Quickly, finish these sentences:
“Upside inside out, she’s…” (“…livin’ la vida loca”)
“Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Macarena, heeeey…” (“…Macarena!”)
Even if you are an absolute beginner to Spanish, there is a good chance you knew all three of these, even though you probably have not heard at least two of them in years.
You memorized some Spanish without even realizing it and, years later, you can recall it without hesitation. How?
With the power of music!
As you can probably see now, learning Spanish through songs is an extremely powerful way to get words and expressions to stay in your mind long-term.
We all get songs stuck in our heads—so put that to good use and use it as a learning tool to improve your language skills!
Why Learning Spanish Through Songs Works
Scratching the Itch
Songs get stuck in our heads because of the way our brains work. Music activates the auditory cortex part of our brains, and when we do not know the entire song, our brains fill in the missing gaps in the rhythm and repeat it over and over.
Scientists call this phenomenon a cognitive itch or a brain itch, and by repeating a tune in your head you are scratching the itch.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), our brains sometimes act like stuck iPods, unable to shuffle past the song they are stuck on to move onto something else we would rather listen to!
Scientists and researchers all around the world have different names for songs getting stuck in our heads and different theories for why this happens. Marketing agencies and commercials are constantly coming up with new jingles and tunes to make their product memorable to you by creating a sound or piece of music that will get stuck in your head, and this often works very well!
We can use these same ideas to help learn a new language: If your brain can remember the music from a commercial or the theme song from a popular show on television, it will also remember a song or chorus line that you have heard even if it is in a different language.
Context Is Everything
By learning Spanish through songs, your brain makes the connection between the music you are listening to and the words and language concepts you are trying to learn.
A Shot of Culture
Music gives you an insight into the Spanish culture that cannot be learned from a book.
People often sing about things they care about, so you get to learn more about the way Spanish-speaking cultures view certain universally important themes like love.
Learn the Local Lingo
Singing along to Spanish music not only increases your vocabulary and knowledge of popular Spanish culture, but it also allows you to become acquainted with regional accents and slang.
It’s Just Fun!
Learning Spanish with music is just plain fun!
Tips for Learning Spanish with Music
As mentioned above, we get songs stuck in our head all the time. If you listen to something long enough, you will begin to recognize the beat, beginning notes and lyrics of the song. With repetition, you will soon find yourself singing along almost without trying!
However, in order to learn Spanish effectively, there are some tips and tricks to utilizing songs and music to your language-learning benefit. Here are some things you should look for when you are picking a song for learning Spanish, plus a few suggestions for how to learn with these songs:
- Clear pronunciation: You do not want to use a song where the lyrics blend into one another or are hard to understand because the singer is mumbling. This is especially true if you are a beginner: Choose songs with clear pronunciation for a better learning experience.
- A catchy beat: If the beat and rhythm does not catch your fancy when you listen to it, you probably will not want it stuck in your head. Songs that make you tap your foot and bob your head are the best!
- Repeating chorus/verses: The best songs to learn Spanish are ones that have repeating phrases in the chorus or verses that contain the same lyrics. If you can recognize and remember the lyrics, you will be able to sing the song in your head with more accuracy!
- A familiar song dubbed in Spanish: Learning completely new songs in Spanish can be difficult, so sometimes it is more than acceptable to take a familiar English song and find a Spanish version of it. You can do this for theme songs, your favorite songs, or listen to familiar artists who also sing in Spanish (like Shakira or Enrique Iglesias).
- Regional Spanish music: Pick songs sung by artists from the Spanish region of the world whose dialect you are learning. Dialects across the Spanish-speaking world differ and can use different slang, so make it easy on yourself at least at the beginning!
- Look up unknown words: It is also helpful to look up words that you are not familiar with, and to write them down and periodically review them.
- Use FluentU: If this sounds like a lot of work, you can always use FluentU to learn songs. FluentU lets you learn Spanish through the web’s best Spanish music videos. There is a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, Disney musicals, TV shows, music videos and even magical realism, as you can see here:
And, of course, there are plenty of hand-picked music videos!
