“Happy Birthday To You” And Other Reasons To Listen To Spanish Radio

Cumpleaños Feliz

Whilst I think my heritage bestowed me with a relatively good level of intelligence, I can be a bit dim witted and slow at times.

Take yesterday for example.

I had Radio Nacional on in the background as usual.

There were two presenters, a man and a woman.  As I went about my morning routine in the kitchen I let their conversation and banter wash over me.

Occasionally a word I recognised would jump out at me.

If I really concentrated and listened, I am sometimes able to pick out the gist of what is being said.

But then I heard a some singing coming from the radio…

The appearance of a song on the radio drew my attention because the Radio Nacional channel is primarily a talk radio station.

I sort of recognised the melody, but because the lyrics were in Spanish, it didn’t initially make sense.

It was just two words wrapped up in bit of a melody.

And then I recognised one of the words: “cumpleaños” which means birthday.

At this point it clicked because I then recognised the other word of the two – “feliz” which means “happy”.

Ah of course!!!!

It was “Happy Birthday To You” in Spanish.

Here is what it sounds (and looks like) on YouTube:


I told you I was slow.

It seemed after listening to the chat between the two presenters, that it was the male presenter’s birthday.

This was another one of those “Ah…yes” moments where things slotted into place.

Whilst I might have castigated myself for being slow to cotton on to what was going on, my brain received a nice dose of dopamine.  The falling into place of the understanding created another one of those really nice feelings.

Is Listening To “Full On” Spanish Radio Good For you?

There are many benefits to having Spanish Radio on in the background.

But they are only benefits if you get absolutely clear on what you can expect from doing so.

First of all let’s get clear on this:


In fact, as a beginner, it is quite possible that listening to Spanish Radio will put you off learning to speak Spanish.

The first time you tune in, all you will hear is a continuous stream of unintelligible rat-a-tat-tat.  Even when any familiar English words appear they will require a bit of concentration.

So why would you put yourself through something you can’t understand and that you can’t learn from?

Good question.

First of all let’s set the expectation for why you would listen to Spanish Radio if you can’t understand it:

Here’s what you should expect.

The sole purpose for tuning in is this:


That’s all you can expect at this stage.

There are no expectations about understanding or learning.

It is merely about experiencing.

Once you let go of trying to get anything directly from the experience, here’s what will happen, because it has happened to me.

  • You start to tune your brain in to the true nature of this beautiful language.  This is something you can’t get from dedicated learning materials whose aim is to TEACH you Spanish.
  • It will give you a more realistic expectation of what it will be like when you do actually start talking to real Spanish speakers.  Fore-warned is fore-armed.
  • You get to hear the ways different people speak Spanish.  Radio Nacional has a phone in segment in the mornings and so all sorts of people from around Spain call in and chat to the presenters.
  • Occasionally words you have learnt will jump out at you as hear them in the dialogue and you will get another hit of those feel good chemicals.
  • Gradually there will be more of a recognition of what is being said at times.
  • It is a good benchmark of how you are progressing as you start to understand and recognise more.

There is one thing to be aware of.

I mentioned in an earlier post that we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and judge others by their behaviours.

You are likely to be over critical of your progress and only focus on what you DON’T understand rather than what you DO understand.

This means whilst there are still things you don’t know or can’t comprehend, you will always think your Spanish is not good enough yet.

Even when you are at an advanced level!

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to it.

You just have to get clear on your expectations and become comfortable on the discomfort of learning this beautiful language.

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