Monday, August 27, 2012

Spanish learning product reviews

There are many products making claims that they can teach you a new language. Some are better than others. These are my thoughts on the pros and cons of several of the products I've had experience with:

Michel Thomas CD’s:

Pros: All audio, very natural teaching/learning style, learn very rapidly, learn grammar in a way that does not seem like learning grammar, courses go from beginner through to very advanced, focuses on correct structure, interactive, uses many mnemonics

Cons: Leaves out certain things like days of the week, numbers, and other vocabulary in favor of correct structure, you only hear one person speaking Spanish so you will not hear a variety of accents or regional differences


Pros: All audio, drills material meticulously, teaches structure without grammar terms, interactive, learn basic and useful phrases fast, uses principle of ‘graduated interval recall’ to help brain remember more effectively

Cons: Very robotic speech that sometimes doesn’t follow the way people actually speak (ex. the Spanish course uses “Castellano” instead of “Español”), even the more advanced levels are not very advanced, focuses on most common vocabulary with lots of drilling so vocabulary building takes a long time. 

Mango Languages

Pros: Audio/Visual, mobile app, voice comparison, focus on core vocabulary, repetitive drills

Cons: Must be used with a device, progress is relatively slow, advanced levels are not very advanced.

Pros: Very entertaining and knowledgeable hosts, covers every level from beginner to very advanced, multimedia content (mp3s, videos, and more), cultural content is covered very well, hosts and guests from all over the Spanish speaking world.

Cons: Not making new content, while the grammar explanations are good there is no real sense of progression.

Note: I have not checked out any other Spanish podcasts but do intend to give them a shot in the near future.

These are just my thoughts, and other folks may have different findings than me.  Please feel free to share any reviews or any products I should look into! 

Please feel free to share your thoughts on these products or any Spanish learning products you have used. I definitely plan on reviewing more products!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Por and para are hard words to use correctly in Spanish. I think that using one in place of the other is one of the mistakes I make most frequently. Usually people understand when I make this mistake and sometimes they even correct me, like if I say “gracias para la ayuda (thanks for the help)” they’ll let me know the correct way to say it is “gracias por la ayuda”. Both words can mean “for” “to” and several other English words. So, is there any general, easy to learn rule for when to use which word? Not really, but there is a way of thinking about these words that can make it a little easier to choose the correct word!

“Para” can be thought of as an arrow pointing towards space, time, or a goal.“Por” can be thought of as the arrow moving through or alongside space, time, or a goal.


If you say “vamos para el parque” you are saying “we are going to the park”, you can picture an arrow pointing towards the park. If you inserted “por” in this sentence, instead of “para”, it would mean we are going through the park “vamos por el parque”. This time you could imagine the arrow going through or around the park. “Por” can also mean your mode of travel, such as “vamos por carro” (we are going by car). If you said “vamos para el carro” it would mean “we are going to the car”. “Para” is also used for the final destination or recipient of an object. “tengo un regalo para ti” means “I have a gift for you”.


Using “para” in regards to time usually refers to deadlines or target dates. We can imagine an arrow pointing towards the date/time. “Tiene que prepararlo para el viernes” means “you need to prepare it by friday”. “Por” in regards to time can be thought of as during, or the arrow going through the time. “Trabajaban en ello por 4 días” could be thought of as “they worked on it for 4 days”. “Por” in regards to time is very similar to “durante” (during). “Trabajo por la tarde” would actually carry the same meaning as “trabajo durante la tarde” or “I work during the afternoon”.

This analogy does not work with all of the uses of these prepositions. “Por” can be used for referring to exchange “I’ll give you this apple for that orange” is “Le doy esta manzana por esa naranja”. “Por” is the “per” in “percent” and also used in multiplication 2 x2 is said “dos por dos”. Division is said “cuatro dividido por 2” (4 /2). “Para” is used when expressing a purpose. “ para ir a la playa necesita bloqueador” (for going to the beach you need sunblock).

In asking questions it can be difficult to know when to use para qué or por qué. If you want to know someone’s goal for being in a certain place you would say “para qué está aquí”. The answer could be “estoy aquí para visitar a un amigo” (I’m here to visit a friend). If you saw someone you knew in a hospital that was dressed in normal clothes and did not look like a patient you could ask them this. “Por qué” seeks the cause, so you may ask a sick person in a hospital “por qué está aquí”, which would be asking why the person is there as in what injury/illness is the cause.

These are just some of the uses of “por” and “para”. If anyone else has different ways of thinking about these concepts please feel free to share them.

ejemplos de “por” y “para”

gracias por el regalo (thanks for the gift)

le doy esta manzana por esa naranja (I’ll give you this apple for that orange)

tiene que tenerlo para el jueves (he has to have it by Thursday)

la comida es para ti (the food is for you)

gracias por la bebida (thanks for the drink)

How do you think about "por" and "para"?