Tag Archives: study Spanish

Gender in Spanish language

In English, it is quite simple: the concept of gender in terms of nouns does not exist. A noun does not have a masculine or feminine designation. On the other hand, in Spanish, nouns do have genders, which often determines the spelling of other words in the sentence, such as articles, and adjectives.

Let’s take for example the definite article in relation with the gender of nouns in Spanish. In English, we use the word “the” as a definite article and its main role is to indicate a specific person or thing. In Spanish, however, there are 4 definite articles which translate into the word “the”.

We have the following:

            Singular     Plural

Masculine    el            los

Feminine     la           las

 Below are some examples in order for you to get an idea of the definite article and when we use it.

  1. El perro está durmiendo. ( = The dog is sleeping.)
  2. Los chicos juegan en el parque. (= The boys play in the park.)
  3. No he visto la nueva película. (= I have not seen the new movie.)
  4. He perdido las llaves de mi casa. (= I have lost the keys to my house.)

So, here comes another question. When do we use the definite article in the Spanish language? Below are some of the most frequent cases.

  1. With nouns that have either a general or an abstract sense:

Example: No me acuerdo mucho de mi infancia. (= I do not remember much about my childhood.)

  1. With nouns in a specific sense:

Example: La madre de Juan no le deja salir. (= Juan’s mother does not let him go out.)

  1. With names of languages

Example: No me gusta el francés. (= I do not like French.)

Exception: when the name of a language is situated after the verb hablar or after the prepositions de and en.

Examples: Ella no habla chino. (= She does not speak Chinese.)

    Me ha hablado de su nuevo profesor de inglés. (= Se has spoken to me about her new English teacher.)

   Ana le ha escrito una carta en alemán a su amiga. (= Ana has written a letter in German to her friend.)

  1. With last names

Example: Los Alonso no han venido a la reunión. (= The Alonsos have not come to the reunion.)

  1. With days of the week

Example: El lunes no va a ir al gimnasio. (= On Monday she is not going to go to the gym.)

  1. With dates

Example: Su aniversario es el cinco de julio. (= Their anniversary is the 5th of July.)

  1. With the hour of the day and other time expressions

Examples: Son las cinco y media. (= It is five thirty.)

No le deja salir por la noche. (= He is not allowed to go out at night.)

This is more or less what you have to know about the gender in Spanish in relation with the definite article. For other grammar issues, do not hesitate to look around this site. You might be amazed about what you will find.

If you want to practice your Spanish conversation or take Spanish classes online, do not hesitate to write me. I may be able to help you because I also teach Spanish to foreign speakers.

Will in Spanish: how to do future tenses in Spanish

Do you want to know how to use will in Spanish? Whether you are making plans for the weekend, for a party, for visiting a museum, or simply planning your vacation for next year, you have to use the future. Even something as simple as the icebreaker: Do you think that it is going to rain tomorrow? (¿crees qué lloverá mañana?), implies using the future. This is why, it is really important to know how to use the different ways of expressing the future. Let´s start.

Ir a + Infinitive

For probably any speaker, the easiest way to express the future in Spanish is by using the construction: ir a+ infinitive. Let´s take a look below in order to see how we use it.

Ir a (going to) in present is conjugated as follows:

  • Yo voy a
  • Tú vas a
  • Él- Ella- Usted va a
  • Nosotros vamos a
  • Vosotros vais a
  • Ellos- Ellas- Ustedes van a

Now, let´s make some sentences for each person:

Examples:

  • Yo voy a ir a la playa la este fin de semana. (I am going to go to the beach this weekend)
  • Tú vas a salir con tus amigos después de acabar el trabajo. (You are going to go out with your friends after you finish work)
  • Él va a aprender a nadar este verano. (He is going to learn how to swim this summer)
  • Nosotros vamos a comprarnos algo para comer esta noche. (We are going to buy something to eat for tonight)
  • Vosotros vais a visitar el nuevo museo de bellas artes. (You are going to visit the museum of fine arts)
  • Ellas van a comer un plato típico peruano. (They are going to eat a typical Peruvian dish.)

