Get ready to turn the volume up.
To be fluent in Spanish, your listening skills need to be top notch.
That’s because the more frequently you hear spoken Spanish, the more natural it will feel.
You’ll soon find that you are understanding Spanish without translating in your head—and that will feel incredible!
This, dear learners, is the key to fluency: understanding and speaking without translating.
There are many tips and tricks to improve your listening, but none are as easy as integrating Spanish audio sources into your daily life.
Why Learn Spanish with Audio?
- Listening is a key aspect of communicating in Spanish. Sure, you might be able to speak Spanish. Maybe you can even read it and write it. But if you can’t understand spoken Spanish, you’ll never be able to communicate fully. Simply put, practicing listening will help you understand more of what you hear.
- Listening to Spanish audio helps pronunciation. Not only does listening practice tune your ears, but it will also improve your speaking. Yes, the more you listen, the better your pronunciation will get. So if you want to lose your foreign accent, listen up!
- It’s the most convenient way to practice listening. If you watch a movie, you’re tethered to a screen and your attention is split between all of the visual action, subtitles and the speech. But with a discrete pair of headphones, you can listen to these great audio sources anywhere. Riding the subway becomes a learning opportunity. Getting stuck in traffic can skyrocket your Spanish. Even at work, you can inch closer to fluency (if your boss is cool with it).
Additionally, it helps to diversify your learning because you can try as many different types of activities as possible. After all, listening to music is very different from listening to conversation. Each source has different benefits, so it’s best to use many various audio sources.
Selecting Spanish Audio Sources
Before selecting materials, it is important to consider what you want to get out of the activity. Here are some things to consider:
- Your level of proficiency. Beginners might want to look for sources specifically labeled “beginner,” whereas more advanced learners could explore any audio content created for native speakers.
- What types of vocabulary are you interested in learning? For instance, if you want to learn more business terms, you’ll want to look for a business-related audio sample. Want to learn about sports? Try a sports radio station or podcast.
- What region’s Spanish do you want to familiarize yourself with? Spanish greatly varies by region, so it is best to choose audio sources from your target region. For instance, if you are planning a trip to Mexico, listen to a podcast that uses Mexican Spanish.
4 Sizzling Types of Spanish Audio to Amp Up Your Learning
Using standard listening techniques like taking notes will help with any of these types of audio, but we’ll also discuss more specific techniques for each source. This will help keep learning fresh and fun, so let’s get started!
We already know how useful podcasts can be. They routinely offer new content and diverse topics, so there is always plenty to listen to. Additionally, they usually use a conversational tone, which is what you’ll most often encounter in the real world.
Here are some ways to learn with podcasts:
- Use pre-made activities. Podcasts that are designed specifically for learners often offer activities that correspond to each podcast, such as worksheets to practice conjugations and vocabulary. If this is the case, definitely take advantage of these resources and do the activities. This is absolutely the case with SpanishPod101 by Innovative Language—they’ve got over 1,600 podcast-based lessons complete with interactive learning materials.
- Summarize the content. After you’ve listened to the podcast, try to summarize what you heard in Spanish. To practice your speaking, summarize aloud. To practice your writing, write out your summary.
- Imitate the presenter. Choose a 15-second clip from a podcast and listen to it several times. Then, repeat after the speaker, such that you echo about a half-second behind the original audio. If that feels difficult without a transcript, listen and pause, second by second, to write out the audio (or, depending on your level, do this activity with a podcast that has a transcript). Try to imitate the exact tone and pitch of the speaker. Once you’ve mastered those 15-seconds, play the podcast starting about a minute before your part. When your part starts, hit mute and be the speaker!
- Give your opinion. When there is a pause in the podcast, hit pause and add in your own two cents. What do you think about the topic? This will help you practice your speaking and conversation skills.
- Notes in Spanish — This website offers MP3s that you can listen to online or download from iTunes. You can also purchase corresponding worksheets.
- Audiria — This website offers dozens of different podcasts. Some focus on culture or history, while others focus more directly on language. With free corresponding tests and exercises, you’ll have plenty of options to improve your Spanish.
- Advanced Podcasts — These are our recommendations of seven advanced Spanish podcasts that’ll get you fluent faster.
- You can also find Spanish podcasts at your favorite audio-download destinations like Spotify and iTunes. Just be sure to change your country to a Spanish-speaking country of your choice for access to native podcasts.
Music is one of the most fun ways to practice Spanish. Each song can teach you something new with hidden lessons in the lyrics. Music is easy to listen to—you can focus on it or just leave it on in the background. Furthermore, a good song will get stuck in your head and play on a constant loop. When it’s an English-language song, this can get old fast (“And I was like, baby, baby, baby…”), but if a Spanish song gets stuck in your head, it will ensure you never forget the vocabulary in that song.
