Listen to Music and Learn Spanish: Bachata

I remember the first time I heard a Bachata song. I was in the Dominican Republic for my cousin’s wedding. We went out to a night club and a Bachata song came on. I thought I knew how to do all the dances because I knew salsa, meringue and cha cha. Since my cousin has always been infinitely cooler than me, I was ready to impress him with my dancing skills. I got my chance toward the end of the night when my cousin grabbed my hand for a dance…but then I realized that I had no idea how to dance to song that was playing! He tried to teach me, “Step to the right 3 times and then do a little hop, step to the left 3 times and do a little hop.” I almost got it by the end of the song, but I definitely did not impress anyone! Check out a proper Bachata dance.

Despite my rough beginnings with Bachata, I really love this music and the dance. When I go out Latin dancing and I hear a Bachata song come on, I grab the first available partner and proceed to the dance floor.

A Quick History of Bachata

Similar to my rough first experience with Bachata, the genre itself had rough beginnings. Bachata began in the rural parts of the Dominican Republic during the early part of the 20th century. According to Wikipedia,

During much of its history Bachata music was denigrated by Latino/Caribbean society and associated with rural backwardness and delinquency. As recently as 1988 Bachata was considered too vulgar, crude and musically rustic to enter mainstream music. In the 1990s, bachata’s instrumentation changed from acoustic guitar to electric steel string. The new electric bachata soon became an international phenomenon, and today bachata is as popular as salsa and merengue in some Latin American dance-halls.


Listening to Bachata to Learn Spanish

I also like this style of music for Spanish-learners. The sound of the music is less intimidating than some other styles of Latin music. Last weekend I had some Bachata playing in my apartment when guests came over and they commented about how nice the music was. This music is also great for learning Spanish because the tempo is slower and students can understand the song lyrics  more easily than a lot of other styles. I suggest checking out “Dile El Amor” by Aventura which is a great song for listening, dancing or practicing Spanish.

Aventura is one of the most famous groups. Others to look for are Xtreme, Prince Royce and Moncha y Alexandra. One of the easiest ways to get started listening to Bachata is to make an account with Pandora Radio and create your own radio station based on one of these artists.



¡Calle 13 at the Latin Grammy Awards!

Last night was the Latin Grammy awards. As you can see from the picture above, the biggest winner of the night was Calle 13. I’ve been a fan of Calle 13 ever since I went to Chile and heard their music in 2006. In fact, I even posted a blog about one of Calle 13’s songs a few weeks ago. I’m not as familiar with their newer music, but I’m definitely going to have to catch up and see what won this impressive load of Grammys!

My friend Maritza watched the Grammy awards from start to finish, you can more about the show and the winners on Maritza’s post about the Latin Grammy Awards.

Jueves Musical: Me Voy por Julieta Venegas

I’ve been writing “Miércoles Musical” on Wednesdays, but I got way too busy yesterday to write anything, so this week we’ve got “Jueves Musical” on Thursday instead.

This week’s song is “Me Voy” by Julieta Venegas. Julieta Venegas is a very popular singer-song writer from Mexico. She’s been around for a few years and has created a lot of music that I really like. I always recommend Julieta Venegas’ music for learning Spanish because her music is slower and she uses fairly standard, simple vocabulary in her song lyrics. By the time you’re at an intermediate level, you should be able to understand a lot of what she is singing about without having to look up the lyrics. Plus, I enjoy the style of her music and her voice.

I first heard this song right before I went to Chile to teach English. I remember getting excited because I could understand a lot of the lyrics the very first time that I listened to it. It got really popular while I was in Chile, so hearing it now always takes me back to that time.

If you watched the video, you can probably tell that this song is about a breakup.

Chorus Lyrics

Me voy…I’m leaving

Qué lástima pero adiós…What a shame but goodbye
Me despido de ti y…
I bid farewell to you and
Me voy…
I’m leaving

Qué lástima pero adiós…What a shame but goodbye
Me despido de ti….
I bid farewell to you

 Grammar Alert!

You’ve probably seen the word voy before. It comes from the verb ir which means “to go.” Ir is the most used verb in the Spanish language. Voy is the “yo form” of ir. You can say voy or yo voy to mean “I go.”

So now you know what voy means, but what is me voy?

Me voy  and voy essentially have the same meaning, but there is a subtle difference. Me voy shows more intensity than voy. Me voy can be translated as “I’m leaving” or “I’m getting out of here”. Voy means “I go” or “I’m going.”

So, by using me voy in the song, Julieta Venegas isn’t just saying that she’s going out of the house to buy groceries. She is leaving him and dumping him and not coming back.

On Your Own

Read the complete lyrics and English translation for “Me Voy”.


Miércoles Musical (Musical Wednesday): “Es por ti“ by Juanes

Juanes is one of the most famous and successful Latin artists around. He’s originally from Colombia and grew up playing guitar and making music. It seems that he’s always enjoyed great success because his first album won him a Grammy award for Best New Artist in 2000. He’s still going strong and rocking it today. He even came through Denver this year, but I missed it! Next time!

I chose this song “Es por ti” from his second album called Un Día Normal. Can you guess what the title of his album means in English? A Normal Day. That one is pretty easy to translate, right? The good news is that this whole album is pretty easy to translate. I bought this album back in 2004 right after I got home from my semester abroad in Costa Rica. I was so excited because I could easily understand a lot of the words to the songs.

