Learn Spanish with podcasts!

language learning Spanish

Title_ How to Study Efficiently for Hours On End (With the Help of a Tomato) (1)-2Podcasts are a great way to learn a language. Listening to them requires aural comprehension, but they can also help you study grammar and vocabulary. 

For the purposes of this post, we will take a listen to the Spanish-language podcast Radio Ambulante, which tells stories about Latin America in Spanish. The episode “Perdido en San José” is about the complicated way that Costa Ricans give directions due to their country’s informal system of addresses. Together, we are going to try to understand the episode, learn vocabulary, and identify the grammar rules of the impersonal/passive “se” and commands.

I. Comprehension Questions

  1. Why do Costa Ricans give such complicated directions? ¿Por qué los ticos dan direcciones tan complicadas?
  2. What points of reference do the episode’s narrators use to give directions? Can you think of some examples? ¿Qué puntos de referencia usan los narradores del episodio para dar direcciones? ¿Puedes pensar en algunos ejemplos?
  3. What problems does this method of giving directions cause? ¿Qué problemas causa este método de dar direcciones?
  4. What solutions are mentioned in the episode? ¿Qué soluciones mencionan en el episodio?
  5. Imagine that you are in San José, Costa Rica. Do you use a map, phone app, or Costa Rican-style directions to travel around the city? Why? Imagina que estás en San José, Costa Rica. ¿Usas un mapa, una aplicación, o direcciones ticas para viajar por la ciudad? ¿Por qué?

II. Vocabulary

  1. Make a list of ten words that you learned from the episode. Five should be cognates and the other five non-cognates.
  2. Write a Spanish synonym for each of these words.
  • tico:
  • rótulo:
  • mecedora:
  • semáforo:
  • lidiar: 

III. Grammar: Impersonal/Passive “Se”

Read the quotes from the episode below and look at the bolded words. What do the phrases “se usa” and “se usan” mean? 

“No se usa un sistema de rótulos de avenidas y calles en la mayor parte del país.”

“… sí existen calles y avenidas con nombres y números. En teoría, pero en la práctica, nada que ver. Nunca se usan.”

What is the rule?

Se + usa + ¿plural or singular object? 

Se + usan + ¿ plural or singular object?

IV. Grammar: Commands

  1. Think about how you get from your home to your school. Make a list of directions using verb infinitives. For example:
  • tomar el metro hasta el zoo del Parque Central
  • buscar la jaula de osos
  • doblar a la derecha
  • caminar 10km y está a mano izquierda

    2. Write the informal, singular (tú) command form for each of the following verbs. Which one is irregular? 
  • doblar:
  • caminar:
  • ir:
  • tomar:
  • buscar:

    3. Now, explain how to get to your school using the list of directions and command forms that you already prepared.

As you can see from these exercises, language comes alive when you encounter vocabulary and grammar through cultural texts like podcasts. Find an interesting podcast, and start listening!

There’s a good reason Spanish is the most-taught second language in America: it’s by far the most useful. Whether it’s for school, business, travel, or simply for everyday life, Spanish rewards anyone willing to put in the effort to learn it.  And with the right teacher, learning it can be a breeze!  That’s where Cambridge Coaching comes in. We offer customized private Spanish tutoring at all levels, from the newest beginners to the most advanced speakers. Our Spanish tutors are exceptional teachers - they are PhD candidates and teaching fellows at NYU, Columbia University, and Harvard University, published authors, and language professionals. Tell us about your goals, and we’ll help you get there in no time.

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Kristina recently completed her PhD in Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures at CUNY. She holds an MPhil in Comparative Literature (Trinity College Dublin) and a BA in English and Latin American and Latino Studies (Fordham).


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