Notice that I am writing the subject so you see it, but it is not needed.

It is important to note that the expression ir a+ infinitive is usually used to express near future, for periods that have not yet ended like this week, today, in a couple of hours.

Voy a ir a la piscina esta semana.

The present with future meaning

Sometimes, you do not have to learn something new in order to express the future. It might be even easier than you think. The present can be used to express the future when the subject thinks that the future action will happen for sure. Let´s take a look at some examples.

Examples: La cita es el lunes. (The date is on Monday)

  • Miguel vuelve mañana del viaje. (Tomorrow, Miguel comes back from his trip.)

The future tense

Finally, it is time to learn the future tense. It is the most complicated option out of the three ways to express the future. However, all three verb types (-AR.-ER, -IR) use the same conjugations.

The future is formed from Verb (infinitive case) + the following:

-ás

-emos

-éis

-án

Let´s take three verbs and conjugate them:

Cantar

Yo cantaré

Tú cantarás

Él cantará

Nosotros cantaremos

Vosotros cantaréis

Ellos cantarán

Comer

Yo comeré

Tú comerás

Él comerá

Nosotros comeremos

Vosotros comeréis

Ellos comerán

Ir

Yo iré

Tú irás

Él irá

Nosotros iremos

Vosotros iréis

Ellos irán

Now that you know these three ways of expressing the future, it is time to start making plans. Do keep in mind that the future tense also has some exceptions, but that is a future lesson to be discussed. Wanna practice your Spanish?

Qué, cuál and other variations

Spanish might not be the hardest language in the world, yet it has many confusing words. Well, to be honest, the words themselves are not that confusing, but they can often be used incorrectly. Why? Take for example, “qué” and “cuál”, the words that I will talk about in this post. When translated into English, both words mean “what”. So, how can we avoid these confusions? Read on and you will definitely find out how to use qué in Spanish.

Before we talk about what each word means and how it can be used, it is important to mention that both “qué” and “cuál” can be found in two forms. The first form is with a graphic accent and they are used as interrogative words in questions. When they are written with no accent (“que”, “cual”), the two are used as linking words (relative pronouns).

Let’s start out with an easy tip. Even though this might not always work, you can start out by asking yourself whether you want to say “what” or “which”. Usually, the word “qué” is closer in meaning to the word “what”, while “cuál” can be translated as “which”.

When asking questions, if you want to ask for an explanation, like for example “what is that?”, you will use the word “qué”. If however, you want to ask for a certain object/ person from a group, you use the word “cuál”. For example, if you want to ask about someone’s favorite book: “¿Cuál es tu libro preferido?”.

One main difference between the two words is the fact that cuál usually suggests a choice, selecting something from a group. For example, you can say “¿Cuál te gusta ?” if you want to say “which one do you like?”, meanwhile asking “¿Qué te gusta?” means “What do you like?” and it is used for more general aspects.

A final difference between “qué” and “cuál” is the fact that “qué” is used before nouns, meanwhile the word “cuál” is used before the verb ser (to be). For example: you can say: “¿Qué color te gusta más?” ( What color do you like the most?) or you can say: “¿ Cuál es tu color preferido?” (What is your favorite color).

Even though trying not to mix up these two words might not be easy in at first, in time, they will come more naturally. I would also suggest learning the main differences between ser, estar, and haber, other commonly confused words.

 

Positioning and shortening adjectives in Spanish

In Spanish, adjectives can be either placed before or after the noun that they are describing. It is mostly common for an adjective to be placed after the noun. However, the placement usually depends on a number of factors:

  • The type of adjective
  • The connotation that wants to be conveyed
  • The emphasis.

