13 Excellent TED Talks in Spanish

Are you stuck in the infamous “English bubble”?

Well, I’ve got a way for you to pop that bubble, expand your horizons and learn tons of cool stuff—all in Spanish.

TED Talks are their own unique format of delivering information.

Spanish TED Talks in particular are extremely abundant, so buckle up and get ready to explore the big, bright ideas floating around the internet in this format.

Contents

13 TED Talks in Spanish to Grow Your Knowledge and Vocabulary

1. “Yo vivo en una isla” by Reyna Oleas 

Title in English: “I Live on an Island”

This talk comes to you from a (nearly) lifelong resident of the famous ecological paradise, the Galápagos Islands. It remains a paradise because 97% is protected while 3% is inhabited, but living in this kind of territory comes with its own challenges.

When she moved to the islands with her family more than two decades ago, she began to notice all sorts of problems with the populated parts of the islands—water, electricity, garbage disposal and food were posing major issues for the people and fragile ecosystems alike.

What’s one single person to do?

Do you keep living on these precious islands and contributing to the problems? Or do you take action to enact positive change? Can it be done? Hear about one woman’s decades-long venture to use local resources responsibly, live in harmony with the environment and protect this national (and global) treasure.

This is a wonderful talk, given clearly and evenly-paced, and is perfect for learning Spanish vocabulary related to development, sustainability and education issues, particularly those that affect public health, wildlife and the environment.

2. “Estromatolitos y el origen de la vida” by María Eugenia Farías 

Title in English: “Stromatolites and the Origin of Life”

Did you know that a place very similar to Mars exists on planet Earth? Allow this brilliant, ever-curious scientist to bring you on a journey from primitive Earth to Mars to modern Argentina.

You’re guaranteed to learn a bazillion Spanish words related to science and technology along the way. It may seem too advanced to some of you, but believe me, even at the intermediate level you’ll be shocked by how much you pick up just due to the nature of science nomenclature.

The cool thing to learn here is that most modern languages share scientific terms, as they’re all derived from Greek and Latin. Others are borrowed from English or another language of origin, if the names were bestowed after modern research findings. So, you’ll learn things like:

  • los estromatolitos — the stromatolites
  • los extremófilos — the extremophiles
  • el espacio — space
  • marte — Mars
  • las moléculas — the molecules
  • la microbiología — microbiology
  • las bacterias — bacteria
  • los microorganismos — microorganisms

Easy, right? It’s just a matter of adjusting your ears to Spanish sounds, and all these words can make sense without you ever having studied them.

3. “El futuro es utopi­a: 6 pistas para no perderse en el camino” by Cecilia Alemany

Title in English: “The Future Is Utopia: 6 Paths to Avoid Getting Lost on the Way”

Want to change yourself or change the world?

This talk is all about avoiding the major pitfalls on the road to profound change on any level. The key is not to focus on the future, but instead to stay in the present in order to alter the future.

Beyond that, since our present affects our future, we also need to look to the guiding influence of the past, study history and understand the complex path that led us to where we currently are.

It may sound a bit convoluted, but that’s my fault—not Cecilia’s. Her talk must be watched if you truly want to grasp the oversimplified idea of causa (cause) → consecuencia (consequence), and finally discover why you should never enter any situation with some preconceived idea of how things will work out.

This talk is loaded with great Spanish vocabulary related to personal events, emotions and journeys of life and love.

4. “Amo mi Celular y extraño mi Notebook” by Roberto Balaguer 

Title in English: “I Love My Cell Phone and Miss My Notebook.”

How is it that explorers journeyed around the world without a cell phone, yet we can’t even step out our front doors without one?

Have you heard of “ringxiety” or “no cell phobia”? I bet you’re familiar with it in some way. I mean, have you ever imagined that your phone is ringing or vibrating? Is it your worst nightmare to leave your cell phone at home? Do you pat down your pockets to feel that familiar rectangle before you leave any place?

This funny, interactive talk will help you reflect on your relationship with your technology in a friendly way. Plus, you’ll learn a nice blend of technology vocabulary, relationship vocabulary and psychology vocabulary.

5. “¿Cómo promover la felicidad de los peruanos?” by Jorge Yamamoto 

Title in English: “How to Boost the Happiness of Peruvians?”

Latin America is the happiest place on Earth—at least according to one of this speaker’s opening graphics.

