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3 Things You Will Struggle With While Learning and writing Spanish

the most difficult aspects of Spanish learning
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Each language has its tricky points, and Spanish isn’t the exception. While the easy spelling and fairly straightforward pronunciation are great, you will come across some struggles that take some time to overcome when you’re learning how to speak Spanish and also when you are writing in Spanish. Among the most difficult points are:

Ser and Estar: These are two verbs that make up one in English: to be. Ser is used for permanent situations of “to be.” Estar is used for temporary situations of “to be.” It takes a while to sort out when to use each one, because in English you never make that choice. As they say, practice makes perfect, and taking the time to study the lists of examples of when to use each one eventually pays off. Lots of fill in the blank exercises are useful as well because they force you to choose between the two options, giving you the chance to practice and memorize those lists you studied. Here you have a longer explanation about SER and ESTAR.

The subjunctive: Another part of Spanish that doesn’t really quite exist in English, or at least is rarely used, is the subjunctive. It’s difficult for those who want to learn to speak Spanish to use the subjunctive correctly. Even advanced students struggle with it. The subjunctive tense, sometimes described as a mood, is used when uncertainty is expressed. For example, “I doubt he’ll go” in Spanish would use the subjunctive “vaya”, making the sentence “Dudo que vaya” rather than the indicative and incorrectly stated “Dudo que va.” To further complicate the subjunctive, it can be used with all verb tenses and also in adverbial clauses, adjectival clauses, to make requests and in various other instances. When asking native speakers how they know when to use the subjunctive, you’ll likely hear a very unhelpful answer: “it just sounds right.” Well, that just means you’ve got a lot of listening and speaking practice to do.

All those tricky phrases and expressions: Once you’ve got down the basics of Spanish, you’ll start to realize that there are many fluffy, formal phrases used for certain situations and topics. While English tends to be very direct and to the point, Spanish tends to be more flowery and nuanced. There are certain phrases that if translated literally don’t seem to make much sense, but are used in certain situations. For example, to thank someone for an email or letter, it’s normal to write “Tengo el gusto de acusar recibo de su carta” (I am happy to acknowledge receipt of your letter). At a funeral or when someone has died, you should say “Mi más sentido pésame” which is the equivalent of “I’m sorry for your loss”. These are the sorts of phrases you wouldn’t come up with on your own even if you have a fairly large vocabulary. Then of course, there are many more idiomatic expressions and slang that you’ll encounter and once you start interacting regularly in Spanish you’ll have to learn them. You’ll have to work hard to keep up with conversations between native speakers and ask when you don’t understand. Get started by learning some of these expressions.

Three Spanish Phrases That Don’t Translate Easily

Cultural differences make it easy for idioms to be easily lost in translation. If you’ve never heard a phrase you didn’t understand in the middle of a Spanish conversation, and you’re a Spanish language learner, then it really shouldn’t be long till you’ll have the chance to feel a bit puzzled. You’ll wonder how it is that a culture can put what seems like the simplest of words into the silliest of contexts. Once you get a chance to digest their meaning, however, you’ll probably want to use them in your regular Spanish conversations whenever you get the chance. And the fact is, there are many common Spanish phrases that don’t translate well into English – you’ll have some fun just becoming acquainted with them. Here are three to get you started.

  1. ¡Aguas! (This is not very common in Spain, but it is in some places in Latin America.)
spanish expressions you may find in a conversation
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One of these days you may be walking somewhere, or carrying a little too many things, and all of a sudden you’ll hear someone in Spanish saying ¡aguas con eso! (waters with that!). You might halt your steps and look around, wondering what in the world that Spanish speaker is talking about. But if you just stop to take a good look at your immediate situation, you’ll actually be doing exactly what you need to do. ¡Aguas! is a warning that there is an accident waiting to happen or that there is something that needs to be avoided. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are waters gushing out at you, about to knock you over, but it is a phrase that would be appropriately used in situations that have any semblance to a startling moment (such as right before someone is about to step into an unseen puddle!). Another way to imagine this phrase is to think of someone who is about to throw out a bucket of bath water – you would surely want to get out of the way! If someone uses this phrase with you, be quick to react and set things straight for yourself.

  1. ¡Por si las moscas!

