Tag Archives: spanish

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.

Proofread a Spanish text: written accents (II)

Time ago we talked about written accents in Spanish in order to proofread a Spanish text. Today we will look to written accents when two vowels go together.

In Spanish we have two kind of vowels:

  1. Strong vowels are “a”, “e” and “o”.
  2. Weak vowels are “i” and “u”.

When a strong vowel goes with a weak one, it usually is one single syllable. For example: cuerda.

When there are two weak vowels it also is one syllable such as: ruido.

But, when there are two strong vowels, they will be in different syllables, as for example: caer that is pronounced ca-er.

In general, you need to follow the rules stated in the previous post about written accents (you have the link in the first line of this post). So in the word “consideración” as the stressed syllable is the last one and it ends with an “n” it needs a written accent. If that is the case the accent will go in the strong vowel. Same happens with “después”. If the two vowels are weak the written accent goes in the second one. The same works for two strong vowels.

But, when these rules about the syllable don’t work, you need to mark the vowels with a written accent. You will understand with the following example.

In BIOLOGÍA, I is weak and A  is strong, so it should be one syllable, however in Spanish we say BIO-LO-GÍ-A. To separate the I and the A you need the written accent. In BIO as the weak and strong vowels are together you don’t need any accent. Also, there is not such word in Spain with more than one written accent.


Spanish around the globe

Are you thinking about to create a Spanish version of your website? here a post that will help you to do so. Spanish is one of the most important languages in the world and also one of the most spoken ones. It is one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations. Spanish is a language from the romance languages family, alongside French, Italian, Portuguese, Occitan, Catalan, Romanian and others. The root of all these languages is the Indo-European languages family, an even more primitive group that was formed thanks to the immigration of people from the Indian Peninsula to Europe, and viceversa, between an estimated time of 3000 years, from 4000 BC to 1000 BC. The origin of Spanish itself takes us back to the 13th century, where the first written standard of this language was first developed, in Toledo, Spain. After that, Spanish has been spreading all over the world and its inhabitants, specially with the military interventions and invasions that Spain conducted to America, Africa and Asia, from the 15th to the 18th centuries, and after that the massive immigration of people from Spanish-speaking countries to another, such as United States and Europe countries.

According to Ethnologue[1], Spanish is currently positioned 2° in the ranking of languages by total number of speakers, with around 470 million speakers worldwide. These speakers are distributed in Europe, South America and Central America specially, where Spanish is the official language for almost every country in this areas (Except Europe). The most populated countries who are examples of the regions mentioned above are Mexico (117 million speakers), United States (around 52 million speakers), Colombia (47 million speakers), Spain (46 million speakers), Argentina (42 million speakers), Venezuela (29 million speakers), and many others, like Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, Portugal, Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Italy. Also, Spanish is spoken in other continents and regions, like Asia and Africa. For example, Equatorial Guinea (almost 1 million speakers), Morocco (3 million speakers), and Western Sahara (22,000 speakers) are cases in Africa. In Asia, Spanish is spoken in the Philippines (more than 3 million speakers), Israel (175,000 speakers) and Turkey (13,000 speakers). There are also 447,000 persons who speak Spanish in Australia, and 47,000 in New Zealand, both countries located in Oceania.

There are different dialects and forms to speak Spanish; the Latin American Spanish, Spain Spanish, Mexican Spanish, African Spanish and other examples, each one with different words and unique uses and phrase structure (in some cases).

[1] A web-based publication that contains statistics for 7,106 languages and dialects.

New words in Spanish

When writing your website content, have you ever been guessing if a word exists in Spanish? Here we talk about the RAE institution and the best place to check wheather a words exists or not in Spanish.

Spanish is a very fluid language; in fact, there are hundreds of new words each year, all of them approved and institutionalized by the Real Academia Española or RAE (Grand Spanish Academy, in English) in their official dictionary. Most of these new words are related to technology, industry, everyday life or similar topics. The usage of new words comes from the deformation of an original word in another language (for example, “cederrón” for CD-ROM) or when an important group of people from some region or culture starts to introduce a new term to refer to something that already exists (or not, in cases of new inventions, new places, new discoveries, etc.), and sometimes when an original word in Spanish is spelled or used incorrectly, but this mistaken word has such intense usage in some communities and populations that finally becomes officially approved. Also, in lesser amount, in some cases original words from other languages are added in the dictionary just like the way they are spelled in the original language (for example, “performance” from French), or translated terms when a new word is created in another language.

RAE institution has more than 300 years of existance (was founded in 1714 in Spain). It is located in Madrid, Spain, and it is famous in this country and in every other Spanish speaking place in the world, like South America and some places in Africa . There has been, so far, 23 editions of the official dictionary of the RAE. Also, the institution is dedicated to perform other kind of linguistic works, like the grammar manual. Even though the Real Academia Española is the most important Spanish linguistic organization, there are more institutions of this nature of target, like the Academia Colombiana de la Lengua, the Academia Ecuatoriana de la Lengua, the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua, and many others, specially in South America.

Despite of its renowned position and respectful reputation, the Real Academia Española has been critized over the years in some aspects of its performances in the Spanish language usage and understanding, with cases considered extreme, for example, when the RAE came up with the suggestion of translating the foreign last names into new words with Spanish fonetics and adding them to the dictionary.