Culture


Learning Spanish with TV shows: Tips and ideas

What can be a better way to learn Spanish than doing it while watching one of your favorite TV shows?

Many of my students keep asking me suggestions about TV shows in Spanish that they could watch to improve their learning and also, and if watching a TV show really helps to improve.

Well, watching a TV show in the target language (that is, the language you are learning) can be really helpful, but can also be fruitless.

Let me explain.

No passive activity is going to give you many results. TV shows, podcasts, music… all these resources give amazing results when used as an addition to your learning routine, besides making the experience a lot more fun!

  1. What’s the purpose?
    1. Serious study approach to this material
    2. Just to spice things up and increase your motivation

Both approaches are valid and very positive, but just have in mind that minimal input brings less results than doing a conscious effort. So if you want to make your Spanish learning more fun and keep your motivations up,  watch a Spanish movie with English subtitles, but if you want to see a big improvement in your Spanish skills, then watch a short TV show adapted to your level while reading the transcripts. And, hey, you can do both!

2. Find a TV show or podcast adapted to your level. Some suggestions:

Yabla has got loads of content for languages learners, includes subtitles and you can even modify the speed!

This series is designed specifically to language learners. It’s similar to “Friends” in that the story revolves around a group of friends living in Barcelona. An American guy, Sam, comes to stay with the two girls, Ana and Lola, and the series is about the group and Sam’s attempts to learn Spanish. His mistakes often lead to pretty ridiculous misunderstandings, as anyone learning a language will surely understand… 😉

The Spanish characters correct Sam as he makes mistakes and there are recaps every now and then that go over the language Sam is learning. The series is very entertaining and perfect for elementary to intermediate level students, as it has Spanish subtitles and the characters speak slowly and clearly.

Web series are a new and interesting option to watch independent series. Normally, episodes last around 10 minutes. “Malviviendo” is good for learning Spanish slang related to drugs and relationships (which is some of the most popularly-used slang). The characters talk pretty quickly, so this show is suitable for more advanced learners.

This show is about five Spaniards trying to start a new life in the UK. The episodes are focused on their experiences learning English and finding housing, jobs and new friends, while while trying to keep in touch with their loved ones back in Spain.

This TV show is perfect for beginners, since it will help you to develop your comprehension skills. It is particularly useful because each episode has dialogues in Spanish and English. The show also has English subtitles when the characters are speaking in Spanish and vice versa.

Les Luthiers (French for musical instrument makers) are a very well-known Latin American music and comedy group. These guys are a class act, and their numerous Spanish TV shows are full of refined humor and musical skits. Hence their name, they play a homemade instrument each episode, in homage to their fictional character, Johann Sebastian Mastropiero. Sadly, Mastropiero lacks any real musical talent.

These shows are best for intermediate and advanced learners. The comedians speak slowly and very clearly. They’re perfect for learning vocabulary related to music, history and social aspects of modern and older times.

So, now you can pick and choose the show suitable to your level.

The next step is watching it… with a pen and a notebook in hand to note the new words and expressions that might appear.
Don’t hesitate in stopping the video and taking notes, listening again and again until you catch the words. However, I don’t advice trying to get everything all the time as it will make you frustrated and tired. Getting the general idea is the main goal.

 

Let me know in the comments what is your experience watching TV shows, or if you have any other suggestions to add to the list. Looking forward to your comments!


Talk about wine in Spanish

I like wine. Yes, I can`t deny it. I also know I am not the only one. So, if you are a bit like me, you will enjoy this post very much.

In every country I have traveled, what I want to do is to soak in their culture, talk to locals, visit museums, walk around and see how the people are dressed, go inside a bookshop and see what are the bestsellers and top 5 book advices, watch national cinema and read the newspapers, watch television (that’s a great way to learn about the culture of that particular country!), eat in local restaurants (not this McDonalds kind of place) and learn about their gastronomy (or lack of it), drink coffee or tea and learn about how the people prefer to enjoy their warm drinks, seating, on the go, straight or with many different options… Also alcoholic drinks, beers, wines and spirits are also part of the culture.

These are just examples about how to learn about culture. Wine is just one of them, but for me, it’s a very enjoyable one.

As a Spaniard from the north of Spain, from a medium sized city called Burgos from the region Castille y Leon, roasted lamb (‘cordero asado’) , black pudding (‘morcilla’) and wine from the wine region of Ribera del Duero are the things I grew up with.

As I said, I love wine, red (tinto) and white (blanco) are my favourites, not so keen in the rosé (rosado) and sparkling wine (vino espumoso).

