How to Use Spotify for Language Learning


I like music. You probably do too, especially if you’ve decided to read this post based on the title. There are plenty of resources, tools and methods to use music for language learning, but in this post, we’re going to focus on one tool in particular: Spotify. Here’s how to use Spotify for language learning.

If music be the food of language learning, play on. From language courses to comedy, here's how to use Spotify for language learning.

I remember Spotify from waaay back around 2009. Someone recommended I try it to listen to more music. I did. And meh, I didn’t stick around long.

But Spotify has come a long way since then, and now there’s plenty of features for you to take advantage of when it comes to language learning. We’ll go through them one by one. But first, if you’re new to Spotify, here’s a quick intro to it for you.

What is Spotify?

Spotify is a music streaming service that allows you to listen to music wherever you are via your computer, tablet or phone. The free version plays adverts every 30 minutes or so and limits certain features such as downloading for offline listening and playing out of shuffle mode on a phone, which you get when you join on Premium.

Within the app, you can browse music, search, create playlists, and save your favourite music for later. But how can you use those features for language learning?

Browse

The first place to look is ‘Browse’.

Most of what you see here will be determined by your location and native language but there’s a couple of useful features to note.

Number 1: If you’re learning Korean, Spanish or Portuguese, sometimes K-pop and Latino are already listed as genres when you scroll down on the ‘Browse’ screen.

Number 2: And this one is the most useful for learners of other languages, click ‘Charts’ and then take your pick from ‘Top 50 by Country’ or ‘Viral 50 by Country’.

The charts were difficult to find on desktop, but they’re in plain sight on a tablet or phone under ‘Browse’.

If music be the food of language learning, play on. From language courses to comedy, here's how to use Spotify for language learning.

Now, of course, your Ed Sheerans and your Chainsmokers are gonna be there, but if you’re lucky, you’ll also get a handful of songs in the native language too, which is a good place to start for the next tips.

Search

If ‘Browse’ hasn’t been too successful for you, it’s time to go a little deeper with the ‘Search’ feature.

Firstly, if you know absolutely no artists that sing in the language you’re learning yet, try by searching for the name of the language – both in English and in the language itself (for example, ‘Spanish’ and ‘español’).

Spotify will bring back search results of ‘Songs’, ‘Artists’, ‘Albums’, ‘Playlists’ and ‘Profiles’. When you’re searching the name of a language, your best bet here will be playlists. These are playlists that people have already created with ‘Spanish’ or ‘español’ (or whichever language you’re learning) in the title and can act as a great springboard to finding music you love in the language you’re learning.

If music be the food of language learning, play on. From language courses to comedy, here's how to use Spotify for language learning.

Search by country, again in both languages. Sometimes, there’s playlists or albums with the country in the title. This can be particularly useful if you’re looking for traditional music.

Finally, if you’ve got one artist or song to work with, perhaps as a result of a little luck with using ‘Browse’, try by searching the artist name, or even song names, which might bring up cover versions as well.

If music be the food of language learning, play on. From language courses to comedy, here's how to use Spotify for language learning.

Related Artists

The next thing to do once you’ve searched or browsed and found a starting point is to click the artist.

Now you’ll see plenty more songs to choose from by this artist, but the best bit for finding more is the ‘Related Artists’ tab. Prepare yourself to dive right in to a musical rabbit hole here.

Click one and another, and another and you can just keep going for quite a while.

If music be the food of language learning, play on. From language courses to comedy, here's how to use Spotify for language learning. Make sure you’re also adding to playlists as you go so that it’s worth it and you’ve got something to go back to and listen to.

Create Your Own Playlists

Now we’ve got music to add to playlists, it’s worth going into a little more detail, as it’s a key feature you’ll want to be using to make the most of Spotify for language learning.

Depending on how many languages you’re learning, your personal music tastes etc, you may want to order your playlists differently.

For example, I have just one playlist right now for each language (labelled with emoji flags!) but you may also want to get more specific and sort by genre, era, or even verb tense too.

If music be the food of language learning, play on. From language courses to comedy, here's how to use Spotify for language learning.

A great place to start here is the #SongSaturday playlist, a multilingual joy of a playlist curated by the #WeDoLanguages Facebook Group from our monthly #SongSaturday threads.

Go to Radio

Another option once you’ve found a band you like is to take advantage of ‘Go to Radio’. This will play a selection of songs and artists that people who like your new found favourite also listen to on the regular.

