Learning a language involves more than just grammar and vocabulary. It’s also about exploring the cultural expressions of the people who speak your target language natively. With music, you can get a taste of the sounds, word games, rhymes, idioms, proverbs and other aspects of the language that aren’t necessarily addressed as much in traditional classroom settings. That’s why we we have the perfect beginner Spanish playlist!
Music is also helpful because it contains one of the key elements in language learning: repetition. You’re more likely willing to listen to songs over and over again rather than repeating boring grammar drills.
One of the most intimidating aspects of language learning for beginners is that it’s difficult to understand everything that’s said either in a text or in a conversation. Still, you have to start somewhere. In this article, we’ll focus on songs that are ideal for those who have just started their learning journey; with every song in the beginner Spanish playlist, we’ll provide you with key vocabulary, grammar structures and pronunciation tips. We also want you to connect with the culture of the language, so we’ve included some cultural aspect mentioned in each song, as well as a language challenge to point you in the direction of what to learn next.
Turn your favorite artists into personal tutors with Babbel’s beginner Spanish playlist!
Beginner Spanish Playlist, Explained
María — Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin is a Puerto Rican singer who’s become very successful singing in English, but “María” was his first international hit.
Vocabulary: Easy numbers (un(o/a), dos, tres) and true cognates, or “friends” (planeta-planet, especial-special, laberinto-
Grammar: The verb “ser” (“Ella es una mujer especial,” “Ella es un laberinto carnal,” “Así es María,” “Ella es veneno, ella es un pecado mortal”)
Pronunciation Tip: It is common to shorten the preposition “para” as “pa”: Un pasito pa’lante, un pasito p’atrás (One step to the front, one step to the back).
Cultural Aspect: María is one of the most common female names in Spanish-speaking countries.
Challenge: Can you count past “3” in Spanish?
Ojos Así — Shakira
Shakira is a Colombian singer. In this song, she creates musical hooks common in Middle Eastern music, which she also alludes to with some belly dancing in the music video.
Vocabulary: True friends (santo-saint, prisión-prison, entero-entire, Polo Norte-North Pole, camello-camel)
Grammar: Pretérito imperfecto (conocí, vi, fui, encontré)
Pronunciation Tip: Verbs in the pretérito imperfecto (preterite imperfect) always have their stress on the last syllable (conocí, encontré) in most case (except the second-person plural conjugations, or “we [verb]”)
Cultural Aspect: Spanish and Arabic share some vocabulary because of the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century by the Umayyad Caliphate.
Challenge: Where is Bahrain?
Despacito — Luis Fonsi (feat. Daddy Yankee)
Luis Fonsi is a Puerto Rican singer who revived his career with this Reggaeton beat featuring Daddy Yankee (and also Justin Bieber, in the bilingual version).
Vocabulary: True friends (metal-metal, pulso-pulse, normal-normal, favorito-favorite, manuscrito-manuscript, ritmo-rhythm, salvaje-savage, malicia-malice, delicadeza-delicacy, zonas-zones)
Grammar: In spoken Spanish, it is very common to use the verbs “ir” and “estar” as auxiliary verbs to build the presente continuo (ir: Me voy acercando y voy armando el plan, mis sentidos van pidiendo más, nos vamos pegando, ya me estás gustando más de lo normal, yo sé que estás pensándolo, esa beba está buscando de mi bom, bom).
Pronunciation Tip: Try to pronounce letters “d” and “t” in between your teeth when you sing “Despacito.”
Cultural Aspect: The use of diminutives (adding “-ito” to words to mean that they are smaller, as in despacito, suavecito, poquito) is more common in Latin American than in European Spanish.
Challenge: Can you guess what “Ay, bendito” means?
Bailando — Enrique Iglesias
Enrique Iglesias is a Spanish singer who also saw the benefits of singing Reggaeton as a way of coming back into the spotlight.
Vocabulary: School subjects (física, química, anatomía, filosofía) and alcoholic drinks (cerveza, tequila)
Grammar: The structure querer + infinitivo (Yo quiero…estar contigo, …vivir contigo, …bailar contigo, …tener contigo) is the equivalent to “I want to.”
Pronunciation Tip: Touch your palate with your tongue when you try to roll those Spanish “r”s when pronouncing verbs in the infinitive.
Cultural Aspect: In this song, Enrique Iglesias collaborates with the Cuban band Gente de Zona. You can notice how Iglesias’ and the band’s pronunciation vary for certain words.
Challenge: The word “corazón” is pronounced in two different ways in this song. Can you tell the difference between the two?
