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Learning Spanish from Music Videos: Shakira’s “Ojos Así”

learn spanish from Shakira - ojos así - also, she looks better as a brunette, doesn't she?This is the 3rd in a series of posts I’m doing where I help you learn Spanish from music videos and show you how I do it myself (that way you don’t have to wait for me to dissect a Spanish music video, you can go out and start doing it yourself with whatever songs you want and using it to teach yourself Spanish–mind you, the whole point of this blog is to show you how you can teach yourself Spanish).  I’ve done two other posts prior to this: the second one on Shakira’s “Suerte” and the first one on Shakira’s “La Tortura”.  I may move onto another artist for future posts, and if you’ve got any suggestions as far as artists or songs go please put them in the comments, I’d love to hear them.

About this song

“Ojos Así” means “Eyes like those” and the song itself is actually over a decade old (originally released on the album Donde Están Los Ladrones? on July 24th, 1999) though it still remains one of Shakira’s most popular Spanish-language songs and the 5th most successful song of her career.  One of the really interesting aspects of this song is that it contains some Arabic lyrics in the form of chants, which are based on the Phrygian dominant scale, which is a musical scale extremely common in Arabic and especially Egyptian music, which is why it was chosen for Ojos Así, so that it would lend an Arabic feel to the song (notice the neon Eye of Ra in the background of the video).

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

The Lyrics

Ayer conocí un cielo sin sol
y un hombre sin suelo
Un santo en prisión
y una canción triste sin dueño
Ya he ya he ya la he
Y conocí tus ojos negros
ya he ya he ya la he
Y ahora sí que no
puedo vivir sin ellos yo

Le pido al cielo sólo un deseo
Que en tus ojos yo pueda vivir
He recorrido ya el mundo entero
y una cosa te vengo a decir
Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
Como los que tienes tú

Rabbul samae, fecal rajae
Fe aynaha aral hayati
Ati elaica men hazal caouni
Arjouca rabbi, labbi nadae

Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
como los que tienes tú

Ayer vi pasar una mujer
debajo de su camello
Un río de sal y un barco
abandonado en el desierto
ya he ya he ya la he
Y vi pasar tus ojos negros
ya he ya he ya la he
Y ahora sí que no
puedo vivir sin ellos yo

Le pido al cielo sólo un deseo
Que en tus ojos yo pueda vivir
He recorrido ya el mundo entero
y una cosa te vengo a decir
Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
Como los que tienes tú

Rabbul samae, fecal rajae
Fe aynaha aral hayati
Ati elaica men hazal caouni
Arjouca rabbi, labbi nadae

Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
como los que tienes tú

Rabbul samae, fecal rajae
Fe aynaha aral hayati
Ati elaica men hazal caouni
Arjouca rabbi, labbi nadae

Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
como los que tienes tú

Le pido al cielo sólo un deseo
Que en tus ojos yo pueda vivir
He recorrido ya el mundo entero
y una cosa te vengo a decir
Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
Como los que tienes tú

Translation and Analysis

First verse:

Ayer conocí un cielo sin sol
y un hombre sin suelo
Un santo en prisión
y una canción triste sin dueño
Ya he ya he ya la he
Y conocí tus ojos negros
ya he ya he ya la he
Y ahora sí que no
puedo vivir sin ellos yo

Translation:

Yesterday I met a sky without sun
and a man without nation
A saint in prison
and a sad song without an owner
Ya he ya he ya la he [chorus/chanting]
And I met your black eyes
Ya he ya he ya la he [chorus/chanting]
And now I really can’t
live without them

Ok, first I’d like to talk about the verb “Conocer” which is used in the first sentence in the preterit form “conocí” (in this case meaning “I met”) and literally means “to know” in Spanish, but actually can be used in several different ways and a better translation of it might be “to be familiar with” because it’s almost exclusively used to refer to familiarity with people and places, it’s never used to state that you know a fact (that’s what “saber” is for).  If you check the definition for “conocer” there you’ll see that the second definition is “to meet”, and the reason for this is that a more accurate translation of “conocer” is “to become familiar with [a person]” and the way that we say that in English is “to meet”, as in “I met him”.  The reason one of the definitions of “conocer” is “to know” is that, in the specific context in English of expressing your familiarity with a person or place, you say that you “know” them/it.  The problem with this is that people will read that definition and think that “conocer” works for other contexts where we would use “know” and it doesn’t.  I would ask you to note the fact that, really, the very best translation of “conocer” is “to become familiar with”, if you’ll keep that in mind you’ll never have trouble with it.

