Imagine you’re sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Madrid.
Yeah, really see it in your head.
Are you there? Can you imagine the book you’d be reading in that situation?
Now, imagine that next to your table are some chatty fellows loudly conversing about what was in the news this morning. They can’t believe what the government was doing. (Something about taxes, you think.)
You close the book in your hand and start tuning into their conversation, which grows more interesting by the minute. You even conspicuously lean their way in order to get a better listen. You can hardly believe what the other guy said. “Really?! That’s a law now?” you think to yourself.
And then you fall on your face, spilling your coffee because you leaned too far.
Well, that’s what listening to radio is like. Except that you don’t have to go to Madrid in the first place. In fact, you could be anywhere in the world, sipping any drink, and still get that kind of experience.
In this post, we’ll look into some of the best sources of Spanish talk radio so you can have that immersive experience—without falling flat on your face, of course.
Why Listen to Spanish Talk Radio? (The 3 A’s of Talk Radio)
Ironically, you don’t even have to own a radio to listen to the radio. Tell that to grandpa and he’ll think you’ve gone absolutely loco (crazy). But in this day and age, you have access to radio programs on the other side of the world through the internet.
It used to be that if you wanted to listen to a regional broadcast, you’d have to live in that country. Or worse, you’d have to ask your “penpal” to record the broadcast using a cassette tape and mail it promptly to you. When you received the package weeks later, only then did you realize that he’d recorded the broadcast for the wrong game.
And all that wasn’t in the distant past but recent memory.
You’re lucky enough to be living in this awesome time where technology allows you to listen in on Spain, Mexico or Venezuela from the comforts of your messy bedroom. That while you’re busy clicking the “Like” button on Facebook, you can also listen to a radio broadcast that a Spanish teenager living in downtown Barcelona is also listening to. (And his room is just as messy as yours!)
Think about it. The sounds that are coming to your ears are the very same ones that the native Spanish speakers are listening to. You may not be munching on the same tapas they’re snacking on, but you can hardly be more authentic than that.
Listening to Spanish radio is a whole lot different from listening to a language class being taught or an audio sample from a language course. The latter is geared toward beginners or intermediate learners, so the speakers purposely slow down and enunciate the words carefully. It’s like they’re talking to a baby. For good reason, I might add.
But just as how they speak on “Sesame Street” isn’t the same as how they actually speak on Main Street, Spanish talk radio is a whole lot different. If anything, the speakers bellow so loud and fast that it feels like they’re doing a lively commentary on a horse race when they’re actually talking about how lovely the weather is.
Spanish language learners are the last thing in the mind of a radio host. He has news to read, politicians to blast or a crucial game to analyze. Sometimes, he has to give advice to a brokenhearted girl who’s just lost her first love. So what do you get? Spanish in its most authentic glory. It’s the kind of rapid-fire tête-à-tête that gives you a real feel for how Spanish is wielded by its native speakers.
In fact, authentic speech from real native Spanish speakers is one of the best ways to learn a language. That’s why FluentU uses only authentic materials to teach Spanish.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Complete with interactive subtitles in both Spanish and English, a built-in dictionary and Spaced Repetition System technology, FluentU is perfect for all levels of Spanish. Simply find a video that interests you and watch your way to Spanish fluency.
3. Auditory Dojo
Listening to Spanish radio is like entering a dojo. You get to practice so many things related to Spanish.
First, you get to stretch your contextualizing muscles and become better at working out the meanings of sentences through the words you already know. For example, if you hear “ganar” (to win) together with “Los Angeles Lakers,” then you might reasonably make out that your team has finally won a game. (Thank goodness!)
Second, you get to further build your vocabulary. Radio programs dealing with different topics like politics, sports and entertainment have their own jargon and expressions that you can incorporate to add color to your Spanish. Sports, for example, have terms like jonrón (homerun), empatado (tied) and entrenamiento (training). These sports terms add depth to your communication.
Third, your ears get a feel for the natural rhyme and rhythm of Spanish, its inflections, pauses and tones. Spanish is a melodious language as well as a language of passion. If ever you want to sound like a native speaker, you’ve got to listen to the natural rising and falling of speed, volume and emphasis of the language. And you can only acquire that by listening to how native speakers instinctively enunciate their thoughts.
Okay. Now that you’re beginning to understand how important it is to spend time listening to Spanish talk radio, I’ll be serving up some of the great radio programs in different parts of the world. Listen to them actively, and you’ll soon have an ear for Spanish comparable to that of a native speaker.
The 8 Best Sources of Spanish Talk Radio Content
1. Radio Nacional de España (Spain)
Spain’s national public service radio had its auspicious beginning in 1937 during the height of the Spanish Civil War. It’s said that the first transmitter for Radio Nacional de España (RNE) was donated by Nazi Germany and was promptly used for nationalist propaganda.
Today, RNE has come a long way and is now composed of six channels including one dedicated to classical music, another to youth-oriented programs and still another broadcasted in the Catalan language.