Me Gustas Tú — Manu Chao
Manu Chao is a French singer and songwriter of Spanish descent, famous for being the lead singer of Mano Negra, as well as having a successful career as a solo artist. In this song, he lists all the things he likes.
Vocabulary: Cities and countries (La Habana, Cuba; San Salvador, El Salvador; Managua, Nicaragua; Guatemala; La Coruña), telling the time (¿Qué horas son?, doce de la noche, once de la noche, una de la mañana), common verbs (viajar, soñar, correr, volver)
Grammar: “Me gusta” is a phrase used to express a preference for something, and you can use it with both objects (me gusta la canela, me gusta la guitarra) and with actions in infinitive (me gusta viajar, me gusta soñar).
Pronunciation Tip: Touch your palate with your tongue when you try to roll those Spanish “r”s when pronouncing the verbs in infinitive.
Cultural Aspect: Manu Chao’s father was from Galicia. In this song, Manu Chao mentions Coruña, one of the port cities from the Spanish province.
Challenge: Do you know what Malasaña is?
Canción del Mariachi — Antonio Banderas
Antonio Banderas is a Spanish actor who starred in Robert Rodriguez’s neo-western movie El Mariachi, where he sang along with Los Lobos.
Vocabulary: Mexican drinks (tequila blanco, aguardiente, copas), common verb phrases (tomar mis copas, tocar guitarra, cantar el son)
Grammar: You can use the word “ni” to add more information to a sentence that is in the negative (Las mujeres no me faltan, ni el dinero, ni el amor).
Pronunciation Tip: The double “L” in Spanish is pronounced like the “y” in “yacht” (caballo, estrellas, ellas).
Cultural Aspect: Mezcal and tequila are the most popular aguardientes (hard liquors) from Mexico.
Challenge: Salma Hayek co-starred this movie. Where in Mexico is she from?
Malagueña Salerosa — Chingon
Speaking of Robert Rodriguez, he’s also a founding member of the band Chingon. They played this traditional huapango for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Part 2.
Vocabulary: Parts of the body (ojos-eyes, cejas-eyebrows, labios-lips, corazón-heart), common adjectives (bonito-pretty, hermosa-beautiful, pobre-poor, linda-cute)
Grammar: You can use “qué” + an adjective to express admiration for something (qué bonitos ojos tienes, qué linda sonrisa tienes, qué hermoso cabello tienes). Don’t forget to add the accent!
Pronunciation Tip: Remember the letter “j” in Spanish is similar to the sound of the “h” in “house.”
Cultural Aspect: This huapango has been recorded more than 200 times by different artists, and it tells the story of a beautiful woman from Malaga, Spain.
Challenge: What does salerosa mean?
Nosotros — Luis Miguel
Luis Miguel is one of the most famous Mexican singers ever. He recorded a series of albums where he revisits traditional Bolero music and adds a modern spin to it.
Vocabulary: Romantic words and phrases (amor-love, romance-romance, cariño-affection, querer con el alma-love with all your soul, adorar-adore)
Grammar: The ending for the personal pronoun nosotros (we) is “-mos,” regardless of the tense (fuimos, vimos, estamos, hicimos, queremos)
Pronunciation Tip: Keep your mouth constantly round when pronouncing the “o” in nosotros.
Cultural Aspect: Luis Miguel was originally born in Puerto Rico but he obtained his Mexican citizenship in the early nineties.
Challenge: Is this a love song or a heartbreak song?
Yo No Me Llamo Javier — Los Toreros Muertos
Los Toreros Muertos are a band from Madrid, Spain, that was active in the 1980s. The playfulness of their lyrics is reflected in their classical song “Yo No Me Llamo Javier.”
Vocabulary: Common places (playa-beach, hotel-hotel, calle-street, casa-house)
Grammar: Pretérito imperfecto (conocí, fuimos, pasaste, pedí, presentaste, invitaste)
Pronunciation Tip: In Spanish, the letters “b” and “v” have essentially the same sound, so “Javier” is actually pronounced as “Jabier.”
Cultural Aspect: Paella, mentioned in this song, is one of the most famous Spanish dishes and is made with rice, saffron and different types of vegetables and meat.
Challenge: Who is the singer talking about when he mentions El Chá de Persia?
No Voy En Tren — Charly García
Charly García is one of the most famous Argentinian rockstars, known for his different musical endeavors. In this song, he helps us practice some useful transportation vocabulary.
Vocabulary: Transportation (tren-train, avión-airplane), media (televisión-television, revistas-magazines) and true friends (animal-animal, piano-piano, personalidad-personality)
Grammar: The verbs ir and ser (No voy en tren, voy en avión; soy de la cruz del sur, soy el que cierra y apaga la luz).
