We’ve all been there.
Sitting painfully through traditional Spanish language classes.
Desperately trying to memorize vocabulary.
Thankfully there are less conventional and more fun ways to learn Spanish.
And of course, by learning Spanish through songs.
We all get songs stuck in our heads – so put that to good use and use it as a learning tool to improve your language skills!
Why Learn Spanish Through Songs and Music?
Songs get stuck in our heads because of our brains. Music activates the auditory cortex part of our brains, and when we do not know the entire song our brains fill in the missing gaps in the rhythm and repeat it over and over. Scientists call this phenomenon a cognitive itch or a brain itch, and by repeating a tune in your head you are scratching the itch.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), our brains sometimes act like stuck iPods, unable to shuffle past the song they are stuck on to move onto something else we would rather listen to!
Scientists and researchers all around the world have different names for songs getting stuck in our heads and different theories for why this happens. Marketing agencies and commercials are constantly coming up with new jingles and tunes to make their product memorable to you by creating a sound or piece of music that will get stuck in your head, and often times it works very well!
We can use these same ideas to help learn a new language: If your brain can remember the music from a commercial or the theme song from a popular show on television, it will also remember a song or chorus line that you have heard even if it is in a different language.
Why Are Songs Helpful for Learning Spanish?
Learning a new language is hard – oftentimes sitting in a classroom is boring, learning from a textbook feels like work, and there is not much interaction with the real Spanish language and culture.
By learning Spanish through songs your brain makes the connection between the music you are listening to and the words and language concepts you are trying to learn.
Music allows you an insight into the Spanish culture that cannot be learned from a book. You get to learn what people are singing about and therefore learn more about the culture, opinions, and activities of Spanish speakers. In addition, listening to music is fun! Singing along to Spanish music not only increases your vocabulary and knowledge of popular Spanish culture, but will allow you to even out your accent and grow acquainted with local slang.
7 Tips for Learning Spanish Through Songs and Music
As mentioned above, we get songs stuck in our head all the time. If you listen to something long enough you will begin to recognize the beat, beginning notes and lyrics of the song. With repetition you will soon find yourself singing along almost without trying! However, in order to learn Spanish effectively, there are some tips and tricks to utilizing songs and music to your language-learning benefit.
Choose songs with clear pronunciation: If you find a song has lyrics that blend together or are hard to understand, consider picking a different song or reading the lyrics while you listen. For beginners, choosing simple songs with clear lyrics, choruses and verses will assist you in learning Spanish much better than more complicated songs.
Catchy beat: If the beat and rhythm does not catch your fancy when you listen to it, you probably will not want it stuck in your head. Songs that make you tap your foot and bob your head are the best!
Repeating chorus/verses: The best songs to learn Spanish are ones that have repeating phrases in the chorus or verses that contain the same lyrics. If you can recognize and remember the lyrics you will be able to sing it in your head with more accuracy!
A familiar song dubbed in Spanish: Learning completely new songs in Spanish can be difficult, so sometimes it is more than acceptable to take a familiar English song and find a Spanish version of it. You can do this for theme songs, your favorite songs, or listen to familiar artists who also sing in Spanish (like Shakira or Enrique Iglesias).
Regional Spanish music: Pick songs sung by artists from the Spanish region of the world whose dialect you are learning. Dialects across the Spanish-speaking world differ and can use different slang, so make it easy on yourself at least at the beginning!
Look up unknown words: It’s also helpful to look up words that you’re not familiar with, and to write them down and periodically review them.
Use FluentU: If this sounds like a lot of work, you can always use FluentU to learn songs. FluentU lets you learn Spanish through the web’s best Spanish music videos. There’s a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, Disney musicals, TV shows, music videos and even magical realism, as you can see here:
Choose any video that strikes your fancy! You’ll see how many Spanish vocabulary words you can learn from it, and you can even look at the transcript of the dialogue and practice vocabulary before watching the video.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles. So, when you choose a music video or something else to sing along with, you’ll find that all the lyrics are translated for you. You can hover over any word or phrase to see the translation, along with a helpful image.
Clicking on the word shows you useful example sentences, as well as other video clips which use the word. For example, check out this screenshot from a popular song by Carlos Baute:
You can even review the words in a review session that uses video context to help embed the words in your memory. You’ll be able to create vocab lists and track your progress as you advance through video after video.
FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
The best part? You can try FluentU for free.
Getting Started with Learning Through Spanish Songs
If you are set to start to learn Spanish through songs here are a few good ones to start with. These artists cover a variety of Spanish genres, styles, beats and messages, so you should be able to find something you like. In order to get the most out of these songs, here are a couple tips for when you listen.
The first time through, just listen to the song and the beat and try to pick out any familiar words you might already know. The second time you listen, pay attention to any repetition that might occur in the song. And the third time, see if you can spot any unfamiliar words to look up.
