Tag Archives: study Spanish

Spanish Websites for Spanish Practice

Sometimes it’s hard to fit the right amount of Spanish practice into your schedule, even when you really need it. Maybe you don’t have a fluent Spanish speaker to talk to, or you can’t seem to get good access to a Spanish language radio station. Whatever the reason, the Internet is one of your best resources for darn near everything! If you have a smart phone, tablet, or an eReader (or even an advanced music player) with Internet access, you already have what you need to make those little breaks in your day your Spanish language time. Whatever your interests may be, you should look for topics in your target language that are actually written for a native speaking audience.

Let’s see some websites to practice Spanish reading

A good site for this type of practice is Wikipedia en español. You’ll have, at the click of a button, more than a million publicly-managed articles on any topic! You can follow the link and look at the Spanish version of any Wikipedia entry, while always having the ability to switch to the English version whenever you want (except for when it comes to those rare untranslated articles). This means that you’ll not only be able to practice reading Spanish content, but you’ll also be able to check your reading comprehension. Here is a tip to get more out of each article: click the Discusión tab to see any discussions by Spanish speakers who are editing the entry you are currently reading. Who knows, you may even find yourself participating one day! Looking back at the front portal, you will find featured articles and a listing of current events; you can keep abreast of what is going on in the world and get in some Spanish practice at the same time!

There is another Spanish language website, an encyclopedia of sorts, which focuses on biographical content. It is called Biografias y Vidas (Biographies and Lives), and it will allow you to look up the stories behind the names of very well-known people. It is written by a group of Spanish people and a few freelancers. It has a Monografías (Monographs) section, which has a whole list of key-figures who have impacted the history of Mankind. It also has a Reportajes (Reports) section, which gives the biography, chronology, record of achievements, photos, and videos of famous contemporaries (like the soccer player David Beckham, the author J.K. Rowling, and the singer Britney Spears!).

If you are interested in geography and nature, another good website for Spanish practice would be National Geographic en Español. National Geographic is widely known for its beautiful scenery photographs, but it has been expanding its content and reach. Those people who are not up-to-date on National Geographic content may be pleasantly surprised to even find @RevistaNatGeo on Twitter and Facebook. Its Spanish language website is separated into six different categories, as follows: (1) Traveler; (2) Naturaleza (Nature); (3) El Mundo (The World); (4) Ciencia (Science); (5) Fotografia (Photography); and (6) Video. The Traveler section has the most subcategories, what with Technología (Technology), Lugares (Places), Gastronomía (Gastronomy), Tips, Blog, and Fotogalerias (Photogalleries) all clickable from a drop-down link. You can let your mind soak up all the vibrant colors while getting in a little language practice, too.

Lastly, it is said that one is never too young (or young at heart!) to learn. Depending on one’s language comprehension level, it may also help to look at a country-specific Spanish website, that is, a Spanish website in the Spanish language, directed at children. One such page is called Cuentos y leyendas ilustrados por niños (Stories and legends illustrated by children). The story illustrations were created by around 78 Spanish speaking children, with the help of Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports. The website is broken up into three reading sections (just don’t mind the target age for each level!). Regardless of the level that you choose, there will be several story selections – each will have a dramatic retelling of the story in video form, along with an illustrated version and an interactive activity. There will also be hands-on activities that you may print out.

Going to these sites and practicing your Spanish reading skills for at least fifteen minutes a day will allow you to get a good sense of the little nuances that Spanish may have (when compared with English). If you can print whatever you are interested in (especially as a digital file!), you may save these pages for on-the-go reading. Do what you can, when you can, and you’ll surely be on your way to better fluency.

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.

Where can I learn good Spanish?

Many students of Spanish as a foreign language come to Spain to study and hone their skills. But what are the best locations in which to study Spanish?

best places to learn Spanish
Granada flickr photo shared by Ronny Siegel under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Many people choose Granada to learn Spanish, which for a native Spanish speaker is weird. The University of Granada is very good and famous because of its quality. Also, Granada has some good academies to study Spanish. However, we can’t say that Granada is a good place to learn Spanish, because the goal of going abroad to study is to interact with people. And, I am afraid people from Granada don’t have a good accent to learn.

People from all the cities in Andalucía have a strong regional accent and a Spanish language student can end up learning the incorrect spelling of many words.

The best region to learn Spanish is Catilla y León. The problem here is that it doesn’t have a beach, the weather is not so good and the recreational activities are not as numerous as in Valencia, Cataluña or Andalucía.

On the other hand, the accent is neutral and people usually speak a high quality of Spanish. You can choose between small cities as Zamora, Soria, Palencia, Ávila or Segovia or average size ones such as Valladolid, Burgos and León. If having a lot of young people studying is a contributing factor, then the best option may be Salamanca.

Best places to learn Spanish are in Castilla y León
Segovia. DSC_4676flickr photo shared by serialc under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

All these cities have a great history and a lot of culture to share with you. If you are looking for holidays, just go to somewhere close to the sea. If you are looking for a high quality of Spanish, Castilla y León is my recommendation.