In some cases, when there are more adjectives describing a noun, and for this reason, there way that we place them depends on the type of adjectives that we use. Possessive adjectives, along with demonstrative adjectives, and adjectives that describe the quantity, are usually placed before the noun, while descriptive adjectives are placed after the noun.

Adjectives that are placed after the noun

In Spanish, the majority of descriptive adjectives are usually placed after the noun that they describe. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Una casa azul (= a blue house)
  • Dos perros feos (= two ugly dogs)
  • Algunas historias especiales (= some special stories).

Adjectives that are placed before the noun

In this category we have adjectives that are used to impose limits, such as: numbers, adjectives of quantity, possessive adjectives, and demonstrative adjectives. In the examples from below, you can see that the possessive adjective su (= his) and the number una (= one) are placed before the noun:

  • Su amiga peruana (= his Peruvian friend)
  • Una manzana roja (= a red apple)

The same happens with descriptive adjectives that are used for describing an inherent characteristic or that are used to emphasize a quality:

  • Tenemos buenos recuerdos de las vacaciones (= We have good memories of the holidays).

Now let’s take a look at how some adjectives are shortened in a couple of situations. These adjectives drop the last –o when placed before a masculine, singular noun. In addition, the words alguno and ninguno, when dropping the final –o, they receive an accent on the u.

  • Uno (one) – un libro (= a book)
  • Bueno (good) – un buen vino (= a good wine)
  • Malo (bad) – un mal hijo (= a bad son)
  • Primero (first) – el primer paso (= the first step)
  • Tercero (third) – el tercer viaje (= the third trip)
  • Alguno (some)- algún momento (= some moment)
  • Ninguno (no) – ningún hombre (= no man)

When you have a preposition between the adjective and the noun, the original form of the adjective is used instead of dropping the –o.

  • Uno de tus amigos (=one of your friends).

Grande becomes gran ( great, important) when placed in front of singular masculine or feminine noun:

  • un gran maestro (= a great master)
  • una gran mujer (= a great woman).

However, it remaind grande when placed after a noun:

  • un hombre grande (= a big man)
  • una casa grande (= a big house).

This is the information that you need to know about shortening and positioning adjectives in Spanish. If you need help with Spanish else, do not hesitate to contact me.

The different meanings of the verb gustar in Spanish

Gustar is a special verb in Spanish and you have to be careful with it because as opposed to English, when you say I like this, in Spanish you say that it is pleasing to you. This basically means that in Spanish, these sentences look a bit weird for English speakers, because verbs such as gustar need an indirect object pronoun in order to function. If you are a bit confused, I guess it is better for us to start out with an example. Below is the same sentence in English and Spanish.

English: I like chocolate

Spanish: Me gusta el chocolate (= Chocolate is pleasing to me)

There are some other verbs that act the same as gustar:

  • Disgustar- to upset, displease
  • Faltar -to lack, need
  • Fascinar- to fascinate
  • Importar- to be important
  • Interesar- to interest
  • Parecer- to seem
  • Quedar- to remain to someone, have left

Now, lets take a look at the verb gustar and use it to form a few sentences, just to see how it acts for every person.

  • Me gusta bailar, – I like to dance
  • Te gusta cantar. – You like to sing
  • Le gusta dormir. – He/ She likes to sleep.
  • Nos gusta correr. – We like to run
  • Os gusta comer chocolate.- You like to eat chocolate.
  • Les gusta leer libros. – They like to read books.

Now, lets see how the verb acts when we like more than one thing.

  • Me gustan las flores y las plantas.- I like flowers and plants
  • Te gustan los viajes con tu familia.- You like the trips with your family.
  • Le gustan los juegos de mesa. – He / She likes board games.

Now, if there is more than one verb after gustar, the verb gustar stays the same. Here are some examples:

  • Me gusta cantar y bailar. – I like to sing and dance
  • Nos gusta dormir y comer.- We like to sleep and eat.
  • Te gusta nadar y hacer yoga.- You like to swim and do yoga.

