Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Presently I am....

The present tense in Spanish is quite different than it is in English. The other night in class we were discussing the verb "to go" which is "ir a".   I happened to say that you can use "ir a" to mean "going to".  In an example we used the conjugation "voy a" to mean "I'm going to" . A student said “but isn’t ‘I am’ either ‘soy’ or ‘estoy’", and she was absolutely correct. At the same time “ir” can be used as “is going”.

The present tense in Spanish can often be used where the progressive tense is used in English (think the words ‘am’ or ‘is’ with a verb ending in ‘ing’, such as “I am going). The verb ir (to go) in the first person is voy (I go). Usually it is translated as “I go”, as in “I go to the movies”, a habitual action. This is certainly one of the uses of the Spanish present tense.

This same tense can describe actions in progress at the moment. “Voy” can mean “I’m going”. You don’t have to use the verb “to be/am” with “voy” to achieve this meaning. If someone asks you “¿qué haces?” (what are you doing?) you can reply in the present tense and will be correct. There is a progressive tense in spanish where you do use a conjugation of the verb “to be” (estar) and a verb with the progressive ending (‘ando’ for ar verbs and ‘iendo’ for er or ir verbs). We will certainly explore this tense more at another time!

The present tense can also be used to express actions in the future. “I’ll call you tomorrow” can just be “te llamo mañana” (I call you tomorrow). This is perfectly correct in Spanish, although not the only way it can be done. Spanish does have a future tense, and again that will be a topic for a different day.

The main takeaway, you can use the simple present tense to express habitual actions at the present time, it can be used as a progressive action you are doing at the moment, and it can be used to talk about the future. Three tenses for the price of one!


Habitual action: Voy al cine todos los viernes (I go to the movies every friday).
Progressive: no está, ahora va al cine (he’s not here, he is going to the movies now).
Future: Vamos al cine mañana. (we will go to the movies tomorrow). 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The key to language success for adult learners: Habits

Having smart and consistent study habits will help our language ability progress towards greater proficiency and communication skills. Good language learning habits are not equal to hours of study and memorization. There is also no standard for what ‘correct’ habits are, they will vary according to individual tastes, preferences, and learning styles.

In general good habits can include (depending on your level): Listening to language courses , listening to audiobooks and reading in the language (anything from news, books, children’s books, or websites), attending classes or conversation groups (check for these at your local library), using language learning software, and language books.

We don’t have to set aside a lot of time for these activities. For learning languages the ‘less is more’ approach will definitely yield greater success. Listening to a language course while in the car or doing dishes for 10 minutes in the morning then again at night is better than trying to cram vocabulary lists for hours. We don’t want our language learning to be a chore, so we should try to enjoy it as much as possible. Study in a coffee shop or on the front porch. Get comfortable and enjoy!

I personally would give priority to audio learning techniques over visual, this is the way we acquired our native language.  That being said this may not be the best approach for everyone, and however you choose is right if it works for you.

In the coming weeks I plan on writing some product reviews for various Spanish learning products. There are certainly some methods that are better than others, and there are certain methods that will be better for certain individuals. I hope to describe them so that you can make an informed decision about which method or methods to use.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gender in Spanish

One initial and significant difference between Spanish and English is that nouns in Spanish have a gender, and articles and adjectives have to agree in gender and number with the noun.

Articles are either definite (the) or indefinite (a,an). The definite article “the” means one particular thing. An example could be “the bank”, which we know means one particular bank. The indefinite article refers to any of something. “A grocery store” refers to any grocery store. 

In Spanish there are eight possibilities for articles: indefinite singular masculine, indefinite singular feminine, indefinite plural masculine, indefinite plural feminine, definite singular masculine, definite singular feminine, definite plural masculine, definite plural feminine. Adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns and, in Spanish, they are usually placed after the noun they describe (though there are exceptions that we will get into another day).

masculine noun definite article

       singular                                                                     plural
el supermercado (the supermarket)           los supermercados (the supermarkets)

feminine noun definite articles
singular                                                                            plural
la biblioteca (the library)                                            las bibliotecas (the libraries)

masculine noun indefinite article

 singular                                                                           plural
un supermercado (a supermarket)          unos supermercados (some supermarkets)

feminine noun indefinite article

singular                                                                          plural
una bilioteca (a library)                                            unas bibiotecas (some libraries)

In Spanish an adjective has to agree with a noun in gender and number. So for a feminine noun like casa (house) if we wanted to describe it as red (rojo/roja) it would look like:

singular                                                                           plural
la casa roja (the red house)                                   las casas rojas (the red houses)

To describe a masculine noun with the adjective small (pequeño/pequeña) you would do it like this:

singular                                                                          plural
el apartamento pequeño                                     los apartamentos pequeños

For a lot of adjectives, changing from masculine to feminine will involve changing an o (masculine) to an a (feminine), but this will not always be the case. In the near future we will explore some other adjective endings and how we change them. If you have any questions please leave a comment, and I will try to clarify.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


¡Bienvenidos a un nuevo recurso para aprender español! 

Hello and welcome to my new Spanish blog.  I am an American who took up Spanish in college with a good deal of success (I can speak fluently now).  What I want to do with this blog is pool together resources, techniques, experience, and links to help people better learn Spanish.   I'll try to post reviews of learning products and little tricks and tips.

¡muchas gracias por leer!