Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"El Perdón" – Learning Spanish With a Song

Nicky-Jam-Enrique-Iglesias-Listening to Spanish songs, first with the lyrics, and then without, is a great way to absorb words, phrases, and even grammatical structures.

In one of our first posts on learning a foreign language with a song, we chose La Paloma, a song which originated in 1861 in Cuba.

Now listen to a much more recent song, "El Perdón," co-written and co-performed by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias, both popular singers in the Latin pop scene.

"El Perdón" became a smash hit upon its release in 2015. The official Spanish YouTube video has had over 650 million views at this time.

The Creators

Nicky Jam (Nick Rivera Caminero) was born in Boston MA, USA in 1981, but moved to Puerto Rico at the age of ten. For the Wiki-bio in Spanish click HERE.

Enrique Iglesias (Enrique Miguel Iglesias Preysler) was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1975. At age 11, he was sent to live Miami for security reasons. (His grandfather had been kidnapped by the Basque ETA.) See his English Wiki-bio HERE.

You can of course listen to a song in a foreign language and never get the lyrics. That's fine. Music can be enjoyed on its own.

But songs can also be a great language learning tool if you pay attention to the lyrics to understand their meaning. So, what makes music such a powerful way of getting language into your brain? It's because songs combine melody, rhythm, and emotion with language. What's on your side is the "earworm" effect. A good song will continue playing in your head.

Listening to songs in a language you're learning:

  • Improves your pronunciation
  • Has you mimic intonation
  • Helps you memorize vocabulary
  • Familiarizes you with idiomatic phrases
  • Lets you absorb grammar structures
  • Gets you into the rhythm of the language

The Lyrics

Listen to the song again and now follow it by reading the lyrics below. How much can you understand?

At the end of the post we have the English translation, so you can check.

El Perdón

Dime si es verdad
Me dijeron que te estas casando
Tú no sabes como estoy sufriendo
Esto te lo tengo que decir

Cuéntame
Tu despedida para mi fue dura
Será que él te llevo a la luna
Y yo no supe hacerlo así

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Eso me está matando oh no

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Como un loco tomando

Es que yo sin ti
Y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta
Esto no me gusta

Es que yo sin ti
Y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta
Esto no me gusta

Vivir si ti, no aguanto más
Por eso vengo a decirte lo que siento
Estoy sufriendo en esta soledad

Y aunque tu padre no aprobó esta relación
Yo sigo insistiendo a pedir perdón
Lo único que importa está en tu corazón

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Esto me está matando oh no

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Como un loco tomando oh

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta
Esto no me gusta

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Eso no me gusta
Eso no me gusta

Yo te juré a ti eterno amor
Y ahora otro te da calor
Cuando en las noches tienes frío oh oh, oh

Yo sé que él te parece mejor
Pero yo estoy en tu corazón
Y por eso pido perdón

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta, oh no

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta oh yeah, oh

Dicen que uno no sabe lo que tiene hasta que lo pierde pero
(Yo sin ti) Vale la pena luchar por lo que uno quiere
(No puedo vivir así) Y hacer el intento
(No quiero vivir así)

Refreshing a Few Grammar Points

1. Gerundio - the progressive form of a verb describing an ongoing action.

te estas casando - you are marrying (inf. casar)
estoy sufriendo - I am suffering (inf. sufrir)
estaba buscando - I was looking for (inf. buscar)
me está matando - it's killing me (inf. matar)
sigo insistiendo - I keep on insisting (inf. insistir)

2. Adding object pronouns to imperative and infinitive forms.

dime - tell me (imperative form of "decir")
cuéntame - tell me (imperative form of "contar")
hacerlo - to do it (infinitive)
decirte - to tell you (infinitive)

3. Preterito - simple past form of verbs.

fue - it was (inf. ser)
supe - I knew (inf. saber)
aprobó - he approved (inf. aprobar)
juré - I swore (inf. jurar)

Voices and Dialects

Another benefit of using songs is that different singers expose you to different voices, accents, or regional pronunciations. Spanish, especially, has many regional dialects. Interesting reference: 10 Spanish Dialects: How Spanish is Spoken Around the World 

Why would it be important to hear different voices, accents, and dialects in the language you're learning?

Think about it: You're probably never going to speak only with people who sound exactly like the person on in your language program.

Both Enrique Iglesias and Nicky Jam are bilingual, with Spanish first and English learned at the age of 10 or 11.

Comparing Enrique's and Nicky's Spanish, you'll notice some differences in pronunciation.

The Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico is part of "Caribbean Spanish," which also includes the Spanish of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and regions along the East coast of Mexico and Central America.

These are popular destinations both for Americans and many Europeans. Caribbean Spanish "is characterized by elided middle consonants and omitted final consonants, as well as an aspirated ‘r’ that is pronounced like the Portuguese ‘x.’." [10 Spanish Dialects: How Spanish is Spoken Around the World]

You'll definitely hear some of that in Nicky Jam's singing.

English Translation of “El Perdón” - Forgiveness

Tell me if it's true
They told me you are marrying
You don't know how I'm suffering
This I have to tell you

Tell me
Your goodbye was hard for me
Is it that he takes you to the moon
And I didn't know how to do it like that

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
This is killing me oh no

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
Like a crazy drunk

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me who can be happy
I do not like this
I do not like this

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me who can be happy
I do not like that
I do not like that

Living without you, I can't do it anymore
So I came to tell you how I feel
I'm suffering in the loneliness

And even though your dad didn't approve of this relationship
I'll have to keep asking for forgiveness
All that matters to me is in your heart

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
This is killing me oh no 

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
Like a crazy drunk oh 

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me, who can be happy
I don't like that
I don't like that 

I promised you eternal love
And now another man gives you warmth
when you're cold at night oh oh

I know he seems better to you
But I'm in your heart
So I'm asking for forgiveness 

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me, who can be happy
I don't like this oh yeah... 

(You without me)
They say you don't know what you have until it's gone but...
(Me without you) It's worth it to fight for what you love
(I can't live like this) And make an effort
(I don't want to live like this)

If you like learning and practicing Spanish with songs, we'd suggest that you try out for FREE Language Zen, a great Spanish language learning site, which uses Spanish songs and their lyrics as part of their program.

You won't find "La Paloma" and "El Perdón," but many contemporary songs on Language Zen. Also read our post "Language Zen" - Learning Spanish - A Review.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a life-long language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagramand leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: Language Zen is a partner site with revenue sharing should you decide to subscribe.