I have a Dream Speech in Spanish Class
I have a dream speech in Spanish

Publication: Jan 16, 2021

Inside: Learning about Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Spanish.

As we near Martin Luther King Jr. day, many of you Spanish teachers are looking for ways to incorporate Dr. King’s influential “I Have a Dream” speech — one of the most famous speeches in the entire world.

Before we dive in, I would like to offer some caution. Schools using a speech like “I Have a Dream” year after year can present a certain danger: paired with cutesy clipart, simplistic lessons, and “let’s just all get along” messaging, we can do a serious disservice to King’s legacy.

I do want us honor the legacy of Dr King and love that it’s a national holiday. Every student should be intimately familiar with this iconic speech. Let’s just make sure we present a robust picture of the Civil Rights movement, with much work left to do.

As you prepare to teach about MLK Jr., I encourage non-Black teachers especially to research anti-bias and anti-racist teaching. Take the time to educate yourself on the larger movement beyond this one speech.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Related: Resources for Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Spanish Class

First, a note: you might be surprised that both the audio and text of the “I Have a Dream” speech are not currently in the public domain. According to the Washington Post, however, teachers may use it with their students:

The speech is not in the public domain but is private property, owned by the King family, and anybody who wants to use  it is supposed to pay for that right. For that matter, all of King’s papers and speeches are owned by family members, some of whom also operate the licensing operation through which those who want to use them must go.

While some use of the speech or parts of it can be lawful without approval — individual teachers, for example, are not challenged when they use the speech in violation of the copyright — the makers of the 2014 film “Selma” were never given permission to use King’s words or life story because they couldn’t get a license, which had been sold to two companies for a movie about King’s life that Steven Spielberg is supposedly going to make.

53 years later, you still have to pay to use Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

What’s included in this post:

  • I Have a Dream in Spanish Lesson Ideas
  • I Have a Dream Speech Transcripts in Spanish
  • Comprehensible Quotes from I Have a Dream
  • Audio and Video from Dr. King’s Speech

I Have a Dream in Spanish – Lesson Ideas

With all of that in mind, let’s look at some ideas for using the speech with Spanish students. I do think that Spanish class can be a good context for studying I Have a Dream, because it”s familiar to most students.

If you are trying to stay in the target language as much as possible, in-depth and nuanced conversations can be tough, and working with familiar texts can make that a bit easier.

Some ideas for Spanish teachers:

  • Choose some more comprehensible sections of the speech and have students match the English and Spanish versions.
  • Pull several quotes out in Spanish AND use some unrelated quotes not from the speech. After discussing or translating the quotes into English, let students try to guess which ones are from MLK Jr., and which ones are not.
  • You could also choose two quotes from the speech, and two lesser-known MLK Jr. quotes (perhaps pull from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”). Students can guess which are from the speech.
  • Use just one quote or paragraph from the speech, and do a shrinking summary. Students (alone, in groups, or as a class) can highlight what they think is the most important sentence. Then, they can underline which phrase is the most important from that sentence, and finally circle just one word. You could compare what different groups decided on.
  • Adapt lesson plans from Civil Rights Teaching to your students’ proficiency levels. You do have to register, but there are some good resources. The PDF from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Radical Vision is really helpful and will help your students dig deeper beyond the well-known quotes. They may be surprised to learn how unpopular the Civil Rights movement was, and how MLK Jr. was regarded as an extremist at the time.
  • Use this free Spanish printable with elementary students, with activities for writing about the I Have a Dream speech, from Fantastic Teacher
  • Use these bilingual printables for elementary students, including a sheet to compare the before/after impact of MLK Jr.’s life and a “Yo tengo un sueño” sheet for drawing or writing, from Hola Bilinguals.
  • If you work with kids who are advanced Spanish speakers, here is a vocabulary sheet in Spanish for teaching about Dr. King’s speeche.

I HAVE A DREAM speech IN SPANISH Transcripts

The language Martin Luther King Jr. used in this speech is best suited to advanced Spanish students, but you can find a complete transcript of the speech here at El Mundo.

