Help!

 

Quick tip…to yell Help! in Spanish, yell – Socorro!  (like the English word succor).

Ayudar is the verb for help, and you can expand your plea by saying Ayúdeme, por favor, but Spanish speakers think socorro is easier to shout out.  Reflexive verbs  Think of these as the action coming back to the speaker, or reflecting back as in a mirror.  This works most of the time, and remember to always match the little pronouns of me, te, se, nos, se with the subject pronoun.  Lavarse – to wash oneself, me lavo, te lavas, él se lava, ella se lava, usted se lava, nosotros nos lavamos, ellos se lavan, ustedes se lavan.

Other frequently spoken verbs used this way are bañarse (to bathe), arreglarse (to get yourself ready, as in to put on makeup and get dressed), cuidarse (to take care of oneself), lastimarse (to hurt oneself), sentarse  (to sit oneself down)  Sometimes these have the feeling of to get, such as emborracharse (to get yourself drunk).  Ever wondered how to say “I wonder” in Spanish?  Use the reflexive verb preguntarse, me pregunto.  Me pregunto si eso va a ser posible.  I wonder if that’s going to be possible.  Some exceptions which are reflexive are the verbs: Enamorarse de (to fall in love with, but not with yourself) Me enamoré de él el año pasado. Sentirse (ie) (to feel in terms of health or emotions). Me siento muy triste hoy. Irse (to leave)  -Te vas ahora?  Sí, me voy.  – Are you leaving now?  Yes, I’m leaving.

Be on special alert for reflexive verbs dealing with parts of the body or clothing.  In English we would always say something such as I wash my hands or I put on my hat.  The “my” is necessary because the verb in English doesn’t indicate possession.  In Spanish, however, the verb shows who is receiving the action, so it would be considered redundant to use a possessive pronoun.  Examples:  Voy a lavarme las manos.  I’m going to wash my hands.  Notice you don’t say mis manos, as it’s clear whose hands you’re washing by the reflexive verb.  Voy a ponerme el sombrero.  I’m going to put on my hat.  Same idea, just as long as it’s your own hat.

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The finer points of the Spanish language

Some finer points of the language, but one which are sometimes overlooked –  Have you ever seen phrases such as padre e hijo, español e inglés? Did you think that was a typo, that really what should have been written or said was “y”, as the meaning is “and”?

There’s a really good reason for this, and it’s a quite practical one. When you have a word which starts with the I sound or Y sound (in Spanish), or you have a word with the silent H before an I sound, if you use “y” to say “and” before such a word, it slides into the sound of the second word and is indistinguishable. For that reason the substitute “e” is correct. In other words, if you want to say padre Y hijo, you must correctly say padre e hijo.

Another common combination is the term for research and development, commonly said in English as R & D. In Spanish the phrase has the development word coming first (who knows why!), and the term is desarrollo e investigación.  Another variation of this role is to substitute “u” when meaning “or” when the word coming after it starts with the sound of O (and also applies with the silent H). A common phrase utilizing this concept is “siete u ocho”.You might be tempted to use it in saying “one or the other”, but you avoid it in this case by saying correctly “el uno o el otro”.

Another similar area deals with nouns which are actually feminine, but sometimes use the masculine word for “the” in front of them. It’s the same idea. If a word starts with a stressed “a” (silent H applies also), if you said “la” in front of it, the sounds slide together. So to avoid this, the masculine “el” is substituted.? The noun still stays feminine, however, and adjectives will be feminine, as well as the plural form, because in that case, the added “s” solves the problem. Examples:The word agua is a feminine word. However, you say el agua, el agua clara, el agua purificada, las aguas. Some common words which follow this pattern are:  el alma – soul, el águila – eagle, el ala – wing, el alba – dawn (“at dawn” would be said “al alba”), el aula – classroom

 