Aside from ¡aguas!, though, another good phrase for anticipating accidents is ¡por si las moscas! (for in the case of flies!). If you hear those words, you might ask, “Flies? What flies?” The thing is, the phrase isn’t just about flies. The word illustrates the emotional context for a what-if that can catch you off-guard. It can be irritating to all of a sudden deal with a bunch of flies and not have the appropriate tools to shoo them away (or whatnot), so this phrase is best used when doing things that help avoid being unprepared. It is like saying, “Just in case!” It may also act as the equivalent of “knock on wood,” especially if the speaker accompanies it by making the sign of the cross.

  1. ¡No te hagas bolas!

As with the last phrase (which addresses the what-ifs), there are other phrases that deal with anticipation. One in particular tries to redirect the thinking of the person being addressed. If you hear ¡no te hagas bolas! (don’t make yourself balls), you might ask how anyone could make themselves into balls. In Spanish, someone would explain that this means to not revolve (mix-up) your mind. It is a way of saying that you shouldn’t get yourself caught up thinking about something in a useless manner. In other words, don’t confuse yourself! Ways to make yourself into balls would include having unreasonable expectations and assumptions, or getting your hopes up about something that is not going to materialize. It is like saying “don’t complicate things!” or “don’t fool yourself!”

Hopefully these three phrases spark your interest into learning the creative ways in which Spanish can be used to express oneself. By learning common Spanish phrases that don’t translate as easily as others, you can immerse yourself more fully within a Spanish conversation and even enjoy a knowing smile with a fluent speaker. No te hagas bolas if you don’t get a phrase right away. Have fun while you learn and enjoy those little confusing moments that help you get that much closer to your fluency goal.

Finding the Words in your Non-native Tongue

Individuals learning to write in Spanish may be surprised to find that the language does not translate directly to their native tongue. This is because languages have different sentence structures, phonetic features, and word connotations. Although the native language serves as an excellent source of support, learners of Spanish must remember that trying to translate directly from English may result in frustration due to differences between the languages, including the availability of equivalent word choices.

Since there are words in English that do not exist in Spanish (and the opposite is true as well), the language learner must learn to navigate around ideas much differently than he or she is used to navigating in the native language. This is one of the areas of second language speaking that warrants the need to avoid direct translation. Specifically, many cultural terms, such as slang words or idiomatic expressions, will not translate to any other language. Furthermore, even when there are direct translations from English to Spanish, there may be differences between the nuances of the translations (meaning that the word in one language may have a ‘stronger’ or more severe meaning in the other language).

While there are some English words that do not translate into Spanish, there are also Spanish words that do not exist in English, some of which could be incredibly useful to the English language! Many of these words are actually verb forms that help the speaker communicate particular actions. For example, the verb ‘trasnochar’ means ‘to stay up late.’ While English speakers are able to describe this action, there is not a one-word translation that can be used to refer to the same concept in English. This is an excellent example of how a concept can exist in two language but not have a linguistic equivalent.

It is important to remember that one language is not superior to another based off of its availability of word choices. Language changes over time, with new words being added by different generations of speakers. The best advice for English speakers learning Spanish is to immerse themselves in the language and culture. Since language is cultural by nature, learners are more likely to acquire the nuances of words in the second language if they are immersed in a culture that speaks that language. This type of learning is definitely a process, so it is important to be patient and maintain a heightened level of awareness when trying to acquire a language.

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If you are looking for Spanish lessons by Skype do not hesitate in contact me for free and tell me what is your level and schedule availability. I will answer you back with my prices and an offer to do a test, so you can check if you like the class.

Having classes by Skype hace the advantage to speak with a native speaker without leaving your home. If you don’t have time to go class, or you just want a class focused in yourself instead of a group class, these classes are a great opportunity.

Learn how to use SER and ESTAR in Spanish

When I have a beginner student in my Spanish class on Skype, I usually start with SER and ESTAR verbs. It is true that this can be a little tricky for a beginner, but if you catch it from the very first moment, you won’t be struggling with it for the rest of your life.

If you want to speak a second language properly, you need to start to think in that language and to do so, you need to understand how people think in that language. So let’s look at something about SER.

Ser is used to express the unchanging characteristics of a person, place or thing.

Whereas estar is used to describe changing aspects of a person, place or thing.

For instance, when you introduce yourself in Spanish, you say

Hola soy (Nombre), estoy encantada de conocerte

So you use SER for your name because that is a permanent characteristic of you and you use ESTAR to say pleased to meet you because you are pleased right now, but your mood could easily change. This use of ser can be thought as identification.

We also use SER for possessions, because ownership is an important description of a thing. For example:

Esa es mi casa

Well, now the economy says that a house’s owner may change frequently, but the language developed many years ago, when the market wasn’t important. For a thing, its owner is an essential characteristic.

