“Para bailar a la bamba se necesita una poca de practice” because your accent isn’t so hot. That’s okay because you’re on the hunt for the best songs for learning a language and we’re here to help.
We all know “La Bamba”, right? The one that inspires fitful dancing and awkward silences after singing the words “la bamba” and then you realize you have absolutely no clue what the guy says after that. Ah yes, that one. We knew it. Have you ever actually pulled up the lyrics? Just an idea. It might help next time it comes on. It might even help you in your quest to learn Spanish before that vacation to Mexico.
It may seem odd, but a familiar sounding song like “La Bamba” can be a great way to help you accelerate your foreign language learning process. Words that were formerly gibberish suddenly have meaning after all those years of confusion. Maybe you could even take some of the vocabulary or grammatical structures and apply them in a real-life conversation.
As a travel site, we’re well aware of the communication challenges that come with trips to places where English speakers are rare. We understand that learning a foreign language can take your trips to levels previously unimaginable with only English. We want to help you expand your travel skills. With that in mind, here’s a look at how to find the best songs for learning a language.
Start with something familiar
Target music that’s familiar to you and the communities you’re going to encounter in your travels. Picking something obscure won’t do nearly as much as picking something you might hear in the street or at a bar in your country of choice.
Familiarity with the sound and structure of the song makes finding its meaning that much easier. It’s like seeing a puzzle put together then breaking it up before rebuilding, as opposed to just starting from scratch. You know the song’s emotion, and maybe a few recognizable words here and there that give you some semblance of the big picture.
Watch the music videos
Language through music is more than just auditory learning. Sometimes a song comes to life when you see a music video. Maybe there’s a style of dance or a certain culture that goes along with the song or genre. This will give you a greater understanding of what the song represents and who likes that style of music.
The best songs for learning a foreign language are the ones that make you want to sing along. Listening and learning is good, but what good is learning a language if you can’t use the language to communicate? Singing (whether you’re actually good or not) is the best way to make it all come together. It’s also an excellent way to refine your pronunciation, as that is often the trickiest part of the equation.
You can target a section of a song and focus on nailing that. Tackling the whole thing can be overwhelming, so a breakdown goes a long way. Also, you may have already learned parts so you can use those to bridge unfamiliar verses.
How to find the best songs for learning a language
Picking a general list would be broad, so we want to share the method we use. The best way to get a list of the best songs for learning a language is to download Spotify to your phone, filter by country, and browse the top 50 lists for what’s popular today.
The lists give you plenty of options to find songs you like, but also gives you a solid understanding of what people are listening to today. This way, when you enter a club or bar, you’ll be able to recognize the music and sing along a little, not look completely out of your element. All joking aside, knowing a song you like will go a long way to help you relax and start trying out your newly-adopted language skills.
Foreign language hits that have climbed the charts
La Bamba – Ritchie Valens
A no-brainer of the list.
99 Luftballons – Nena
Excellent German practice and terrific 80’s sounds. Great hair in the video too.
Gangnam Style – PSY
Think what you want of the dance — this is great Korean practice.
Despacito – Lusi Fonsi
Maybe it’s played out, maybe JB isn’t your guy. The fact is, it’s recognized around the world and is a great way to get your Spanish going.
Mi Gente – J. Balvin
Colombia’s J. Balvin may be the fastest-rising non-English language artist in the music industry. “Mi Gente” is just one of his hits.
I Like it Like That – Cardi B
Dominican-American rapper Cardi B sticks to English, but J. Balvin and Bad Bunny (baby) steal the show with their Spanish verses. Sometimes mixing languages is a good place to start.
So, try to select songs that you enjoy, listen to them often, and flex the pipes every now and again with some singing. It will make you all better language learners and a lot more fun at parties. If you’re in the Midwest and fancy trying your hand at a language with a completely different alphabet, check out the Asian Language School – Chicago.