a {text-decoration: none; } En la punta de la lengua: Songs to learn Spanish

19 jul 2014

Songs to learn Spanish

It might be because it is my mother tongue, but I have always found Spanish to be a beautiful and fascinating language. Unlike other romance languages such as French, we don't really have a fancy pronunciation nor a sophisticated spelling system, but perhaps grammar and linguistic variation can sometimes represent a challenge for foreign learners.

The most notorious differences that English speakers may find when learning Spanish are that we have  feminine and a masculine genders for nouns. 8 articles and 14 demonstratives depending on gender and number. A different verb conjugation for each person, and 7 more verb tenses due to the subjunctive mode and the imperfect tense.

However, this isn't something you should be afraid of. I've met many people who have reasonably gained proficiency in Spanish not by memorizing the whole bunch of grammar rules and  exceptions, but by speaking without fear nor prejudices and listening to Spanish-language music.

So, in order to help you in the quest of mastering this amazing and important world language, here's a list with some nice songs that may help you learn more about Spanish, culture and pronunciation. Hope you enjoy them.

Accent Difference 
Let's start with the obvious. Just like in any other language, Spanish pronunciation changes substantially depending of the country or even the region of the same country where it is spoken.  Here's a catchy song contrasting Southern Spain's Spanish and Northern Mexican Spanish. Which one did you understand better?

                                     Julieta Venegas y La Mala Rodriguez- Eres Para Mí

Present Tense
To start with, learning to conjugate all "persons" in present tense is a tasks that you must undertake to learn the language. 

                                                       La Oreja de Van Gogh-Pop

Simple Past
Used for talking about past events, thoughts or experiences. It is important to notice that although Spaniards use the Present Perfect or Antepretérito to recall things in the past, in Latin American countries the Simple Past tense is normally used with the same purpose. SP: He ido a comer L.A.: Fui a comer 

Rocío Durcal y Joaquín Sabina- Y nos dieron las 10

Future Tense
Expressing thoughts and ideas in the future. (e.g. Ya nada volverá a ser como antes, nunca dejaré que nada me cambie) ENG: Nothing will be like it was, I will never let anything change me. 

El Canto del Loco - Ya nada volverá a ser como antes

 Past Imperfect 
Another tricky feature of the Spanish language is the so-called Past Imperfect tense, which is used to describe a past situation, or the characteristics of something or someone in the past. ( e.g. Usaba perfume del caro vestía de Gaultier, llevaba diez días llorando y a penas sin comer) ENG: She wore an expensive perfume and wore Gaultier, she had been crying for ten days without eating)  Pay attention to the use of the tense and try to understand the overall story. Remember that describing something and/or telling a story is the main purpose of this tense.

                                                    Jarabe de Palo- Romeo y Julieta 

Past tense with pronominal verbs
In Spanish it is sometimes necessary to emphasize who is carrying out the action by adding atonic pronouns such as me, te, se, nos  to  pronominal verbs.  Me baño/ I take a shower,  Él se casó/ He got married, Me puse a estudiar (literally: I put myself to study) / I began to study etc. This song is a good example to learn how to conjugate those verbs in past  tense (e.g. Y te caiste al piso, me tiraste el pingüino me tiraste sifón, estallaron los vidrios de mi corazón)  and to experience Argentinean accent with the subject pronouns vos, which replaces the subject pronoun tú and the tonic pronoun ti  in Argentina and Uruguay. (e.g. Contigo -  Con  vos). Why don't you try translating the song?

                                                          Los Auténticos Decadentes-Loco

The subjunctive mode is normally used to express a wish or a hypothetical scenario, and it normally goes after que (e.g. Ojalá que seas feliz and not Ojalá que eres feliz) ENG: "I hope you're happy".

Silvio Rodriguez- Ojalá

Literally... many of them (en, sin, sobre, tras, a, ante, bajo, con) 


Tonic and Atonic Pronouns.
Reciprocity is something that you better get in Spanish if you want to be able to understand who is doing what to whom? (e.g. Cómo no acordarme de ti? De qué manera olvidarte? Si todo me recuerda a ti,  si en todas partes estás )  ENG: How could I not recall you? How could I forget you? If everything reminds me of you, if you are everywhere).

Los Ángeles Azules-Cómo te voy a olvidar 

Just like in English, this tense is used to give orders or instructions. However, despite the fact that in English remains the same than the infinitive; its Spanish counterpart changes a little (e.g. ¡Haz tu tarea!/ Do your homework!)

                                                             Oye- La Sonora Dinamita 

Gustar: Me gustan los aviones, Me gustas tú, Me gusta bailar, Me gustas

                                                         Manu Chao- Me gustas tú

Present, Future and Past Tenses
 You may already know these by now, but have you practiced them together? (e.g. Ya  que no vendrás to lo que fue el tiempo lo dejó atrás) ENG: I already know that you won't come back all the things that happened were left behind. Let's give it up for your Spanish teacher Shakira before her hips began to lie.

    Shakira Unplugged- Estoy Aquí


Mexican Spanish
Great song from the band Café Tacuba with many "ch" words that are only said and understood in Mexico.

                                                              Café Tacuba- Chilanga Banda

Colombian Vallenato 
Enjoy the rhythm. 

                                                       Carlos Vives - La Gota Fría

American singer, Mexican band 
What do you think about it?  

                                               Jenny and the Mexicats - Me voy a ir

Dominican Republic 
A protest song about medical malpractice and lack of efficiency in Latin American hospitals.

                                              Juan Luis Guerra - El Niágara en Bicicleta

Rhythmical song supporting the Zapatista Army of National Liberation 

Lila Downs - Zapata Se Queda

Protest song against discrimination to Mexican immigrants in the United States. Sung in a stereotypical "gringo" accent. 


Puerto Rico 
Latin America's cultural richness and its current social situation.

                                                         Calle 13 - Latinoamérica

The Queen of Good Vibe and Mr. Santana
                                                          Celia Cruz - Oye Como Va

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