Learn Spanish with Music from Pop Stars Beyoncé, J. Lo, Boyz II Men and More!
Does the thought of Spanish music conjure up images of Enriques, Rickys and Diegos regaling you with numbers about amor?
Would any of you just rather listen to songs you already know in English?
Well, you’re in luck. Because with the songs you’re about to discover, you can combine your love of pop stars with some seriously fun Spanish learning.
- Since When Does Beyoncé Sing in Spanish? And How Can This Help Your Español?
- A Step-by-step Method to Learning Spanish Through Songs with English Counterparts
- Learn Spanish with Music from 5 Unlikely Artists
Since When Does Beyoncé Sing in Spanish? And How Can This Help Your Español?
More artists than you might imagine have songs in Spanish. The thing is, these songs aren’t usually released in English-speaking countries, because, well, they’re English-speaking countries. So most English speakers don’t get to hear these wonderful creations.
Just like reading a book in Spanish which you’ve already read in English can be useful, so is listening to the Spanish version of a song that you already know in English. These songs are a minefield of potential learning.
Rather than needing to become familiar with a totally new melody and foreign lyrics, these songs are much simpler to learn. While not always direct translations, the Spanish lyrics are close enough to those from the English versions such that you already have the context needed to understand the Spanish.
But what’s the best way to approach these songs? (Apart from jumping for joy and sending multiple links of this article to all your friends?)
A Step-by-step Method to Learning Spanish Through Songs with English Counterparts
First things first: Listen to the English version of the song to refresh your memory. Remember how amazing Beyoncé is? And how great the ’90s were? We know. You’re welcome. Watch the video as many times as you like, and sing along if the mood takes you. You could always mouth the words if you’re not much of a singer (prancing around in front of the mirror with a hairbrush is optional).
Next, listen to the Spanish version of the song without looking at the video. This will help you avoid getting distracted by Christina Aguilera’s half open jean shorts so you can put all of your concentration on the words. Don’t worry, you can look at Christina rolling around on the beach again in a minute.
Then, using our tips below, see if you can hear the specific words we mention. Have we pointed out a particular grammar point? See if you can hear any more examples of the grammar point, besides the ones we mentioned. Did we mention a particular word? How many times can you hear it?
Now’s your chance to look up the lyrics (the Spanish ones, but feel free to look at the English ones too and compare) and look up any more words you don’t know, or check any grammar points you’re still unsure of.
With the Spanish lyrics in front of you, see if you can mouth along to the chorus, then try singing it. YouTube has some karaoke versions of songs, which can be really useful at this point. Especially the ones where the lyrics are written over the video so you get to watch the artists and sing along.
Once you’ve got the chorus down, try mouthing/singing along to different parts of the song, remembering that repetition is key here. No one ever learned a song just by singing it once. So repeat, repeat and repeat again.
One fun way to learn songs in Spanish is by watching Spanish music videos with subtitles. Listening to the words while reading them will help the words stick in your head.
If you want to improve your Spanish using captioned music videos, FluentU is a language learning app that teaches you Spanish with a variety of authentic video media. All videos have interactive captions, so you can look up each word as you watch. You can also turn words into flashcards for later study and test your understanding with personalized quizzes.
As you get more confident with the Spanish lyrics, you could try singing half the song in English and half in Spanish–definitely a neat party trick to surprise your friends with at the next fiesta.
Despite all the fun, remember that the aim is to improve your Spanish, so make sure you make a note of any new vocabulary or grammar and review it little and often.
Got that? Let’s get started.
Learn Spanish with Music from 5 Unlikely Artists
1. Beyoncé — “Irreemplazable”
English version: “Irreplaceable”
Spanish lyrics: “Irreemplazable” lyrics
Growing up in Texas, Beyoncé was surrounded by Spanish from a young age. She was also heavily influenced by singer Selena, who sang in Spanish. She decided to “give something back” to the fans by recording some of her songs in Spanish. One of these songs is “Irreemplazable,” her Spanish version of “Irreplaceable.” Watch the video, complete with bad lip-syncing and Beyoncé rocking out at the end.
Useful vocab from the song’s lyrics includes rincón (corner), marcharse (to go, to leave)—from “te puedes marchar y no vuelvas jamás” (you can go and never come back), traidor (traitor) and my personal favorite: dar asco (to gross someone out or disgust them).
At the end of the second verse, Beyoncé sings, “Lárgate, me das asco,” which is another way of saying “Get out, you disgust me.”
The song uses a lot of the future tense (add -é, -ás, -á, -emos, -éis, -án to the end of the infinitive) to talk about how much Beyoncé doesn’t need this guy (the traidor) in her future. For example, in the sentence, “Esta vez no ganarás” (This time you won’t win), ganarás is in the future tense. Check the rest of the lyrics for more examples of this tense.
The main difference from the English version is that the Spanish version doesn’t include “to the left, to the left,” which is probably because “a la izquierda” is a bit of a mouthful to sing so quickly. Instead, Beyoncé sings, “Ya lo ves, ya lo ves” (Now you see, now you see), which makes more sense anyway.