Not too much interesting after that, but at the end we get to something that looks a bit odd: “Y ahora sí que no puedo vivir sin ellos yo”.  What’s that “sí” doing there? “And now yes I can’t live without you”? No, but…sort of.  “Sí”, in addition to meaning “yes”, is frequently used for emphasis and if you’ll check the definition of it you’ll see that the 2nd one under “uso enfático” (“emphatic use”) covers this.  When it’s used in this context it most closely translates as “really” or “certainly” and is used to add weight to the statement that comes immediately after it, e.g. “¡Sí, sí quiero ir!” = “Yes, I really want to go!” and you’ll quite frequently see it used immediately after it has just been used to mean “yes” as in the above example.

Next verse:

Le pido al cielo sólo un deseo
Que en tus ojos yo pueda vivir
He recorrido ya el mundo entero
y una cosa te vengo a decir
Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
Como los que tienes tú

Translation:

I ask heaven for only one wish
That in your eyes I could live
I have already wandered around the entire world
and I have come to tell you just one thing
I traveled from Bahrain all the way to Beirut
I went from the north to the south pole
and I didn’t find eyes like those
Like the ones you have

Ok, so we first get “pido” which is the present “yo” form of “pedir” which means “to ask or order”, “cielo” as I hope you’ve figured out literally means “sky” but in this sense figuratively refers to heaven, “deseo” comes from the verb “desear” (“to desire”) and means, in this context, a wish or desire (I went with “wish”).  I’d like to note that a LOT of nouns in Spanish are derived from their verbs, e.g. an “order” (noun) in Spanish is “un pedido” and the verb meaning “to order” is “pedir”, a scream (noun) in Spanish is “un grito” and the verb for “to scream” is “gritar”, and there are a LOT of those, so many in fact, that if you know the verb but not the noun or vice-versa you can often safely make a guess based on the one you do know, and even if it’s not exactly right people will know what you mean and can tell you what the correct word is.

Next we get “Que en tus ojos yo pueda vivir” and the first use of the subjunctive (need help? see my article here: The Spanish Subjunctive Explained) which makes sense because she’s making a wish (the first “W” in W.E.I.R.D.O., right?).  After that we see the verb “recorrer” used in the form of its participle “recorrido”: “recorrer” really means “to travel through” and in this context is best translated as “wandered around” since she’s talking about the whole world and saying that you’ve traveled “through the world” would get the message across, but not very well.

“Vengo” is the present “yo” form of “venir” and I’m mentioning it I suppose because it has an irregular conjugation. “Viajé” is the preterit “yo” form of “viajar” which means “to travel”.  Now, “hasta” is a bit interesting because of what it usually means and how it’s actually used here when she says “Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut”: it literally means “until” but is often used the way we would use “to” in the context of “from ___ to ___” as it is here where she’s saying “from Bahrein to Beirut”. “Desde” means “from” or “since” and is often seen used in conjunction with “hasta” as it is here: “Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur”.

Next, “encontré” is the preterit of “encontrar” which means “to find”, and then we get to “Como los que tienes tú”: “los” is the plural version of “lo” which 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 “los que _____” means “those which  ______”, so “Como los que tienes tú” literally means “those which you have”.