Selecting music: Some songs are better than others for Spanish learners, so before you choose a song, consider what you hope to gain by listening. For instance, listening to rap may be fun, but it might not be your best option for quick learning since it could take months of listening to pick up all the words. Slower songs may be easier to understand, but they might also have fewer words to learn. Taking all of this into account, it’s always best to choose music you genuinely enjoy.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your music listening:
- Listen frequently. Once you’ve found a song you enjoy, this step should be easy. Listen to the song as often as possible—ideally at least once a day. Passive listening (listening in the background without trying to engage with the words) is fine, since you mostly just want to familiarize yourself with the sounds and words.
- Fill-in-the-lyric. Try looking up the lyrics online. Don’t pay too much attention to them, just jot down the first word in each line on a separate piece of paper (leave space between lines). Now, listen and try to fill in as many words as you can. You can try this again and again over a period of a few days. Once you think you have it all filled in, look over the text. Does it make sense? If not, think about what words might make more sense. Even in English, we mishear lyrics all the time. What words might you have misheard? Once you think you’ve got it down, look up the lyrics again and see how you did.
- Learn the lyrics on FluentU. If the previous exercise sounds too complicated, you can easily learn a song’s lyrics with FluentU. FluentU is an online immersion platform that takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized Spanish lessons. You’ll find everything from the Spanish rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” to the Spanish versions of your favorite Disney songs! FluentU provides interactive captions for every video, which allow you to see definitions, usage examples, audio pronunciations and more right on screen (if desired). There’s also an incredible learn mode where you can actively practice the vocabulary and grammar from each video. Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet, or, better yet, download the App from iTunes or the Google Play store and bring FluentU’s innovative language-learning experience to your iOS and Android device.
- Sing along. That’s right—just singing along with your favorite song will help reinforce the vocabulary and serve as great pronunciation practice.
- 8tracks — This website offers Spanish-language music organized into helpful playlists, so all you have to do is select your favorite playlist and start listening.
- “Sale El Sol” — Surely you are familiar with Shakira. But have you tried listening to the original Spanish-language versions of her songs? Guess what? They’re even better than the English versions!
Radio is a helpful tool with endless content. And best of all, you can stream it online—so your location doesn’t matter. The topics are diverse, so you’ll have no problem finding something that appeals to you.
Here are some ways to use radio for language learning:
- Just enjoy. You don’t need to engage with the work; you can just sit back and listen. Your pronunciation will improve, as will your listening skills.
- Turn the radio off for a second and add your own commentary. If you’ve chosen a topic that interests you, you should have plenty to add. What do you think about what the commentator said? What information can you add?
- Try repeating what the broadcaster just said. This is best done with short, easy-to-remember phrases. First, repeat it with the exact same inflection as the broadcaster. Next, try changing up your inflection but keeping the pronunciation the same.As you’re repeating, listen to what you are saying and consider what it means.
- Keep a notebook of interesting words to look up and practice later. Specialty broadcasts always have specialty words, and they will often be repeated frequently. If you hear a word you don’t know—and it’s repeated often—jot it down and look it up later (or hit pause if you’re listening online). Once you know the meaning, use it in sentences of your own.
- Listen Live — This website lists stations broadcasting out of Spain, along with their focuses and the city from which they broadcast.
- Streema — Streema offers over 3,800 Spanish-language stations from the United States, Latin America and Spain. It also lists their genres and location, so you can easily select which station is right for you.
4. Audio Lessons
Audio lessons are a great option for any Spanish learner. They are created specifically for learners, and are designed to help you at your current level.
Here are some ways to use Spanish audio lessons:
- Do the affiliated activities. Most audio lessons offer affiliated activities. These make the learning easy for you, by giving you clear tasks to cement your knowledge. To get the most out of them, you might even try doing them twice.
- Listen in a different order. If the provided activities are not enough, you can always make your own! Try skipping around through the audio lesson. Fast forward. Rewind. Listening to the recording in a different order each time will help ensure you are learning the content rather than just the organization of the lesson.
- Switch between various types of audio lessons. Switching frequently will help ensure you don’t get too accustomed to one format. This will help keep you on your toes and ensure you are learning as much as possible from each lesson.
- LingQ — Here’s a website that really has it all. While some of their podcasts can be listened to for free, you’ll need a membership to access the PDF transcripts and interactive learning features for each one. One neat feature of LingQ is that it allows you to import any Spanish learning materials that you love into an online learning library, just for you. It’s a great way to stay organized and track your Spanish progress!
- Open Culture — This website offers a helpful guide to audio lessons available from other sources. Some are from websites, while others are available on iTunes. The thorough descriptions of each source will help you select the lesson that’s best for you.
- English N Spanish — This website offers free audio lessons developed by the U.S. government. The courses are “basic level,” which is for beginners to early intermediate learners. Each volume of audio lessons also comes with a corresponding text to help you along.
- Some Spanish lessons also lurk on iTunes, so be sure to search regularly.
These four types of Spanish audio will take your listening skills to the next level, so listen up!
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