Es por ti” is a really sweet love song. The title means “Because of you” in English. The chorus goes:

Y es por ti… And it’s because of you
Que late mi corazón…..That my heart beats
Y es por ti…  And it’s because of you
Que brillan mis ojos hoy…. That my eyes shine today
Y es por ti… And it’s because of you
Que he vuelto a hablar de amor.   That I’ve spoken of love again
Y es por ti… And it’s because of you
Que calma mi dolor… That calms my pain

Grammar Alert!

Yes, I’m going to go into the grammar of these lyrics, just a little bit. If you don’t want to know, then skip it and just listen to the song!

First, let’s review a grammar term. Pronoun: a word that stands in place of a noun. Examples: he, she, you, they Ejemplos: él, ella, tú, ellos

Now, look at the first line: Es por ti…It’s because of you. Some students might wonder why the word ti is used here instead of tú. Usually, we translate the English word “you” as “tú”, right? No, not always. When we say “It’s because of you”, “you” is a direct object pronoun. Don’t freak out. That just means that it is the word that receives the action of the sentence, not the word that causes the action. In English, we use the pronoun “you” as both the subject pronoun and object pronoun. For example:

You are beautiful.

I want to kiss you.

Can you see the difference between the “you” that is the subject and the “you” that is the object? In Spanish, the pronoun changes like this:

Tú eres bonita.

Quiero besar a ti.

See the difference between tú and ti? They are essentially the same word when translated into English, but they are different in Spanish. There are lots of complicated structures like this that involve pronouns in Spanish. Those pronouns can get pretty tricky in Spanish, but don’t blame Spanish! Part of the problem is that they are complicated in English too! Don’t worry, plenty of the Spanish lessons here will involve pronouns, so you will soon become an expert!

On Your Own

You can find complete lyrics here as well as a great English translation of the entire song. Try listening to the song and reading the lyrics before you scroll down and read the English. See how much you understand correctly!

Understanding the Words to Spanish Songs

“Suave” by Calle 13

I heard about Calle 13 when I lived in Chile in 2006. I downloaded their popular album, “Calle 13” when I got home because the music reminded me of my trip. They are a reggaeton group from Puerto Rico. The lyrics to the songs are fast, and the accent and slang words in Puerto Rico are very different than the Spanish that I’m used to. I didn’t understand most of what they were singing about when I first bought the album and I considered this a good thing. Lots of Reggaeton songs have offensive lyrics that are very sexual and/or derogatory to women. However, I really like the musical style, so most of the time, I prefer to stay in the dark and just enjoy the sounds of the music without trying to understand any lyrics.

However, my blissful ignorance is coming to an end as I get better and better at Spanish. For the last year, I have been speaking, reading, writing or listening to Spanish every day. Suddenly, I find that I understand a lot more of what is being said in Calle 13 songs. Last week I was listening to Calle 13 in my headphones as I worked on some writing. I usually listen to Spanish songs because the lyrics don’t distract me from my thoughts as I’m considering what to write. This time, I kept finding myself stopping my work, listening to the song, and thinking, “Did he just say what I think he said?” Suddenly, I’m learning how to talk dirty in Spanish.

So, I offer you “Suave” by Calle 13. I’m not going to go through and explain everything to you that they’re saying, because that’s not the purpose of my blog. However, you can check out the lyrics for yourself. The video that I’ve posted takes you to a censored version of the song, so if you read the lyrics while listening, you will get an idea of where to look for the….ahem….inappropriate content.

I’d suggest only checking this out for the sake of curiosity. These lyrics are along the lines of English rappers like Lil Wayne. Imagine talking to a lady like Lil Wayne does in his songs. Things will not go well! The same rule applies with Calle 13. You can listen to the song and figure out what he’s talking about, but if you try to actually use these phrases when talking to someone in real life, it’s sure to end badly!

Spanish Phrases in “Lento“ by Julieta Venegas

I’ve always loved this song since I first heard it when I was living in Chile. The title, “Lento” means “Slow”. Throughout the song she says “más lento”, “slower”, many times.  Lots of Spanish phrases use this word “más” in front of an adjective like “lento” in order to compare two things. In English, we say “slow” and “slower.” In Spanish, it’s “lento” and “más lento.” Listen for this when you hear the song.

“Lento” not only sounds pretty, but I like the message that she is sending to the guy who is interested in her. She is telling him to slow down, have patience with her and wait for her. Here are my favorite lines.

Ser delicado y esperar,                                                 Be delicate and wait
dame tiempo para darte                                              Give me time to give you
todo lo que tengo                                                           Everything that I have

“Delicado” looks a lot like “delicate” in English, but it might be better translated here as “sensitive.” I don’t hear a lot of women asking their guys to be “delicate”, but I do hear the word “sensitive” used often.

Here’s a link to the rest of the lyrics for the song.

Aventura “Dile Al Amor”

I finally found the name of the song that I’ve heard so many times when I’ve gone out salsa dancing! I knew this song was a Bachata and I knew how to dance to it, but I didn’t know it’s name until it popped up on my reggaeton Pandora station. Even my roommate who isn’t a big latin music fan loves this song.

After I finally found out the name of the band, I read a little bit about them. It turns out that they are from New York and have Dominican descent. The are actually considered a Bachata-influenced “boy band”. No wonder I’m a fan. I was such a sucker for the Backstreet Boys and *NSync when I was in high school.

The song is about someone who’s not ready to fall in love, and has been hurt too many times to want to give it another try.

I love this line!

Pues dile al amor
que no toque mi puerta
que yo no estoy en casa
que no vuelva mañana

So tell love not to knock on my door, I’m not home, don’t come back tomorrow.

¡Una canción muy buena! A very good song!