want to utter when you notice how fast your Spanish is improving on this site. The two things you can know from this website’s name is: (1) that you’ll learn fast and (2) that you’ll learn casual, informal Spanish used by modern natives, rather than dry and formal textbook language.
This audio hosting website in Spanish has it all: podcasts, audiobooks and live online radio streaming. It’s a platform that helps Spanish-speaking podcasters monetize their work, which means it’ll get you farther than the most well-known podcasts. There are more voices to discover here!
16. Ecos del Balón
Soccer addicts and sports fans of all breeds will enjoy the Ecos del Balón podcast, where—as the podcast’s tagline says—the ball is the protagonist.
This podcast is just what it sounds like, “listening to documentaries,” and it covers a range of documentary topics like science, art, medicine, technology and politics which have been turned into podcasts for convenient listening. This is a nice listen when you’d like to learn something new, or at least to learn one perspective on something new.
Its little brother, “Escuchando Peliculas” is a less educational listening experience, because you’re just listening to the dialogue of a popular movie, but having long-form podcasts that run more than an hour can only be good for your Spanish listening skills. And it’s like experiencing the grand old days of radio drama programs that would describe scenes to you so you could envision them, which is kind of neat in its own unique way.
Every Monday, the friendly and intelligent hosts banter their way through all sorts of history topics, from wars and revolutions to famous figures and discoveries. They mainly focus on wars and battles, victories and losses that shaped history, and skip around through events from ancient times to modern day.
19. SBS Podcasts
The original SBS Podcasts come from Australia and discuss many local topics there, mainly zoning in on cultural and indigenous issues. The Spanish version of the podcast gets its coverage from a combination of sources from all over Latin America, meaning you’ll get an interesting mix of news stories here.
News & Talk Radio
20. CNN Español
It’s undeniable that CNN is a big name in news worldwide, and CNN Español will give you all the latest news that people are talking about, in Spanish, of course. This is an excellent broadcast to listen to if you’d like to get all of your daily American and world news delivered in clear-as-day Spanish.
21. Radio Columbia
Yes, you read that right, this is Radio Columbia, not Colombia. This radio station is based in San Jose, Costa Rica. You’ll mainly find national Costa Rican news and stories from Latin America at large, along with some world news, sports and entertainment mixed in.
Whenever I happen to put this channel on, I’ve noticed that the hosts tend to talk relatively slowly and calmly, which is ideal for language learners, though I can’t promise you won’t catch a more exuberant host when you tune in.
Voice of America is a high-quality, generally rather neutral and factual news resource funded by the United States government. They deliver information in a wide variety of formats, from written publications to radio and video. Their mission is to deliver the facts and nothing but the facts, but you should listen and be the judge of that! I’ve found it to be nice and dry, as news ought to be.
The Spanish version of the channel has a live stream of radio news constantly running, and it’s crystal clear. Start your days with “Buenos Días América” to get fresh, daily news about the United States and Latin America.
23. Euronews Radio
Looking for European Spanish audio? Euronews discusses regional and world topics from a European perspective, and has been trying to bring the population of Europe together since the ’90s with its multilingual broadcasting model—they’ve got a separate broadcast in every major language spoken in Europe, whether the language originated in Europe or not.
Despite being labeled as Radio France Internationale, this news broadcast is offered in an impressive 15 languages, of course including Spanish. Change the language by going to its Languages page from the home screen of the site. While all the spoken topics will be fully translated into European Spanish for your listening enjoyment, keep in mind that any music played between programs is often still French. The Spanish version itself is recorded and delivered from Paris, France.
Wonderful for Europhiles and polyglots who are also learning French, but this could be a downside for language learners who want full Spanish immersion during listening time.
25. IMER Mexico
The Instituto Mexicano de la Radio is a unique and interesting place to visit for news, music and even podcast-style discussions of historical and modern topics. This cool resource states that public radio is critical for public well-being—and not just public radio in general, but public radio that’s dedicated to providing ample coverage and a diversity of content.
Meander through page upon page of musical history on their site to learn about formative artists and music industry names in modern history. Or go straight to the audio gold—they’ve got a huge spread of Mexican radio stations available to listen to directly on their site, each with a quick note about their main genre of music.
This is a major online destination for getting a diversity of audio live-streamed to your computer, tablet or smartphone. It’s free (with commercials) and easy to use, and with a free account you can save all of your favorite audio resources to revisit later.
If you already use TuneIn to listen to music, news or podcasts, you probably know where I’m going with this. You can search for topics in Spanish and Spanish-speaking artists to follow their music. But another tricky way to use this audio platform is to click “By Location” in the top bar of their site. Click North America for Mexican and Caribbean audio broadcasts, South America or Central America to hear broadcasts from every country down south and Europe to find audio from Spain.
Many of these channels are your everyday music stations, and having TuneIn running in the background while working, studying or cleaning the house has become a favorite pastime of mine. You’ll get exposed to so much music from around the world here—choose a radio station from a different Spanish-speaking country every day of the week!
Once in a while, NPR hosts may feature or chat about Spanish-language musical artists. But if you really want to dig into their treasure trove of Spanish-language music, you need to visit the Alt.Latino section of NPR Music. From there you can check out their past segments or play the live music radio broadcast. You’ll be exposed to a massive spread of Spanish-language music here, from traditional sounds to more modern and off-the-wall tunes.
It’s a little bit hit or miss for language learners, as you’ll also sometimes end up listening to Hispanic artists who sing in English and Spanglish, but if you’re going to have the radio on all day long, you’re bound to find plenty of awesome Spanish-language music.
The best feature they offer is a constantly-updated display that shows the artist name and song title.
If you’re not already using Pandora for free, you should start! The special feature that makes Pandora popular is that it creates playlists for you based on the song titles and artist names that you input. Enter the name of a Spanish-language artist who you adore, or your absolute favorite salsa or reggaeton jam, and Pandora will conjure up a mix of music that’s in line with that particular choice. For example, type in Marc Anthony and hit “start station,” and you’ll go on a journey through classic salsa.
Find more of what you already love this way!
This radio platform is a blend of Pandora and TuneIn. There’s a huge Latin section to explore, and you can sort by sub-genre to find radio stations and user-made playlists that focus in on your favorite styles of music.
Yes, I know that you know YouTube exists, and you probably also know that it’s loaded with music from around the world. Start by searching for specific styles of Spanish music until you find a high-quality playlist. For example, you might search for: merengue, salsa, bachata, cumbia/kumbia, reggaeton, boleros, rock Latino, reggae Latino or pop Latino.
Are you feeling like a true audiophile yet?
Ready to invest in a massive home sound system or a fancy pair of headphones for the best possible audio experience?
Good! Pump up those Spanish tunes, and dance and sing like nobody’s watching… or listening.
Start the day in a brainier way by swapping your current news for a broadcast en español.
Drill your way through Spanish conversational phrases while driving around in your car.
The more you immerse yourself in Spanish audio, the closer you’ll feel to full Spanish fluency.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.