We use ser for the time, the date and for events. This is because the time, the date and the event happens in a moment and don’t change until the moment itself has changed.

Hoy es jueves

And it is impossible for Thursday to be another day. However if you put a persona as the subject, then you could use estar.

Estamos a jueves

An informal way to say the day, but the important thing is that in this statement we are on Thursday and we can change to Friday so, estar is required.

And of course we use ser for definitions because a definition explains the essence of a concept.

Do you want to learn more? Try my Spanish lessons by Skype.

Navigating Different Spanish Accents

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When you are looking for a text in Spanish, you have to take into consideration the specific location of your target audience. But, if you find someone from a different country, whose work is great, you can take the decision to hire them, because in written Spanish, the truth is that all accents are 100% understable to all natives, not matter the origin of both writer and reader.

However, when you are thinking about to take Spanish classes, it could be idfferent. Depending on where you grew up and the individuals you were surrounded by as a young child, your accent will develop to fit the dialect of those around you. While each individual has a slightly different accent, there are certain language features used to categorize larger linguistic trends. These are usually regional. For instance, a child who grows up in England will likely have a different English accent when compared to a child who grows up in the United States. In most cases, people who speak different dialects of the same language are able to understand each other, though there may be confusion where there are differences in word choice.

Differences in dialect can become more challenging for individuals learning a second language. Depending on your interest and the location in which you are learning Spanish, you may notice differences between the Spanish you hear around you and the Spanish you have seen in certain movies or heard on the radio. It is important to be aware of the differences among the varieties of Spanish to ensure you are communicating in a way that is easy for others around you to understand.

One of the major divides in Spanish dialects is Latin American Spanish and Spaniard Spanish. Both are mutually comprehensible to native speakers, but it may be difficult for a non-native speaker to understand a Spanish dialect he or she is unfamiliar with. This can be particularly challenging when there are differences in pronunciation. For example, some dialects of Spanish will drop the ‘s’ in words like ‘está,’ while others overtly pronounce it. Additionally, there are differences in word choices, such as the use of ‘vosotros’ verb forms in Spain and the use of ‘nosotros’ verb forms in Latin America, which could be confusing to the Spanish language learner.

Similarly to the varieties of English within the United States, there are also varieties of Spanish within continental and regional divides. In Argentina, the ‘j’ is often pronounced like the ‘ch’ sound in English. This phenomenon is not found in most other Latin American Spanish dialects. Therefore, it is important to choose the regional dialect you are interested in acquiring as you begin your journey of learning Spanish. Once you become more proficient in the language, it will be easier for you to understand the dialects of different varieties of Spanish, similarly to how you can understand different accents in English.

Using the Real Academia Española to Learn Spanish

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There are many free resources available to native English speakers who are interested in learning Spanish. The website of the Real Academia Española is a particularly useful page because it contains a plethora of resources that are accurate and helpful to the student of Spanish. In addition to its numerous dictionaries (including a dictionary just for practical, basic communicative skills), this website offers grammar guides, news articles, and an FAQ section on common Spanish language questions, among other resources.

In particular, one of the benefits of using this website is that the learner is exposed to Spanish within realistic contexts. This is practical on multiple levels. It is important for second language learners to be exposed to a variety of language structures so that they will learn the appropriate usage of words, phrases, and expressions. The website of the Real Academia Española includes links to a variety of recent news articles and blogs. Since news articles are generally written on a lower level than academic articles, this resource is useful for students who have not yet reached the proficiency level needed to read more difficult pieces.

Additionally, the website of the Real Academia Española includes information about different textbooks on Spanish writing, grammar, and history. This is an excellent resource for students who are searching for an appropriate text to use for Spanish study. The website includes information about the contents of the texts, the date of publication, and additional information that is relevant when considering a textbook to purchase.

A third benefit of using the Real Academia Espańola is the very thorough section on frequently asked questions about the Spanish language. These questions are categorized into writing questions, grammar questions, and word-level questions. Each question includes an accurate, yet concise explanation to common questions of second language learner. It is an excellent reference for the new learner as well as the seasoned student.

Spanish students who are interested in increasing their proficiency should consider browsing the Real Academia Española to practice their skills within the context of real Spanish writing. The website is easy to navigate, even for those who are somewhat new to the language. Using this website as a resource can really help you to further yourself on your language learning journey and lead you to other useful resources.