I probably don’t have to convince you that teaching Spanish with music is a great idea.
But just because you’re convinced doesn’t mean you know where to start.
No worries, we’ve all been there!
Finding songs to use in an introductory Spanish class especially can be super hard.
Some songs have tons of vocabulary that students don’t know.
Others are too grammatically advanced.
And then there are great songs that contain only one or two examples of points you want students to learn or practice.
So, what’s a beginning Spanish teacher to do?
In this post, I’ll share some songs that you can use to teach basic grammatical points, like present, past and future tenses.
But first, here are some tips for finding and incorporating songs into your introductory class that will have your Spanish students singing from day one.
What Should I Look for in Songs to Teach Introductory Spanish?
Before searching for songs to include in your introductory Spanish classes, you’ll want to know exactly what characteristics you’ll need to look for in these songs.
First of all, be sure to choose artists and musical styles that will capture the interest of the students you’re teaching. Choose songs that are age and grade-level appropriate. A bolero sung by Los Panchos is probably not going to rouse the interest of your middle school students, folks!
Don’t choose children’s songs unless you’re teaching children. These songs are no more interesting to older students or adults just because they’re in a foreign language. Really, who likes singing about a duck who can talk at age 15? Also, these songs are often not as simple as they may appear. Native-speaking children have a much larger vocabulary than non-native learners of Spanish!
Be sure to choose popular artists or artists whose works are timeless. The music should catch students’ attention just as much as the lyrics!
Of course, make sure that the artist doesn’t sing too fast and that the words are clear enough for beginning students to understand. If words are sung too fast or not enunciated enough, beginning students may become discouraged and give up trying to understand at all.
Also, be sure to choose peppier songs for early morning classes. There’s nothing worse than being lulled to sleep by a slow, drawn-out melody at 8:30 a.m., especially if the lyrics are only somewhat comprehensible to you!
Any song you choose should contain several examples of the grammar points or vocabulary you want students to pay attention to. Just because a song uses estar once or twice doesn’t mean it’s a good tool for teaching students about this verb. They’re likely to pass it off as “busy work”!
Also, consider choosing a song that’s in the same dialect your students are learning in class so that they don’t get confused or fail to understand. It may confuse students learning a Mexican dialect that a Central American singer, for instance, makes use of the voseo while a Caribbean singer aspirates the final-syllable /s/ sound. This is especially true if you don’t provide the students with lyrics before they listen to the music.
Where Can I Find Songs for My Spanish Class?
Check out the website Musicuentos for songs for all levels of Spanish.
Another great site is Musica.com, where you can search by lyrics. Just type in a song line or two, or a grammar or vocabulary point your students are studying, and you’ll undoubtedly find resources you can use in class.
Finally, Marcoele has an awesome database of songs for beginning as well as advanced students of Spanish. Best of all, you can print off lesson plans and worksheets to use in class, too!
If you’re still having difficulty finding the perfect song for your class, try keeping a small notebook handy or make a note on your phone when you hear a song on the radio, at the grocery store or at a party. Soon, you’ll have so many you could open a Spanish karaoke club!
Also, keep in mind that you can find Spanish songs with interactive subtitles, as well as a ton of other interesting, fun and level-appropriate videos at FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
So, what are some good songs for teaching basic Spanish?
To get you started, here are several suggestions for teaching verbs and verb tenses common in introductory Spanish.
Spanish Grammar Point Playlist: 9 Songs for Helping Your Spanish Class Get Down (the Basics)
Teaching present tenses
1. Fonseca “Hace tiempo” (2005)
In addition to incorporating daily routine vocabulary and reflexive verbs, “Hace tiempo” by the Colombian singer Fonseca is great for practicing irregular verbs, which you might have students go through and identify before listening to the lyrics. Check out all the irregulars here!
De hace tiempo que te digo que yo siento
Que me muero, no es tan fácil vivir lejos
De la mujer que yo quiero
Aún me queda tu recuerdo enmarcado en el espejo
(For a while now, I’ve been telling you that I feel like I’m dying,
It’s not so easy living apart from the woman I love
Your memory lingers, framed within the mirror)
2. Julieta Venegas “Limón y sal” (2006)
The song “Limón y sal” by Mexican singer Julieta Venegas was a big hit, and it’s sure to be a hit with your Spanish classes as well. Look at all the regular and irregular verbs in the chorus! Consider having students identify the regular and irregular verbs before listening to the song.
Yo te quiero con limón y sal, yo te quiero tal
Y como estás, no hace falta cambiarte nada
Yo te quiero si vienes o si vas, si subes
Y bajas, si no estás seguro de lo que sientes
(I love you with lemon and salt,
I love you just the way you are,
There’s no reason to change
I love you if you come or go,
If you’re up or down and if you’re not
Sure about what you feel)
3. Gloria Estefan “Tu fotografía” (2003)
A staple of music in Spanish, Cuban singer Gloria Estefan’s 2003 hit “Tu fotografía” is also sure to get students interested in conjugating.