Pronunciation Tip: Notice that Charly pronounces the word yo like sho.
Cultural Aspect: La Cruz del Sur refers to the constellation Crux, which was used by the Argentinian gauchos for orientation in the Pampas and Patagonia.
Challenge: There is a word in English in the song. Which is it?
Peligroso Pop — Plastilina Mosh
The second half of the ‘90s gave us a lot of rock bands from Monterrey, Mexico, sparking an artistic movement called Avanzada Regia. One of the bands that emerged from this music scene was Plastilina Mosh.
Vocabulary: Routines (te veo reflejada en la televisión, duermes en Madrid, despiertas en Tokio, brillas al caminar, amarras tu pelo, piensas en cantar)
Grammar: Irregular verbs in presente simple (dormir-duermes, despertar, despiertas, pensar-piensas)
Pronunciation Tip: The letter “p” has a stronger sound in English than in Spanish. Don’t forget to visit our pronunciation courses!
Cultural Aspect: Plastilina Mosh is known for mixing languages in their songs (also known as code-switching). Here they mix Spanish with English.
Challenge: What‘s “coco loco”?
Quiéreme Mucho — Ely Guerra
Ely Guerra is a Mexican singer from Monterrey, Mexico. She has recorded with other Latin American bands such as La Ley from Chile and the Mexican hip-hop band Control Machete.
Vocabulary: Common adjectives (hermosa-beautiful, dulce-sweet, suave-soft)
Grammar: The modal verb quiero + infinitive (quiero bailar, quiero sentirme hermosa, quiero cantar, quiero ver el amanecer, quiero sentir solo tu dulce boca, quiero sentirme bien)
Pronunciation Tip: Use the endings of infinitives (-ar, -er, -ir) to practice your soft “r”s.
Cultural Aspect: Ely Guerra has also sung in English in her collaboration with John Indovina, the singer of Human Drama, for his solo album “Trial of the Writer.”
Challenge: Oración has two possible meanings. In what sense is Ely Guerra using it?
Cómo Te Extraño Mi Amor — Café Tacuba
Café Tacuba is a band from the State of Mexico, Naucalpan. In 1997, they released an album with cover versions of classic songs.
Vocabulary: Infinitive verbs with an indirect object (quiero verte, tenerte y besarte, entregarte todo mi corazón-I want to see you, have you, kiss you, and give you all my heart).
Grammar: The simple present in the first person (cómo te extraño, qué puedo hacer, a veces pienso, te quiero, te tengo que esperar)
Pronunciation Tip: Notice the stress and the graphic accent in cómo when they sing ¡Cómo te extraño!
Cultural Aspect: This song is another tune originally performed by the Argentinian Leo Dan.
Challenge: Kudos if you can pronounce all your eñes in this song.
Siento Que… — Jumbo
Jumbo is another rock band from Monterrey, Mexico, that emerged from the same music scene as Ely Guerra. This song is from their first album, “Restaurant.”
Vocabulary: Body parts (mano-hand, ojos-eyes) and time expressions (hoy-today, mañana-tomorrow, los ochentas-the eighties)
Grammar: Simple present in the second person (vienes a mi casa, me coges de la mano, te sientas a mi lado, me abrazas)
Pronunciation Tip: The combination “qu” combined with letters “e” and “i” are pronounced “ke” as in “kept” and “kee” as in “keep” (Siento que me quieres hoy).
Cultural Aspect: Agarras y… is an expression common in Mexico to describe events that happen “out of the blue.”
Challenge: How many words for body parts in Spanish you know?
¿A Dónde Van Los Muertos? — Kinky
Kinky is a band from the Avanzada Regia that has had great international success. In this song, they philosophize about death and how Mexicans face their unavoidable fate.
Vocabulary: Día de Muertos (los muertos-the dead, destino-fate, esfumarse-vanquish, humo-smoke, esfumarse-fade away, morir-to die, panteones-graveyards)
Grammar: Spanish has a fascination with reflexive verbs. We can find several examples throughout the song (Se van a dar la vuelta al mundo, se van volando como búhos, me esfumo, aquí se llenan los panteones, hay que morirnos juntos).
Pronunciation Tip: To pronounce the Spanish “L” you need to put you tongue closer to your palate. Try it when you sing along: “La, la, la, la, la, la, la.”
Cultural Aspect: Día de Muertos is a pre-hispanic tradition in the Americas. Aztecs believed that those who died went to Mictlán, which is the Mexican Underworld.
Challenge: Have you checked our Mexican Vacation course? No? Click here!