learn-spanish-grammar

A Whole New World: How to Learn Spanish Grammar with Disney Songs

Are you looking for Spanish grammar practice that’s fun, dynamic and also educational?

Look no further than the music of your youth.

I am, of course, talking about Disney songs!

Sure, any kind of music can be a great language learning tool. It’s great for internalizing Spanish grammar, building vocabulary and perfecting your accent.

Each of the eight classic Disney songs in this post have been specially picked to help you practice a specific aspect of Spanish grammar. Look through the list for the grammar topic that gives you the most trouble, or simply pick your favorite song off the list! Either way, learning and singing along to these songs will help you improve your Spanish grammar in a snap.

Why Use Kids’ Music to Learn Spanish Grammar?

When you’re trying to learn Spanish grammar, turning to music seems like a strange choice. Disney music, which is meant for children, might seem even stranger!

That’s just one reason why it’s quite underutilized! Why do we shy away from songs? For beginners, it can be intimidating to start getting into music that’s performed by native speakers for native speakers. On the other hand, intermediate and advanced students might look past children’s entertainment, assuming that it’s too simplistic to benefit them.

As it turns out, children’s literature, music and movies can be great for speakers at all levels. There are plenty of reasons why music works, as opposed to reading and working with textbooks.

The lyrics in children’s music normally use simple vocabulary and grammar—at a child’s level—and the meanings and themes of these lyrics are straightforward enough that you don’t have to worry too much about reading between the lines or making big inferences.

Most importantly, children’s music is catchy and fun to sing along with! You’ll want to listen over and over, and singing along is a great way to memorize the lyrics while practicing your pronunciation.

Plus, you’re probably familiar with Disney stories and songs already. This means you won’t need to focus on the story or even the meaning of the lyrics. You can loosen up, learn the lines and then just focus on learning the grammar rules present in each song.

All of these characteristics make children’s music—and Disney songs in particular—great for anyone who’s currently learning a language. However, all this apparent simplicity is deceptive. Despite being easy to understand, these songs still incorporate complex grammatical structures and verb tenses. This is nothing but good news, because you can quickly learn all this grammar by singing along and reading the lyrics, almost without realizing how much you’re learning.

So, now that you’re excited to see what hidden grammar lessons your old Disney favorites might hold, let’s move on to the songs!

The 8 Best Disney Songs for Learning Spanish Grammar

1. “Bajo el mar” (Under the Sea)

Movie: “La Sirenita” (The Little Mermaid)
Sing It to Practice: Conjugating the Present Simple

In both Spanish and English, we use the present simple primarily to talk about states of being, characteristics and habitual actions. Since “Under the Sea” is a song about Sebastian trying to convince Ariel how good she has it in her current surroundings, it’s not shocking that the present simple is used quite frequently!

Just look at the number of present simple verbs in the first stanza alone:

crees que en otros lagos las algas más verdes son
Y sueñas con ir arriba, y ¡qué gran equivocación!
¿No ves que tu propio mundo no tiene comparación?
¿Qué puede haber allá fuera que causa tal emoción? 

You believe that in other lakes the algae are greener
And you dream of going up there, and what a big mistake!
Don’t you see that your own world has no comparison?
What can there be out there that causes such excitement?

Just this one stanza is rife with different present simple verbs—both second and third person, singular and plural, regular and irregular.

If you’re a beginner, try to work through the whole song (it’s not short!) and define all of the present simple verbs. You can then classify them by their subject and sort them into regular and irregular verbs.

2. En mi corazón vivirás” (You’ll Be In My Heart)

Movie: “Tarzán” (Tarzan)
Sing It to Practice: Conjugating the Future Tense

The adorable chorus of this song includes two examples of future tense verbs:

En mi corazón tú vivirás
In my heart you will live

And later,

Dentro de mí estarás siempre
You will be inside me forever

The song also shows some great examples of irregular future tense verbs, such as hará (it will make) from the verb hacer and tendrás (you will have) from the verb tener.

In Spanish, there are two types of future tense verbs. The first is the future simple, which is the type of future tense that shows up in “En mi corazón vivirás.” It’s right there in the title—vivirás (you will live).

The other type is the one formed with the phrase ir a (to go to) plus an infinitive verb. For example, voy a llamar a mi madre esta noche (I’m going to call my mother tonight).

Ir a + infinitive future tense verbs are generally used to describe something that’s going to happen in the near future, and particularly something that will happen at a defined point in the future.