If that’s the case, then can we learn something from this region about how happiness is generated? What do stress and pressure have to do with unhappiness?

This talk nakedly lays out the truth, the good and the bad, from experiences living in Latin America. Not only will you learn about what feeds human happiness, but you’ll learn about what embitters it.

For example, you’ll learn about the vicious cycle taking place in many parts of Latin America, where egotism, opportunistic behavior and discrimination against indigenous and rural peoples hurt to the core of society. You’ll hear how exclusion and prejudice can leave a physical imprint on the pain center of the human brain, causing bad behavior and reduced empathy for others.

It’s not all bad though, as this speaker will give you plenty of hope for humanity as well. Not to mention, he’ll teach you Spanish words to describe feelings, immigration and the movement of people, plus slang, profanity and slurs—things you’ll probably never use yourself, but which are good to understand. Another awesome boost is that you’ll hear some cool Spanish words derived from Quechua, like chakra (farm).

6. “Risaterapia. Una forma de dar.” by Andres Aguilar

Title in English: “Laugh-therapy. A Way of Giving.”

Life isn’t always sunshine, rainbows and puppies. When things go wrong, we don’t always stay smiling, laughing and happy.

And, you know what? That’s okay. Here, the founder of the Risaterapia foundation (and movement) makes a passionate, lively and humorous argument for the value of not taking yourself and your problems so damn seriously. See how this program has changed the lives of 8 million people in 31 cities, and let a goofball in a red clown nose inspire you.

This talk is not only great for your own happiness, giving you a boost of humor and cheer, but it’s also great for picking up Spanish. The speaker is highly entertaining to watch while also speaking clearly and professionally, so you’ll learn vocabulary related to happiness, sadness, mental/emotional health and the medical professions.

You’ll also be exposed to silly sound effects, hand gestures and other useful joke-telling elements that you can use when telling your own stories in Spanish.

7. “Una nueva cultura del cuidado del medio ambiente” by Enriqueta Medellí­n

Title in English: “A New Culture of Caring for the Environment”

Where is humanity heading? Are we all moving towards going green, or is our rampant consumption of products driving our planet towards terrible problems?

Well, according to this speaker, perhaps it’s a little of both. Listen to this powerful talk about consumerism, carelessness and the hopeful rise of a new culture that breaks the bounds of countries and cultures—one that discourages wastefulness and encourages resourcefulness. What can save the pale blue dot we live on? What does technology have to do with it all?

You’ll gain a modern perspective on a problem that’s been around since the Industrial Revolution, and you’ll get exposed to fantastic Spanish vocabulary on all the above topics in a gentle way. You’ll also get a splash of Spanish humor, as the speaker uses funny cartoons (one featuring the beloved character Mafalda!) to illustrate her thoughts.

8. “La robótica, un futuro cercano” by Pedro Sales

Title in English: “Robotics, a Near Future”

This lifelong robot aficionado is on the stage with a mission: He wants to inform us that a robot-filled future is on the horizon.

This goes way beyond science fiction, and robots are soon about to be accessible to people of a wide variety of economic classes, not just the wealthy and elites. Robots could very soon be for everyone.

This talk is more than innovative, it’s pretty fun to listen to. This guy’s full of stories of his childhood and adolescent experiences toying around with dreams of robots. Watch to learn how he explored his interests in building and programming the things, from household experiments to fighting valiantly in a big Robot Sumo competition.

Enjoy his adventures in robot construction and operation, and muse on what the future might soon hold. What lessons can humanity learn from working with robots? And, more importantly, what Spanish lessons can you learn from robots?

9. “El planeta es un aula” by Eleonora Badilla

Title in English: “The Planet Is a Classroom”

What do hospitals, jails and schools have in common?

Watch to find out the answer to this little infrastructure riddle, as well as learn more about our modern relationship with technology, knowledge and the world around us.

This talk is fantastic for learning language related to social trends, education and especially technology, as it examines the intersection (or, rather, the collision) of all three.

You’ll also gain some invaluable perspective on how we learn, both via screens and from our communities and outside experiences—all undeniably good information to have tucked away during your Spanish studies. You’ll also learn vocabulary and expressions for discussing and debating pressing political and social issues.

You can watch this TED Talk on FluentU with interactive subtitles:

As Badilla uses some specialized vocabulary, it can be extremely helpful to have the English translation under the Spanish subtitles. You could also turn the English version off completely and instead check the subtitles whenever you come across an unfamiliar word. Hover over a word to see a quick definition or click on it for an in-depth flashcard with example sentences and videos.