Besides this peculiarity of the verb gustar, it also has some other meanings besides to like. Here are some of them:

  1. feel and perceive the taste of things, as in: Gustar el vino

In this example, liking is very close to the sense of taste, can be replaced by the verb savor. So, to paraphrase this phrase, we can say “saboreó el vino”

  1. experiment, in the sense of trying. To support this definition, see the example:

Algunos poetas gustaron el género épico.

In this example, changing to like with to experiment, we would have: “Some poets experienced the epic genre”

The verb gustar is a bit strange. Kind of when we like something. However, I hope that after you have read this post, things are a bit clearer for you. If you want to learn about how to express feelings, you should also check out my other posts, they should be useful. Also, since Valentine’s Day is coming soon, try to impress your loved one with some romantic Spanish phrases.

Key differences in Grammar between English and Spanish

Due to the fact that both Spanish and English have Indo-European origins, they have some common vocabulary. In addition, the structure of Spanish language is not so complicated to understand if you know English. For example, these two languages use the parts of speech in the same way. Moreover, the prepositions in both languages are placed before an object. However, besides these similarities, the two languages are not identical and have some key differences in terms of grammar. Read on to find out more.

  1. Placement of adjectives

In English, adjectives are usually positioned before the noun that they are describing. However, in Spanish, they are normally placed after the noun which they determine. For example, we say “a happy dog”, which translates into “un perro feliz”.

There is however, a possibility to place the adjective in Spanish before the noun that it describes, but it will totally change its meaning. For example “an old factory” is translated into “una fábrica antigua”. If however, we decide to say “una antigua fábrica”, then we actually mean that the place used to be a factory, but it is now something else.

  1. The verb to be

In English, we only have one verb “to be”, which in Spanish, can be translated in three different ways: “ser” ,‘ëstar” or “haber”. Just to sum up, the verb “ser” is used for permanent characteristics, for names, for future events. The verb “estar” is used  to express the location of known subjects, temporary characteristics, such as the emotional state. The verb “haber” is used to express the location of an unknown subject.

Even though it might be hard to understand the differences between these three verbs that mean “to be”, you should not panic. The explanation was an oversimplified version of this post, that will most definitely help you in the future.

  1. Need for subject

In English, you can’t form a sentence without stating the subject, because it simply does not make sense. However, in Spanish this is possible due to the fact that each pronoun has a corresponding conjugation. So, do not worry if you decide to skip the subject or if you omit it by mistake, just make sure that you are writing in Spanish and not in English, because otherwise you might just have a problem.

It is true that there are many more differences between Spanish and English, as they are not identical languages. Do not worry, however, because you will learn them in time. It is normal for these two languages not to be identical. What is even more important when learning a language is to try to speak regardless of whether you are making mistakes. It is normal to do so at first.

3 Do’s and don’ts of learning Spanish

Do's and don'ts of learning Spanish
flickr photo by quinnanya shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Learning a new language does not come easy to many people. Some parts are easier to understand for some people, while others find them hard. For example, there are people who find vocabulary easy to learn, while for other people grammar is key. However, the sad part is that we kind of need both grammar and vocabulary to learn Spanish. Well, do not panic as this post is going to help you with some tips and tricks to make your life easier and who knows, maybe you will end up speaking Spanish in no time.

Do’s:

What should you actually do while learning Spanish?

  • Repeat new words

It is said that you have to stumble upon a word for a number of 80 times in order for it to remain locked in your mind forever. What can you do about it? Listen to eat, repeat it out loud, and even write it down.

  • Put words in context

Learning a new word might be hard. However, putting it in a context will ease your way. You can listen to some songs and the words will come easier in your mind. You can also try to make sentences with the new words in order to remember them better.

  • Try to think in Spanish

Thinking in Spanish is one step forward towards learning the language. Writing your sentences directly in Spanish without translating them is essential and you are less prone to making mistakes.

