How to learn Spanish using music to speak like a native speaker
I have a confession to make—I hate studying Spanish.
Opening up a grammar textbook and committing to a few hours of intense study it is at the bottom of my to-do list.
Without context, I would quickly forget what I had learned.
The game changer for me was discovering salsa music. I fell in love with the rhythms and the sound of the language. This was the driving force that motivated me to learn more Spanish.
I used my desire to understand the meaning behind the music to increase my proficiency. This is when I learned a key lesson: learning Spanish does not have to be boring.
There are fun and fascinating ways to learn Spanish without relying only on textbooks and apps that give you unrealistic or irrelevant language examples. Following my own interests, I was able to sustain my motivation and drive long enough to reach a high level of Spanish proficiency.
Can You Really Learn Spanish with Music?
Music has this magical ability to worm its way into our brains and cement itself there.
Whether you want to admit it or not, you still know all of those nursery rhymes you learned as a child.
Luckily, this powerful property of music is universal, which makes it a great tool for acquiring a second language.
Here are some tips for using music to learn Spanish:
Step 1: Choose music you like
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you are going to learn much more from music you enjoy listening to than music you hate.
With the diversity of types of music in Spanish, you should have no trouble finding a favorite genre and/or artist.
Step 2: Start Slow
Slower paced music is the best starting point when you are a beginner.
You can also use the “slow playback” feature on YouTube or on any mobile apps you use to listen to music. This is especially helpful with fast-paced genres like salsa and reggaeton.
Children’s music can also be an excellent resource if you are just starting out, since you will learn basic vocabulary and pronunciation.
Here’s my playlist of recommended songs for beginners.
Step 3: Look Up the Words
Don’t make the mistake of listening to a song over and over again without understanding it.
This is fine in the beginning so you get used to the singer’s voice and pronunciation, but eventually you will need to look up the words.
Learning language with music is only effective if you know what you are listening to.
If you listen to a song a million times and understand nothing, your Spanish skills won’t improve too drastically. To use songs as a learning tool you need to familiarize yourself with the lyrics.
CAUTION: There are a lot of free resources for song lyrics, but many of them are riddled with errors. Even those that claim to be “official” or “licensed” can be full of mistakes and depend on content submitted by a community of unprofesional contributors. This is a real issue for language learning. You’ll want accurate lyrics so you aren’t learning incorrectly and creating mistakes that it could take a long time to discover and correct.
I recommend staying away from free lyrics translation sites and unvetted YouTube videos. Instead, review the lyrics with a tutor that’s familiar with the song to clear up any errors and explain any grammar usage or cultural nuances. This is critical before moving on to the next step.
Step 4: Use What You Learn
Once you’ve learned some new vocabulary, make some flash cards to review and then practice what you’ve learned.
Here are suggested practice exercises you can use with each song, based on your level:
- Vocabulary Quiz – Quiz yourself on the new words and phrases you’ve learned. This will give you a simple way to recall key words and phrases from each song.
- Fill In the Blank – Download the lyrics with blank spaces for each of the key words. Listen to the song and try to fill in the blanks to test your listening comprehension.
- Write Sentences – Forming your own sentences using the vocabulary you’ve learned is the best way to practice for real-world conversation. Write 3 – 5 sentences for each new word or phrase you learned from the song.
- Karaoke Time! – Sing along with the song while reading the lyrics to practice your pronunciation.
- Speak into the Mic – Record yourself singing along, and listen to how you sound versus the native speaker. This will help you pinpoint what you need to focus on to improve your pronunciation. Focus on your pronunciation, not pitch. You can even read the lyrics like a poem, not focusing on the melody of the song.
- Recommend to a Friend – Send a link to the song to a friend, with a brief note explaining what the song is about and why you like it.
- Talk About It – Schedule a tutor session or a chat with a language exchange partner. Tell them about your favorite lines from the song, and explain what you like and/or dislike about the song. You can also share in the Learn Spanish with Music, Travel, & Culture Facebook Group.
- Tell Me a Story – Write about your thoughts on the topic of the song.
Discuss the message of the lyrics and what they mean to you, and any
experiences you’ve had in your life that may mirror the song contents.
- Be a Music Critic – Record a short video or write an article with your
critique of the song. Talk about what you like and don’t like, what you
think of the artist, the lyrics, and music.
Here are some resources that can help you practice learning with music based on your current Spanish level:
- Beginner and Intermediate – Spanish Con Salsa provides lyrics to Latin music in Spanish with English translations and explanations of colloquial phrases. The site also features slow-speed audio of songs broken down by section, interactive quizzes, and private Facebook community. You can start with a free trial.
- Beginner – Rockalingua is an online resource to help children and beginners learn Spanish with music-based lessons.
- Intermediate – Earworms offers audio lessons of Spanish words and phrases with catchy tunes.
- Advanced – Lyrics Training provides songs with lyrics in Spanish in a game format with video. It does not provide any English translations for the lyrics, so I recommend this resource for more upper intermediate and advanced Spanish learners.
There you have it—a simple, fun, textbook-free way to learn Spanish. Start singing along and immerse yourself in Spanish music and culture.
Want more details on how to learn Spanish with music? Check out the course How to Master Spanish with Music and get the step-by-step method I used to improve my Spanish with music.
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¡Hola! My name is Tamara Marie. I’m a language coach specializing in brain-friendly methods to learn foreign languages faster. I speak English (US native), Spanish (advanced), and Brazilian Portuguese (beginner). I’m a Latin music & dance addict and passionate about helping people learn languages.