Please keep in mind that this speech obviously uses the term “negro” as a translation when referring to Black people. This may be shocking or upsetting to your students if you don’t provide context first. At the time of writing this post I came across this article explaining the history of the word in different language, and will keep searching for more guidance on how to discuss with students.

It may be more useful to include shorter quotes for novice and intermediate Spanish students. Here are some excerpts that may be more comprehensible for Spanish learners:

Yo tengo un sueño de que un día esta nación se elevará y vivirá el verdadero significado de su credo: ‘Creemos que estas verdades son evidentes: que todos los hombres son creados iguales’.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

No debemos permitir que nuestra protesta creativa degenere en violencia física. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hace cien años, un gran estadounidense, cuya simbólica sombra nos cobija hoy, firmó la Proclama de la emancipación. Este trascendental decreto significó como un gran rayo de luz y de esperanza para millones de esclavos negros, chamuscados en las llamas de una marchita injusticia. Llegó como un precioso amanecer al final de una larga noche de cautiverio. Pero, cien años después, el negro aún no es libre; cien años después, la vida del negro es aún tristemente lacerada por las esposas de la segregación y las cadenas de la discriminación; cien años después, el negro vive en una isla solitaria en medio de un inmenso océano de prosperidad material.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Yo tengo el sueño de que un día en las coloradas colinas de Georgia los hijos de los ex esclavos y los hijos de los ex propietarios de esclavos serán capaces de sentarse juntos en la mesa de la hermandad.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Cuando los arquitectos de nuestra república escribieron las magníficas palabras de la Constitución y la Declaración de Independencia, firmaban una promisoria nota de la que todo estadounidense sería heredero. Esa nota era una promesa de que todos los hombres tendrían garantizados los derechos inalienables de ‘vida, libertad y búsqueda de la felicidad’. Es obvio hoy que Estados Unidos ha fallado en su promesa en lo que respecta a sus ciudadanos de color. En vez de honrar su obligación sagrada, Estados Unidos dio al negro un cheque sin valor que fue devuelto con el sello de ‘fondos insuficientes’. Pero nos rehusamos a creer que el banco de la justicia está quebrado. Nos rehusamos a creer que no hay fondos en los grandes depósitos de oportunidad en esta nación. Por eso hemos venido a cobrar ese cheque, un cheque que nos dará las riquezas de la libertad y la seguridad de la justicia.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sería fatal para la nación pasar por alto la urgencia del momento. Este sofocante verano del legítimo descontento del negro no terminará hasta que venga un otoño revitalizador de libertad e igualdad. 1963 no es un fin, sino un principio. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Yo tengo el sueño de que un día incluso el estado de Mississippi, un estado desierto, sofocado por el calor de la injusticia y la opresión, será transformado en un oasis de libertad y justicia.

Yo tengo el sueño de que mis cuatro hijos pequeños vivirán un día en una nación donde no serán juzgados por el color de su piel sino por el contenido de su carácter. ¡Yo tengo un sueño hoy!

Yo tengo el sueño de que un día, allá en Alabama, con sus racistas despiadados, con un gobernador cuyos labios gotean con las palabras de la interposición y la anulación; un día allí mismo en Alabama, pequeños niños negros y pequeñas niñas negras serán capaces de unir sus manos con pequeños niños blancos y niñas blancas como hermanos y hermanas. ¡Yo tengo un sueño hoy!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Audio and Video I Have a Dream speech in Spanish

You can also see interpretations of the speech in these YouTube videos:

I hope these resources and ideas are helpful for Spanish-speaking educators and parents. You know your students and classrooms best, and I encourage you to dig a little deeper into the Civil Rights Movements and the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whether or not you decide to use this particular speech.

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Hey! I’m Elisabeth, a teacher and mom raising two bilingual kids in the Peruvian jungle. Read our story here. I love digging up the best Spanish resources for all you busy parents and teachers!

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