Right, next verse:

Rabbul samae, fecal rajae
Fe aynaha aral hayati
Ati elaica men hazal caouni
Arjouca rabbi, labbi nadae

That’s the Arabic, and the above is the best transcription of it I could find, if you speak Arabic and want to help with that or the following translation, you’re more than welcome to in the comments.  Here’s the translation I found for it:

Lord of heaven, I’m calling you
In his eyes I see my life
I come to you from this world
Oh God, please answer my call

Next:

Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
como los que tienes tú

Which is just a repeat of what we’ve already heard. Next.

Ayer vi pasar una mujer
debajo de su camello
Un río de sal y un barco
abandonado en el desierto
ya he ya he ya la he
Y vi pasar tus ojos negros
ya he ya he ya la he
Y ahora sí que no
puedo vivir sin ellos yo

Which means:

Yesterday I saw a woman passing
underneath her camel
A river of salt and a boat
abandoned in the desert
And I saw your black eyes pass by
And now I cannot
live without them

You’ll notice that she says “vi pasar una mujer” where “vi” is the preterit of “ver” (“to see”), which is fine, but then you see the infinitive, “pasar” (“to pass” in this case), being used oddly where we would say “passing”: the infinitive in Spanish can be used in this way, and often is as opposed to the strictly correct gerund–the gerund is the “-ing” version of a word, and is represented in Spanish by adding “ando” to “-ar” verbs and “iendo” for “-ir” and “-er” verbs, so the proper gerund of “pasar” in this case would be “pasando”, but it’s not used because the more common way of saying that would be to just use the infinitive as she did.  The gerund is, by far, most commonly used in conjunction with “estar” (scroll down to the 14th definition, lol it’s there) to express the fact that something is being done right now at that very moment, e.g. “Sí, estoy escuchando” = “Yes, I’m listening”, or “Estoy barriendo el suelo” = “I’m sweeping the floor” whereas “Barro el suelo” more likely means “I’ll sweep the floor [in a minute]“.

“Debajo” means “below” or “underneath” in this case.  Then everything is normal until we get down to “Y ahora sí que no” where we again see “sí” used emphatically (instead of to mean “yes” as it normally would) which we covered earlier.

The next verses are just repeats of what we’ve covered before:

Le pido al cielo sólo un deseo
Que en tus ojos yo pueda vivir
He recorrido ya el mundo entero
y una cosa te vengo a decir
Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
Como los que tienes tú

Rabbul samae, fecal rajae
Fe aynaha aral hayati
Ati elaica men hazal caouni
Arjouca rabbi, labbi nadae

Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
como los que tienes tú

Rabbul samae, fecal rajae
Fe aynaha aral hayati
Ati elaica men hazal caouni
Arjouca rabbi, labbi nadae

Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
como los que tienes tú

Le pido al cielo sólo un deseo
Que en tus ojos yo pueda vivir
He recorrido ya el mundo entero
y una cosa te vengo a decir
Viajé de Bahrein hasta Beirut
Fuí desde el norte hasta el polo sur
y no encontré ojos así
Como los que tienes tú

Yes.  Lots of repeat, I know (I’m actually happy because that makes my job of translating and analyzing this stuff that much easier :P ), but…we’re done!  I have to admit, I really love that song, and I also think Shakira looks waaaaaay better as a brunette, especially with the dreadlocks and everything, definitely hot (she looks good as a blonde as well, but I still prefer her with her natural color).

Oh, by the way, regarding the Arabic in this song, you do know that Shakira is part Lebanese, right? Her father is of Lebanese descent, she does speak some Arabic, and she’s always had Middle Eastern influence on her music and performances.  In fact, from the section of her Wikipedia article that talks about her influences:

She has also been influenced by her Arab heritage, which was a major inspiration for her breakthrough world hit “Ojos Así“. She told Portuguese TV “Many of my movements belong to Arab culture.”

Very cool, huh?

Ok, well that’s the last Shakira post that I’ve got in the queue, and I’d really like to hear some suggestions from my readers about which artist or video I ought to do next (you guys do seem to like these types of posts, yes?), I might try to find some clips from movies or TV shows, it doesn’t have to be a music video.  Let me know in the comments!

A Quick 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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