There’s no guarantee here that you’ll only get music in the language you’re looking for but what you can do to play with the algorithms is click a little thumbs up or thumbs down to help tell Spotify what you like and therefore what they should tweak next time around.

Your Daily Mix

Much like how I imagine Spotify curates the Radio feature, (aka the more you listen, the more Spotify picks up on your taste eerily well) one of the features that is created based on your listening habits is the Daily Mix. There’s 6 at any one time and I normally have one Daily Mix each day with songs in different languages.

If music be the food of language learning, play on. From language courses to comedy, here's how to use Spotify for language learning.

Perfect for when you’re not feeling much like picking something to listen to but you do still want a little language. Another option if that describes you is that once you’ve listened quite a bit, your options in the ‘Discover’ tab will begin to bring up ‘Similar to…’ or ‘Suggestions for you because you listened to…’.

Language Learning Courses

The quality isn’t exactly Pimsleur, Glossika or Assimil but if you’d like a little word or two mixed in with your music, there’s a small selection of language learning courses on Spotify, some set to music too.

At first, it seemed to be just for French, Spanish, German, Italian, and English. However, after a bit of digging, I found tracks in Japanese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, and even one series that has tracks in languages to excite any polyglot such as Swahili, Turkish, and Lingala. The most thorough ‘artist’ for these is this one here.

To make things easier, Spotify have handily created playlists of the audio content for various languages. There’s not one for every language, but there’s a good range:

Learn Arabic
Learn French
Learn Spanish
Learn German
Learn Italian
Learn Portuguese
Learn Chinese
Learn Russian
Learn Swedish
Learn Irish

To add to this, I’ve made similar playlists for you for Japanese and Korean too.

Audiobooks

There’s also a small(ish) selection of audiobooks available on Spotify too. Sometimes the availability of these varies depending on your region but the best way is to search the word ‘audiobook’ in the language you’re learning. Here’s a few to get you started…

German = hörbuch

Searching playlists let me to finding the Famous Five and the more serious-looking Percy Jackson in German.

French = livre audio

Kim Thuy has some audiobooks in French with really nice cover art. Yes, I’m judging an audiobook by its cover.

Spanish = audio libro

Eduardo Galeano has a good selection of audiobooks in Spanish, Jorge Luis Borges reads his poems, and Federico García Lorca has a few albums including this one with a collection of his songs and poems and I also found a reading of Yerma.

Italian = audiolibro

There’s a couple that popped up for Italian from Romeo and Juliet to Little Red Riding Hood.

Comedy

They’re a little harder to find as not all comedians are on Spotify, and you might need to research elsewhere to get some names first, but this can be a great way to use Spotify for language learning. How ridiculously rewarding is it when you understand a joke in a foreign language?!

I’ve found a couple to get you started in French, Spanish and German below.

GermanLoriot and Badesalz.

FrenchGad Elmaleh (no comedy but funny songs featured and ‘realted artists’ led me to Max Boublil, a comedian who has a song called ‘Susan Boyle’. I’m in.) and Fernand Reynaud.

SpanishPepe Rubianes, Franco Escamilla and Polo Polo.

Disney

Multilingual Disney is always a firm favourite with language learners, and Spotify kind of delivers on this. Again, your location will mean you get different things offered.

Firstly, there’s this epic playlist of all the different language versions of Let It Go and this one full of Moana songs in lots of languages.

When I was researching for this, a lot of the albums in different languages were visible but not playable, whereas some such as The Little Mermaid or Aladdin hardly came up beyond English. With that in mind, I’ve done my best to save what I found as soon as I found it for fear of never finding it again, and put together some Disney playlists for you. I added songs that were available for me to play in the UK, there may be more or less where you are in the world.

Italian Disney

French Disney

Spanish Disney

German Disney

Portuguese Disney

Dutch Disney

Swedish Disney

Polish Disney

Podcasts

A new-ish feature to Spotify is the addition of Podcasts. Sounds great considering how useful podcasts can be for language learning.

However, in my opinion, it’s not rolled out great just yet. The podcasts available are easy to find and search on phones, not so easy on desktop, and pretty much non-existent on tablets.

For a much wider choice and ease of use, I recommend iTunes (even if you don’t have an Apple computer/product, you can still use this) or your favourite podcast player.

And for podcasts in a ridiculous number of languages to help you learn, click here for the Ultimate Guide to Podcasts for Language Learning.

