When it comes to learning and improving your Spanish, there are different tools and activities that you can use. Songs are one of them. But since we’re used to listening to songs for relaxing or enjoyment, most people don’t know how to learn Spanish from songs.
If you like music, but you don’t know how to use it for your learning objectives, in this article, I’ll provide you 7 activities that you can do to improve and learn Spanish from songs. Although these are effective techniques that I used with my students, you can also combine them with your own activities.
By the end of this, you’ll have different tasks that you can follow when listening to music in Spanish.
1. Work on Your Listening Comprehension
For some students, listening and comprehension is one of the most challenging things when learning Spanish. Even if you’re in a Spanish class where you have the chance to listen to your classmates and teacher, understanding a Spanish native speakers will be very challenging.
So if you don’t have the chance to practice with a native Spanish speaker, songs can actually help you improve your listening and comprehension skills. In order to do this, listen to a song that you haven’t heard before and try to identify the meaning from the lyrics.
At this point of the activity, you shouldn’t use the lyrics as a support tool since the objective of this task is to develop your listening skills. So push yourself, listen to the song a few times and, then, compare what you understood with the lyrics.
Don’t worry about understanding every word that you hear: the goal of this activity is not about acquiring new vocabulary, but rather get a general understanding about the story told in the song.
In order to make the most of this activity, you should start with songs that are appropriate for your learning level. So if you struggle a lot with listening and understanding, start with ballads, pop and slow songs. Once you get more familiar with Spanish, you can jump into more fast and complex songs.
If you don’t know where to start, I encourage you to check this list of best songs to learn Spanish.
2. Listen and Repeat: Improve your Pronunciation
In addition to training your listening skills, songs are also a great tool to improve your pronunciation. For this activity, I recommend you to use the lyrics as a support tool: that way you can read the words and be sure about what you’re learning.
Unlike the previous activity, for this task you can choose a song that you’re familiar with. Listen and pay attention to how the singer pronounces certain sounds. And since you’re trying to have an active learning experience, pause the song and repeat after to sing the sounds in your mind.
If you want to personalize this activity for you, focus on the sounds that are confusing for you. So for instance, many beginners students will work with:
- Pronunciation of letter ‘j’
- Saying letter ‘g’
- Pronouncing ‘r’
One thing to watch out for this activity is the speed of the songs that you use. Spanish is already a fast language, so if you choose a song with a fast rhythm, you’ll have troubles understanding the pronunciation. In addition to this, in fast songs the singers may blend the words in order to keep with the melody, so this wouldn’t be good for your pronunciation.
3. Catch and Write Down New Vocabulary
One of my favorite and more effective activities is using songs as a way to learn more vocabulary. Even though songs are very short they’re rich in vocabulary, idioms and other common expressions that we use on a daily basis.
Unlike books, movies and other resources, songs have to be catchy and accessible for all people. As a result, the vocabulary that you’ll find here can be easily applied in your conversations.
When using songs to learn vocabulary, you should use the lyrics to see how a word is written and how it works with other elements. Of course, you want to listen to the song to check for pronunciation.
For this activity, you should set a goal of how many words you want to learn with each song. I usually recommend students to start with 5-10 words or expressions. Once you identify your new vocabulary, write it down in a notebook and create simple sentences as examples.
In addition to your vocabulary list and examples, you should try to apply these words in your conversations as soon and often as possible. Since songs are repetitive and contain a lot of prepositions and connectors, I recommend focusing on:
- Idiomatic expressions
By knowing more of these words, you’ll be able to have better and more fluent conversations in Spanish. Just make sure you start using these words so you don’t forget them.
4. Study Your Grammar: Conjugations and Structures
Although they’re a fun way to practice Spanish, songs can also help you review your grammar and sentence structure. So, in this case, you’ll need to do some extra work and find a song that contains some of the grammar elements you want to study.
If you don’t know what type of things you could study with a song, here is a list of grammar topics that you could check with songs:
- Using present tense
- Giving orders or instructions
- Expressing wishes and desires (subjunctive)
- Using past tenses in Spanish
- Talking about hypothetical situations (subjunctive)
- Building sentences with future and conditional sentences
- Using prepositions
- Placing adjectives, articles and pronouns
- Using gerund
As you may imagine, you won’t find a grammar explanation in the song, but you’ll see different examples of how a certain topic or structure is being applied. For many students, this is an effective way to understand some grammar rules.