Choose any video that strikes your fancy! You will see how many Spanish vocabulary words you can learn from it, and you can even look at the transcript of the dialogue and practice vocabulary before watching the video.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles. So, when you choose a music video or something else to sing along with, you will find that all the lyrics are translated for you. You can hover over any word or phrase to see the translation, along with a helpful image.
Clicking on the word shows you useful example sentences, as well as other video clips which use the word. For example, check out this screenshot from a popular song by Carlos Baute:
You can even review the words in a review session that uses video context to help embed the words in your memory. You will be able to create vocab lists and track your progress as you advance through video after video.
FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you are learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you have already learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
The best part? You can try FluentU for free.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Play store.
Resources for Learning Spanish Through Songs and Music
We have 20 awesome songs for learners below, but here are a few more resources to help you learn Spanish through songs:
- Lyrics Training: A great site to learn Spanish as well as other languages, through music videos. Lyrics Training lets you learn the lyrics to songs through fill in the blank questions.
- Barcelona Blond: A blog post that offers a playlist full of music to help you learn Spanish.
- Rockalingua: A selection of original songs designed to help children with learning Spanish. The songs include color-in worksheets with lyrics.
You can also use Spotify, YouTube or your music player of choice to find and listen to Spanish music!
Learn Spanish with Music: 20 Songs to Spark Spanish Learning
You are all set to start learning Spanish through songs! But where do you start?
We have put together a list of 20 songs that are perfect for language learners. These suggestions cover a variety of Spanish genres, styles, beats and topics, so you will definitely find something that you like.
In order to get the most out of these songs, here are a couple tips for when you listen:
The first time through, just listen to the song and the beat and try to pick out any familiar words you already know. The second time you listen, pay attention to repeated words and phrases. Do you understand them all? If not, look them up.
On the third listen, you should be understanding enough of the words to start listening to what they are saying. What is the message of the song?
It will be incredibly helpful to keep a dictionary nearby, as well as having the lyrics available to look at. You can find lyric videos which display the words as the song plays, so it is very easy to keep up. You can also look up lyrics to pretty much any Spanish song on the lyric site, Letras.
We have also included the lyrics for every song within its description, so you can just click over and find them easily.
Become familiar with these songs and soon you will find yourself singing along!
1. “Loco contigo” (Crazy with You) by DJ Snake, J. Balvin and Tyga
If you like your music hot and saucy, this is the perfect song!
The video is all fast action, wild sets and costumes. The guys sing about how crazy they are for a woman—with every bit of sincerity anyone could muster while riding in a vintage pink convertible past giant snails crossing the desert!
Spanish learners will enjoy the simple lyrics and basic vocabulary. This is a fun way to grab some conversational Spanish—and maybe learn a few steamier bits, as well!
2. “Con altura” (With Height) by Rosalia
This catchy tune is all about living the fun life, getting everything you can out of every moment and maybe even enjoying a few wild nights.
The cultural significance of the reggaeton sound and flamenco dance moves is worth noting. They provide insights into Spanish culture that sometimes learners only experience through travel or immersion. Here, though, the music brings both to life.
Rosalia’s thoughts on this song, as well as the lyrics, can be found in a short piece on Billboard.
This one is easy to sing along to and really fun. Who could ask for more?
3. “Con calma” (With Calm) by Daddy Yankee
This reggaeton dance song is all about a gorgeous woman who dances like a dream. The tune is so catchy that it honestly becomes an earworm (in a really good way!) so you might find yourself singing the song without even realizing it. (True story? That’s what happened to me!)
The refrain is so simple that even if beginning learners do not grab all of the lyrics immediately they will not have a problem understanding and singing the refrain.
Pure entertainment value on this video is off the charts. The dance moves are slick, the presentation has comical elements—like a big singing head—and the lyrics are shown with English subtitles.
4. “Keii” by Anuel AA
This song by Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA is almost like vocal theater, it is so beautiful. The story is complete with love, longing, character development—and a rhythm that charmingly cradles the lyrics.
A repeated shout out to other singers and songs provides a point for learners to find repetition which is a super way to practice pronunciation. Sing along to get an extra session of speaking practice into your Spanish language journey.
The lyrics to this gothic love story read likepoetry. The entertainer portrays Dracula so well that listeners may be looking over their shoulders as they sing this one!