Lyrics

Spotify doesn’t currently have this feature, but they say they’re updating it..maybe…?! In the meantime, apparently you can use Genius lyrics integrated that appear on a phone as a little tab above the album cover in ‘now playing’ mode, but I’ve not seen this pop up recently.

However, you could definitely listen and head across to Lyrics Translate to take things up a level.

As you can see, you could spend hours, days or even weeks using Spotify for your language learning with little need for much else! There’s so many ways to use Spotify for language learning beyond just listening to music.

Do you use Spotify? If so, how do you use it for language learning? Share in the comments!

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About Lindsay Williams

Why hello there! I'm Lindsay and I do Languages. I blog, vlog and teach all things language. I blog about languages right here at Lindsay Does Languages, and about travel over at Mundo Trundle. If you're looking for language learning inspiration then stay a while. You might find just what you're looking for. :)
  • Cassian Valerius

    Spotify really is a great tool! I created a Ukrainian playlist specifically to support my studies, and often listen to it while commuting. It helps me get familiar with the way the language sounds, and I’m always proud when I can identify words or phrases. Now if only I wasn’t too lazy to work on my grammar… I’ll make sure to check some of the playlists you linked, too! (Oh, and kudos for mentioning Loriot, he’s a German classic. My family watches his Christmas sketch every year :))

    • Thanks Cassian! So cool you’ve got a Ukrainian playlist set up for your commute 😉

  • dandiprat

    Didn’t know they had non-music stuff. Will check it out. Thanks.

  • Hey lindsay! greatgreatgreatgreat post, I never thought of Spotify as a tool to learn languages, I’ll start creating a play-list to learn portugese… I’ll definitely share this post! 😀

  • Jami Haavisto

    One thing not mentioned in the article: in the bottom of every playlist there are suggested songs. That is also a good place to find new interesting songs.

    I agree that there is lot of language to learn from music. I use Spotify pretty intensively with language learning and have a structure of folders and lists that works well for me. Basically my setup per language is like this:

    Dicover-folder – This contains all the interesting playlists, albums and artist that I find and want to listen to see if I like them. When listening to this, interesting songs get promoted to other lists.
    Known songs – playlist – These are songs practically every native speaker knows. The big hits, folk songs, childrens songs and songs most people know by heart etc. Plenty of these kinds of lists can be found online eg. in Youtube. This is to get cultural knowledge and to connect with natives and good ammo for karaoke.

    Good songs – playlist – List of good songs I enjoy listening to. This is the list that gets played most and the songs in it should become really familiar just with passive listening and the choruses should become quite memorable with time.

    Learn to sing – playlist – A short list of specific songs I’m trying to learn by heart and be able to sing (not necessary publicly). These have to be songs that I really enjoy and don’t mind listening endlessly on repeat.

    Rap songs – Rap is good for language learning because it quite closely mimics the intonation of natural speech if you happen to enjoy the genre. Of these I choose one good rap song, select about 30sec fast rapping part and learn it by heart and keep repeating it until I can reproduce it at original speed trying to mimic the pronunciation. This requires slowing it way down, listening (really focusing on the pronunciation), and repeating it on repeat (gradually increasing the speed) for weeks. With this the lyrical content is not that important. This is training to being able to understand rapid speech and form the muscle memory for natural pronunciation. After a fast rap, normal speed speech should come a lot easier.

    • Wow, that’s such an awesome set up! Thanks for sharing 🙂 And yes, rap is a GREAT idea for language learning. Agreed! 😀

  • 張曼嚀

    arhhh… Spotify isn’t user friendly just like you said, no lyrics…. Furthermore the advertisements are now getting more and more. Really annoying.

    • I don’t mind the ads too much and weirdly find them less when on desktop…! I hope they add lyrics again soon though 🙂

  • Artie Duncanson

    My coworkers and friends already thought I was dorky enough because I love the oldies, but listening to Spanish oldies from South America has them shaking their heads further (hopefully they don’t hear me singing in the shower too!)

    • Hehe! 😉 I’m glad I work alone – don’t think many would approve of my office radio choices! haha!

  • Hi Lindsay. I’m a little late to the party, but thanks for this article. I had no idea Spotify was so versatile. I’m going to add this to my list of listening tools because if there are audiobooks, podcasts and comedians too then it’s as awesome as Soundcloud (whose future I do worry about!).

    • Ahh yeah, I heard some things about Soundcloud a couple of weeks back 🙁 Hope it all works out ok in the end!