Of course this is just my opinion. Feel free to share your favorite places to learn Spanish in the comments.

 

Using the Real Academia Española to Learn Spanish

copywriter Spanish culture
Flamenco: Ilusiones; By Carmel Natan Sheli” creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Flavio~

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.

Learning Grammatical Gender in Spanish

Grammatical gender is one of the most difficult concepts for a native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish. In Spanish, grammatical gender refers to the masculine and feminine properties of words and phrases.  Although these properties are referred to as ‘gender’ features, they have nothing to do with masculinity or femininity in the way we would generally use gender to describe men and women. Thus, a masculine noun is not any more ‘manly’ than a feminine noun. These arbitrary language features do not exist in English and are very challenging for the native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish.

Look at the spelling

A new Spanish speaker may want to begin by learning some basic Spanish nouns, including the pronunciation and spelling of the words. Some common themes for introductory chapters of textbooks for learning Spanish include foods, classroom items, basic greetings, and clothing. One trick to help you remember the gender of the noun is to look at the spelling, as a majority of feminine nouns end in –a, and the majority of masculine nouns end with an –o; however, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as the masculine word ‘dia,’ meaning ‘day.’

Be careful with your grammar

If you have learned the gender of the noun, you can take the next step and apply the gender features to the rest of the phrase. In Spanish, the gender of the noun also applies to the gender of the determiner (‘la’ for feminine and ‘el’ for masculine, both meaning ‘the’ in English) and the adjective, if there is one. So, if you want to say, ‘the white cat’ in Spanish, you would say ‘el gato blanco.’ Notice that the phrase has all masculine forms the masculine article ‘el,’ the masculine noun ‘gato,’ and the masculine form of the adjective, ‘blanco.’ Since the noun is masculine, the whole phrase should take the masculine form.

Acquiring grammatical gender in Spanish is something that takes a lot of practice and dedication to learning the language. English speakers may become frustrated with this linguistic feature because it seems simple on the surface, but it is difficult to apply in when actually speaking the language. Grammatical gender is a property that can really separate the native speakers of Spanish from the non-native speakers. Don’t worry if you make mistakes sometimes learning a language is hard, especially when there are elements of that language that do not exist in your native tongue!

If you still have problems with this or any other thing, you can send your Spanish texts to proofread!

Articles in Spanish, el, la, los, las Vs un, una, unos, unas

When writing in Spanish one of the hardest things for foreign speakers is when to use definitie articles like el, la, los, las and when to use indefinite articles such as uno, una, unos, unas.

There are a lot theory about this, but today I will explain the most basic rule, which is the most generic and the one that you will need to use more likely.

You have to use indefinite articles: uno, una, unos, unas…

…when is the first time that you are talking about your subject.

For example: Este verano fui a una boda.

This is the first time that you are talking about the wedding, so you need to use indefinite article UNA.

You have to use definite articles: el, la, los las…

…when the people that you are talking to have heard about the subject before.

For example: La boda fue muy divertida.

Now you are talking about the wedding that you have mentioned before and your listener knows it.

So if you say: Este verano fui a la boda

If you have never mentioned the wedding before your listener will ask you about what wedding. Because using definite article la you are saying that the listener already knows what wedding, so if your listener doesn’t know, he will feel uncomfortable, as your message is saying he should know.

In the other hand if you say: Este verano fui a una boda

Your listener is aware that is the first time that you are speaking about the wedding, so he won’t feel bad about not knowing anything about it. If he is curious he could ask: whose wedding? (¿la boda de quién?) but he knows that it is the first time you are talking about the wedding so it is ok that he doesn’t know anything about it. In this case it would be normal that your listener don’t ask anything about the wedding since he is comfortable knowing nothing about it.

Are you looking for a Spanish copywriter, contact me please !

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.

Catch it!

creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by (Mick Baker)rooster
creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by (Mick Baker)rooster

When writing in a language that is spoken in several countries, clients usually ask for “neutral language”. A neutral language is a way to express things that sounds more or less natural for all native speakers regardless of where the native speaker was born.

Due to good luck in Spanish we have the Real Academia de la Lengua Española that helps everybody to know what is correct and what is not.

However, there are some expressions that, though are well explained in Real Academia Española’s books, it is hard to imagine how weird they could sound if you use them in them for the wrong audience.

One of these expressions is the word “coger” to catch, which in Spain we use all the time in an innocent way. The problem for Spanish content writers comes when a user from Latin America read it, because in the full continent “coger” is a vulgar way to say have sex.

So Spaniards say “Vamos a coger un taxi” (let’s take a taxi) whilst Latin Americans laugh hard about the idea.

Of course this is great and fun between friends, but when it comes to your website content, it is better if you are aware of it.

So, be careful with this verb if your readers will be out of Spain. As a tip, you can use “tomar” instead of it.

This is one of the reasons for choosing to hire a native speaker when looking for a copywriter in Spanish.