Cada día que pasa te pienso y te vuelvo a mirar
Cada cosa en su sitio, el pasado, el presente
En el polvo mis dedos se juntan
Y quiero tenerte cambiando conmigo
No he movido tu foto ni el tiempo en los años
Si me hablas de lejos procura avisarme temprano
Y así imaginarme
Que te tengo aquí…
(With every passing day I think of you and see you again
Everything in its place, the past, the present in the dust
My fingers come together and I want you here changing with me
I haven’t moved your picture all these years
If you talk to me from far away, try to warn me early so that I can imagine
That you’re here with me…)
For teaching past tenses
4. Jennifer López “¿Qué hiciste?” (2007)
For teaching past tense, you might have students listen to Jennifer López’s “¿Qué hiciste?” A good idea is to ask students to decide why the first set of lyrics are in the imperfect and the second in the preterite.
Ayer los dos soñábamos con un mundo perfecto
Ayer a nuestros labios les sobraban las palabras
Porque en los ojos nos espiábamos el alma
Y la verdad no vacilaba en tu mirada
Ayer nos prometimos conquistar el mundo entero
Ayer tú me juraste que este amor sería eterno
Porque una vez equivocarse es suficiente
Para aprender lo que es amar sinceramente
(Yesterday we were dreaming a perfect world
Yesterday our lips need not talk
Because at our eyes we were seeing our soul
And the truth didn’t hesitate your sight
Yesterday we were about to conquer the whole world
Yesterday you promised me that this love would be eternal
Because messing up once is enough
To learn how it is to love sincerely)
5. Maná “Pobre Juan” (2002)
Although this song is quite sad, “Pobre Juan” by the Mexican rock group Maná has become a sort of teaching staple for comparing preterite and imperfect aspects of the past. Consider removing the verbs in the preterite and imperfect and replacing them with infinitives. Have students work in groups to read through the entire song and conjugate the verbs appropriately. Then, play the song and have students make corrections. Discuss why the verbs are in the preterite or imperfect.
Juan se lanzó marchándose al norte
Iba en busca de una vida digna
Cruzando México por valles y por montes
Iba Juan lleno de fe
La historia es que Juan se iba a casar
Con María embarazada
Pero él no tenía ni un centavo
Ni un clavo que darle
(Juan was left to go northward
In search of a better life
He crossed Mexico through valleys and mountains
Juan was full of faith
The story is that Juan was going to marry
Maria, who was pregnant
But he did not have a penny
Or anything to offer her)
For teaching ser vs. estar
And for teaching the differences between ser and estar, consider these singable songs.
6. Jesse y Joy “Ser o estar” (2006)
“Ser o estar” by Mexican singers Jesse y Joy is a great choice for helping students learn the differences between the verbs ser and estar. The title says it all! You might pass out the lyrics with the verbs ser and estar erased and have students fill in the correct verbs before listening to the song to check answers.
No quiero estar si tú no estás aquí
No entiendo lo que siento
Cómo pensar en dejarte ir
Si digo que no importa, miento
Se empieza a notar si tú no estás
En mi comportamiento
(I don’t want to be here if you’re not here with me
I don’t understand what I’m feeling
How to let you go
I would by lying if I said I didn’t care
When you’re not here it changes
The way I am)
7. Alejandro Sanz “No es lo mismo” (2003)
A well-known hit by Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz, “No es lo mismo” also contains many examples of the verbs ser and estar. Since this song is a bit more difficult, you might pass out a sheet with lyrics and have students determine where ser is used and where estar is used. Then, have them decide why each verb has been used in each case.
No es lo mismo ser que estar
No es lo mismo estar que quedarse, ¡qué va!
Tampoco quedarse es igual que parar
No es lo mismo
Será que ni somos, ni estamos
Ni nos pensamos quedar
Pero es distinto conformarse o pelear
No es lo mismo…es distinto
(Being there isn’t the same as staying here, not at all
The same can be said of staying the same with stopping
It’s not the same
Perhaps we are neither nor
We don’t even plan on staying
But it is different to resign oneself than to fight
It’s not the same…it’s different)
For teaching the future tense
And now…songs for teaching the future tense!
8. Nino Bravo “Un beso y una flor” (1972)
An oldie but goodie, Spanish pop singer Nino Bravo’s “Un beso y una flor” does future like a boss. For this song, try having students listen to the song without lyrics and writing down all the uses of future that they hear.
Dejaré mi tierra por ti, dejaré mis campos y me iré
Lejos de aquí
Cruzaré llorando el jardín y con tus recuerdos partiré
Lejos de aquí
De día viviré pensando en tu sonrisa
De noche las estrellas me acompañarán
Serás como un luz que alumbra en mi destino
Me voy pero te juro que mañana volveré
(I’ll leave my land for you, I’ll leave my fields and I’ll go
Far from here
Weeping, I’ll cross the garden and with your memories I’ll go
Far from here
By day I’ll live thinking about your smiles
By night the stars will keep me company
You will be like a light shining down on my path
I’m going now, but I swear that tomorrow I’ll be back)
9. Cañaveral “No que no” (2013)
The song “No que no” by Mexican group Cañaveral is great for helping students get used to hearing the future tense. It’s a more difficult song lyrics-wise, but the chorus is catchy. You might have students memorize the chorus to get used to how the future tense sounds and is conjugated.
Llorarás y sufrirás
Pensando en mí
Vivirás y recordarás
Pensando en que no volveré
(You will cry and suffer
Thinking of me
You will live and remember
Thinking that I will not return)
Now get singing! (In Spanish, of course!)