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 if you have not heard 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 with 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 them 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
Learning a new language is hard. Often, sitting in a classroom is boring, learning from a textbook feels like work and there is not much interaction with authentic Spanish language and culture.
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! Who doesn’t love a good tune?
Tips for Learning Spanish with Music
You are all set to start learning Spanish through songs! But where do you start?
We have put together a list of 30 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 of 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 to have 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!
Choosing the right song to learn with is also crucial to your success. Here are some things you should look for when you are picking a song for learning Spanish:
- 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 of a song do 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 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 in the beginning!
Finally, here are two last tips for how to learn Spanish with songs:
- Look up unknown words: It is 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.
Resources for Learning Spanish Through Songs and Music
We have 30 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: 30 Songs to Spark Spanish Learning
For Beginners: Children’s songs
1. “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!
There are plenty of variations of the song, and the one I’ve selected above is a much more kid-friendly version than the original song, which has the roach missing his hind legs. (Since there are many versions, I could not link to the lyrics, as they are different from what is in the video!).
Whichever version you listen to, this song is perfect for beginners, with simple words and phrases. Plus, the poor penniless cockroach in the video above is just too charming!
Check out another version of “La Cucaracha” on FluentU to see some dual-language subtitles.
The English and Spanish 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!
2. “Qué hay más allá” (What More Is Out There) by María Parrado
In any language, “How Far I’ll Go” is a fantastic song! If you are a Disney fan, you are already familiar with this one. And, really, who doesn’t love “Moana”? If you are not familiar with it yet, this song is about knowing that you have a place in your community, but yearning to find out what more can be found beyond the horizon.
There is a lot of repetition in this sweet, uplifting song. The lyrics are intended for a young audience so they are concise and clear.
Plus, the song mostly uses the present and future tenses, which are beginner-friendly tenses in Spanish!
3. “Libre soy” (I’m Free) by Carmen Sarahí
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, especially the hit song, “Let It Go.”
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.
It is always interesting to see how famous songs are translated to keep the rhythm, rhyme and meaning intact. A fun exercise you can do with this song is to take a look at the lyrics in English and Spanish side by side and see what is different.
Like in the previous song, there is a strong use of the future tense here. Perfect for practice!
You can listen to the song with interactive dual-language subtitles on FluentU.
4. “La rana Rosita” (Rosita the Frog) by Canticuénticos
If I had to choose the most common struggle most Spanish learners have to deal with when starting their language journey, I would pick pronouncing the letter r as the winner.
I have seen many Spanish students get frustrated because they cannot roll their r‘s. After all, this very Spanish sound does not exist in many languages, so it is not commonplace among foreigners.
Luckily for you (and your kids), this cute song includes a ton of words containing the wicked Spanish r sound. In fact, almost every word in the song has it!
You can use this song to practice the challenging sound while you learn some easy vocabulary related to animals. Watch and listen to it on FluentU as many times as you need, and make sure to use the interactive flashcards if there is any word you find particularly challenging.
5. “El cumple de Pocoyó” (Pocoyó’s birthday) by Conecta Kids
Most Spanish learners know the song “Cumpleaños Feliz,” but why stop there when you can celebrate Pocoyó’s birthday with Conecta Kids’ song?
Perfect for learning birthday vocabulary, “El cumple de Pocoyó” will have everyone dancing from beginning to end, especially children! This song is full of birthday traditions, like ear pulling, balloons and piñatas. How many can you spot?
FluentU has included it in its long list of Spanish song videos, so you can now sing along with the subtitles on the platform.
PS. Have you noticed the word cumple? It is the apocopation (shortening) of the word cumpleaños. Spanish-speaking kids love using shortened forms of words. Do you know any others?
6. “Susanita” by Miliki
“Susanita” is one of the first songs every kid used to learn in the ’80s and ’90s when they went to the circus.
Miliki and his friends used to be the most famous clowns in the world, and their TV shows for kids were everything we needed as kids to be happy.
This song is catchy and easy to memorize. It will teach you the names of some hobbies like ajedrez (chess), fútbol (football) and teatro (theater), and it can even be the perfect introduction to Spanish diminutives (Susanita — little Susana, chiquitín — tiny, literally “little tiny”).