Don’ts:

  • Skip learning some words

I am 100% sure that you have at least once in your lifetime found a word that you were like: oh, when will I use it? Three years later, you are stuck in a gas station not knowing how to say that you have a flat tire. Learn words when you stumble upon them. You will later thank yourself.

  • Translate sentences

You should not think about full sentences in your own language and then try to translate them. You will end up frustrated and your text might not sound as good as you have imagined it.

  • Skip writing accent marks

Accent marks are a key aspect of the Spanish language. They can change the whole meaning of a sentence. It is important to learn how and when to put them. In addition, you should always try to write them. This way you will get used to it and your Spanish skills will definitely improve.

Learning Spanish might not come so easy, but in the end it is totally worth it. Whether you are planning on visiting Spain or Latin America, or simply want to read your favorite authors in their original language, it is always good to know how to speak it. Do not worry if your Spanish is not yet perfect, the good thing is that there is always room and time for improvement. Also, if you are not sure about whether your text has errors or not, you can always hire a proofreader.

Tips for Spanish essay writing

Whether you are currently learning Spanish or already have good Spanish language skills, there is always room for improvement. You might understand it when it is spoken, you might be able to perfectly understand a text in Spanish, but how good are your Spanish essay writing skills?

Writing in a foreign language is usually hard. I mean learning to write in your own language is hard as well. Just think about it. When you were little, you first learned to talk, then to read, and finally, you learned how to write. As you can see, writing is the hardest thing to do. So, regardless of if you are writing an essay in Spanish as a Spanish native, or as a Spanish learner, below are a few tips for Spanish essay writing that will improve your skills.

  1. Use words that you know

 

Writing in a new language does not mean opening the dictionary every couple of minutes just to use fancy words and sound smart. It also does not mean that you should not open a dictionary when you do not know a word. What I meant to say is that you should mostly rely on the words that you already know. Why? Because in writing you are also applying your grammar skills and trying to perfect them. In addition, using words that you do not really know might result in a disaster as the words might have many different meanings that you are unaware of. Better stay safe than sorry.

  1. Think in Spanish

Thinking in Spanish will make it easier for you to write sentences correctly. Trying to compose a text in your mind and later translate it in Spanish will only create confusion and frustration. Some expressions are hard to be translated. Other times, writing a text in Spanish as complex as the one that you are thinking about might not be possible. Why? Maybe because your Spanish skills are not that developed and you might end up disappointing yourself.

  1. Take accent marks seriously

As mentioned in a previous post, accent marks play a key role in the Spanish language. They can make or break a sentence and they can change the whole meaning of a word. It might take a bit of time to master accent marks, but in the end, I guarantee you that they are worth the effort. Accent marks contribute to the correctness of your text and show that you have the necessary skills.

If all of this seems like a lot of effort, do not panic. There are still some things that you can do. For example you can hire an essay writer to do the work for you and this way you will have a correctly written text in no time. If however you want to write the text yourself, but also want it to be correctly written, there is also an option. You can hire a proofreader to make sure that your Spanish essay has no errors in it.

Conditional in Spanish language

Si clauses, which are the equivalent of if clauses in English, are quite hard for most people who are trying to learn Spanish. One of the main reasons why it is not so easy to learn them is because of the beloved “subjuntivo”. However, there is no need to panic, because this article has got you covered. Arm yourself with a pen or a pencil, a notebook or a piece of paper, and let’s get started.

  • Si + present indicative=?

When we use this structure, the actions that we are talking about are possible. The condition has a high chance of being fulfilled. In addition, it is important to know that the two parts of the sentence “si clause” and the result clause, can be interchanged in terms of which comes first, without changing the meaning of it.

If in the “si clause” we have present indicative, then in the result clause, we have three options:

  1. Present indicative

Example: Si nos vemos hoy, te doy el libro. (= If we see each other today, I give you the book).