It will be incredibly helpful to keep a dictionary nearby, as well as having the lyrics available to look at. Make sure to also be in a place where you can really pay attention to the songs; being distracted will not be helpful. Become familiar with these songs and soon you will find yourself singing along!
This song uses common Spanish words along with a slow, easy beat – which is perfect for Spanish learners. You’ll be able to recognize the majority of the words and the conjugations of the verbs without too much trouble. The song tells the story of a woman who leaves her lover and must say goodbye, even though she doesn’t want to.
“Eres” also has a steady, slow rhythm with simple, clearly articulated words that are easy to follow. The song is a love song demonstrating the incredible joy of being in love, waking up next to someone, and not having to miss their presence anymore.
You will tap your feet and bob your head to this song! It has a very catchy beat and a repeating chorus line that you will be able to learn easily, and the lyrics are beautiful (much like the title). This song talks about the beauty to be found everywhere in life, and that the bad things that inevitably happen cannot take away from the overall glory of life. This is a great song for a rainy day!
Another love song, this smooth and easy jazz-inspired tune tells the story of a man who is nothing without his lover. It is a beautiful confession of a man who is in love and knows what he would lose without it: the wonderful feelings of companionship that comes with a relationship, and the desire to feel that again when love has gone away.
This song poses the question, “Why cry?”. Life is full of ups and downs, but excitement is all around and the only thing we can do is live our lives. Marc Anthony provides a very upbeat song you won’t be able to resist dancing to. Laugh, dance, shout, enjoy and live in the moment! This song is a reminder that the moment is all we have, so take advantage of it.
This song tells the story of a taxi driver who picks up a woman on the side of the road. She is crying and he asks why. She says she has just broken up with her boyfriend because he cheated on her. She and the taxi driver begin speaking and telling their life stories. The taxi driver wonders, “What am I doing here, driving a taxi, speaking with this woman, thinking these terrible things?”. They decide to go to the bar where her ex-boyfriend is and find the taxi driver’s wife in his arms; from that night on the taxi driver and the woman meet at the corner and continue their relationship.
Shakira’s “No” is slow and steady, and heartbreakingly expresses her reasons why she refuses to be with someone who is constantly causing her pain. She says that no one can live with the venom of this relationship, and that she resents the fact that her lover can still hurt her even when he is long gone. The lyrics are simple and powerful, perfect for learning a variety of new words.
This song is perfect for utilizing new conjugations and learning new words, combining life lessons and grammar tenses. You’ll receive a new and clearer understanding of Spanish grammar concepts like gerunds, subjunctive and infinitives, as well as lyrical practice with all of the tenses.
Look no further for the perfect Spanish woman power anthem! From throwing off the chains of her inattentive partner to becoming the queen of the city in an evening, Gloria Trevi’s passion is palatable through the music she has created. You’ll dance, sing, and be inspired by the sequins and spotlights that shine from this song, and in the end everyone will love her!
A sad and realistic breakup song, Jesse and Joy pose the question “Who gets the dog if we break up?”. What starts off as a shiny, new and exciting relationship filled with shared joys soon turns ugly. The song leaves us packing bags and splitting material items until the final question of who gets the dog remains. Devastatingly sad but all together relatable, this song will allow you to learn new vocabulary while also being able to hear some words you may already know well.
Great! What Next?
Now that you have a good place to start, you have the tools to find new Spanish artists you like and play around with different genres of Spanish music. Find songs you enjoy listening to, find others like them, and remember to keep a dictionary with you while you listen so you can look up any words you might not know right away.
Also, keep in mind that you do not have to understand the entire song the first time you listen to it!
The first time you listen you should be getting acquainted with the beat and rhythm.
The second time you should be paying attention to the lyrics and chorus, and the third time try to pick out any words or phrases you do not recognize and look them up.
After you have grasped the concept and idea of the song, you will find it playing in your head and eventually you will be singing along to the words!
The benefits to learning Spanish through songs are numerous.
You can download this music onto your mp3 or iPod and listen to it on a run, on the bus, or at home. Learning Spanish songs can make breaking the ice with native Spanish speakers easier and allow you to find common ground with others. You will learn details of local culture, perfect your accent, and enjoy learning new words, phrases and concepts – good luck!
More Resources for Learning Spanish Through Songs and Music
Here are a few more resources to help you learn Spanish through songs.
Lyrics Training: A great site to learn Spanish as well as other languages, through music videos. Lyrics Training lets you learn the lyrics to songs through fill in the blank questions.
My Favourite Way To Learn Spanish-With Music!: Jessica’s blog offering a playlist full of music to help you learn Spanish.
Spanish Songs For Kids: A selection of original songs designed to help children with learning Spanish. The songs include color-in worksheets with lyrics.
Learn Spanish Through Pop Song Lyrics!: A nice site offering popular Latin songs with their lyrics and translations, as well as phonetic guides to some fun Spanish song lyrics & music.
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