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Learning Spanish From Music Videos: Shakira’s ‘Suerte’

shakira suerte spanishAnd now we get to the second installment of our “learning Spanish from music videos” thing I’m doing based roughly on The Telenovela Method where we use popular entertainment media like music, TV shows, and movies to learn Spanish.  The first installment was based on Shakira’s ‘La Tortura’, which you should check out there if you haven’t already.

This time it’s Shakira’s ‘Suerte’ (next time I might pick a different artist, though I’ve already started listening to ‘Ojos Asi’, so you may have to put up with Shakira one more time before we move onto someone else) and it shouldn’t be as long as the ‘La Tortura’ post, but no promises.  “Suerte“, by the way, means “luck/lucky”.  The theme of the song, again, is some guy she likes, except this time instead of giving him the boot (“a otro perro con ese hueso!”, haha) for banging some other chick, she’s professing her love, acknowledging her shortcomings (small breasts that cannot be confused with mountains 🙁 ), and begging him to stay with her if he feels the same way.  Let’s dive right in.

A quick side note: if you’re interested in teaching yourself Spanish…

I have a short post and video (that are free to read and view of course, won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time) on how to do precisely that with the system that I put together which allowed me to become fluent in Spanish in just 6 months after years of trial-and-error by watching Spanish-language TV shows (like telenovelas, hence the name of the system) and movies, reading Spanish books and comics, and listening to Spanish music. If this sounds interesting to you, check it out by clicking the link below (the following link should open in a new tab or window for you when you click it so I’m not asking you to leave this article here):

“The Telenovela Method of Learning Spanish” (a “telenovela” is a Spanish-language soap opera, they’re what I initially used to teach myself Spanish!)

I also include some quick and valuable tips for learning Spanish as well as a couple of the most useful free Spanish-learning websites that I recommend.

Ground Rules

1. I will post the video below this. The way I want you to do this is to play it once all the way through, then let’s look at it and analyze it one verse at a time.  Below the video will be the Spanish lyrics so that you can listen to the music video while following along with the lyrics–this is the intermediate step after you learn what the lyrics mean but before you can just listen to the song and understand everything without the lyrics to read.  Having the actual Spanish being spoken in front of you in written form so you can follow along with the audio allows you to attune your listening comprehension, it’s that intermediate step that gets you to the point where you can understand everything being said without the lyrics to read, they’re sort of like training wheels (thanks to Eiteacher for this suggestion).

2. Under the lyrics will be my translation and analysis of what was said, here is where you’ll actually learn the Spanish that was spoken during the song.  I will post the Spanish lyrics and then the English translation of them.  Use the English lyrics and SpanishDict (I highly recommend you have this open in another tab while you’re doing this) to determine the definition of any words you don’t know (I will cover a lot of the words used, but not all of them)–if the regular definition of a particular word isn’t being used or the word is being used in such a way that simply knowing its definition won’t help you, I will explain it.

3. Next I will pick out various aspects of the Spanish that she’s using that I think require an explanation–I will not cover simple things like the definition of words like “el” (which means “the”), “ser” (which means “to be”), etc. unless there is something about the way they’re being used that I think warrants explanation.  If you don’t understand what a word means, like I said, just check the English translation and/or SpanishDict.  I will link to a lot of external sites with explanations for the grammar used, or the conjugation of a verb used, or the definition of a word–I’m doing this because I don’t have the space here to explain every single detail of what’s going on, there’s an enormous amount of Spanish being used in a single song like this which is precisely why I advocate this method (this is essentially The Telenovela Method, FYI), because you can learn so much from a single song or movie or book, etc.  If you don’t understand a grammatical term that I use and it’s a link, click it!

4. Now, go back and play the verse we just analyzed several times and see if you can hear and understand everything being said, then go on to the next one.

5. If you are confused about anything and feel there’s something I didn’t cover or explain but should have, please let me know in the comments.  As a matter of fact, please leave a comment and let me know what you think regardless, I need feedback and love getting it, each individual comment allows me to make an improvement or fix a problem thereby making this blog just a little bit better each and every time I get feedback of some sort.  Oh, and you can also contact me via my contact form (this will go to my e-mail inbox).