So, in this case, it’s very convenient that you work with both the song and the lyric: that way if you don’t catch what the singer sang, you can check the lyrics. If you don’t know what songs to use, I prepared a list of Spanish songs and grammar topics that you can listen to and study.
5. Focus on the Context
When it comes to vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, many Spanish students struggle with the fact that many words don’t have a direct translation into English. Or if they do, they have multiple meanings depending on the situation where it is being applied.
Since dealing with Spanish nuances is going to be a reality for you, you should challenge yourself to pay attention to the context and, based on the situation, identify how a word is being used. So how can you use songs to do this?
Choose a few songs to practice, in fact, you should combine this activity with learning new vocabulary. Identify your new 5-10 words and try to determine their meaning based on:
- The sentence and the paragraph that belongs to
- The overall context of the song (the story told in the song)
Use the lyrics to read and see other elements that accompany your words and that are affecting their meaning. In this activity, I strongly recommend you to avoid using translators.
Online translators do a decent job with some words and simple sentences, but they’re very inaccurate with idiomatic expressions. So if you want to check the meaning of a word or expression, use Wordreference.
The point of this exercise is for you to:
- Have a general understanding of what a word means
- Understand the main idea that is being transmitted
When learning Spanish vocabulary, the context is essential. So, use songs as a way to train yourself in understanding a word as part of a sentence. To be effective in Spanish, you don’t need to be a walking encyclopedia. You just need to have a general understanding of what’s being said so they can keep the conversation going.
6. Focus on the Spanish Dialect You Want to Learn
If you’re learning Spanish, you may already know that there are different dialects and varieties. Even though Spanish speakers are still able to understand each other perfectly, each Spanish variation has its own vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar rules.
Since songs can be used to improve all of these elements, they’re a great tool for you to practice the Spanish dialect that you’re interested in. So if you already know what type of Spanish you want to learn, try to search for bands with the local dialect you want to learn.
A piece of advice here: Spanish singers known internationally use a more standard Spanish, you can still work on the pronunciation, but you won’t see a lot of vocabulary specific to their home countries. So try to look for other options that are not as well known globally.
Once you find a band or singer that meets your needs, you should focus on:
- Vocabulary used in the song: words and idiomatic expressions
- Pronunciation: for example: c, s, z in Spain
- Uses of pronouns: for example, tú vs vos
- Different conjugations: for example, tú cantas vs tú cantás
As usual, you should take some notes and apply the knowledge you acquire as soon as possible. If you don’t have a specific country in mind, you can choose between Castilian and Latin American singers.
7. Sing along
Another good activity that you can when using songs as a way to practice your Spanish is to sing. When doing this, you’ll be improving your:
When singing and repeating, you’ll memorize words and phrases that you can apply to your conversations. In addition to this, you’ll also learn how sentences are built. In other words, singing will help you gain confidence and will help you sound more natural in Spanish.
From my personal experience, my teachers used songs to explain to us some confusing grammar structures. Even today, when having doubts about that structure, I sing the song in my head just to check how it is built. One of my students told me that she did the same in her test about subjunctive.
So, don’t be shy and sing the songs that you’re using for practice 😉
When learning Spanish, there are many tools that you can use to improve and practice your knowledge. Although music is a great tool, many people wonder how they can learn Spanish from songs.
For that reason, in this article, I shared with you 7 activities that you can apply when listening to music in Spanish. As I mentioned before, songs will not explain grammar or conjugations to you, but they will provide you with vocabulary, structures, examples and idioms that can help you improve your Spanish.
Although you can listen to music in the background, if you truly want to practice your Spanish, I recommend you to take initiative, be proactive and practice your listening skills, pronunciation and vocabulary. The activities that I provided above are a great way to start, but you can also come up with your own tasks 😉
One of the main advantages of songs is that they use basic and current vocabulary and expressions that Spanish speakers use, so make sure you make the most of them. So, now, you’re ready to choose a few songs to practice your Spanish. ¡Buena suerte y diviértete!
Related Resource: 13 Best Songs to Practice Spanish