There are many different ways to go about learning a foreign language. Of the one’s I’ve had or seen others have success with, they have one thing in common: they keep learning fun.
One of my favourite methods with Spanish (though it would work equally well in any language), is Andrew Tracey’s Telenovela Method.
The core of the method is simple:
- Find a piece of native Spanish you like: TV show, Film, Music, whatever. Get the transcript, lyrics or sub-titles.
- Look up words you don’t understand, and grammar you don’t understand. Learn it, understand it.
- Replay the clip/song until you can hear the words and understand them.
- Mimic the clip/song, so that you acquire that slice of native foreign language goodness for yourself.
Well, my latest favourite Netflix series, Narcos, is half in Spanish already (the parts spoken by Americans is in English), so it’s a great place to start — I’m interested in it without the Spanish element. And where better to start with that than the intro song, which you hear at the start of every episode? It’s nice and short, and the grammar is pretty straightforward.
So, here’s my attempt at Andrew’s method, for the intro song, Tuyo by Rodrigo Amarante:
Soy el fuego que arde tu piel Soy el agua que mata tu sed El castillo, la torre yo soy La espada que guarda el caudal
Tu el aire que respiro yo Y la luz de la luna en el mar La garganta que ansío mojar Que temo ahogar de amor Y cuales deseos me vas a dar?
Dices tu, “Mi tesoro basta con mirarlo Y tuyo será, y tuyo será.”
Soy el fuego que arde tu piel Soy el agua que mata tu sed
Ok, a nice simple structure here: “I am the… something that… somethings your… something”:
I am the fire that burns your skin I am the water that quenches your thirst
Notes on this part: arder means “to burn”.
And then, here’s the beautiful thing about learning foreign languages: “I am the water that quenches your thirst” is a correct translation of that line, but the Spanish for “quenches your thirst” is “mata tu sed”. Mata is from the verb matar, to kill. And whilst “kills your thirst” should usually be translated to ‘quenches your thirst”, this song is full of violent imagery, and I’m sure that’s part of why this lyric was written and chosen.
That’s the beauty of it, if the song was in English, it might be a different lyric all together. So, learn it, understand it, and then, leave it in Spanish: “Soy el agua que mata tu sed.”
El castillo, la torre yo soy La espada que guarda el caudal
Ok, many references to the show here, but nothing tricky grammatically:
The castle, the tower, I am The sword that guards the fortune.
All of the vocabulary here comes up quite a lot in Narcos, so it’ll probably serve you well to learn it.
El caudal is an interesting word. The first definition of Caudal on SpanishDict is:
A flow or volume of water (in a river)
e.g. “El caudal del río desciende en verano.” — “The level of the river goes down in the Summer”.
Caudal can also refer to wealth or forture, which is clearly the right translation here (though, the “flow of drugs and/or money” could be a poetic undertone). Other examples of caudal as a fortune or wealth:
Caudales públicos — public funds
“Malgastó todo su caudal” — He squandered his entire fortune.
I’ve translated guardar here as “guards”, primary because “I am the sword that guards…” makes sense, but guardar means “to keep, to guard or to save”, so ‘keeps the fortune’ could work here. You’ll probably come across guardar more in the context of ‘to save’, as in “save a document”, if you set your phone or laptop to Spanish.
Excellent, onwards to verse two:
Tu el aire que respiro yo Y la luz de la luna en el mar
I’ve got this down as:
You, the air that I breathe And the light of the moon on the sea.
Romantics take note! Very nice imagery here, but actually very simple language.
The word order is obviously a bit different, you probably wouldn’t say “que respiro yo” in spoken-word, but this is a song!
Also, in the track, Rodrigo runs the a from luna and en together, so it sounds more like:
“Y la luz de la lun en el mar”.
Ok, onto part two:
La garganta que ansío mojar Que temo ahogar de amor
More violent (and sexual?) imagery here:
The throat that I long to wet But I fear I will drown in love.
Phew! Ok. So garganta, if you don’t know that as throat, think of the word ‘gargle’ — your throat is your gargler. You’ll never forget it. (You’re welcome).
Ansio comes from ansiar, a powerful verb meaning to long or to yearn for. To get a sense of its power:
ansiar por algn. — to be madly in love with sb
Serious stuff. But, there’s a but.
“But I am afraid to drown with love”.
The sentence is quite simple once you know temer and ahogar (to suffocate, drown), but there are a couple of subtleties to take note of.
Firstly, que doesn’t actually mean “but”, but it seems to fit better than another “that”, because it’s almost a contrast to the desire from the previous line.
Secondly, the grammar isn’t how it’s said in English. Literally:
“I fear to drown of love”.
Worth noting if you’re the type of person that has a lot of fears!
Right nearly done. Last few of lines:
Y cuales deseos me vas a dar?
And which desires are you going to give me?
This is potentially the easiest line in the whole song, because the vocabulary is so common. We’ve got the ‘cheat future tense’ there with “going to… + infinitive”. This was the easiest line for me to pick up, for sure.
Dices tu, “Mi tesoro basta con mirarlo Y tuyo será, y tuyo será.”
You say, “My treasure is enough just to look at, and it will be yours. and it will be yours”
I love this line. I don’t know why, I think just because of how it works in Spanish, literally:
“My treasure enough with to-look-at-it”.
So concise, but great.
Tuyo is the name of the song, and this line is what the song, and in many ways the series is about: possession.
The language probably isn’t the hardest part of this song. The hardest part is probably trying to work out what it means symbolically. It’s hard to go into depth over without risking ruining the series (which also depends on your knowledge of Colombian history), but I’ll offer one interpretation.
Verse one, is from cocaine to… whoever. “I am the fire that burns your skin, I am the water that quenches your thirst” — to me, that’s drugs.
But, “I am the sword that guards your fortune”? Not sure, I suppose drugs did guard Escobar’s fortune somewhat. The tower, the castle and the sword all pull imagery out of the series well, but I don’t want to be a spoiler.
The second verse, I think, is a reply. It’s less about drugs now, and more about the desires for power and wealth that consumed Escobar (or that consume everyone to an extent).
Colombia, or the cocaine, replies with a tantalising, addictive message of hope, like a lottery advert: “My treasure is satisfying enough to look at, and it will be yours”.
And there we have it.
Now you’ll know that that intro song is all about, and you’ll know that it fits the series like a glove. And maybe, you’ve learned some more Spanish too.