5. “Recuerdo” (I Remember) by Martina Stoessel, Mau and Ricky
A tale of one romantic evening comes to life through with vivid images and concise storytelling. This is slow and dramatic, the story of dancing, kissing and what happens afterward. There are flashing lights and jail photos so this is not a happily-ever-after!
Take time to work on understanding all of the lyrics to see the Spanish grammar and vocabulary in action. Videos that show the lyrics with the music, like this one, are super resources for jotting down vocabulary or pressing pause to really see how the pieces of the language come together.
6. “Qué hay más allá” (What More Is Out There [How Far I’ll Go]) by María Parrado
In any language, this is a fantastic song! If you are a Disney fan, you are already familiar with this one. And, really, who doesn’t love “Moana”?
The lyrics are intended for a young audience so they are concise and clear. This makes them perfect for beginning learners. Intermediate and advanced learners will be able to sing along without any trouble.
There is lots of repetition in this sweet, uplifting song and that is excellent for language learners. It is a super way to perfect pronunciation—while having fun!
You can check the lyrics if you are unsure about any words or phrases, but remember that all of the words will come with practice. Practice makes progress!
7. “La cucaracha” (The Cockroach)
This classic Spanish song is one most heritage learners learn at a really early age. I learned this one almost as soon as I could speak!
It is perfect for beginners, with simple words and phrases to match a charming storyline. I can’t imagine how anyone could not love the poor, penniless cucaracha. He deserves all the feels he can get!
Check out “La Cucaracha” on FluentU to see some dual-language subtitles.
The graphics on this video are adorable and the English subtitles ensure that every single word is understood without any trouble at all. Now, if only the main character could sail through life as easily as those who sing his tale, he would be in fine shape, indeed!
8. “Mia” (Mine) by Bad Bunny and Drake
This ode to love is told from the male point of view and implores the lover’s object of affection to declare that she belongs to him. It is clear-cut and to the point: He loves her, she should acknowledge that and tell the world how it is.
A tortured love song is always good listening, isn’t it? And the lyrics are as uncomplicated as their message so this is one to gain pronunciation practice, speaking confidence and conversational vocabulary with.
The video offers cultural glimpses which are beneficial to language learners. A Puerto Rican flag, the Latin dance moves, domino game and backyard party will ring true to many who live in Spanish-speaking countries or in Latin neighborhoods. I know I recognized a lot from my own life!
Lyrics and translation are worth a look—especially if you need to grab some terms of endearment for your vocabulary list.
9. “Despacito” (Slowly) by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (Slowed Down Version by Boyce Avenue)
Have you ever wanted to learn to sing “Despacito,” word for word and with meaning? Then this slowed-down version is going to make you smile.
The lyrics are shown in the video so you will be able to sing along. And since the original fast pace has been modified, the Spanish phrases are very achievable for even beginning learners to grasp.
This FluentU post on the lyrics of “Despacito” will help with pronunciation.
If you are fluent enough for the original release by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, use the repetitive lyrics and rhythm to get some solid speaking practice in. When you feel confident with the vocabulary as written, why not add a phrase or two of your own to power up your skills?
10. “Libre soy” (I’m Free [Let It Go]) by Martina Stoessel
The Disney film “Frozen” is a timeless story. The kingdom is threatened so an unlikely pair sets off to break a spell. Along the way, they have adventures, encounter trolls and, ultimately, save the day.
Bonus for viewers? The soundtrack. The movie’s music is just as enchanting in Spanish as it is in English. And for anyone who has seen the film, the lyrics to this empowering song will be wonderfully familiar.
You can listen to the song with interactive dual-language subtitles on FluentU.
11. “Me voy” (I’m Leaving) by Julieta Venegas
This song tells the story of a woman who leaves her lover and must say goodbye, even though she does not want to.
The lyrics use common Spanish words along with a slow, easy beat—which is perfect for Spanish learners. Most of the song is in the present tense, though there are a few forms that might be new to beginners, like the subjunctive. Keep an ear open for common expressions, like “que lástima,” which roughly means “what a shame.”
12. “Eres” (You Are) by Café Tacuba
“Eres” also has a steady, slow rhythm with simple, clearly articulated words that are easy to follow.
The song is a love song demonstrating the incredible joy of being in love, waking up next to someone and not having to miss their presence anymore.