How to keep your Spanish skills fresh

      Recently we asked our past students what they are doing to keep up with their Spanish.  We all know how hard we work to build it in the first place, and we also know that it can be a fragile skill unless nourished for a long time.  These are some of the best suggestions reported, and they may give you some ideas.  Of course, you can always plan another study  with Language Link, but if it’s not possible right now…. consider this compilation of ideas.  Kudos to those of you who wrote in:
     1. Take a few 4-5 week conversation classes that your local school or college may offer.  Usually these are fairly basic, but they allow you to keep up your skills.  You won’t have the type of speedy progress you made in your Language Link program, but you are reinforcing what you learned and maybe getting a few new bits of knowledge. 
      2. Look for weekend immersion programs which your local community college may do.  You can often do this as a non regular student. 
      3. Try to find and attend a local Spanish “meet-up group” that you can find on the internet or the public library. These usually meet once a month for a few hours. Three of our past students started meeting once a month to speak Spanish at dinner.  They have included others in the dinner group who want to speak Spanish and luckily for them, they found a native speaker from Madrid and his wife (a Spanish teacher) who join them and help with vocabulary and grammar. 
     4. When you meet people in public that are obviously Hispanic, always try to speak their language with them. They will be honored by your attempts to speak their native language. Speaking Spanish with native speakers requires a lot of courage, but the rewards are tremendous for you and for them.  A wonderful exchange occurs when you offer to help with English and they help with Spanish.
      5.  Enroll in an advanced Spanish class at a local university. Maybe the only prior formal coursework you have is attending a LL immersion program. Since you won’t have had the prerequisites, the professor may insist that you take the CLEP test to prove you can do the work. When some of our past students have done this, they have received up to 15 hours of college credit in Spanish!
     6. After doing a LL program in Ecuador, a current med student at the University of Minnesota, volunteered at a local clinic where about 1/3 of the patients were Spanish speaking.  She is now doing a nine-month rotation program in a rural town in Minnesota with a large Spanish-speaking population, so gets to use her Spanish in clinic on almost a daily basis and absolutely loves it!
      Another medical professional, a clinical psychologist, keeps up her Spanish by conducting short psychiatric evaluations in one of her jobs in NYC.  She also keeps up her skills by speaking Spanish with her child’s nanny from Ecuador.  
      7.  Ask a few people, learners like you and some with excellent Spanish (even native speakers), to form a book group. Read novels in Spanish and meet once a month.
      8.  One student feels the Kindle can be the single best tool for language learning once you reach an intermediate level. With a Spanish language dictionary installed, you can read Spanish language books and periodicals. When you encounter an unknown word, it is very easy to cursor over and instantly receive the definition. Then highlight the word for future reference. Once you finish the book, it is very easy to log on to kindle.amazon.com in order to download the list of highlighted words in order to drill yourself on their meanings.
      9.  Offer to help as a basic interpreter.  We had one student whose wife is an elementary school teacher and asked her husband to school one day to interpret for a Hispanic parent.  Was he nervous?  Of course!  He says he sweated profusely during the short interpretation, but he loved it!  The Hispanic parent thought he was a saint!–p.s. so did his wife!  He floated out of her classroom. 
      One of our past students expressed it very well… Thanks, Steve Barrymore!
      The bottom line is that you have to work at it–all the time. Because of my desire to speak Spanish, I have been able to help non-English speaking people with communication many times here in the U.S. That in itself has been worth all the study. I have so much more confidence now, and my friends are in awe of my confidence speaking another language, even though I know in my own mind, I am not always speaking it correctly. It has opened up a huge part of the world for me – a part to which I never would have traveled had it not been for my ability to wade through the language-albeit at times, pretty roughly! Thanks for getting me started.  I will always be appreciative of the top quality schools you offer.  

Short and sweet

Spanish, when it is casually spoken, is like all languages in that people commonly use many shortcuts.  Words are shortened; words become contractions, and this often affects the pronunciation.

For instance:  Para – in this sense meaning toward. Note how it’s casually said in many Spanish speaking countries –Pa’allá – meaning over there.  Note that this combines into what sounds like one wordpallá, but you are meaning para allá. What happens with the sounds in the above is linguistically called elision.  It’s just a fancy word for words sliding together, such as the two vowels in pallá. A good example of this  elision is mi hija.  Your ear will perceive this as mija, as the h is silent, and the two I’s slide into each other.

Pa’cá – meaning over here.  Para acá.  Acá is a common substitute foraquí. You will hear it often in the command, Ven acá.  Come here.

No tengo dinero pa’ comer.  I don’t have money to eat. No sirve pa’ na’.  This is short for no sirve para nada.  It’s (or he/she is) not good (of any use) for anything        These shortened forms are commonly heard (particularly in Mexico)

Feliz cumple – short for Feliz cumpleaños, Porfa – short for Por favor, La compu – short for la computadora

The key component in learning these shortened forms is to listen, listen, listen.

Yes, you need to actually speak and practice to improve your Spanish,but it’s equally as important to listen carefully and “sing back the song” you’re hearing around you. And just to remember why you’re doing all this and working so hard at your Spanish.Top-10-Laid-Back-Cats-10-510x424

Listen up!

Listening

A frequent comment is about difficulty in Spanish listening comprehension.  These are a few tips which you may find helpful.

Stop talking and start listening…a lot!  It’s really helpful to find something to listen to, spoken at normal speed, which you can pause and repeat.  The telenovelas offered on Netflix, Hulu and other services are terrific for this.  If you want to see the acting career of the first lady of Mexico, watch one called Destilando Amor.  You’ll also learn something about the production of Mexico’s national drink.  Sometimes you can listen to the same sentence 10 times before the light dawns, and then it will be completely clear.  Practice writing in your head what you are hearing.  If you can visualize the writing of the sounds, you can often see the logic of those vowels sliding together.

Learn to listen in what I call clumps.  You don’t have to hear every little word to understand a phrase.  Just listen for the key words and let your mind slide over the little ones.  There’s really no time to have every syllable register in the speed of normal conversation.  If you’ve ever filled in words you assume are a part of an English conversation in a noisy bar, you’ll know what I mean.  Educate your mind to listen for the main concepts, not the details.

When you’re listening to Spanish, put on your “Spanish hat” and don’t allow your mind to think or interpret in English.  I was reminded of this recently when some intermediate speakers were following a dinner conversation.  The key word in the Spanish situation was caos.  In writing it’s clear that this word is chaos in English.  But the intermediates were hearing the sound of CA – OS and thinking that the conversation was about bovine animals or cows.  It was amusing, and a good example of letting English interfere, instead of visualizing a word pronounced with your “Spanish hat”.  Laughter reigned at the table when we all figured out what had happened.