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.

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 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.  

The dreaded accent mark

Accents,,, To Include or Not?      So sorry, but you simply can’t avoid using accent marks in written Spanish. A word is not considered properly written if it needs an accent and you omit it, and sometimes omitting it completely changes the meaning of what you’ve written. The good news is that it is easy to master when to use accents.

Before we begin, here’s a hint on being able to easily include accents with your computer. (This may vary depending on your computer make and model.) Go to My Computer, Control Panel, Regional & Language, Keyboards & Languages. Here you can add Spanish as an alternate keyboard. Down at the bottom of your screen you should see EN (you may have to use the left caret to display the language icons). Click the EN, and the ES (Spanish choice) will come up. Make sure that it stays there, and then just type normally in your email or Word. To add an accent to a, e, I or u, type the left bracket key. The carriage. will not move. Then just type an a, and an accent will appear over it as á. It’s the same for all the other vowels. It’s like magic, so have fun with it. The ñ is found at the semicolon, colon key. The upside down question mark is found at the plus sign, and the upside down exclamation point is the plus sign with the shift key. Your keyboard will be different, and you will have to explore a little to find out where things such as apostrophes have moved, but you will have all the tools you need.

The main use of the accent is to show you where the stress falls. The basic rules are:

1. If a word ends in a vowel, N or S, the natural stress will fall on the next to last syllable.

2. If a word ends in a consonant (except N or S) the stress falls on the last syllable. If a word is not pronounced according to these two rules, it needs a written accent over the syllable which is stressed in the way the word is actually said. Analyze these examples: HoTEL, HAblan, primaVEra, baRAto, haBLAR, JoSÉ, francÉS. The last two words do not follow the rules, and so need a written accent.

Another use of accents is to distinguish between words which sound alike, but have different meanings. These will sound the same in speaking, but in writing, the difference will be an accent to denote which meaning you choose: si, if; sÍ, yes de, of or from; dé, the command form for usted of the verb dar el, the; él, he mi, my; mí, me te, you as in Te quiero; té, tea (as in brewed or iced) tu, your; tú, you

Accents are also used with demonstratives or the pointing out words such as this book, that book, that book over there. When they’re used with the noun itself (book), they don’t have accents and are stated as este libro, ese libro, aquel libro. However, if you want to drop the noun (in English we would say this one, that one), just add an accent, and they can stand alone. Éste (this one), ése (that one), aquél. Think of the accent mark as giving it the strength to stand alone.

Yet another use of accents comes up with question asking words or interrogatives. Who, what, when, where, how, how many, why, which.   All have accents when in questions in Spanish. Quién, qué, cuándo, dónde, cómo, cuántos, por qué, cuál.   Note that when these words are not a question, they become relative pronouns and will lose the accent. ¿Dónde está tu casa? La casa en donde vivo está en la Colonia Miraval. ¿Qué tienes en la mano? El libro que tengo es tuyo.

A final use of the accent is over the letter O when meaning or between numbers. If you write Tengo 5 o 6 páginas it can look like the number 506. To avoid this write it this way Tengo 5 ó 6 páginas.