2. Future

Example: Si tengo dinero, viajaré a Paris. (= If I have the money, I will travel to Paris)

3. Imperative

Example: Si me desmayo, dame agua. (= If I faint, give me water).

  • Si + imperfect subjunctive =?

When we use this structure, we think about a hypothetical situation, which is impossible to happen. If in the “si clause” we use the imperfect subjunctive, then in the result clause, we will use the conditional. Write this down: we never ever use the conditional after si. Contrary to all expectations, si is never found near the conditional.

Example: Si pudiera volar, viajaría por todo el mundo. (= If I could fly, I would travel the world).

  • Si + pluperfect subjunctive

 When we use this structure, we talk about the opposite of what happened. It refers to a hypothetical situation, in which things would have turned out totally different. We have three options for this situation:

  1. Past conditional

Example: Si hubiera ganando la apuesta, habría ido al concierto. (= If I had won the bet, I would have gone to the concert).

2. Simple conditional

We use this structure when the result clause is still valid in the present.

Example: Si hubiera aprendido hablar inglés, entendería mejor las películas americanas. (= If I had learned to speak English, I could understand American movies better).

3. Pluperfect subjunctive

We use this structure mostly in the spoken language.

Example: Si hubiera tenido un hermano, no me hubiera aburrido tanto. (= If I had had a brother, I wouldn’t have gotten so bored).

You see? Si condicional clauses, are not that hard after all. Apply three magical formulas and you have learned your lesson. Try it, it is fail proof. Your Spanish will improve in no time, and if you learn these magic formulas, then you will have demystified the Spanish language. Spanish grammar, is easy if you find some simple tricks. Go ahead, test them out.

How Humans Learn Language – Can Adults Become Bilingual?

The simple answer to that question would be yes, of course they can! However, it’s slightly more difficult for an adult to learn a second language than it is for a child, and that’s because of the way the human brain works.

Linguists have suggested that humans have a ‘Critical Period’ in the early stages of their life, in which they are more open to environmental stimuli. In terms of language, the critical period spans from birth to around seven years old: in this phase of life, the brain is more easily moulded, and that is why children learn so fast. Because of this, children can learn two languages, from birth and never really confuse the two.

Past the age of seven, however, humans lose the ability to learn in the same way. Adults can still learn a new language, it just takes a little more work. There are many theories about the way children learn their first language, and we can actually apply these theories and techniques to ourselves when learning a second language.

First is the behaviourist approach. This idea states that children acquire new language by copying the adults around them. In the case of the adult learner, it is important to be around native speakers of the language, and to be in contact with native forms of the language. Let’s take Spanish, for example, watching TV shows in your target language or finding an online chat forum with native speakers will help you to progress and improve your Spanish vocabulary, as you can listen to how the language and the Spanish words are used and imitate certain sentence formations or phrases –particularly useful when learning idioms and metaphors. Language learning via immersion (i.e. moving to a country that speaks it) is one of the quickest ways to learn a language, albeit one of the scariest.

Similarly, other linguists have suggested that children need contact with a “more knowledgeable other,” i.e. somebody who is above the level of speaking you are at who can help to push you into the next phase of learning. A teacher is best here, but any contact with native speakers is good practice.

Studies have shown that grammatical development is something that takes place through usage of the language and making mistakes along the way. For children, grammar is an extremely hard concept to grasp, and for this reason, science has proven that adults can out-perform children at learning language when it comes to this area. Short-term, adults can pick up grammar much quicker, because we have a basic understanding of it in our own language, and can adapt that knowledge to apply to something new. So, adults aren’t completely disadvantaged when it comes to learning a second language! In fact, the only area where adults are more hindered is pronunciation, because certain languages have sounds that we don’t possess in our own.

To fully answer the title question, adults can most definitely become fluently bilingual. All it takes is a willingness to put in effort, and enough nerve to talk to other speakers. Be confident! We might not have a child-like neuroplasticity, but don’t let that put you off. It’s never too late to start learning.