Tune In: Learn Spanish with the Radio in 6 Sound Steps
Even with the advent of brand new technologies and music libraries you can take with you anywhere you go, there’s one technology that still provides the soundtrack to our modern lives after so many years: the radio.
Listening to the radio is easy, unobtrusive and entertaining.
So whether you’re resting, cleaning or stuck at work, you can be improving your Spanish without breaking a sweat.
Follow these six easy steps to get started with learning Spanish by listening to the radio.
- 6 Steps for Crystal-Clear Spanish Radio Learning
6 Steps for Crystal-Clear Spanish Radio Learning
1. Select a Region
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 and anywhere else around the world 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. Here are just a few you can choose from:
Surf Music, TuneIn 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.
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.
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 Type of Programming
Once you’ve decided what region you want to focus on, you’ll also want to decide what topic you want to listen to. 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 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.
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 is a useful way to learn Spanish grammar and vocabulary. Once a song is stuck in your head, it’s easy to remember the words and, by extension, their meanings.
But tastes in music vary. If you like folk music, you’ll enjoy Radio Zaracay. If you prefer pop, tune in to LA FM Pop Latino. Whatever kind of music you like, there’s a radio station out there for you.
News stations allow you to hear about the latest happenings anywhere in the world, from New York and Spain. You can also further narrow down your focus within the category of news, like focusing on business with Gestiona Radio out of Spain, for instance.
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.
Radio Fuego 105.9 from Argentina 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 so with language learning.
Daily exposure to the language will help you learn it much faster. Make learning Spanish with the radio a part of your daily routine to mimic immersion without leaving your home.
Turn on a Spanish music radio station while you’re cleaning around the house. Listen to talk radio when you’re driving to work in the morning. Get your evening dose of Spanish celebrity gossip in the evening.
By including Spanish radio in your everyday life, you increase your exposure to the language!
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 and 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? Write them down. Once you’ve finished your listening session, 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.
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. Keep Things Fresh
At some point, you might start to feel that you aren’t getting anything new out of a station. That’s when it’s time to move on.
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 a bit faster. 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 That 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 learning Spanish with radio listening is a good way to practice 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 of the language. This will improve your own pronunciation and rhythm of speech.
You may also want to combine the radio with language learning tools that can reinforce what you learn from Spanish radio. Multimedia programs in particular can improve your listening and vocabulary skills. For example, FluentU lets you listen to and learn Spanish with authentic videos. Each clip comes with interactive subtitles, flashcards and quizzes, so you can learn with more context words you’ve heard or may eventually hear on the radio.
Whenever you feel like giving up, consider that what you need is simply more exposure and practice. No one becomes fluent overnight, after all!
With these six easy steps, you’re ready to start learning Spanish by listening to the radio. So why not turn the dial to learning?