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Learning Spanish from Music Videos: Juanes’ ‘Yerbatero’ Dissected

juanes yerbatero translation - how to learn spanishThis is the next installment in the whole “let’s learn Spanish from music videos” thing I’m doing that everyone seems to like (which I totally agree with, using popular media like this that you enjoy is a fantastic way to learn the language, plus it uses contemporary Spanish).  Up until now it’s been all Shakira, all the time, so I thought it was time to switch it up a bit and several people have suggested Juanes–I listened to a few of his songs and this one was easily the one I liked the most, it’s quite a bit more upbeat than most of the others it seems (everything else he does seems to be kind of depressing and sad, honestly) plus it’s one of his most popular songs ever and it’s really recent (2010) so everyone ought to be familiar with it, so I really felt it was easily the best choice.

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.

What’s a ‘Juanes’?

It’s a contraction of his first and middle names: “Juan” + “Esteban” = “Juanes”, kind of like “Brangelina” or “Bennifer” :D

Juanes is one of the biggest names in the Spanish-language music world, probably second only to Shakira.  He’s now a solo artist, though he started out in a band called Ekhymosis that he started in 1988 and later disbanded 10 years later in 1998.  He’s sold more than 12 million albums and won 17 Latin Grammys, more than any other artist.

An interesting fact about Juanes is his refusal to (almost) never sing in English or really any language other than Spanish, his explanation being that “Singing in Spanish is very important because it’s the language in which I think and feel. I respect people that sing in English, but for now I’ll keep my Spanish.”

Yerbatero

Yerbatero is a guitar-driven rock song that significantly deviates from Juanes’ previous romantic latin-pop songs which had previously dominated his discography, and it seems to have been quite a success with it being his most popular music video on YouTube, beating even La Camisa Negra and debuting on the Latin Pop Charts at number four.

The word itself is an Andean slang term that means “herbalist” or, more accurately in this context, “healer” and comes from the word “yerba mate” which is a type of tea popular in Latin America and especially Argentina, and a “yerbatero” was originally a seller of yerba mate tea.  This will make a great deal of sense once you start reading the lyrics below and see how Juanes is referring to himself as a sort of healer of broken hearts.

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

Le traigo el remedio
Para ese mal de amor que le estremece
No se merece sufrir
si su pareja le dejó

Tengo toda clase de brebajes, plantas medicinales
Las he traído desde muy lejanos bosques hasta aquí

Soy yerbatero, vengo a curar su mal de amores
Soy el que quita los dolores y habla con los animales
Dígame de que sufre usted
Que yo le tengo un brebaje
Que le devuelve el tono y lo pone bien

Si a usted, señor, lo deja su mujer
úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel
Y para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel
No se preocupe, busquese uno usted también

Sufre de depresión, mal de amor
Lleva varias noches sin dormir
Y sus días no van bien en el trabajo

Anda moribundo, preocupado, cabizbajo, desenamorado
Le tengo la solución si le duele el corazón
No soy doctor, soy yerbatero…
Soy yerbatero, vengo a curar su mal de amores
Soy el que quita los dolores y habla con los animales
Dígame de que sufre usted
Que yo le tengo un brebaje
Que le devuelve el tono y lo pone bien

Si a usted, señor, lo deja su mujer
úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel
Y para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel
No se preocupe, búsquese uno usted también

Si a usted, señor, lo deja su mujer
úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel
Y para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel
No se preocupe, búsquese uno usted también

Soy yerbatero…Soy yerbatero…Soy yerbatero…

Translation and Analysis

First verse:

Le traigo el remedio
Para ese mal de amor que le estremece
No se merece sufrir
si su pareja le dejó

Translation:

I’ll bring you the remedy
For that love sickness that makes you shudder
You don’t deserve to suffer
If your partner left you

Where it says “le estremece”, the verb in question there is “estremecer” which does in fact mean “to shudder or tremble”, but the line immediately after that is where we see something kind of interesting in the phrase “No se merece sufrir”: “merecer” means “to deserve or be worthy of” and can be used in several different ways, not just as above where it means that a person deserves something, but also in the sense of “___ is worth doing”, e.g. “Esa película merece una mirada” = “That movie is worth a look”.

