The Essential Guide to Learning Spanish with Shakira
Everyone loves a little Shakira now and then.
Some have a full-blown Shakira obsession, others think of her as their favorite guilty pleasure (sorry, One Direction) and still others have a nostalgic affection for those early hits that they just can’t shake.
Whenever, wherever they choose to love Shakira, there are a lot of fans of the Colombian goddess out there.
So how can you turn your Shakira worship into a Spanish learning experience?
- Can I seriously learn Spanish with Shakira?
- These Tips Don’t Lie: How to Learn Spanish with Shakira
Can I seriously learn Spanish with Shakira?
Yup. Claro que sí. Although when we say “with Shakira,” we don’t actually mean that she’s going to come to your house to whisper sweet Spanish nothings in your ear in person. Rather, we mean this in a more virtual sense. That’s right. We’re going to use her songs and videos.
Why choose Shakira? Well, apart from the fact that she’s objectively amazing, the other benefits are:
- Her Colombian Spanish is neutral. It’s quite slow and isn’t peppered with loads of regional slang. It also sounds lovely.
- Many of Shakira’s songs are translated into English. This means that you can reference the English versions while you’re learning, and also impress your friends by singing along next time in Spanish.
- Um, she’s Shakira. You get to listen to her songs and watch videos while learning and experience some Shakira love. Plus, we’ll be looking at some songs you perhaps didn’t know—and some more obscure hits from her very early days that you’ve almost definitely never seen or heard (spoiler: Shakira is a natural brunette!).
Convinced? Let’s get started on turning Shakira’s hits into your Spanish lessons!
These Tips Don’t Lie: How to Learn Spanish with Shakira
1. “Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte”
First things first. Watch the video.
The video is almost the same as the English version, except that Rihanna isn’t in it, so there’s more time for Shakira to rub herself up against the wall in a red tasseled dress. Also, the lip-syncing in Spanish is much more believable than in the English version.
Now that you’ve enjoyed Shakira playing guitar in a slightly flooded room (Is it a room? Why is it flooded? Why can’t we make sense of this scene?), you can try to work out the lyrics verse by verse.
Here’s the first verse in Spanish:
Me temo que sí
Se trata de ti
Voy a repetir
El mismo error de ayer
Y como es natural
Y no hay ciego peor
Que el que no quiere ver
Now, you might think you could just cheat and look at the English version, but the English is actually quite different, so no such luck. You worked it out? Compare what you got with this:
I’m afraid that yes
It’s about you
I’m going to repeat
the same mistake I made before (the Spanish version says yesterday, but we can imagine it’s more of a metaphorical yesterday)
And as is natural
Just like always
There’s no worse blind person
Than one who doesn’t want to see
Now you’ve got one verse down, you can carry on and try and translate the rest. As you’ll probably realize, the song is about Shakira trying to forget someone but she keeps forgetting to forget, which causes her such distress she takes most of her clothes off and rolls around on a bed/up against a wall.
Useful vocabulary in this song includes suele suceder. The verb soler means “to usually do.” So suele suceder would be “what usually happens,” or more likely, “what always happens.”
Useful grammar includes real-life use of the grammar point we all love to hate, the subjunctive. Examples of this: donde tu vayas, sabes que voy yo. Vayas is the subjunctive of the verb ir and is used here because there is an element of doubt about where the person Shakira is talking to will go.
2. “Mi verdad” (ft. Maná)
Don’t know this one? Wondering who Maná are?
Again, watch the video first.
This song came out in February of 2015 and features a heavily pregnant Shakira singing around a campfire with Mexican band Maná (who are huge in Latin America, even though you might not have heard of them). They appear to be in some sort of underground tunnel filled with giant letters of words like verdad and oasis.
The song is a typical love song, and talks a lot about how much lying and cheating there is in the world, and how eres mi verdad (you are my truth).
Like the last song, it’s a good idea to look up the lyrics (you’ll have to look at them in Spanish as this song doesn’t exist in English) and try to work them out verse by verse. Then you can practice singing along.
The lying vocabulary is probably the most useful part of this song. So you can learn/revise words like engaño (cheating), mentiras (lies) and ocultar (to hide). This might be useful if you do ever end up in an argument with your own Latin lover. Also, Spanish music is full of this language.
The song is in the present tense, so it’s a good chance to revise the basics.
Other useful Maná songs include “Como Quisiera” and Maná’s collaboration with Santana, “Corazón Espinado.”
“Suerte,” or as you probably know it, “Whenever, Wherever,” propelled Shakira to fame outside of Latin America in 2001, and she hasn’t looked back since. In the video, she moves her hips in the way that she soon became famous for, rolls around in the mud and generally dances around a lot on top of a mountain and in the desert. Oh, and she’s surrounded by a load of galloping horses.
The Spanish version of the song is similar to the English one in a lot of ways, but the chorus is pretty different.
Let’s take a look at it:
Contigo, mi vida
quiero vivir la vida
y lo que me queda de vida
quiero vivir contigo
She repeats this twice in every chorus.
As you can see, there’s no mention of the words “Whenever, Wherever,” which were made up for the English version.
Try figuring out the Spanish before checking with this translation:
With you, my life (or my love)
I want to live my life
And what’s left of my life
I want to live with you
Other useful vocabulary includes burlemos (“let’s laugh at” or “let’s make fun of”), so burlemos las distancias means “let’s laugh at the distances” or “let’s make the distances not important to us.” This is a reference to Shakira’s ex-husband, who’s from Argentina.
The subjunctive also pops up in this song, for example the first line “Suerte que en el sur hayas nacido” (How lucky that you were born in the South, another reference to the Argentine ex). Hayas nacido is an example of the Spanish past subjunctive. The subjunctive is used in this case because it comes after suerte que.
4. “La Tortura” (ft. Alejandro Sanz)
A smash hit across Latin America, “La Tortura” is a sexy hit featuring the Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz.
In the video, he and Shakira exchange a lot of sultry looks, there’s some sexy action over some onions and tomatoes and she does her usual thing of shaking her stomach around in a bikini while covered in mud.
The song is about two lovers who haven’t always been santos (saints) and obviously have a passionate, volatile relationship. They sing about how hard it is to lose each other (thus the title about torture). Try translating the lyrics, and the relationship between the two becomes clearer.
Useful grammar here demonstrates the subjunctive and the present tense in action. For an extra challenge, try to translate and sing along to the faster bits:
Yo sé que no he sido un santo
Pero lo puedo arreglar, amor
No solo de pan vive el hombre
Y no de excusas vivo yo
Solo de errores se aprende
Y hoy sé que es tuyo mi corazón
Mejor te guardas todo eso
A otro perro con ese hueso
Y nos decimos adiós
And with that last line, that’s about it for learning Spanish with Shakira for now.
As promised, we’re going to give you some videos that show Shakira as a brunette, back when she kept her clothes on and lived in Colombia.
Try “Pies Descalzos,” the live acoustic version of “Moscas en la Casa,” and, for a dreadlocked Shakira, check out “Inevitable.”
But apart from Shakira, you can let many many other singers teach you Spanish—there’s a whole world of music to learn from. You can find plenty of Spanish hits on YouTube or on FluentU, a language learning program that takes authentic Spanish videos (including music clips) and combines them with interactive subtitles and quizzes.
No matter what songs you study from, you’re guaranteed to turn up your Spanish studies into something more flavorful.
So pop in those tunes and start your lessons!