Hay…definitely not ay, ay, ay!

Haber is one of the more unusual verbs in Spanish, but it’s an indispensable one. The present tense form hay is usually translated as there is or there are. But note that it has nothing to do with location, rather it refers to existence. (If you were pointing at the “there” of location, you would use estar, as in El dinero está allí. Very often in everyday speech, you comment on the existence of something. Hay mucho dinero en la mesa. Hay muchas personas en las calles. Note that it is always hay, whether it refers to the existence of something singular or plural.

It is often used in public situations where in English you would ask the more personal, do you have…? In a restaurant, for example, ¿Hay vino? This is a more polite, less personal way of asking whether the restaurant offers something. It’s common to be looking for something in a store, and you’re met with a shrug of the shoulders and the dreaded comment, No hay.       What about the past, expressing there was or there were? This form is había, and notice that it is also used for either singular or plural. (A note that sometimes this is used ungrammatically even by native speakers who may say habían, but this is not correct usage.) Había muchos problemas. This form expresses a description of something, without a defined beginning or end. It’s a very generalized statement. The other past form is hubo. This indicates there was or there were but indicates that it is over. Hubo un incendio en un edificio ayer. Hubo una guerra allí en 1943.

Other forms used are future – habrá, there will be. This makes a very strong statement, stronger in feeling than the less specific va a pasar – it’s going to happen. Habrá problemas sin dinero. The subjunctive form is haya, there may be. Espero que haya más tiempo. The conditional form is habría, there would be       The other use of haber is what is called as an auxiliary or helping verb to form the perfect tenses. These are when we use “to have” as a helping verb in English. I have written, they had seen, I will have finished, you would have done – these are all called perfect tenses, and they are expanded to be called Present Perfect, Past Perfect, etc. With these forms in Spanish you use all conjugated parts of the helping verb, as it does agree with the subject. Present – he, has, ha, hemos, han. They’re used with a part participle – this is equivalent in English to spoken, seen, done, finished. He hablado, has visto, ha hecho, hemos terminado.

The most commonly used past forms: había, habías, había, habíamos, habían – I had spoken, había hablado, they had finished, habían terminado The conditional is often used in this tense – habría, habrías, habría,habríamos, habrían – he would have spoken, habría hablado ¡Ay, ay, ay…so many things to consider with hay!

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

 

Sitting at the cool kids’ table

All The Cool Words Your Spanish Teacher Never Taught You

águas! look out!
agringarse to be gringofied
andar de volada to flirt
andar lurias to be crazy
arre move it
arrecho horny
beso kiss
bobos lazy
borlo a party
cállate shut up
carajo! I swear!
chale no way
chones underwear
chulo/chula a really cool person
cuates good friends
ebrio drunk
el gordo the fat man
el mono the movies
frajo a cigarette
Gabardinos Americans
gorrón a moocher
hijole holy cow
la flaca the skinny girl
loro a friend
metiche nosy
nam nam yum yum
nel nah/nope
nena girl/young lady
no hay piri don’t worry
panzó pot-bellied
peló bald
pichón a hot chick, babe
pielas beers
qué onda? what’s up?
qué padre how cool
rocanrolero a rock and roller

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

Which comes first?

th0HDRLLXM

Which Comes First?

The Chicken or The Egg?

The Adjective or the Noun in Spanish?

One of the earliest rules you learn in Spanish is that adjectives go after the noun.  If you’re more advanced in your study, you know that this one, like many Spanish “rules”, is often broken.  Most of them will come after the noun, but there are also exceptions.  Some different types of adjectives and an indication of where they go…before or after.

Colors – After

Nationality, membership or classification – After      El restaurante mexicano

Adjectives modified by an adverb or phrase – After

La clase muy interesante, la casa llena de muebles

Multiple adjectives – When they’re of similar importance in description – After     La maleta grande y pesada

Adjectives of appreciation – Before, when you want to emphasize.    Es un buen escritor. (meaning he’s really good)

Reinforcing adjectives: Before, adjectives that “go with” the accompanying noun often are placed before the noun. It gives them a more emotional meaning.  El horrible bruto, la alta montaña, la blanca nieve

Adjectives of quantity or possession – Before.  Muchos libros, pocos libros, su casa

Meaning-changing adjectives: Before or After (but the meaning changes) Tengo un viejo amigo.(I have a longtime friend)  Tengo un amigo viejo. (I have a friend who is old (in age)

Some other common ones include: antiguo: el antiguo libro, the old book; la silla antigua, the valuable old chair  grande: un gran hombre, a great man; un hombre grande, a big man  pobre: esa pobre mujer, that poor woman (in the sense of being pitiful); esa mujer pobre, that woman who is poor  solo: un solo hombre, only one man; un hombre solo, a lonely man  triste: un triste viaje, a terrible one; un viaje triste, a sad one  único: la única estudiante, the only student; una estudiante única, a unique student

Use of the word Por

fuerza

 

Para and por cannot simply be thought of as the English “for”, as they are both very rich in meaning.  To use them successfully you must think beyond the surface words.  Para is the easier, more limited one.  Think of it as handing something to someone, as destination of an object.  Este regalo es para ti.

Another use is for the purpose of – Este ejercicio es para aumentar (increase) el vocabulario.   In a very broad sense you can think of por as being more inward and para with an arrow pointing outward.  A really frequent thing to say is Gracias por todo.  In this sense, it means in exchange for.  (Using para here is never correct, but it’s a common mistake we see frequently here in the office when people write us.)

Other uses with this exchange idea are in buying things.  ¿Cuánto por el libro?  Pagué 10 dólares por el regalo. Think of por as having these extended meanings:             By (times), per:  Dos por cuatro son ocho.  Voy a la clase dos veces por semana.  Prefiero viajar por tren.  Necesito hablar por teléfono con mi amigo.  El libro fue escrito por Carlos Fuentes.              Through (along), throughout, during   Caminamos por el parque.  Voy a hacerlo por la mañana (an unspecified time).

For the sake of, in favor of, on behalf of     Lo hice por el amor.  Voté por el mejor candidato.

Contrast the following: Compré el regalo para ti.  (It’s going outward to you as a recipient.)  Compré el regalo por ti.  (I bought it on your behalf or for your sake.)

Trabajo para la compania, y trabajo por mi familia.  I work for the company, and I work for the sake of my family.

For a period of time – Leí el libro por dos horas anoche.  But here be careful.  Para is used for a time deadline or specific time in the future.  Necesito el taxi para el lunes.  Te amo para siempre.

There are many idioms with por:  por cierto – certainly, por primera vez  – for the first time, por todas partes – everywhere, por fin – at last, por eso – therefore, por lo general – generally, as a rule, por dentro – inside, palabra por palabra – word for word, por supuesto – of course, por casualidad – by chance, por mi parte – as for me, por lo menos – at least, por allí– around there, that way, por adelantado – in advance

And don’t forget to distinguish between Por qué, meaning why and Para qué, meaning for what purpose.