Also, the word “pareja” in the last line usually means “pair” but can also be used to refer to one member of a pair as it is in this case, and one of the literal translations of the word is actually “partner”.

Next:

Tengo toda clase de brebajes, plantas medicinales
Las he traído desde muy lejanos bosques hasta aquí

Translation:

I have every kind of potion, medicinal plants
I have brought them here from distant forests

Oh what a funny word “brebaje” is, because although “potion” is probably the best contextual translation of it here, the actual meaning of the word is something more like “concoction” or “foul drink” and it’s also a slang term for something sailors call “grog“, haha.

Notice the use of “desde” and “hasta” here, even though the contextual translation (correctly) doesn’t show it as it’s literally written, which would be something like “I have brought them from forrests very far away to here”, you’ll almost always see these two words paired up in Spanish to express “from ___ to ____” as “desde ____ hasta _____”.  The expression can not only be used with physical locations but also with time, as in “I’ll be here from this morning until this afternoon” = “Estoy aquí desde esta mañana hasta esta tarde.” “Desde” literally translates as “from” and “hasta” means “until”.

Next verse:

Soy yerbatero, vengo a curar su mal de amores
Soy el que quita los dolores y habla con los animales
Dígame de que sufre usted
Que yo le tengo un brebaje
Que le devuelve el tono y lo pone bien

Which means:

I’m a healer, I’m coming to cure your love sicknesses
I’m the one who takes away the pain and speaks with the animals
Tell me what you suffer from
‘cause I have a potion for you
‘cause I return you to your complexion and it makes you well

Let’s look at the first line where it says “vengo a curar su mal de amores”, now “vengo” is the present first person form of “venir” which means “to come” and “curar” means “to cure or heal”, but what’s interesting is the phrase “su mal de amores”, because “mal” literally translates as “bad” but can be used in so many other ways that all make sense when you understand that the primary definition of the word is “bad”: it can mean evil, harm, damage, or even “bad times” in the context of “in bad times and good” as we saw Shakira use it in her song Suerte where she says “Contigo celebro y sufro todo mis alegrías y mis males” which means “With you I celebrate and suffer everything, the good times and the bad”, or it can mean “illness” as it does in this case.  This is just one of those words that has a billion different meanings depending on the context and that gets used left, right, and center that you should be aware of.

In the sentence “Dígame de que sufre usted” the word order is a little screwy, so let’s have a look at that.  What it literally translates to is “Tell me of that suffer you”, or a little more logically, “Tell me of that which you suffer”, because “de” means “of”, “que” means “that”, and “sufre” is the present 3rd person form of “sufrir“, which means “to suffer”.  Also, “Dígame” is a contraction of “díga” (imperative form of “decir” which means “to tell”) and “me”, which you always do when making a command like that which is reflexive (meaning that the verb acts on a reflexive pronoun like me, te, se, etc.).

In the next sentence where it says “Que yo le tengo un brebaje” you may be confused by the way he’s using “que“, and…it’s honestly very hard to explain, because that word doesn’t really literally translate as “because”, but it’s the best contextual translation of it in these particular circumstances.  Essentially, it means “that” or “so that” here because it’s sort of a continuation of the previous sentence, it relies on the previous sentence to work. Ok, the previous sentence was: “Tell me what you suffer from”, and then this next one says “que yo lo tengo un brebaje” which sort of translates to “Tell me what you suffer from so that/such that I have a potion for you” which sort of makes sense, but if we take what we can tell his meaning is from that sentence and express it as we normally would in English, it would come out as “Tell me what you suffer from ’cause I have a potion for you”, get it?