There are so many wine regions and appellations (‘denominación de origen’) in Spain! From the extremely well known Rioja in the north, with their best known Tempranillo grape (‘uva’) used in the tintos. Valdepeñas in the south, Jumilla, Toro or Jerez (Sherry) to mention just a few. And what about the white wines like Verdejo or Albariño!

And then, once you have your glass of vino in hand, there is the smell, the colour, the texture, the taste…

Enology (‘enología’) is a science, the science of wine making, a sommelier (‘sumiller’) is the wine waiter and a wine taster (‘catador’) is the professional taster. They know everything there is to know about wine. But we, common people, wine drinkers (always with moderation!) also have some practical knowledge about wine, sometimes we just need the words to say that the smell of our wine is fruity (‘afrutado’) or spicy (‘especiado’), or the flavour is thick (‘espeso’)… And what about the defects? When our vino is acidic (‘acido’) or plonk (‘peleón’).

Words, and more words… the language.

The wine, so important for certain cultures that we have proverbs about it: Con pan y con vino se anda el camino (With bread and wine, one walks the path) or Al pan pan, y al vino vino (to call a spade a spade).

Spanish wine intertwined with Spanish culture, culture and wine through language.

Spanish language.

And this is just an aperitif. If you enjoyed reading this, you will probably enjoy much more what is going to happen in some cities around Europe, Glasgow being the first one of the list.

So make a note in your appointment book: Glasgow, the 20th of February. Three hours of learning about Spanish wine and vocabulary to talk about it, appellations, including a tasting (‘cata’) of different Spanish wines, and we will also talk about different options of wine vacations since there are many wineries (‘bodegas’) offering really good plans for all of you lovers of all things Spanish! The workshop will be carried out in English mainly but there will be chances to practice some Spanish speaking and listening as well.

You can get more information here: http://spanishworkshops.net or go ahead and book the tickets here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/spanish-wine-workshop-tickets-15011053465

If you are into this way of learning Spanish culture and language, I suggest you subscribe in the newsletter below or in the workshops page to get updates about the cities where these workshops will be hold.

Hope to see you there! 🙂


Humor, movies, songs and lots of Spanish: “Mucha Guasa”

Last week, a friend and I launched Mucha Guasa (‘Much Banter’) an educational page intending to teach Spanish in a fun way.

A daily video of my friend singing or performing a line from a song or a movie translated into Spanish, which you, my dear Spanish lovers / learners can try to guess which movie or song he is performing.

Accompanying those highly entertaining videos, and contributing to the educational side, it’s me explaining some grammar point or idiom appearing in the translation.

Fun? Lots. Here is just an example of him singing.

Learning? Of course! So far, we have seen the use of the intensifier “demasiado / demasiada”, the “future simple”, the use of “ya” and “ya no” and the use of “como” as an adverb of manner, and we only launched last Wednesday!

Like us and start having fun while learning Spanish for free every day.


Lover’s day: useful vocabulary and expressions in Spanish for Valentine’s Day

Spanish VocabularyThe 14th of February is Valentine’s Day so in today’s post I will show you some useful vocabulary and expressions related with this “loving” subject.

We call this day El Día de los Enamorados or San Valentín in Spanish.

What do we do in this day when we are love someone or we have a crush on someone? Well, we mainly offer a present, like chocolates, or send a card.

♥ Hacer un regalo

♥ Bombones

♥ Mandar una tarjeta

Our heart (‘corazón’) beats fast when we are close to our sweetheart (‘cariño’), doesn’t it?

We get romantic and we show our love with kisses and hugs and we might even whisper “I love you!” to our sweetheart’s ear.

♥ Ponerse romántico

♥ Beso

♥ Abrazo

♥ ¡Te quiero! ♥

Ah, love! What a wonderful thing! I’ll write down some verbs about this great emotion:

♥ El amor

♥ Estar enamorado (‘to be in love’)

♥ Enamorarse (‘to fall in love’)

♥ Gustar alguien / estar colado por alguien (‘to have a crush on someone’)

Let’s talk about relationships and the steps in the process of starting a relationship with someone:

1. First, one gathers all their courage and ask the person one like out.☞ Pedir a alguien que salga contigo.

– ¡Juan me ha pedido que salga con él!!!
– Juan asked me out!!!

2. If everything goes well and we get a yes, we start going out with that person. ☞ Salir con alguien.

– Estoy saliendo con Juan desde hace dos años.
– I’m going out with Juan for two years.

3. We like to hold hands when we go for a walk. ☞ Darse la mano / Ir de la mano.

– Me encanta ir de la mano con mi novio.
– I love holding hands with my boyfriend.

4. Sometimes, for some reason, we like to play hard to get. ☞ Hacerse el duro / la dura, hacerse desear por la otra persona.

