Using Radio Ambulante in the Spanish language classroom

This semester I discovered an astonishingly awesome audio resource: Radio Ambulante. Radio Ambulante  is  a Spanish-language radio program showcasing compelling human stories from around Latin America and the United States. One of their goals is to create a community of storyteller and listeners in Spanish.

I am constantly looking for authentic audio for my students, and Radio Ambulante  is a gold mine. The stories are beautifully crafted and organized (in the style of This American Life and Radio Lab )

Welcome to Radio Ambulante from Radio Ambulante on Vimeo.

For students studying Spanish as a second (or third) language, these audiostories present challenges…but good challenges. Finding open, accessible examples of authentic language that students can access (granted, with effort…but effort is good!) has been hard for me…so much of the open audio content  for Spanish learners these days is either poorly produced (low quality) or it shoots waaay too low and tries to spoon feed content to the users.

For example: even if you don’t understand Spanish, listen to a few minutes of this story from RadioAmbulante (sorry the description got chopped a little bit here…the audio still works.  You can see the complete description of this story here).

Is you have listened to programs like This American Life,   you know the format: the omnipresent narrator begins, the subjects who are telling their stories come in and introduce themselves, and then the narrator and the story tellers take turns, going back and forth. Ambient sound is added as needed. The narrator comes back to conclude the story.

How have I used this in class? Per the students’ suggestions, we have done the following:

  • Before class: the teacher creates a narration map of the recording with timestamps: who is talking when;
  • Before class: students review the narration map and on their own listen to the entire recording at least twice without stopping.  Bring questions to class;
  • In class: assign sections of the audio to small groups or pairs:ask them to create a content map of the recording. Students need to identify the general idea of what is happening in their section and then report back to the whole class. Listen to the entire recording as a class as a way to check the class-created content map…tweak as necessary;
  • Homework: with the narration map and the content map in hand, listen to the recording again at home and come to class with questions, comments, and critiques,
  • In class: What connections can we make between this story and our own stories? Encourage connections, conversations and their own story-telling. (Start in pairs and small groups…then share stories with the class)

When we have decoded and discussed the  recording, we then talk about their learning: what worked for you? what didn’t work for you? what suggestions do you have for doing this differently a second time? I then take those suggestions and incorporate them in our approach to the next Radio Ambulante recording.  Oh, I also let them decide as a class which recordings they want to tackle next and in what order.

If you know of other awesome authentic audio resources that can be used in the language classroom AND that are open, free, and available to be shared…please share in the comments section!



Series Navigation<< Creating, Uploading, Commenting and Sharing Audio via SoundCloudFear, Motivation, Social Consciousness and Language Learning: the graph >>

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!


  1. David · July 8, 2013 Reply

    Radio Ambulante is a great resource. By the way, Daniel Alarcón’s novel _Lost City Radio_ is a good read and one that many students of Spanish can use for leisure reading to learn more about Latin American history and culture.

    The other free audio source in Spanish that I use a lot are the short audio podcasts from Spanish speakers around the world at Audio Lingua —

    • Barbara · July 8, 2013 Reply


      Thank you so much for mentioning both resources. I will take a look at them both and report back. Thank you for sharing!


  2. SpinTX: Open and Authentic Spanish language videos for teaching and learning · July 10, 2013 Reply

    […] am constantly on the look-out for resources of authentic Spanish language.  As I mentioned before Radio Ambulante is a goldmine of interesting, beautifully produced audio stories from  different […]

  3. Janel · July 24, 2013 Reply

    This is wonderful! I’m glad you posted how you use it in your class! Thank you!

  4. Teaching Acceptance through Storytelling · October 11, 2013 Reply

    […] of LLU know that I am a huge fan of the work being done by the people at Radio Ambulante.   Not only is the audio in these 8 -15 […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: