Honing Your Spanish Language Skills with the BDMR

This mini-article is aimed at those DXers of any level of experience who wish to improve their understanding of the Spanish language in order to recognise and transcribe station identification announcements.

During the summer months many Latin American stations are audible on the Clashmore KiwiSDR (aka the Barry Davies Memorial Receive – BDMR).  In the latest MWN Steve alluded to the fact that the BDMR is a great learning tool – referring in particular to learning about an SDR and understanding propagation better.  However, it also provides the opportunity to listen to the more commonly heard stations with much less interference, which can help improve your skills in understanding identification announcements in South American  Spanish and Portuguese.  Portuguese is spoken in Brazil of course, with Spanish spoken in most of the rest of South and Central America.  Portuñol/Portunhol is a blended mix of Spanish and Portuguese found in the border areas such as southern Brazil and northern Argentina/Uruguay.

As your skills develop you’ll be able to differentiate between accents spoken in different parts of South America, and begin to recognise more and more detail in adverts and programme content.  This can enhance your confidence that you’ve identified the station correctly because of corroborative content.  Not only that, but a very satisfying aspect of the hobby is understanding the culture of different countries – much more so than simultaneously listening to a web parallel with little understanding of what’s being said.

If you’re new to languages, South American Spanish is much easier to understand than Portuguese, so start there and move onto Portuguese later.  The Spanish spoken in Venezuela and Colombia is usually articulated very clearly, that from Argentina and Uruguay is also fairly easy to understand though different from that heard from Venezuela and Colombia; from other countries the Spanish may be less easy.

Listen for key words to begin with – “radio” (often followed by the station name), “kiloHertz” “AM” and “FM” do stand out, as do numbers (look them up in a dictionary or online, where you can hear them spoken) – frequencies usually appear as numbers in the format 1,510 kHz, 15-10 kHz, or mil-5-10; telephone numbers are usually spoken after the word “teléfono” in groups of two numbers.  Phone numbers can be often be used to home in on the location of the station.

Don’t forget to keep the recorder running while you’re listening – often ID announcements can only be understood and transcribed by replaying them over and over again, and recordings will enable you to provide a more detailed contribution to DX Loggings.  Should you be lucky enough to hear a station not logged before in the UK, a recording can also be submitted to the peer group review to gain acceptance as a UK First and be added to the UK All Time Lists. 

Good luck!

73, Martin GM8IEM

Clashmore, Scotland – IO78HF.  Perseus SDR with Jaguar Pro, RPA-1 preamp, beverage: 500m at 236° (South America), terminated.


  1. Read the current MWN to find out how to access the BDMR. If not a member please subscribe now!
  2. Some users of the KiwiSDR may have noted broadband interference occurring in 15 second bursts when I’m operating using the digital FT8 mode under my amateur call-sign GM8IEM on some HF ham bands.  I try to avoid transmitting while members are listening on the KiwiSDR by monitoring activity, though sometimes forget.