7. “El baile de la fruta” (The Fruit Dance) by Pica-Pica
I have to confess this song has been in my head for three days already and I cannot stop singing it.
With this repetitive song and its memorization game, students will learn the names of some fruits in Spanish while they have the time of their life dancing.
If you are interested in some cultural references, there is a fun one at the beginning of the video: The cookie’s name is María, which is not only a very typical Spanish name, but also a type of cookie that is very well known all around the Spanish-speaking world.
8. “Hakuna Matata”
Who does not know “The Lion King”? Or has not sung “Hakuna Matata” at least once in their life?
“El Rey León” is a movie everybody enjoys, and the song “Hakuna Matata” is a song with a positive message we should all put into practice in our lives.
You can sing the song and work on it on FluentU with dual-language subtitles.
You can even use the song as a basis for a grammar lesson: “Hakuna Matata” is the perfect example of Spanish tú commands in action.
9. “Sueña” (Dream) by Luis Miguel
Luis Miguel is one of the best voices in the Spanish-speaking music world, so it should not come as a surprise that Disney chose him to sing this beautiful song.
Included in the movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Sueña” tells us to never stop dreaming and always believe love will conquer it all.
The song is slow enough for children and beginners to follow and sing along, and it can also be used to teach Spanish tú commands, both regular and irregular.
For Intermediate Learners: Pop Songs and Ballads
10. “Despacito” (Slowly) by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee
This song hit the world hard when it came out, topping the charts in 47 countries! Whether you missed out on the craze or already have the song playing in your head after reading its title, this is a catchy way to learn Spanish.
The hit tune might be all about going “slowly,” but Daddy Yankee’s rap section zooms by pretty quickly. If you are having trouble keeping up, try reading the lyrics out loud a few times, taking it faster each time. Then, you can try singing along with that section of the song. Repeat this a few times and you will soon be rapping along confidently!
Need a bit more help? This FluentU post on the lyrics of “Despacito” will give you a hand with the song’s pronunciation.
11. “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 words 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!
12. “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 more complicated forms, like the subjunctive. Keep an ear open for common expressions, like “que lástima,” which roughly means “what a shame.”
13. “Recuerdo” (I Remember) by TINI, Mau and Ricky
A tale of one romantic evening comes to life through vivid images and concise storytelling. This slow and dramatic song tells the story of dancing, kissing and what happens afterward. There are flashing lights and jail photos so this is not a happily-ever-after!
Much of the song’s story takes place in the past tense so this is a great chance to practice the simple past.
Listen out for pronunciation in this one, as well. For example, notice how the s sounds in “los dos,” “escucho” and “diste” are silent. Where else do you notice dropped letters? This song is a good way to start looking at full sentences together, rather than individual words one at a time.
Videos that show the lyrics with the music, like this one, are also great resources for jotting down vocabulary or pressing pause to really see how the pieces of the language come together.
14. “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 a good choice to practice speaking confidence and conversational vocabulary.
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!
Check this one out if you need to grab some terms of endearment for your vocabulary list.
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.
You might notice a colloquialism in this song, “¿Pa’ qué?” (“For what?”), which is a shortening of para qué, and a great intro phrase to Spanish slang.
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, making this the perfect song for more advanced intermediate learners.
17. “Eres” (You Are) by Café Tacuba
“Eres” also has a steady, slow rhythm with simple, clearly articulated words that are easy to follow.
This 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.
Pair this song with a lesson about when to use ser and estar, the two forms of “to be” in Spanish. Why does the singer use ser for “eres” (“you are”) but estar for “estoy” (“I am”)?
18. “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 others songs. I recommend taking it one step at a time and making sure that you understand each individual line before moving on to the next.
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 is a fantastic way to study the past tense. The lyrics repeat often, so you won’t be lost!
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, so you may need to take some time unpacking the language. Oddly enough, you will find many words related to the home and furniture, as the couple distributes their belongings among themselves and draw the curtains on their home (literally) and relationship (metaphorically).
21. “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).
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!
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.
For Advanced Learners: Rap, Hip-hop and Beyond
22. “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 is what happened to me!)
The refrain is super simple, making this a good choice for those who are just entering the advanced level of Spanish.
Pure entertainment value on this video is off the charts. The dance moves are slick, the presentation has comical elements—check out that big singing head—and the lyrics are shown with English subtitles.
