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Thursday, December 11, 2014 (read 1357 times)

Spanish Singers: Providers of Teaching Material

by Lauris

Joan Manuel Serrat

Spanish teachers are often looking for activity possibilities that can break up the routine in the classroom: games, role-playing exercises, activities outside the classroom, videos, and of course songs.

There’s certainly no shortage of Spanish singers with music that works perfect as teaching material, both in terms of grammar and culture lessons. It almost seems, to me at least, that some singers have created songs specifically with Spanish teachers in mind. That notion is clearly not true, but I like to imagine that it is.

In my opinion, and keeping in mind my rather advanced age, one artist who stands out among these generous providers of content is the singer Joan Manuel Serrat, from Barcelona. Some would say he’s a canautor Catalan, and that our job is to teach castellano. This is a good time to take advantage of the fact that Spanish has two names (español and castellano), because Catalan, Galician, and Basque are also languages of Spain and therefore they're Spanish too, so it’s just more politically correct when speaking Spanish to call the language castellano. We really don’t have to explain that Serrat, like other authors of texts in other languages of Spain, are also speakers of castellano, which allows us to use their creations in the classroom without having to rely on some more or less forced, artificial, or even automated translation with all the risks that involves.

So if we take a peek at J.M. Serrat’s body of work we see that the singer himself has translated many of his own Catalan-language songs into castellano, and many of his songs were even originally written and recorded in castellano.

Serrat also effectively popularized some fantastic 20th century poets such as Antonio Machado, Miguel Hernández and Mario Benedetti. Serrat also wrote song-poems that made use of the language in both clear and elegant style which is void of tricky lexicon and syntax. All this allows us to extract these compositions and approach them from different angles for our learning exercises. We can prepare a fill-in-the-blanks exercise with the vocab we want to focus on, we could also put the verbs in the infinitive and ask students to conjugate them in a way that makes sense within the context. Other possibilities include mixing up the order of the stanzas of the song or highlighting sayings or colloquial expressions and later giving students the chance to try to explain the meanings after listening to the song… There are tons of options!

I encourage you to use the link above to check out the lyrics to Serrat’s songs (even the ones that were originally written in Catalan have castellano translations). First, we’ll take a moment to enjoy their beauty (Mediterráneo, Esas pequeñas cosas, No hago otra cosa que pensar en ti, Esos locos bajitos, Fiesta…) and later, weighted down by all our teaching skills, we have to figure out the best way to exploit this material which our Catalan cantautor has so generously provided us with.

Keywords: spanish songs,spanish music,castellano,joan manuel serrat,spanish singers,teaching spanish


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