There are other TED talks in the program’s Spanish media library, along with other Spanish content.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

  FluentU Ad

10. “Es posible lo imposible” by Omar Villalobos

Title in English: “The Impossible Is Possible”

What defines a genius?

Once we put this issue to rest, there’s a good chance we Spanish learners can use that information to tap into the potential of our own brains and bodies.

That’s right—watch this awesome, energetic talk spattered with a generous portion of Mexican slang, and you may well discover the keys to becoming a genius of your own kind.

It’s highly entertaining while being remarkably persuasive. Like, this guy has the power to make you believe in yourself and your abilities. There’s even a cool exercise he’ll have you do which involves sniffing imaginary fruit, and somehow ends up with you thinking your brain is a magical machine (all while learning the imperative form for Spanish commands).

11. “El dulce egoísmo de ayudar” by Juan Rey

Title in English: “The Sweet Selfishness of Helping”

Listen to this Argentinian esponja robadora (thieving sponge) quote clever lines, get gravely personal and spin folkloric tales to discuss the journey of life and the true meaning of happiness for human beings.

There are tons of great descriptive, literary, emotive vocabulary and whimsical turns of phrase to be drawn from this talk.

You’ll also learn words related to la amistad (friendship), la familia (family) and la vida (life). Overall, the language used is relatively simple and is approachable for most levels of learners.

12. “La belleza del color de la piel humana” by TEDxMadrid

Title in English: “The Beauty of Human Skin Color”

Angélica Dass, a highly talented and empathetic photographer from Brazil, is an artistic gift to the world—and given the hotbed of political angst we currently live in, she’s exactly what we need. Let’s hope there’s enough to go around.

This talk is particularly lovely, weaving together her poignant human portraits with our weird necessity to categorize human beings in drab, distinct boxes like “white,” “black,” “brown” and “yellow.” However, as an artist of color, she’s seen that we’re much more vibrant, blended and colorful than all that.

She digs into her personal life and international photography projects, as well as the mathematic, physiological and artistic projects of other interested researchers and teachers. She has a noticeable Brazilian Portuguese accent but takes great care with her pronunciation and is easy enough to understand. Her friendly talk is given with some nice poetic language, such as procedencia (origin), realidad social (social reality) and me he planteado (I have asked myself).

You can also watch her give yet another talk on this topic at the big English-language TED conference—pop on subtitles to keep practicing your Spanish, though!

13. “Cómo aprender una lengua y contribuir a la sociedad” by Luis von Ahn

Title in English: “How to Learn a Language and Contribute to Society”

This one’s right up your alley, focusing on the process of learning a language and how that process has recently been revolutionized.

This speaker dives into the creation, development and instant popularity of Duolingo—the free app that became the great equalizer. This app meant that you didn’t have to be rich to learn. You didn’t have to pay through the nose for expensive courses, brand name textbooks or expert tutors. People in Latin America lacking funds now had access to a very helpful educational tool.

While the speaker moves through his ideas at a fast pace, his accent is neutral and easily understandable. Plus, you’ll hear the same vocabulary related to education—aprendizaje (learning), maestros (teachers), cursos (courses), alumnos (students) and idiomas (languages)—repeated numerous times until you understand it perfectly.

Why Learn Spanish with TED Talks?

  • TED Talks are essentially their own type of media. You’ve got audiobooks, podcasts, apps and other media to learn from—but TED Talks are gathering and disseminating information in their own unique way.

Speakers must deliver talks on certain topics and are limited to only 18 minutes, which may just be the key to their clean, concise and impactful messages. There are even rules for organizing independent TED events, that keep gatherings in line with the high standards of the brand. All this ensures that TED stays TED.

  • There’s a ton of diverse, high-quality content. When it comes to diversity here, you’ve got it made in the shade. The topics cover an enormous range of topics from the commonplace to the downright bizarre.

    The only real requirement is that the speaker must be an expert in their field, whether their field be microbiology, relationships or underwater basket weaving.