The Video

(Please note: if you’re in a country where this video is blocked for you try here, here, or here)

The Lyrics

Suerte que en el Sur hayas nacido
Y que burlemos las distancias

Suerte que es haberte conocido
Y por ti amar tierras extrañas

Yo puedo escalar los Andes solo
Por ir a contar tus lunares

Contigo celebro y sufro todo
mis alegrías
Y mis males
Lo ro lo le lo le
Lo ro lo le lo le

Sabes que
Estoy a tus pies

Contigo, mi vida
Quiero vivir la vida
Lo que me queda de vida
Quiero vivir contigo

Suerte que es tener labios sinceros
Para besarte con mas ganas
Suerte que mis pechos sean pequeños
Y no los confundas con montañas

Suerte que herede las piernas firmes
Para correr si me hace falta,
Y estos dos ojos que me dicen
Que han de llorar cuando te vayas

Le ro lo le lo le
Le ro lo le lo le

Sabes que
Estoy a tus pies

Le ro lo le lo le
La felicidad tiene tu nombre
y tu piel

Ya sabes, mi vida
Estoy hasta el cuello por ti
Si sientes algo así
Quiero que te quedes junto a mi

Translation and Analysis

And here’s the first stanza and then the translation:

Suerte que en el Sur hayas nacido
Y que burlemos las distancias

Which translates to:

It’s lucky that you were born in the south [meaning South America]
and that we can make fun of the distance

Ok, the first thing you’ll notice is the use of the subjunctive–which I’ll be making a separate, and very comprehensive, post on quite shortly it’s now up: The Spanish Subjunctive Explained–with the verb “hayas”, which means “you have” and is in the subjunctive because she’s saying that it’s lucky that this happened, which is a personal expression of opinion and therefore requires the subjunctive.  “Nacido” is the past participle of the verb “nacer“, which means to be born.

The next word we come to is a bit tricky, and I honestly have to admit I’m not sure I’ve nailed the translation (if not, I’m sure I’ll hear about it in the comments 😀 ): burlar.  Its primary definition is “to evade”, however it could also mean “to make fun of or mock”, and in this case it could be either one, however I personally think that “evade” or “get around”, i.e. “overcome”, makes more sense–maybe they’re making fun of the distance between them, but it makes more sense to me that she’s saying that they’re lucky they got around it.  Also, “burlemos” is the present subjunctive form of “burlar” (the subjunctive gets a lot of play in this song). Edit [07/13/2012–a year and a half later, haha]: Nah, I’ve changed my mind on this.  Someone asked about it in the comments and mentioned that in her English version of the song in this verse she says “Lucky you were born that far away/ So we could both make fun of distance ” so I’m going to go with the “mocking/making fun of” translation instead.  Thanks, Miranda! And if you have a correction for any post on this blog you think might be right, please leave it in the comments, I always appreciate it not only because I get to correct an error I would have otherwise missed which makes my blog just a little bit better but I learn something, too!

Next stanza:

Suerte que es haberte conocido
Y por ti amar tierras extrañas

Which means:

It’s lucky to have known you
and because of you I love foreign lands

“Conocido” is the past participle of “conocer” which means “to know [a person]” (“saber” is used when referring to facts). “Por” in this case means “for” as in “because of”, “amar” means “to love”, though I should point out that when Spanish-speakers want to say that they love somebody (lover, wife, parent, child, etc.), they say “te quiero”, not “te amo”; “amar” has a bit more of a deep, poetic connotation to it and can come off as kind of cheesy or weird if not used properly and, also, it’s only used to express romantic love.

Next:

Yo puedo escalar los Andes solo
Por ir a contar tus lunares

Which translates to:

I can climb the Andes alone
to go and count your moles

“Escalar” means to climb, “los Andes” obviously refers to the Andes mountains (remember, Shakira is Colombian and the Andes cut right through Colombia), a “lunar” in this case is a mole or beauty mark.

Next:

Contigo celebro y sufro todo
mis alegrías
Y mis males
Lo ro lo le lo le
Lo ro lo le lo le

Sabes que
Estoy a tus pies

Which means:

With you I celebrate and suffer everything
The good times and the bad

le ro lo le etc. etc.

You know that I’m at your feet.

Contigo” is a contraction of “con” and “tú” (you would never say “con tú”, you’d always say “contigo”), “celebrar” means to celebrate, “suffrir” means to suffer, so far so good.

Now we come to “alegrías” and “males”, which is where it gets tricky because there isn’t really a good direct English translation of either of these words, “joy” is pretty close for “alegría” but it more literally means “happy things” or “happy times” depending on the context, and the same thing with “males” which is the plural of “mal” which is normally an adjective that simply means “bad”, though it can also be a noun, as it is in this case, that means “bad things” or “bad times”.

Lastly, you see the previously mentioned “saber” being used here to state a fact: that she’s at his feet (“sabes que estoy a tus pies”).