“Que” is really confusing for beginners because, far more so than “mal”, it has many, many different possible meanings all of which are entirely dependent on the context, and to make things even more confusing there’s an entirely different word that people tend to get confused with it because it’s almost spelled the same way: “qué” (notice the accent! that makes it a whole ‘nother word altogether, “que” does NOT equal “qué”), which is the Spanish word for “what”, which of course means you’ll see it all the time as well, frequently in conjunction with “que” in the same sentence or even side-by-side.

Remember:

“que” = “that”/”so that”/”than”/”such that”/

“qué” = “what”

Deep breath (we’re not done with this verse yet!)

The last line where it says “Que le devuelve el tono y lo pone bien” you see an interesting verb, “devolver” which means “to return” and “le” working as a pronoun meaning “you”, so the verb here, “devolver” is reflecting back on “le”, it’s action is being done to it, so the returning is being done to “le” which is “you” in this case, “le devuelve” means “return you”.

Ok, so we have “que” being used in the same way as the previous line, so “que le devuelve” means “because I return you…”, now “el tono” means “the tone” where tone means “complexion” (check the definition, it’s 2nd) in this case, and taken in the current context of illness and him being the yerbatero, the healer, he’s of course saying that he’ll return you to your previous healthy complexion, he’ll make you better, basically, you see?

That last bit, “lo pone bien” is just saying essentially the same thing again, “pone” is the present 3rd person form of “poner” which means “to put”, and what’s doing the putting? “lo” is, which means “it” and of course refers to the potion, and since “bien” means “good” or “well”, it’s literally saying something like “it puts you well”, which really means “it makes you well”.

Finally, that one’s done.  Next one:

Si a usted, señor, lo deja su mujer
úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel
Y para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel
No se preocupe, busquese uno usted también

Translation:

If your woman leaves you, sir
Rub some carnation oinment on your soul
And for the lady whose husband has been unfaithful
Don’t worry, get yourself some too

Let’s go to the second sentence where it says “úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel”, the verb in question at the beginning there is “untar” which means “to smear” and it’s reflexive here, with “se” filling in for “you”.  “Alma” is the word for “soul”, “pomada” is “ointment” so “pomadita” is “little bit of ointment” really, and “clavel” means “carnation”, so the literal translation of “úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel” is “rub yourself on the soul a little ointment of carnation” which contextually means “rub some carnation oil on your soul”, got it?

Now, in the last line we see “No se preocupe, busquese uno usted también”, “preocupar” means “to worry” and in this case it’s reflexive, which it almost always is, as the way that they say that someone is/was/will worry in Spanish is to say that they “worry themselves” as opposed to just “worry” as we would in English, it essentially means the same thing.

Now, “buscar” (which is what that word you see there, “búsquese”, is based on) is a verb that normally means “to look for or to search”, but a secondary definition for it is “to pick up” as in, “Voy a buscar el correo” = “I’m going to pick up the mail”, which is how it’s used here where it’s translated as “get yourself”.  It’s in the command form and reflexive, with the command form of “buscar” being “busque” and “se” being a pronoun meaning “you” here, so “busquese” means “get yourself” as in “get yourself some of this awesome ointment I’ve got”.

Next verse:

Sufre de depresión, mal de amor
Lleva varias noches sin dormir
Y sus días no van bien en el trabajo

Translation:

Do you suffer from depression, love sickness?
Have you spent many nights without sleeping?
And your days don’t go well at work?

We’ve already discussed “suffrir” and the way that you see “mal” used here with “mal de amor” to mean “love sickness”, so I don’t need to cover that.  “lleva” is the 3rd person present form of “llevar” which literally means “to take, carry, wear, handle, have, keep, deal with, or cope with” but has so many little variations on those meanings depending on the context that to decipher which one it is you have to look at the context, and in this case he’s saying “llevas varias noches sin dormir”, so I would literally translate it as “take” with the meaning as in “take a nap”, “take a class”, etc. so you get “do you take many nights without sleep?”, got it?

The last line where it says “en el trabajo” has “trabajo” functioning as a noun that means “work”, in this case “el trabajo” is referring to your place of work, your job, so you could also translate this last line as “at your job”.

