Music and language are processed in the same part of the brain. Like speech, lyrics are made up of words, held together in a grammatical structure and recited with a certain rhythm. That vocabulary appears in context often elucidating the artist’s culture. Take Lila Downs, for example, who speaks openly about the problems that her country, Mexico and Latin America in general face, often using local words and slang. The melodies that accompany those lyrics often stick in our heads and therefore, singing phrases can lead to better recall of vocabulary. What’s more, the listener also gets a dose of a particular accent and tone, exposure to speech features such as contractions, which are words or phrases shortened by dropping one or more letters, helping to improve pronunciation and comprehension. With language in everyday life, in a café for example, subtitles just aren’t available, but with songs, you have the possibility of reading the lyrics while listening along, making sure you don’t miss a thing. That Puerto Rican slang word not on your radar? Never fear - check how it’s spelt in the lyrics. Go further and do some exercises on it (on the Lirica app), so you know how to use it in a real situation. We’ve compiled a list of hit songs for you containing instances of basic Spanish that you can use straight away in all types of settings.
Check out this video lesson or scroll further down to listen to each song in full.
¿Qué tal? Wisin Y Yandel - Noche de Sexo
¿Hola, qué tal? Hello, how's it going? Soy el chico de las poesías I'm the boy from poetry
Qué tal is a common way to ask ‘how’s it going?’, ‘what’s up?’ or ‘how are you?’. Qué on its own means what, while tal means such. As you can see, a literal translation doesn’t work, but you could think of it as to what extent are things going. Wisin Y Yandel have been on the scene for a while, at both day and night. 2005’s Noche de Sexo starts innocently enough with Hola, qué tal?, but the theme of the night reveals itself a little further on.
¿Cómo Estás? Mike Bahia - ¿Cómo Estás?
¿Dónde estarás? ¿Cómo estás? Where might you be? How are you? '¿Cómo estás?' Literally translates as 'how are you?'. The ‘you’ is actually not mentioned, as it is optional - the 'estás' communicates who you are talking to already. More on this later. Remember that Spanish uses the inverted question mark at the start of a question, as well as the one that you are used to at the end.
Mike Bahia is Colombian and began his career in 2013 on La Voz (The Voice) in his native country.
Buenos días Victor Manuel - Buenos días, Adela mía
Buenos días, Adela mía. Dime como se descansó Good day, my Adele. Tell me how you slept In many languages, people greet each other by saying good day or its equivalent, with day being singular. In Spanish, 'Buenos días' is the way to do it, with días meaning days, plural. There are several theories about why the plural is used here, those being that it’s a shortening of a longer expression, it comes from the ‘canonical hours’ marking the divisions of the day in terms of times of prayer, or it’s an example of the expressive plural which is about intensity, not quantity. You can also learn with Victor’s biggest hit La puerta de Alcalá on Lirica now. It features Ana Belén and is about the monument in Madrid.
Buenas tardes • Buenas noches Marco Antonio Solís - El Mundo es mi Familia
Señoras y señores, buenas tardes, buenas noches Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, good night Same thing here - the plural is used for evenings and nights in Spanish. 'Tarde' means either afternoon or evening, and 'noche' means night. El mundo es mi familia is taken from the Spanish-language Disney movie Coco.
Estoy bien Ozuna - Aura
Ozuna sings Miento cuando digo que estoy bien I am lying when I say that I'm fine
He’s not being sincere - 'miento' means 'I lie' (for emphasis, you could put a ‘yo’ before 'miento', for ‘I’). This is also the case for ‘estoy bien’. 'Estoy' comes from the verb ‘estar’ which is one of the ways to say ‘to be’. When saying how you are doing, 'estar' is always the right verb to use because it refers to a temporal state. You can learn with Ozuna’s songs Se preparó, Escápate conmigo, Me niego and Te robaré on Lirica now.
¿Cómo tú te llamas? Nicky Jam - Hasta El Amanecer
¿Cómo tú te llamas? What is your name?
In the Hasta el amanecer video, Nicky Jam has met a girl he’s interested in in the laundrette of all places. Since he doesn’t know anything about her, he asks '¿Cómo tú te llamas?', adding the "tú" (you) for emphasis. They’re the only two people in the laundrette though, so he could have just as well left the 'tú' out and the girl would have known he was talking to her.
You can learn Spanish with this song on the Lirica app.
Me llamo J Balvin - Safari
Me llamo My name is
'Me llamo princesa', literally means 'I call myself princess'. In Spanish, you can also say ‘my name is’ (mi nombre es), but it’s more common to call yourself something. In my case, ‘Me llamo Conor’.
Perdona Maluma - El Préstamo
Perdona pero tengo mis motivos Sorry but I have my reasons
Our favourite bad boy Maluma says 'perdona' which literally means ‘forgive’. However, this is a common way to say that you’re sorry. If you wanted to say forgive me, you would say ‘perdóname’. This song’s title, El préstamo means 'The loan’. Maluma sings about how he lent his love to a girl who won't give it back.
Gracias Farruko, Anuel AA - Delincuente
Gracias a Dios le doy porque él me trajo hasta aquí Thank you God for bringing me here You’ve probably heard ‘gracias’ before and you likely have said it once or twice. In this case, Farruko is giving thanks to Dios, meaning God.
¿Y dónde está mi gente? J Balvin - Mi Gente
¿Y dónde está mi gente? And where are my people? Want to know where something or someone is? In this case, J Balvin wants to know where his people are - 'mi gente' means 'my people'. If you wanted to ask where J is, you would say ‘¿Dónde está J?’ (José is his real name). 'Estar', one of the verbs meaning 'to be', is also used for location or position. Ser is the other verb to be - you could say Soy Willy (I am Willy).
‘Ser’ is the other verb to be - it is used with the essential qualities that define a person, e.g. Soy Willy (I am Willy).
Ayúdame C. Tangana, Paloma Mami - No Te Debí Besar
Dios ayúdame a aceptar God help me to accept God is back again. Madrid’s C. Tangana, real name Antón Álvarez Alfaro wants God to help him to accept ‘las cosas que no puedo cambiar’ (the things that I can’t change). ‘Ayuda’ means 'help', while ‘me’ means 'me'. In Spanish you put them both together to form a positive imperative: ‘ayúdame’. Let’s hope you don’t get into a situation where you need to use it! C. Tangana says the inspiration for the song came from a drunken night out when he met a girl called Marta
Adiós Maluma - Corazón
No tengo miedo de decir adiós I am not afraid to say goodbye In Spanish you HAVE fear (tengo - I have) rather than ARE afraid. 'Adiós' is Spanish for 'goodbye'. The word is the contraction of "a" (to) and "Dios" (God), coming from the old Spanish phrase 'A Dios vais' ("You're going to God", in other words to Heaven).
We’ll be back soon with more song lists to help you speak Spanish, at different levels and on different themes. Remember to check the Lirica app regularly for new lessons based on both new release songs and classics.