2. Christina Aguilera — “Genio Atrapado”
English version: “Genie in a Bottle”
Spanish lyrics: “Genio Atrapado” lyrics
Christina Aguilera speaks Spanish because her father is Ecuadorian, although she wasn’t fluent when she recorded her first Spanish album “Mi reflejo.” She did a pretty good job, though.
Her first big hit, “Genie in a Bottle” is a fun one to sing in Spanish. Most of the vocab in this song’s lyrics is related to being trapped. Examples are liberarme (release me/let me out), atrapado (trapped) and soledad (loneliness).
There are also some useful verbs in here, such as conceder (give/concede), which is featured in one of my favorite lines: Tres deseos te concedo (I give you three wishes). See if you can spot any more verbs you’re unfamiliar with.
This song is mostly in the present tense, but there are also examples of the future tense, just as in “Irreemplazable.” Haré (I’ll do/make) and pasará (it will happen) are two examples.
The main difference from the English version is in the chorus. The English version is much more suggestive, with:
If you want to be with me, baby there’s a price to pay, I’m a genie in a bottle, you got to rub me the right way
The Spanish version, on the other hand, is all about amor, and says:
Si me quieres junto a ti, gánate mi corazón,
tres deseos te concedo, si me juras tu amor.
(If you want to be with me, win my heart,
I’ll give you three wishes, if you swear your love).
Apparently, the Spanish Christina doesn’t want to be rubbed, she just wants ahem…to be loved.
3. Robbie Williams — “Ángel”
English version: “Angels”
Spanish lyrics: “Ángel” lyrics
It’s not clear why, or if, Robbie Williams speaks Spanish. But he seems to be doing a pretty good job pretending with his version of “Angels” in Spanish, “Ángel” (apparently in this version there’s only one angel).
Useful vocabulary includes, as you might expect, vocab related to flying, such as desplegarse (to spread out/to fold out), when speaking about wings, for example. Other useful words are cascada (waterfall) and desamparar (to abandon).
Desamparar is used in the Spanish equivalent of the line “She won’t forsake me,” which is made a little more complicated in Spanish with “Cuando vengo a llamar ella no me desamparará” (When I call her she won’t abandon me).
Notice that desamparará is yet another example of the future tense mentioned earlier. The rest of the song is in the present tense, so it’s nice and easy. It’s also very loyal to the English version in terms of the lyrics, so this is a good one to translate directly.
4. Jennifer Lopez – “Cariño”
English version: “Cariño”
Spanish lyrics: “Cariño” lyrics
Jennifer Lopez was brought up in a Puerto Rican family, which is why she sings in Spanish. She actually recorded her first demo in Spanish, but was advised to sing in English instead. Luckily, she went back to her roots at a later date.
“Cariño” is one of those songs that was meant to be sung in Spanish. The name is Spanish, for a start, and the beats are also definitely Latin. Unfortunately, there isn’t a music video—as it’s just an album track—but you can listen and watch the lyrics with the link above.
The vocabulary, as the title suggests, is mostly related to love. Some words to listen for are sensibilidad (sensitivity), sentidos (senses) and cuerpo (body). The main verb you’ll hear is quedarse (to stay), in the line “Cariño, quédate conmigo” (Baby, stay with me)—which is pretty much the opposite of what Beyoncé was singing about before.
The song is in the present tense, so it’s fairly simple to follow. The English version of the song is also interspersed with the Spanish (the “Cariño, quédate conmigo” stays the same, for example). The two songs are similar in their lyrics, so this one should be easy to learn.
5. Boyz II Men — “Ayer”
English version: “Yesterday”
Spanish lyrics: “Ayer” lyrics
Boyz II Men released a whole album in Spanish, Evolución, and have pretty much flawless pronunciation.
One of their most surprising songs is a cover of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. It’s certainly more cheesy than the original.
One useful word is desliz (a slip-up), which is used in the phrase “Fue algún desliz que acabó con el ayer” (It was a slip-up that finished with yesterday), sung where the original lyrics are “Now I long for yesterday.”
Some other parts of the song are more loyal to the original, such as “Quisiera estar en el ayer” (I would like to be in yesterday)– which actually translates better to “Now I long for yesterday,” but replaces the English line “I believe in yesterday.”
Another word you’ll hear is la mitad (half), as in “I’m not half the man I used to be,” sung as “Yo perdí la mitad de todo lo que fui,” which is a pretty accurate translation, just without the reference to being a man.
Desaparecer (to disappear) is used in the line, “Hoy yo busco desaparecer” (Today I want to disappear), which replaces the original “Now I need a place to hide away.”
This is a slow song, so you shouldn’t get your tongue tied in knots with the lyrics. This means you can really take your time to learn it properly, concentrating on copying the correct pronunciation.
So now you have all you need for a Spanish karaoke party! Anyone who doesn’t speak Spanish can just sing along in English—so there’ll be no excuses for being an aguafiesta (party pooper). Have fun!