23. “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, but it’ll be a bit of a challenge to pick up all the words at full speed. This is a fun way to grab some conversational Spanish—and maybe learn a few steamier bits, as well!
24. “Con altura” (With Height) by Rosalía
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.
Rosalía’s thoughts on this song, as well as the lyrics, can be found in a short piece on Billboard (linked above).
This one is easy to sing along to and really fun. Who could ask for more?
25. “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 great 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 like poetry. The entertainer portrays Dracula so well that listeners may be looking over their shoulders as they sing this one!
26. “Deseos de cosas imposibles” (Wishes of Impossible Things) by La Oreja de Van Gogh
We take a break from dancing to listen to one of La Oreja’s best songs.
A declaration of true, raw love after a breakup, the speaker uses a myriad of similes and metaphors to show how much they still love the other person, even now that they are not together anymore.
This song is not challenging because of its vocabulary. It is in this section because the use of metaphorical language gives it a ton of hidden meanings perfect for advanced learners to analyze and decipher.
Here is an example:
Igual que el mosquito más tonto de la manada (Just like the silliest mosquito of the swarm)
Yo sigo tu luz aunque me lleve a morir (I follow your light even if it leads me to die)
Try to find more in the lyrics!
27. “Súbele el volumen” (Turn Up the Volume) by Daddy Yankee, Myke Towers, Jhay Cortez
This song describes the transformation of a woman who used to be a “good girl,” but after getting her heart broken, she decides to take revenge (desquite — retaliation) by drinking all night and doing other adult stuff.
Even native Spanish speakers can find some of the lines of this song hard to understand, so advanced learners will have to read the lyrics very closely in order to get the whole story.
A long story is exactly what this steamy song tells, but the chorus gets repeated enough times for any advanced learner to learn it in a couple of minutes.
Are you ready to subirle el volumen?
28. “Amor en coma” (Love in a Coma) by MTZ Manuel Turizo x Maluma
Maluma continues to sell us his bad-guy vibes in a song in which he wonders how to break up with his girl without hurting her.
He has stopped loving her and has even betrayed her with another woman, and he wants to end the relationship before he breaks her heart.
Broken hearts aside, this song is challenging enough to be used by advanced learners, but slow enough to still be possible to learn.
The first part of the song is great for learning the Spanish subjunctive. If you analyze it, you will find a lot of words and constructions that trigger this challenging Spanish mood.
The rap section is normally the hardest one in any song, but Manuel Turizo has a very clear pronunciation. The abundance of rhymes helps to make this part very easy to memorize.
29. “Nunca estoy” (I Never Am) by C. Tangana
“Música triste en español” (Sad music in Spanish).
With these four words, C. Tangana described one of the most gut-wrenching songs I have heard in the past few years.
Sung in the first person from the perspective of a woman (you can see that in sentences like “soy una imbécil” — I am a [female] idiot, for example), Tangana portrays what seems to be fragments of audio messages from a woman to her boyfriend, telling him he does not take care of her, he is never there for her and he is neglecting her.
The sad lyrics seem to clash with the lively Brazilian beat, which could be a metaphor for the fight between the two lovers.
The song is interesting not only because of the story, but also because of some linguistic features such as the use of the ending -ao instead of -ado for the past participle and because of the reference to the super famous song “Corazón Partío” (“Broken Heart”), a clear wink to co-author Alejandro Sanz.
30. “Lástima” (Pity) by Neutro Shorty
We close this list with what I consider to be a masterpiece, even though I am not a fan of the genre.
“Lástima” is a song that describes the hardships many people go through in Latin America.
From the lack of money to the dangerous streets of the most unsafe barrios (neighborhoods) across the continent, Neutro Shorty really knows how to depict the society he is a part of.
Described as Latin urban by some and Caribbean gangsta by others, Neutro Shorty is definitely an artist you should follow if you want to get to know more about the reality many South and Central Americans live nowadays.
The song might look difficult to master because it has few repetitions and a fast pace, but Shorty’s pronunciation is good enough to allow you to follow it by reading the lyrics (at least at the beginning).
It can also be used to learn some slang words such as joseo (theft to buy drugs), el malandreo and blones (blunts).
Now that you have a good place to start learning Spanish with songs, 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!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.