Radio stations provide the soundtrack to our modern lives.
That’s pretty much the ideal blend of content for Spanish language learning.
Not to mention, listening to the radio is easy, unobtrusive and entertaining.
When you’re in a traffic jam, the radio keeps you company.
Sometimes you’ll just leave it on for convenient background noise. Why not make that listening experience even more productive?
Thanks to the internet, you can stream live radio from around the world whenever and wherever you like.
So whether you’re resting, cleaning or stuck at work, you can be improving your Spanish without breaking a sweat.
Follow these 6 easy steps to get started learning Spanish by listening to the radio.
6 Sound Steps to Learning Spanish by Listening to the Radio
1. Select a Region
As we’ve previously discussed, Spanish has very distinct regional variations. If you learned Spanish in U.S. schools, chances are you’re more familiar with Latin American Spanish. However, the Spanish spoken in Spain sounds quite different.
Because of these variations, it’s important to consider what regional variation you want to familiarize yourself with before selecting a radio station. Once you have an idea in mind, there are plenty of resources to help you find a great radio station.
- Spain: Surf Music, Tune In and Multilingual Books all offer lists of Spanish radio stations you can listen to live. Looking for music from a particular region within Spain? Be sure to pay attention to the city listings.
- Latin America: Lists of South American and Central American radio stations are available on some of the same websites. You can also choose your country of interest.
- United States: Are you more interested in learning Spanish as it’s spoken in the U.S.? Then you can listen to U.S.-based Spanish-language radio stations.
Most of these databases even list the cities from which the stations broadcast. So if you’re planning a trip to a particular city, you can choose that city’s top radio stations and familiarize yourself with the local dialect ahead of time.
2. Choose a Topic of Interest
Once you’ve decided what region you want to focus on, you’ll also want to consider what topic you’ll choose. Choosing something that interests you is important because it’ll help ensure you truly want to listen.
However, it’s also important to consider what type of vocabulary you hope to learn. If you’re learning Spanish to use in a professional setting, news and talk radio may be most helpful. However, if you want to learn Spanish for more casual conversation, then sports, music and entertainment may be just as useful.
Here are some options to consider:
- Talk Radio: Talk radio focuses on discussion rather than music. Stations like this can help you get a feel for conversational Spanish. La Red Rosario from Argentina, Radio Austral from Chile and Radio Nacional de España from Spain all offer talk radio programming.
- Sports: Maybe you love soccer. Perhaps another sport is more up your alley. Regardless, you can hear discussion and even some live coverage at Radio Nihuil from Argentina and La Nueva Radio Ya from Nicaragua.
- Music: Music is a useful way to learn Spanish grammar and vocabulary. Once a song is stuck in your head, it’s easy to remember all you learned from it. But tastes in music vary. Maybe you like folk. Maybe you like pop. Maybe you like oldies. Regardless, there’s a radio station out there for you.
- News: News stations allow you to hear about the latest happenings from New York and Spain. If you’re more interested in business, though, you might want to check out Gestiona Radio out of Spain.
- Entertainment: Entertainment radio generally focuses on a broader mix of music and talk, but its primary purpose is to entertain listeners. If you’re interested in more varied listening, this is a good option. La Ranchera from Los Angeles is a good option. Basque station Radio Vitoria also broadcasts in Spanish.
3. Tune in Daily
Practice makes perfect for any skill, but this is even more the case with language learning.
Daily exposure to the language will help you learn it much more quickly. Want to learn it all in one weekly cram session? That’s fine, too, but it’ll take hours to learn what you’d learn in mere minutes of daily radio listening.
Taking a day off could lead to backsliding. While you could certainly recover, who wants to unlearn their valuable new skill?
4. Jot Down Notes
Once you’ve been listening for a while, it’s time to start jotting down some notes. This is an important part of active listening. Active listening involves engaging with the work. This is the type of listening most often encouraged in formal classroom settings. It’s a helpful way to acquire the building blocks of language.
As you listen, you may want to write down the following:
- Frequently Used Words: What words or phrases do speakers frequently use that you just can’t figure out from context clues? Once you’ve jotted them down, you can look them up in a dictionary. The next time you listen to the radio, understanding what these words mean will make the broadcast a lot clearer and, ultimately, you’ll be able to understand other words because of the new context clues in your arsenal.
- Interesting Phrases: As with any language, Spanish has countless colloquialisms. Sometimes, a phrase will have nowhere near its literal meaning. When listening to the radio, these phrases may stand out like sore thumbs. You may understand the words but still be left wondering what on Earth they’re talking about. That’s when you jot down the phrase. Then, you can search online later to find out what it really means. Learning slang and colloquialisms like this will put you one step closer to speaking like a native.
5. Try Again
At some point, you might start to feel that you aren’t getting anything out of a station. At this point, it’s important to try again.
Once you’ve been listening to one station for a while, you might find that it’s no longer challenging because you now understand most of the content. This is a good thing! But if you want to keep learning more, it might be time to switch stations.
Each station will have a different cadence and vocabulary. If you were listening to a station where they spoke slowly, perhaps it’s time to find one where they speak quickly. If you were listening to a sports station, maybe it’s time to try business. Switching up what station you listen to will help ensure that you keep learning.
You might also need to switch stations if you keep listening to a radio station but still don’t understand anything. It could be that the radio station simply has a style that makes it difficult to follow. Trying other stations will help you find a better match. Remember that you can always switch to other listening activities if you need supplemental listening practice, or even if you’d just like a break from radio.
6. Trust It’s Working
If it feels like you aren’t learning anything, you may be tempted to quit. Try to keep going and trust that the process is working.
Even just hearing the language on the radio can help. This is because radio listening is helpful for passive listening. Passive listening is when you hear something, but you aren’t actively engaged in the listening process. You’re hearing as opposed to listening attentively.
Sure, you might not catch every word this way, but over time you’ll start to pick up a few new words and phrases.
Even if you don’t understand a single word (which is unlikely), you’re still learning the sounds. This will improve your own pronunciation and rhythm of speech.
With these 6 easy steps, you’re ready to start learning Spanish by listening to the radio. So why not turn the dial to learning?
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