Spanish Songs For Language Learning

I’m still finding ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. At Over The Andes we’ve posted several articles about the benefits of using music in language learning. There are also a couple posts with suggested Spanish songs for various occasions

Today’s post is yet another one celebrating Spanish songs for language learning. I’ve got three of them for you. Additionally, there are another three, rich in cultural references, perfect for Hispanic Heritage Month! 

Spanish Songs for language and culture learning

“Agua” by Jarabe de Palo

This is a song about unrequited love. How can they remain only friends when he is clearly in love with her? That’s the question he asks, repeatedly. The imagery of the song is quite beautiful. The singer compares his feelings to being thirsty but unable to drink any water. 

In terms of the appropriateness of the lyrics, they are clean enough to use in a class with younger students, especially if you’re using only the audio.

The lyrics from a learning perspective: I love the lyrics used here as they are actually quite uncomplicated. Here are some other benefits

  • There are a lot of high frequency verbs (such as querer, mirar, ir, estar and tener). 
  • Most of the conjugations are present tense (first, second and third person).
  • The imagery is fairly straightforward and the context clear.
  • Jarabe de Palo is a Spanish group and the Castillian ‘th’ pronunciation is very clear.

Speed: The song’s pace is slow enough for even novice-mid learners to pick out words with which they are already familiar.

“Olvido” by Amaral

Amaral’s  musical style is mostly identified as pop rock, but it is often fused with Latin beats, folk rock, complex poetic lyrics and traditional Spanish folk music. Olvido is dedicated to, lead singer, Eva Amaral’s mother.  The band wanted the effect of looking into a mirror and seeing two sides of the same face. I don’t know if the song has that effect but it is certainly delightful to listen to; and does seem to have an ‘echo’ or sorts.

Appropriateness of the lyrics: they are clean enough to use in a class with younger students, including the video.

The lyrics from a learning perspective: These lyrics and the imagery aren’t as simple as in Agua, but repetition and clear pronunciation make this song manageable, even at lower levels. Additionally: 

  • There are a lot of frequently used words (such as nombre, veo, miro, eres, fecha, años). 
  • The song is mostly delivered in the present tense.
  • The grammar constructions used, for the most part, are lower level.
  • Amaral is another Spanish group and the Castillian ‘th’ pronunciation is very clear, especially in the word ‘canción.’

Speed: The song’s pace is slow enough to make it a really good listening tool for lower level students

“Qué Caro es el Tiempo” by El Canto del Loco

A song that’s all about nostalgia and reminiscing about a time when life was much simpler. Que Caro es el Tiempo is by the Spanish pop rock band El Canto del Loco. This particular song comes from the album “Zapatillas” which includes songs whose proceeds went towards helping victims of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The lyrics of Qué Caro es el Tiempo are clear and clean and can easily be used in a classroom with younger students. 

The lyrics from a learning perspective: The lyrics used here are fairly easy to understand, although there are some object pronouns in use (mainly me and te). Here are some other points to note about the song:

  • Although the words are fairly clear, they are not high frequency words. 
  • Most of the conjugations are present tense, although there is a future tense and a past.
  • The first line of the song makes use of the Castillian ‘vuestras’ (Hoy miro vuestras caras)

Speed: The song’s pace is slow enough to be suited to a more experienced beginner or a lower-intermediate student. 

Check out this Cloze Activity packet, which includes an exercise using “Qué Caro es el Tiempo”

“La Gozadera” by Gente de Zona and Marc Anthony

“La Gozadera” is a Spanish term (identified as informal Venezuelan) which means good time or party. The song was released by Cuban reggaeton duo Gente de Zona in 2015 and features Puerto Rican singer Marc Anthony. The music video was directed by Alejandro Pérez and filmed in Cuba, while the scenes with Marc Anthony were filmed in the Dominican Republic. The video features dancers from the Cuban contemporary dance company, Ballet Revolución.

As a Spanish learning tool: Not so much! Lol. Let me explain. I quite enjoy reggaeton for it’s fantastic upbeat quality, however, the Spanish used often isn’t easily understood by beginner learners. 

La Gozadera still is one of my favourite songs to use, though, from a cultural perspective. This song is a celebration of Latin America and features a few of Latin music’s biggest names. The cinematography of the video is stunning and certainly portrays the joy and pride of being Latino. La Gozadera is the perfect Hispanic Heritage Month anthem.

For a listening activity: Students can listen to the song and list out each Latin American country they hear mentioned. They can also try to locate each country on a map.

Check out this free La Gozadera exercise (with answers and map included). 

“La Vida es un Carnaval” by Celia Cruz

On the topic of songs for Hispanic Heritage Month, we cannot miss mentioning the Queen of Salsa, the indomitable Celia Cruz! Her iconic song, La Vida es un Carnaval is well known around the world. In fact, even if you don’t recognise the name, I’m sure if you play the song it will ring a bell. 

“La Vida es un Carnaval” reminds us that even though life has its cruel moments, it’s never all that way; and it’s better to live singing!

This is a gorgeous salsa song that will have you tapping your feet and swaying your hips in no time. The lyrics are clean but they are a bit speedy. For beginners, it’s not the easiest song to pick out words from. For more intermediate learners, it’s great to spot various verbs, various verb tenses, and maybe even learn the chorus!

“Almost Like Praying” Lin Manuel Miranda

I got goosebumps the first time I heard this song. “Almost Like Praying” was created to promote awareness of and support relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. There’s a bucket load of Latin music giants who worked together to realise this song, which was written and recorded by Lin Manuel Miranda. If you watch the video, you’ll see artists like Marc Anthony, Juan Luis Guerra, J-Lo, Rita Moreno and Gloria Estefan. 

The song is more or less in Spanglish. The Spanish words are mostly made of the 78 towns in Puerto Rico, all of which are called out in the song. Read what Miranda said inspired his to include them…

For Puerto Ricans who live all over the world, who have a connection and family on the island, there was a terrible silence several days [after Maria] where we were just waiting for word. And my Twitter feed, my Facebook feed was just filled with family members listing the names of towns where their families were living. ‘And from my grandmothers in Lares, my uncle is in Vega Alta. Has anyone seen them? Has anyone heard from them?’ And I thought, well the only lyric that really unites us and that makes the most sense for a fundraising song is if I can somehow write a lyric that includes all 78 towns in Puerto Rico.” NPR Article.

I can’t quite think of a great way to turn this song into a full-on Spanish lesson, but I think it serves a much better purpose as a culture and social commentary lesson. You can use this song with a map of Puerto Rico:

  • Try to locate some or all of the 78 towns.
  • Students can discuss the impact of hurricane Maria on the island and even analyse the recovery efforts on the island.
  • For something lighter, take a look at the contributing artists. Which ones are from Puerto Rico?
  • Many others are from other Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands. Who are they and from which islands?

Hope you enjoyed these 6 Spanish songs for language learning (and cultural awareness building)!

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