Last bit:

Anda moribundo, preocupado, cabizbajo, desenamorado
Le tengo la solución si le duele el corazón

No soy doctor, soy yerbatero…

Translation:

Continue dying, worried, downcast, unloved?
I have for you the solution if your heart hurts

I’m not a doctor, I’m a healer

Right, now “moribundo” is simply an adjective that means “dying”, but “anda” is the verb “andar” which usually means “to walk”, right? Well…let’s get confused again, “andar” is also very frequently used to mean “to go” in the sense of indicating action as in “to go do something” usually in the form of “to go [verb]” so it’ll be “andar + verb”.  It sort of makes sense if you think of “andar” as meaning generally “to go” and frequently used to indicate that the person is walking which is, of course, one way you can go about going, right? So it generally means “to go” and is frequently used in the specific context of walking but not always.

Now, “cabizbajo” is just an adjective that means “downcast, crestfallen, or melancholy”, and “desenamorado” is really obvious if you take a second to look at it and you already know that “enamorar” means “to love” and you also know that the way you make a verb’s past participle (the “-ed” version of it, as in “loved” is the past participle of “love”) is to simply add “-ado” to the end of it where the “-ar” at the end was.  So you know that “enamorado” means “loved”, and now I’ll tell you that one way they make a word “un”ed in Spanish (as in, covered –> uncovered, known –> unknown, loved –> unloved) is to add the preposition “des” to the beginning of it, that’s kind of like the Spanish “un”, so:

“des” + “enamorar” + “ado” = “des” + “enamorado” = “desenamorado” = “unloved”

In the next to last line we’ve got “Le tengo la solución si le duele el corazón”.  The first part is pretty simple and you’ve probably got no problem understanding it: “le tengo la solución” – “le” is just a pronoun meaning “you” that’s reflected back on by “tengo” which is the present first person form of “tener” which means “to have” and when you do that it translates as “I have for you the solution…”, and “si” just means “if”.

Then, we see “le” this time filling in for “your heart” and being reflected back on by “duele” which is the third person present form of “doler” which means “to hurt or cause pain” and in this case the “corazón” at the end is simply added for clarification because “le duele” says “it’s hurting” so of course you wonder “what’s hurting?” and “el corazón” is added at the end to clarify, so a more accurate translation that’ll help you understand how that sentence is working would be like this:

“Le tengo la solución si le duele el corazón” = “I have for you the solution if it hurts, your heart that is”

And it’ll make even more sense to us English speakers if we make one more minor little tweak and stick some strategic commas in there:

“Le tengo la solución si le duele, el corazón” = “I have the solution for you if it, your heart, hurts.”

If you’re having trouble understanding, go back and look at those sentences and really pay attention to what I did with the commas, I hope that explains it for you.

Next verse:

Soy yerbatero, vengo a curar su mal de amores
Soy el que quita los dolores y habla con los animales
Dígame de que sufre usted
Que yo le tengo un brebaje
Que le devuelve el tono y lo pone bien

That’s a repeat, we’ve covered it.

Next:

Si a usted, señor, lo deja su mujer
úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel
Y para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel
No se preocupe, búsquese uno usted también

Another repeat. Next:

Si a usted, señor, lo deja su mujer
úntese en el alma pomadita de clavel
Y para la señora que el marido ha sido infiel
No se preocupe, búsquese uno usted también

Another repeat. Next:

Soy yerbatero…Soy yerbatero…Soy yerbatero…

Translation (do I really need to?):

I’m the healer…I’m the healer…I’m the healer…

That’s it! We’re done.  I hope you enjoyed this iteration of the series, which I plan to keep on doing forever because it’s a fantastic learning method, everyone seems to like it, and there is an endless supply of music videos and other various medias (I’m thinking about trying some short clips from TV shows or movies at some point) out there for us to learn from.  Let me know what you think in the comments, and also give me any suggestions for songs or music videos you’d like to see me do in the future!

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

Learn Spanish from TV shows, movies, music, books, comics, and more!

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February 26, 2011   2 Comments