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 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 radio. Tell that to grandpa and he’ll think you’ve gone absolutely loco. 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 would have to ask your “penpal” to record the broadcast using a cassette tape and mail it promptly to you. When you receive the package weeks later, only then do you realize that he recorded the broadcast for the wrong game.
And all that was not in the distant past but recent memory.
You are lucky enough to be living in this awesome time where technology affords 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 than 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” is not 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 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 6 to analyze. Sometimes he has to give advice to a brokenhearted girl who has 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.
3. Auditory Dojo
Listening to Spanish radio is like entering a dojo. You get to practice so many things 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” (win) together with “Los Angeles Lakers,” then you might reasonably make out that your team has finally won a game. (Thank God!)
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 sport 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 will soon have an ear for Spanish comparable to that of a native speaker.
The 5 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 is 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 6 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 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 an insightful peek into the performing arts. Take a listen to “La Sala” and add a whiff of class to your Spanish.
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 is a sports-oriented program hosted by Pedro Molina Serrano, the sharp and funny Director of Sports Program for RNE. The program is dedicated to Spanish sports and updates listeners on Spanish athletes as they battle against the world. 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 will 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 4.78 million listeners in 2013. It is 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.). 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?
This one is hosted by TV and radio personality Macarena Berlin and airs at 1:30 am. It is dedicated to night owls who want to share and listen to personal stories. The program centers around callers who relate their experiences—some tragic, others funny. After the problem is laid on the table, other callers go live to voice out their opinions on the matter and try to help out. Macarena Berlin’s soothing voice moderates 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 is 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 in the morning Mondays to Fridays, while the later spices up the afternoons at 5. 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 as mainly as 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 wanna know Spanish as well as the latest in shows, theater, movies, showbiz, fundraisers, socials and the most happening places and faces, you’ll wanna lend your ears to René Franco.
“The Hairy Hand” is such an interesting title for a show. “La Mano Peluda” comes from a Latin legend. It is 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 is about supernatural experiences and the people who lived through them. Listen and you will never get sleepy ever again.
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 would 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.
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.
Be sure to catch shows like “Sportivo,” brought to you by Mario Amaya & Amado Aguayo and airs on Mondays to Fridays 12 noon, and “Super Gol” hosted by Halim and Troy airing Mondays to Fridays at 4-5 pm. They talk about football, basketball, boxing and practically anything to do with athletes beating their peers at something.
Ladies, if you’re looking for 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.
So there you go, 5 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…
If you like learning authentic, entertaining and memorable Spanish lessons like these, then you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
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