Next:

Contigo, mi vida
Quiero vivir la vida
Lo que me queda de vida
Quiero vivir contigo

Which means:

With you, my dear [lit. “life”]
I want to live life
What I have left of life
I want to live with you

You see “contigo” again, “vida” literally means “life” and in this first use (“contigo, mi vida”) it’s used to refer to her lover, she’s say that he’s “her life”, then it’s immediately used in its literal sense, I’m sure on purpose, sort of like someone saying “I love you, my love” where “love” is first used as a verb and then as a pronoun.

She then says “Lo que me queda de vida”: we’ve discussed what it means when you see “lo” used like this in the previous ‘La Tortura’ post, but we’ll quickly revisit it: “lo” is a direct object pronoun used in a way in Spanish that’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s sort of like how we use “that” in a very specific context: “that which is”, so in this case “lo que _____” means “that which ______”, so “lo que me queda de vida” literaly means “that which I have left of life”, got it?

Oh, and in case you didn’t figure it out, “quedar” means “to be left or remain”, so in this case with it being reflexive towards “me”, it means “what’s left to me / what remains for me”.

Next verse:

Suerte que es tener labios sinceros
Para besarte con mas ganas
Suerte que mis pechos sean pequeños
Y no los confundas con montañas

And that translates to:

It’s lucky that I have sincere lips
So I can kiss you passionately
Lucky that my breasts are small
And that you don’t confuse them with mountains

“Labio” means “lip”, “sincero”, as you’ve likely guessed, means “sincere” or “honest”.  “Besar” means “to kiss”, and tacking the “te” on the end means “to kiss you”.

Now, the “con mas ganas” part is the one that’s going to require a bit of explanation: much to my consternation, I can’t find a Spanish dictionary anywhere that recognizes “ganas” as a noun, but it is a noun and it’s used as a noun here in this particular instance.  Normally it would be the present “tu” form of “ganar“, which means “to win”, but not in this case.  I personally, from experience and context, would translate it as “enthusiasm”, “appetite”, or “passion”, and now I just tried plugging it into a couple translation engines and they recognize it as a noun and all three of them (Google, Yahoo, and Babel) define it as “desire” which is one I didn’t think of and would probably work just as well as my translation of “passion” in that I could’ve translated that sentence as: “So I can kiss you with more desire”.

After that we get to…boobies!  Indeed.  No clue why she says this, but she does: “pechos” means “breasts” (in the sense of a woman’s breasts), but do remember that “pecho”, singular, just means “chest” in the normal sense (I know you want to know so I’ll tell you: “tetas” is how you say “tits” or “boobs”).  “Los” is the plural of the previously explained direct object pronoun “lo” and refers to her breasts, “confundir” means “to confuse”, and “montaña” means “mountain”.  Next!

The following stanza is:

Suerte que herede las piernas firmes
Para correr si me hace falta,
Y estos dos ojos que me dicen
Que han de llorar cuando te vayas

Which means:

It’s lucky that I inherited strong legs
so that I can run if I need to
and these two eyes tell me
that they have to cry when you leave

Now we run into a verb you likely haven’t heard before, “heredar“, which means “to inherit” and isn’t especially notable except for the fact that you don’t hear it often – it can mean to inherit either money or a certain physical or personality trait from your parents.  “Pierna” is “leg”, “firma” means “strong” or “firm” depending on the context (in this case I think “strong” makes more sense, though they do look quite firm as well 😀 ).

Then we come to “Para correr si me hace falta”: “correr” means “to run”, but where it gets complicated is at “me hace falta”…now, this particular phrase, “hacer falta”, can have multiple meanings: usually, it’s used to indicate that something’s needed, necessary, lacking, or missing (see the 2nd definition of “falta” under “also: hacer falta”), e.g. “me hace falta suerte” which means “I need some luck” or “Me hace falta sucra” which means “I’m lacking sugar” or “I need some sugar”. The reason for this is that the secondary definiton of “falta”, after the primary definition of “mistake”, is “lack or absence”, and since “hacer” means “to make or do” when you say “hacer falta” you’re “making lack” or “making need/necessity”. Now, when you put “me” before a verb it becomes reflexive back on you so that whatever that verb is doing, it’s doing to you, and so consequently when you say “me hace falta” you’re literally saying “it makes a lack for me” or “it creates an absence for/to me”, you see? It sorta makes sense, haha.

