Today I’m delighted to feature a guest post about how to use Spanish music and get the most out of it.
Listening to music is a great way to learn Spanish and this guest post shares some great tips to help you get started.
I hope you enjoy the post!
Over to Sean…
My love affair with Spanish began at a very young age, when I was around 8 years old or so.
I had picked up some Spanish comedy tapes from a flea market but I was annoyed and frustrated that I couldn’t understand what the jokes were about. What was everybody laughing about?
I decided, right then and there, to seriously start learning the language just so I could unlock the meaning, the humour and significance of what was being said.
Fast forward to today, and my love affair with Spanish has blossomed into something truly special. I’m an accomplished salsa dancer, a college graduate who majored in Spanish, a polyglot, and the founder of a leading translations company.
Having dedicated my life to languages, I truly feel passionate about helping other people unlock the significance and beauty of expression of other languages.
The truth is there are plenty of ways you can learn a language while gaining insight into the culture of the people who speak it. One of them is to learn the lyrics of music in the language you’re studying and to sing and dance along.
This helps you feel better connected to the feelings expressed in the language and gain an insight into the culture of the people who created the music.
Plus, when you do this, there’s the added bonus of instantly bonding with fellow fans of the singer’s music. This is a great way to connect with native speakers.
Learning a language like Spanish through music is a much more fun and fulfilling experience than using programs where you have to learn vocabulary and verb tenses through rote memorization.
And if you're enjoying the time you spend learning Spanish, you're far more likely to stick with it. Let's look at how you can properly approach learning Spanish through music.
It’s vital that you pick music that has lyrics you want to crack. My own experience has been that if you don’t, you’ll have a hell of a challenge being able to focus on the song.
The task will quickly turn unpleasant, it’ll take a lot longer to do, and you’ll be far less inclined to repeat the process with other songs in Spanish. Or worse, you’ll start thinking that learning Spanish isn’t really for you at all. This wouldn’t be any good, would it?
As you try to pick something fun, just ask yourself: “What’s that one song in Spanish I’ve always liked and wished I could follow?”
More often than not, this is a good song to start with, because you're actually very interested in wanting to learn it.
The truth is there isn’t just one specific website for song lyrics that is the best out there. I have yet to find a lyrics site that is consistently better than the rest. The best quality lyrics of a certain song can be found on any site, so your best bet is to just google the song and see what you come up with.
Just google “lyrics [name of the song]” (e.g.: “lyrics ciudad de la furia”) or, instead, use “translation [name of the song]” and go through some of the top results.
Typically, the websites with the best translations will list both the Spanish and English versions of the song. You can then evaluate for yourself which translation seems the best.
With your trusty Spanish to English, English to Spanish online dictionary in tow, read the lyrics and look up every phrase, idiom, expression and word you don't know.
This is the tedious part of the process of learning a song! This step will probably take you the most time, however, the process is easy. Read the lyrics, translate what is being said, and if you encounter a bit of slang or a phrase you don’t know, just google it.
If this doesn’t work – although it should work 99% of the time – then post a question about the word or phrase on a Spanish-learning forum. Urban Dictionary is especially good for identifying any Spanish slang you come across, whether it’s Mexican slang, Peruvian slang, Argentine slang, Iberian slang, etc.
This part may be the no-brainer part of the process, but it's trickier than you’d think.
The goal here is to understand the song very well at full speed. Read the lyrics and pause whenever you don’t recognise what is being said.
Listen to the song but stop as soon as you don't understand what the singer is singing. Pause, rewind, re-read the lyrics and listen again until you can understand.
Rinse and repeat until you understand every lyric.
I’m well aware that it’s a big time investment to research the lyrics of a song. But keep in mind that learning Spanish requires consistent work and discipline. If you stick with it, the results will be more than worth the effort you put in.
Let's quickly review the four simple steps you should take when listening to music in Spanish:
Listening to music in Spanish is a no-brainer. Learning Spanish lyrics from your favourite songs is considerably more fun than learning from a boring old textbook.
Through studying lyrics, you learn dozens of new vocabulary words, new idioms/colloquial-phrases, new expressions, and accents, all while gaining an insight into the culture the song is from.
Spanish music also helps you create friendships as you bond with fellow fans of the music. Your shared passion for the music you discover will help you meet people online, at concerts or in dance clubs. There’s no greater feeling than being able to dance and sing along to the music you love.
I hope my roadmap to learning a language through music turns out to be useful and practical to you. If you take the time to practice with Spanish music, it’ll pay huge dividends the next time you joyfully burst into song in Spanish or swing your hips to the infectious rhythms of salsa or bachata.
Learning a language is about more than just the words you learn. Culture forms an important part too. Learning Spanish through music is the perfect way to find a good balance of both.
Sean Hopwood is the President of Day Translations, a localisation services company with offices all over the world. A polyglot and lover of languages, his passion for languages started when he was just a boy.
Photo credit: Gavin Whitner (licensed under CC 2.0)
What’s your favourite type of music to practice Spanish with? Do you have any particular artists or songs that you'd recommend to other learners? Let us know in the comments!
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