13. “Bonito” (Beautiful) by Jarabe de Palo
You will tap your feet and bob your head to this song! It has a very catchy beat and a repeating chorus line that you will be able to learn easily, and the lyrics are beautiful (much like the title).
Keep an eye on that last letter in the titular word bonito: it changes depending on the gender of the noun it is modifying. Learn more about how adjectives work in Spanish, then make sure you use the adjective gender rules when you sing along.
This song talks about the beauty that can be found everywhere in life and that the bad things that inevitably happen cannot take away from the overall glory of life. This is a great song for a rainy day!
14. “Nada valgo sin tu amor” (I’m Worth Nothing Without Your Love) by Juanes
Another love song, this smooth and easy jazz-inspired tune tells the story of a man who is nothing without his lover. It is a beautiful confession of a man who is in love and knows what he would lose without it: the wonderful feelings of companionship that comes with a relationship, and the desire to feel that again when love has gone away.
The lyrics read like a love letter and are a bit more complex than the previous songs, so check this one out if you are at an intermediate level of Spanish to fully understand it.
15. “Vivir mi vida” (Live My Life) by Marc Anthony
This song poses the question, “Why cry?” Life is full of ups and downs, but excitement is all around and the only thing we can do is live our lives. Marc Anthony provides a very upbeat song you will not be able to resist dancing to.
Laugh, dance, shout, enjoy and live in the moment! This song is a reminder that the moment is all we have, so take advantage of it.
16. “Historia del taxista” (Story of the Taxi Driver) by Ricardo Arjona
This song tells the story of a taxi driver who picks up a crying woman on the side of the road and the chance encounter turns into something more. The two begin sharing their life stories and, despite the gap between their social classes, something clicks.
Listening to the song is practically like hearing an entire story—and it even comes with its own twist ending.
The lyrics have dialogue, descriptive language and very little repetition, so more intermediate or advanced learners would benefit from hearing this one.
17. “No” (No) by Shakira
Shakira’s “No” is slow and steady, and heartbreakingly expresses her reasons for refusing to be with someone who is constantly causing her pain. She says that no one can live with the venom of this relationship and that she resents the fact that her lover can still hurt her even when he is long gone.
The lyrics are simple and powerful, and make strong use of the Spanish informal command form—”don’t do this, don’t do that.” You will also find a few interesting expressions and phrases so make sure you read those lyrics closely!
18. “Nuestros tiempos verbales” (Our Verb Tenses) by El Patio de Tu Casa
This song is different because it is not a pop or traditional song. Instead, it is a learning song all about the Spanish tenses, but it is so catchy and fun that you will be singing along to the words and learning way more than you might if you just tried to memorize the words.
You will receive a new and clearer understanding of Spanish grammar concepts like gerunds, subjunctive and infinitives, as well as lyrical practice with all of the tenses. Plus, the song is just so charming!
19. “Todos me miran” (Everyone Looks at Me) by Gloria Trevi
Look no further for the perfect Spanish woman power anthem! From throwing off the chains of her inattentive partner to becoming the queen of the city in an evening, Gloria Trevi’s passion is palatable through the music she has created.
This song’s lyrics are a fantastic way to study the past tense!
20. “¿Con quién se queda el perro?” (With Whom Does the Dog Stay?) by Jesse & Joy
A sad and realistic breakup song, Jesse and Joy pose the question “Who gets the dog if we break up?” What starts off as a shiny, new and exciting relationship filled with shared joys soon turns ugly. The song leaves us packing bags and splitting material items until the final question of who gets the dog remains.
There is plenty of repetition but also plenty to learn in this song’s lyrics, so you may need to take some time unpacking the language. We recommend this one to intermediate learners!
Now that you have a good place to start, you have the tools to find new Spanish artists you like and play around with different genres of Spanish music. Find songs you enjoy listening to, find others like them and remember to keep a dictionary with you while you listen so you can look up any new words.
Also, keep in mind that you do not have to understand the entire song the first time you listen to it! Use the first listen to get acquainted with the beat and rhythm. You can decipher the meaning in subsequent plays.
After you have grasped the song’s concept, you will find it playing in your head and eventually, you will be singing along to the words!
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