Next, she goes on to talk about his eyes (how typical) and says “Y es que tus dos ojos me dicen que han de llorar cuando te vayas”: “ojo” means “eye”, that’s simple, but what’s this “han de llorar”?  Well, “llorar” means “to cry”, that’s easy enough, but the use of “haber” here is rather odd: in this case it means “to have to”, as in “to have to cry”–normally that’s expressed with “tener que”, but if you’ll scroll down to the 3rd definition for haber (here) you’ll see:

haber de hacer algo -> to have to do something

So it can be used to express obligation, to say “to have to”, but it’s unusual and I’ll tell you that 98% of the time I’ve heard someone say that someone has to do something in Spanish, they’ve used “tener que”, not “haber de”, but it can (and is, obviously) done, so it should be noted.

Lastly, we get to “te vayas” which is the present tú subjunctive of “irse” which is a very common Spanish way of saying “to go” in reference to a person leaving to go somewhere and makes sense if you think about it: it’s reflexive, so again the verb is doing whatever it is it does to the person that the reflexive pronoun represents, in this case that verb is “ir” and so “se va”, for example, literally means “you make yourself go” or “me voy” means “I make myself go” (FYI “me voy” is a very common way of saying “I’m leaving”).

Now…you’ll notice that in this particular case it’s in the subjunctive (“te vayas” instead of “te vas”)–why?  Well, she says “cuando te vayas” meaning “when you leave”, but his leaving isn’t certain, it’s very much an if/when-you-leave sort of thing, it’s unknown, it’s not a concrete thing, he isn’t scheduled to depart at precisely 9 AM the next morning so therefore we have uncertainty and therefore we have…the subjunctive! Yaaaaay!

Next:

Le ro lo le lo le
Le ro lo le lo le

Sabes que
Estoy a tus pies

This is just a repeat chorus, we’ve covered this.  Next.

Le ro lo le lo le
La felicidad tiene tu nombre
y tu piel

The word for “happiness” in Spanish is “la felicidad”, and the word for “skin” is “piel”, so what she’s saying here when she literally says “happiness has your name and your skin” is that happiness is, to her, the sound of his name and the feel of his skin against hers…daaaawwwwww, so cute (it’s late, I’m getting weird).

The next, and final verse (though it’s repeated a couple times) is:

Ya sabes, mi vida
Estoy hasta el cuello por ti
Si sientes algo así
Quiero que te quedes junto a mi

Which means:

You already know, my love [lit. “my life”]
I’m up to my neck because of you
If you feel the same way
I want you to stay together with me

As you should already know, “ya” means “still” or “already”, and as we mentioned previously “mi vida” can be used to mean “my love” because in this case she’s saying “my life” in that he is her life, so that’s why we translated it that way.

Now, “estoy hasta el cuello”: “hasta” means “until”, “up to”, or “as far as” and “cuello” means “neck”, so she’s saying she’s up to her neck because of him (up to her neck with what, I don’t know–I’m honestly not quite sure what she’s trying to say here).  Then she says “si siente algo así” (“sentir” means “to feel”) which literally means “if you feel something like this”, because “algo” means “something” and “así” means “this way or like this”.

Next she says “Quiero que te quedes junto a mi” which is something like “I want that you keep yourself together with me” because, as we’ve discussed, “quedar” means “to remain or keep” and “junto” means “together”.  Now, when “quedar” is made to be reflexive, as in this case, it means “to stay” (if you’ll look at the definition for “quedar” and scroll waaay down to the heading “Pronomial Verb”, you’ll see it) in the personal sense because the verb (“to keep”) is being done to the person it’s reflexive upon, so when you say “te quedes” you’re saying “you keep yourself” meaning “you stay” and…did you notice something else? “te quedes” is in the subjunctive 🙂 Why?  Because when she says “Quiero que te quedes” she’s making a wish (first letter in W.E.I.R.D.O., right?), she’s expressing a desire, and that always requires the subjunctive.

That’s it folks, we’re done.  Again, I congratulate you if you’ve made it this far because if you have you’ve learned a lot of Spanish in the process.  I’ve got a bunch of posts in the queue and I’ll begin work on doing another one of these posts for Shakira’s Ojos Así (there’s the video if you want to get started ahead of time–doesn’t she look better as a brunette, her natural color? I think so…like the dreadlocks on her, too) so look for that in a week or two (do I even need to tell you? Subscribe if you haven’t, then you’ll know!).  Thanks again for taking the time to read this.

A Quick but Essential Note Before We End…

I’ve got two posts that I’ve put up that I’m recommending everyone interested in learning Spanish go read if they haven’t already (if you have, ignore this, sorry): How to avoid wasting months learning Spanish the wrong way (basically this is my “how to get started right in learning Spanish” post for complete beginners) and The Telenovela Method where I cover how to use popular media like movies, music, and books to learn Spanish. Additionally you can check out the front page for a more complete list of my best and most popular posts.

Cheers,

Andrew

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