Because it’s publicly funded, RNE airs no commercials during its programming. Some of its well-known programs are:
This one is hosted by Daniel Galindo and covers the performing arts scene. For two hours every Saturday from midnight to 2:00 A.M. Central European Standard time (GMT+1), we deal with high culture and talk to playwrights, producers and performers about their latest projects. Sometimes the whole cast comes in for a conversation which makes for a delightful and insightful peek into the performing arts. Take a listen to “La Sala” and add a whiff of class to your Spanish.
“A Hombros de Gigantes”
Made for lovers of science and technology and hosted by Manuel Seara Valero, this program will help you get your fill of both science and Spanish. The program talks about the latest findings in chemistry, physics, biology and astronomy.
The title, translated as “on the shoulders of giants,” comes from a famous line written by Sir Isaac Newton as a homage to the thinkers who went before him. He said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” As a language learner, you can stand on the shoulders of giants by listening to native speakers who can open your eyes to the secrets of Spanish.
This was a sports-oriented program hosted by Pedro Molina Serrano, the sharp and funny Director of Sports Program for RNE, until September 2018. The program was dedicated to Spanish sports and updated listeners on Spanish athletes as they battled against the world. Even though the show doesn’t air regularly anymore, you can still access old episodes online.
Serrano talks about football (soccer) a lot (and I mean a lot!) and gives incisive pre- and post-game analyses. He can deconstruct a brilliant, complex play and make you appreciate it on a different level. And what do you know, you’ll also be learning Spanish along the way!
2. Cadena SER (Spain)
Cadena SER is Spain’s most listened to radio network with a regular audience of over four million listeners. It’s also the oldest radio network, created in 1926. In accordance with its slogan, “Escucha con nosotros la vida” (Listen to life with us), Cadena SER programming covers news, entertainment, sports and culture. Some of its mainstays are:
This popular program had its first broadcast in 1972 and has been voiced by legends like Iñaki Gabilondo and Carlos Llamas. Today, Àngels Barceló talks about the news and the most pressing issues of the day (Mon-Fri 8-12 P.M. Central European Standard Time, GMT+1).
And yes, everything is up for debate. Listen to “Hora 25” and you’ll not only have your fair share of Spanish idioms and vocabulary, you’ll also get a peek into a country’s socio-economic and political affairs. Now, isn’t that hitting two birds with one stone?
“Hablar por Hablar“
This show stopped airing in September 2018. Hosted by TV and radio personality Macarena Berlin, it used to air regularly at 1:30 A.M. Central European Standard Time (GMT+1). It was dedicated to night owls who wanted to share and listen to personal stories.
The program centered around callers who related their experiences—some tragic, others funny. After the problem was laid on the table, other callers joined to voice out their opinions on the matter and try to help out. You can still access old episodes online, with Macarena Berlin’s soothing voice moderating the whole process, enunciating in clear Spanish, benefiting you, the curious language learner.
3. Radio Mitre (Argentina)
Based in vibrant Buenos Aires, Radio Mitre has gone full circle. It started off as a private enterprise, became nationalized under the Peron regime and finally became re-privatized again in 1983.
It’s mainly a news network, with news reporting every 30 minutes. The network has received several Martin Fierro awards for its news reporting.
Two of the celebrated commentators for Radio Mitre are Marcelo Longobardi for “Cada Mañana” and Alfredo Leuco for “Le Doy mi Palabra.” The former holds court at 6:00 in the morning Argentina Standard Time (GMT-3) Mondays to Fridays, while the latter spices up the afternoons at 5:00 Argentina Standard Time (GMT-3).
The programs center around the reasoned and seasoned opinions of commentators Longobardi and Leuco. They talk about the big issues like politics, law, the economy and the comings and goings of the present administration, giving incisive analyses on Argentinian affairs.
Take a listen to these masters and learn a kind of Spanish that’s both powerful and persuasive. Notice the cadence of their voices and realize that they do mean business.
4. Radio Fórmula (Mexico)
Radio Fórmula was the brainchild of the visionary Rogério Azcárraga Vidaurreta—member of a wealthy multimedia dynasty.
It started off mainly as a music network with programs like “Vibraciones del Rock.” But in 1987, that changed a bit when Radio Fórmula adopted more of a talk-oriented format. So now, they have shows like the following three!
This is your ticket to entertainment and culture. If you want to know Spanish as well as the latest in shows, theater, movies, showbiz, fundraisers, socials and the most happening places and faces, you’ll want to lend your ears to René Franco.
“El Panda Show”
If a show is titled “El Panda,” you probably can surmise that there will be a lot of antics, witty remarks, one-liners, wall-to-wall jokes and laugh tracks coming your way. And you’d be right! “El Panda Show” is hosted by the zany, (but actually very deep), Antonio Zambrano. Call in during the show and you’ll definitely have a funny, good time! The show has developed quite a following and even has its own app.
“La Mano Peluda”
“The Hairy Hand” is such an interesting title for a show. It’s too bad this show stopped airing in 2017, but it’s great that you can still listen to old episodes.