  • Put your finger on the pulse of companies, industries, research and more in Spanish-speaking countries. How well do you know what’s going on abroad in Spain and Latin America? This may give you a unique perspective on your career, personal interests and newsworthy topics that you’d miss by dwelling in the bubble of your home country.
  • Learn more about what you love. Pick talks that hone in on your interests, hobbies and career. Want to learn more about building strong relationships? Building drones? Saving the rainforest? Moving up the career ladder? Curing cancer? It’s all in the TED Talks. You’ll learn more on these topics, and you’ll learn niche vocabulary specific to those topics.
  • Stay inspired and motivated. TED Talks often discuss topics like personal motivation, achieving goals, believing in yourself, confidence, self-love, learning and more. You’ve probably already turned to TED Talks a time or two to get motivation and inspiration in your personal or professional life—now you can get that same boost while actively learning Spanish.
  • Achieve immersion. You won’t be watching materials made for learners, you’ll be watching Spanish talks given by and to native Spanish speakers. Nothing here is simplified or sugarcoated. These are real professionals discussing the very real issues to which they’ve devoted their lives, careers and hearts.

How to Learn Spanish with TED Talks

Before we get started reaping all those cool benefits from TED talks in Spanish, it’s important to point out that there’s no one way to use TED Talks and the various websites they’re hosted on.

Put Spanish subtitles on your favorite TED talks.

This is the simplest way to add a dose of Spanish to those English TED Talks you were already planning on watching, or those favorites that you return to time and time again.

Simply pop on the Spanish-language subtitles for any English TED Talk, and you’ll be able to read the Spanish translation of every word uttered by the speaker. Expect nothing less from TED than precise, accurate subtitles that capture the complete meaning of each idea.

Track down the TED Talks that were originally given en español.

This is where the real Spanish-language TED experience is at. This is where you’ll hear the brilliance and innovative thinking of big wigs in the Spanish-speaking world. And this is also where you’ll get the most immersive Spanish TED experience.

Look up and save new words.

Most TED Talks are focused on a particular topic and can often feature specialized words. As you watch these videos in Spanish or with subtitles, be sure to keep track of new words and look up definitions for them.

You can save new words to practice later using a flashcard app like Anki. A program like FluentU can also save multimedia flashcards.

Looking up new words as you watch videos can help you understand the information better while growing your vocabulary on specific topics.

Take advantage of interactive transcripts.

If you’re watching a TED Talk and want to go one step further than subtitles alone, you’ll totally love the interactive transcripts which are only available on the main TED website. When you click on “Read Transcript,” they sprawl out in neat paragraphs next to the video. No matter what language the original talk is in, the transcript appears in English. 

While they have the same degree of precision and accuracy as the subtitles, this route is slightly less engaging since you can’t focus on the video and the speaker’s presentation. Instead, you’ll have to be scrolling down to follow along with the text while they speak. (Luckily, you don’t lose the video, as it plays constantly on the left of the screen.)

Play some comprehension and translation games with this to test your skills. Listen to the speaker say something in Spanish and try to mentally translate it into a nice English sentence—or even write it down as they speak. Then pause, scroll down and see how close you came. Was the vocabulary chosen by Spanish-English translators more or less academic, technical or poignant? Or was it more straightforward and simple?

Think about how the message given by the presenter can be given most effectively—and it’s totally okay to disagree with the professional translation! In fact, it’s encouraged. That means you’re getting more creative with the language.

Where to Find the Right Spanish TED Talks

You can either watch the main TED Talks or TEDxTalks. TED Talks are highly curated and TEDx Talks are locally organized talks, inspired by traditional TED topics and format. These are hosted in cities all around the world. 

With TEDx Talks, you sometimes get exposed to a greater wealth of ideas and personalities. However, this also means that you’ll want to take talks with a grain of salt—more so than the more carefully curated TED Talks—and verify any information given before repeating it elsewhere.

You can find both on the main TED website, although the website will not have every single TEDx Talk available and has a limited number of Spanish talks. For that, you can also check out the TEDx YouTube channel

One other small downside is that TEDx Talks do not have all the bells and whistles that TED Talks do—many of them lack interactive transcripts and subtitles, especially if you watch them on YouTube. Some do have English subtitles, but it’s hit or miss.

This doesn’t really have to be a downside, though, it’s just TED taking off the training wheels and encouraging you to listen up and improve your comprehension skills on the fly.

 

Well, you’ve got your talks to start with.

Get out there and start watching!

There’s a whole, wide world of ideas to discover—en español.

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

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, as you can see here:

learn-spanish-with-videos

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-spanish-with-interactive-subtitled-videos

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

learn-spanish-with-songs

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

learn-spanish-with-music-videos

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Close