– Ana todavía no ha aceptado mi invitación a cenar, creo que se está haciendo la dura.
– Ana hasn’t accepted my invitation to dinner yet, I think she’s playing hard to get.

5. Once we are in the relationship we go through different stages:

– Ir en serio (‘go steady’)

– Irse a vivir con alguien (‘move in with someone’), vivir juntos (live together).

6. However, love not always lasts and sometimes the relationships end. Here there are some expressions:

Dejar a alguien (‘to leave someone’)

–  Romper (‘to break up)

Darse un tiempo (‘to be on a break)

– Engañar a alguien / poner los cuernos (‘to cheat on someone’)

– Superar (‘to get over someone’)

– Romper el corazón / Tener el corazón roto (‘to break your heart / to be broken hearted’)

 

♥ ¡Feliz Día de los Enamorados! ♥

 

 

 

 


Cultural Festivities – Spanish Christmas (I) 1

Ho, ho, ho The Christmas season has come. And since learning a language is much more than learning some vocabulary and structures, I am determined (and delighted) to showing you some of the cultural aspects of this Christmas season in Spain, which will be very helpful to understand the Spanish culture better and will give you a flavor of Spain and its Christmas.

*   *   *   *   *

The Spanish Christmas go around many of the same traditions as they do in the rest of the world. It’s all about family gatherings, celebration, kindness, generosity… As well as food, drink, villancicos (‘Christmas carols’) and gifts. However there are peculiarities, some customs and traditions that make Christmas in Spain different from any other countries.

As you know, Spain is quite a big country with many different regions (13 to be precise) and each one holds special customs.  You must have into account as well that Spain has a very religious past, so a traditional Christmas would revolve around religious customs.

24th of December: Christmas Eve ☞ Nochebuena (Goodnight)

Nochebuena is probably the most important family gathering of the year.

In the evening, people will gather after work to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas holidays with friends and few glasses of cava (‘champagne’). After that, people go home to their families and enjoy a typical Christmas meal with the family. A typical Christmas dinner will vary from region to region but some common ingredients will be some fish, like  lubina al horno (‘baked sea bass’) or besugo al horno (‘baked red sea bream’), the turkey is not that common in Spain, although we still can have roast suckling pig in some parts, but fish is the most common mean dish in a Christmas dinner. Around the fish one can find sea food, like prawns and crayfish, clams, mussels and octopus… In some regions, lombarda (‘red cabbage’) is a traditional Christmas dish and in others is the roast stuffed capon… As you can see, different dishes from different regions.

What is a common thing is going with the family to the Misa del Gallo (‘Midnight mass’) which literally means Rooster’s Mass where the Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Santa Claus or Papá Noel, as we call him in Spain, does not make part of the traditional Spanish Christmas and it’s quite recent. In Spain, the gifts are given in Reyes, the 6th of January (the Epiphany) but we’ll talk about that in a following post. However, since the 6th of January is the end of Christmas holidays, some families adopted the Santa Claus custom just to give the gifts at the beginning of the holidays so that the children can enjoy their presents during the holidays.

Olentzero_Hendaia_2006

Olentzero

As I was saying, Papá Noel is not part of the Spanish Christmasy figures, but we have other traditional personages that also bring presents to well behaved children, like the Olentzero, a coalman who lives in the mountains and come the 24th to bring gifts to children in the Basque Country.

25 th of December: Christmas Day ☞ Navidad

Navidad is national holiday in Spain so all business and shops are closed this day, although it’s not a day of a big celebration. It’s a day of relax instead where people usually go out in the morning and have an aperitif with other members of the family. We have a very large meal at lunch time.

During the day, well, from the 24th to the end of the Christmas season on the 6th, we have always a plate with turrón (‘a kind of nougat’), peladillas (‘sugared almonds’), mazapanes (‘marzipan’), mantecados and polvorones (‘some kind of shortbread but not exactly’).

Caganer

Caganer

The decoration for Christmas is a nativity scene, called Belén, which always have the figurines of baby Jesus,  Joseph and Mary, and the ox and the mule. In some houses the Belén is very big and has the Three Wise Men, the shepherds and angels, the village of Belem… a very detailed nativity scene as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. As I told you before, there are as many Christmas customs as they are regions in Spain, and one funny custom in Catalonia is the figurine called “caganer“, which is a figurine depicted as having a poo… There are even prizes for the best “belén”!

We also have the Árbol de Navidad (‘Christmas tree’), but as Papá Noel, that’s not that traditional.

¡Felices Fiestas!

 

 

I leave you with a couple of villancicos (‘Christmas carols’) for you to listen and have a taste of a Christmas in  Spain. Enjoy the angelical voices…!