“La Mano Peluda” comes from a Latin legend. It’s said that the hairy hand belongs to a man who died during the Inquisition. His body was chopped up and buried in an old Indian cemetery. His hand is said to come back to life and exact revenge on (who do you think?) kids who don’t eat their vegetables. The show was about supernatural experiences and the people who lived through them. Listen and you’ll never get sleepy ever again.
5. Radio Deportes (USA)
Quick question: What do the Lakers, Clippers, Angels and Galaxy have in common?
If you said “L.A.,” then you’ll feel right at home with Radio Deportes. If there are radio programs dedicated to sports, this one’s a whole network dedicated to just sports. 24/7. Radio Deportes is the Spanish radio arm of ESPN.
Past shows included “Sportivo,” which was brought to you by Mario Amaya & Amado Aguayo, and current shows include “Super Gol” hosted by Halim and Troy airing Mondays to Fridays at 4:00 P.M. Pacific Standard Time (GMT-8). They talk about football, basketball, boxing and practically anything to do with athletes beating their peers at something.
If you’re looking for some passionate men, listen to Radio Deportes. You’ll hear them irreverently argue about balls, stats and scores like their lives depended on it. It’ll make for an eye-opening Spanish lesson.
6. Radio Caracol (Colombia)
Radio Caracol is a radio station from Colombia that was founded in 1945. Caracol is a Spanish word that means “snail.” Despite its name, Radio Caracol is anything but slow: It’s one of the most well-known radio stations in Colombia.
In addition to local Colombian news, the station tackles international news stories like politics, entertainment and world events. In fact, it’s been crucial in breaking high profile scandals in Colombia, and in covering all aspects of the Colombian Conflict from the 1960s to today.
Along with its distinct political edge, Radio Caracol has many shows that are suitable for the average Spanish learner.
“El Pulso del Fútbol”
“The Pulse of Soccer” is a pretty on-the-nose description of the culture of soccer in Colombia and in Latin America. In fact, if you love learning Spanish and you love soccer, this show will be an invaluable resource for you. It airs Monday to Friday from 1:00 to 2:00 A.M. Colombia Standard Time (GMT-5), and it covers all things related to the beloved sport: the Colombian league, the Colombian national team and the world of soccer at large.
If you want a show that’s more on the serious side without wading into potentially controversial political topics, “Planeta Caracol” (Snail Planet) is the show for you. It focuses on the environment, both locally in Colombia and around the world, as well as provides the latest on climate change, activism and environmental protection. It airs every Saturday morning at 6:00 A.M. Colombia Standard Time (GMT-5).
7. Radio Nacional del Perú (Peru)
The “National Radio of Peru” is just that: It’s the national radio carrier for the country of Peru. This channel was launched in 1937, and it covers a variety of Peruvian and international news and commentary as well as more specific, topic-centric shows.
Aside from its shows in Spanish, there are also a number of radio shows in some of Peru’s indigenous languages such as Aymara and Quechuan.
Some of its popular Spanish programs are particularly useful for Spanish learners.
“Techno Nation” is for technology lovers. It covers the latest innovations in technology from self-driving cars to digital currency, and it even uncovers some of the downsides and drawbacks to our heavily digital lives. The show is hosted by Mirta Ibáñez, and it airs every Saturday at 11:00 A.M. Peru Standard Time (GMT-5).
“Between Books” is for all the Spanish bookworms out there. It focuses on books in Spanish and other languages, interviews with authors and other literary trends. In fact, this show is so well-rounded that it can be used as a springboard for Spanish learners who want to start reading books in Spanish but don’t know where to begin. Writer and professor César Bedón hosts this talk show every Saturday from 8:00 to 9:00 P.M. Peru Standard Time (GMT-5).
“Without Barriers” is quite a unique show for Peru and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. Its focus is on people with disabilities, their successes and challenges. It also covers topics on accessibility and how to create a completely inclusive society. Enrique Bustos and Vilma Andrade deliver this eye-opening and information program every Sunday from 8:00 to 8:30 A.M. Peru Standard Time (GMT-5).
8. CNN Español (USA)
You probably know CNN as the English-language television channel that’s employed some of America’s best journalists, but did you know that there’s also a sister CNN channel that’s entirely in Spanish?
“CNN Spanish” covers all the hard-hitting American and world news as well as commentary from prominent political pundits and experts. There aren’t any separate talk shows on “CNN Español” per se, but like its English equivalent, this station is a talk show that’s covering news and developments 24/7.
For the best use of the channel, I suggest listening to it in tandem with the English version of CNN. This way, you can better understand the news in both languages and watch your Spanish comprehension soar.
So there you go, eight sources of some of the best Spanish audio content on the planet! Invest your time to listen to them. (Listen actively too!) You’ll not only learn about politics, economics, showbiz and sports, you’ll also learn a great deal about Spanish.
Or is it the other way around?
And One More Thing…
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FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:
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Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
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