On the other hand, the future simple is more commonly used to talk about things that will happen in the general future, or to make promises or predictions about the future. Since this whole song is about making promises (“You’ll be in my heart!”), it makes sense that the verbs would be in the future simple form.

3. “En Verano” (In Summer)

Movie: “Frozen: el reino del hielo” (Frozen)

Sing It to Practice: Uses of Infinitive Verbs

Make sure you look to the European Spanish version of “En Verano” to see what I’m discussing here—the Latin American version has quite different lyrics!

The song “En Verano” (In Summer) highlights two different uses of Spanish infinitive verbs.

First, you’ll learn about the use of Spanish infinitives to talk about an action as a noun. In English, we generally use the “-ing” form of a verb for this.

Comer sano es muy importante.
Eating healthy is very important.

In the lyrics to “En Verano, you can hear this a few different times. For example:

No habrá nada mejor que estar muy relajado al sol
There won’t be anything better than being very relaxed in the sun.

Ponerlos juntos tiene sentido.
Putting them together makes sense.

The second common usage of infinitive verbs displayed in this song is when two verbs are used next to each other. Different from a compound verb (like the present continuous or past perfect), these are examples in which two different actions are discussed.

Yo quiero cantar.
I want to sing.

In almost all cases, when two verbs are used together like this, the second one must be in the infinitive form—like the verb cantar (to sing) in this example.

The very first two lines of the song have two examples of infinitive verbs:

Siempre quise soplar un diente de león
Y hacer lo que quiera que la nieve haga en verano.

I always wanted to blow a dandelion
And do whatever it is that the snow does in summer.

In this case, the infinitive verbs soplar (to blow) and hacer (to do) both go with the verb quise (I wanted), so they both must be in their infinitive forms.

This is far from the only example in the song—go listen and see if you can find them all!

4. “Bésala” (Kiss the Girl)

Movie: “La Sirenita” (The Little Mermaid)
Sing It to Practice: Object Pronouns

One big difference between English and Spanish is the use of direct object pronouns. In English, these words—him, her, them, us—generally come after the verb. In Spanish, they generally come before—unless they’re added directly onto the end of an infinitive verb, gerund or command!

Another big issue for Spanish learners is the need to differentiate between direct and indirect object pronouns. For a full rundown on the difference, check out this pronoun guide.

This song is full of object pronouns! The song’s title utilizes the direct object pronoun la (her) attached to the command besa (kiss) to form the command bésala (kiss her). The song uses a similar construction in the command mírala (look at her).

When the verbs are conjugated in other forms, we see the pronoun before the verb. For example, in the song lyrics

No te ha dicho nada aún pero algo te atrae.
She hasn’t said anything to you yet but something attracts you.

Que lástima me da ya que la perderá
What shame it gives me that you’ll lose her.

Listen to the song and try to pick out all the instances of direct and indirect object pronouns!

5. “Si no te conociera” (If I Never Knew You)

Movie: Pocahontas” (Pocahontas)
Sing It to Practice: Third Conditionals (Impossible Situations)

Fun fact: This song was actually not included in the original version of “Pocahontas,” but it was later added in a 2005 re-release of the movie. So, if you love “Pocahontas” but aren’t familiar with this song, that’s why! I highly recommend giving it a listen if you don’t know it—it’s very beautiful, and the Spanish version is wonderful for grammar practice.

In Spanish—like in English—we have three types of conditionals. This song deals with third conditionals, which involve impossible situations. Here’s an example of a third conditional:

Si no hubieras ido a la fiesta, no habrías conocido a María.
If you hadn’t gone to the party, you wouldn’t have met Maria.

In this case, we’re dealing with an impossible situation because it’s impossible for the person in question to not go to the party—it was in the past!

We construct third conditionals using a simple formula that involves two clauses.

The first clause involves si plus a past subjunctive verb phrase. One example is the song’s title, si no te conociera (If I didn’t know you).

Next, you need another clause with a conditional verb phrase, such as the line no sabría el corazón lo hermoso que es vivir (my heart wouldn’t know the beauty of living).

In fact, many of the stanzas of the song are set up like perfect third conditional phrases! For example:

Si no te tuviera
No sabría cómo al fin
He logrado hallar en ti
Lo que me faltaba en mí.

If I didn’t have you
I wouldn’t know how finally
I’ve managed to find in you
When I lacked in myself.

The verb tenses used in the third conditional are some of the most complicated for Spanish learners. In addition to being beautiful, this song can be a great reference for how to conjugate some common regular and irregular verbs in these tenses.

