Learning Spanish on iTunes

Today, with an iPod or other mp3 player, it’s possible to listen to music and other audio content just about anywhere. In this article, I’m going to talk about how to use that ability to work on and improve your Spanish.

There are plenty of places other than Itunes to get music online. In fact, I typically prefer to buy music from Amazon rather than Itunes because the prices are often cheaper and because the mp3s come without obnoxious DRM restrictions. All of the resources I’m recommending — mp3s, podcasts, videos, and audiobooks are available elsewhere on the Internet.

That said, iTunes does the best job I’ve seen of integrating all of these resources, making them easily available and offering the greatest overall selection of Spanish-language materials.

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Music: As I discussed earlier, YouTube is currently my main portal to finding new music. I don’t feel a need to buy every song I listen to more than once, but if I’m coming back to a song after a couple of weeks, I like to pay for it. Itunes, along with Amazon’s mp3 department, are two locations to easily purchase albums and single tracks, and support the work of Latin artists.

Plaza Sesamo (Sesame Street): iTunes has about 3 1/2 free hours of Sesame Street videos in Spanish in their videos section (look for “Aprende con Sesame”).

Free Podcasts: iTunes has dozens of free podcasts in Spanish, on topics ranging from home repair, to current events, to Latin music, to comedy. There are a few “Learn Spanish” podcasts geared toward beginning learners, but I’ve found that Spanish language podcasts for native speakers have been enjoyable and useful as well. Some of my favorites:

  • Latin Roll, Rock en tu idioma: This 2 1/2 hour weekly podcast features new music from throughout Latin America, as well as news and interviews with various bands (podcasts, videos and other material are also at Latin-Roll.com).
  • La Matinal: This is a daily half-hour NPR news program broadcast from Europe. Great, high-quality news with an international focus.

Spanish audiobooks: This is one area where iTunes still outshines Amazon in terms of price and selection. Spanish audiobooks are another great way to learn or relearn Spanish. iTunes’ selection ranges from The South Beach Diet to Don Quixote. I’ve particularly benefitted from Cuentos de Los Hermanos Grimm (Stories from the Brothers Grimm) and Las Aventuras de Tom Sawyer (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), both of which I knew beforehand, which was an immense help to my comprehension. If iTunes doesn’t have what you want, audible.com is another resource.

Audio Learning Programs: There are audio-based programs to learn Spanish, both as audiobooks for purchase and as free downloads (Spanish 101 from DePaul University, in iTunes’ University section. I don’t have any direct experience with these resources, but if other people have experience with them, I’d be glad to hear about it.

Listen, Listen, Listen

A couple of posts back, I wrote about the importance of committing time and energy to any effort to improve your Spanish. The good news is that it’s easy to incorporate audio material into your daily routine: You can put Latin music in the CD player of your car or tune into a Spanish-language radio station on your way to work, and with a mp3 player, you can listen to music as you clean house, go for walks or exercise.

Of all these activities, walking is my favorite for listening. There’s moving scenery and just enough physical activity to keep me engaged, but not enough to distract my mind. And walking functions as a great source of exercise to boot! A few years ago I had a job a couple of miles from home, and every day after taking the bus to work, I’d break out my Ipod loaded with Juanes and El Koala, walk down main street and take a long path through the woods to home. Good times.

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