6. “Un mundo ideal” (A Whole New World)

Movie: “Aladdín” (Aladdin)
Sing It to Practice: Commands

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love singing “A Whole New World.” It’s just such a perfect song to belt out—provided there’s nobody too close by to listen! The Spanish version is just as infectious and sing-able.

It’s also full of great examples of the mandato (command) form! This isn’t surprising, since the song is all about Aladdin trying to convince Jasmine to join him on a magic carpet ride.

The second line of the song says:

Ven princesa y deja a tu corazón soñar.
Come, princess, and let your heart dream.

The fourth line says:

Ven princesa y déjate llevar a un mundo ideal.
Come, princess, and let yourself be taken to a perfect world.

Here, we have three great examples of different kinds of commands.

First, deja (let) is a perfect example of a regular command, formed by using the third-person singular present simple conjugation.

Second, ven (come) is an example of an irregular command. There are only a few irregular commands in Spanish, and this one comes from the verb venir (to come).

Finally, we have déjate (let yourself), an example of a reflexive command. Remember that in reflexive commands, we attach the reflexive pronoun to the end of the verb. Normally, you also have to add an accent mark to preserve the correct pronunciation pattern.

There are many other examples of commands in “Un mundo ideal. Some examples are mira bien lo que hay (look well at what there is) and llévame (take me).

For a more thorough breakdown of Spanish commands, click here.

7. “Busca lo más vital” (The Bare Necessities)

Movie: “El libro de la selva” (The Jungle Book)
Sing It to Practice: The Spanish Neuter Pronoun (lo)

Generally, people think of Spanish as having two gendered articles: el for masculine words and la for feminine words.

In reality, Spanish has a third article: lo, the neuter-gendered article. We generally use lo when the subject of the sentence is abstract or unclear.

Lo que yo quiero es descansar.
What I want is to relax.

Es lo mejor del mundo.
It’s the best [thing] in the world.

This song’s title, “Busca lo más vital, translates to “Search for the most vital [things].”

The neuter lo appears all over the song:

Si buscas lo más esencial
Sin nada más ambicionar
Mamá naturaleza te lo da.

If you search for the most essential [things] Without anything more ambitious
Mother Nature gives it to you.

Lo is an incredibly important tool in any Spanish speaker’s arsenal—it’ll allow you to express things in a way that sounds more native and natural. But since lo has no real English equivalent, it can be hard for an English speaker to learn. Listening to this song’s lyrics will help you familiarize yourself with lo’s many uses.

8. “Hombres de acción” / “Todo un hombre haré de ti” (I’ll Make a Man Out of You)

Movie: “Mulán” (Mulan)
Sing It to Practice: Differentiating Between Castilian and Latin American Spanish

The Spanish language can change quite a bit depending on where in the world you are! Did you know that most Disney movies—and, in fact, many other books, movies and TV shows—have separate dubbing for Latin American Spanish and European Spanish?

Above is the Latin Spanish version. Here’s the European Spanish version!

When listening to these two versions of Mulan’s “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” you should be on the lookout for two major characteristics that differentiate these two types of Spanish.

First, their second-person plural conjugations (the “y’all” or “you guys” form, as I like to call it) are different. In Latin America, speakers use the ustedes form. In “Hombres de acción,” the Latin American version, you can see this from one of the song’s most important lines:

Hombres fuertes de acción serán hoy.
Strong men of action, you’ll be today.

The verb ser (to be) is conjugated as serán, the present tense ustedes form.

In Spain, the ustedes form is reserved for formal situations, and it’s much more common for speakers to use the vosotros form. In the European Spanish version, look for lines like:

hoy dais lástima, vais a aprender
today you cause pity, you will learn

In this case, both dais (you give) and vais (you go) are conjugated in the vosotros present simple.

Second, listen to the accents of the singers. The primary difference between the Castilian and Latin American accents is in the pronunciation of soft C’s and Z’s.

In Latin America, they sound just like a Spanish or English S. In most parts of Spain, on the other hand, you must lisp these two letters—they sound like the TH at the end of “tooth.” You can hear this lisp sound in voy a hacer todo un hombre de ti in words like vez (time), corazón (heart) and hacer (to make).

 

Disney songs are not only fun to listen to and sing—they can also be highly educational and great practice for language learning!

These world-famous tunes that most of us can already sing along to in English will help add variety and dynamism to your grammar practice sessions.

So, the next time you’re in the car, the shower or just alone in your room, turn on your favorite Disney song in Spanish and sing!

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