Vocabulary

Spanish word of the day / Spanish expression of the day / Spanish idioms / Spanish proverbs


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!


Verbs of transformation (Verbos de cambio)

Spanish has many verbs that are used for specific types of change or transformation, and if the change is sudden or involuntary. Many of those verbs mean “to become” in English but in Spanish they are not interchangeable because they have very specific meanings for particular situations.

The next four verbs can be translated with “to become, to get”: Hacerse, Volverse, Quedarse and Ponerse but they are used in very different situations to express different things.

Hacerse: Change of age, changes in the ideology, profession and other “external” aspects. It can be used with professions, ideologies and a change of degree in personal attributes (ie. rich – poor, strong – weak, young – old…). They express a voluntary change caused by an effort or a gradual process.

– Mi madre se está haciendo vieja.
– My mum is getting older.

– La niña se está haciendo mayor.
– The girl is growing up.

– Pepe se ha hecho profesor.
– Pepe has become a teacher.

– Isabel se ha hecho musulmana.
Isabel has become a muslim.

Ponerse: Express a momentary change of situation, in health, physical appearance, color, mood or behavior, without indicating if it is permanent or not.

– Me he puesto nerviosa cuando he visto a mi jefe.
– I got nervous when I saw my boss.

– Ana se ha puesto enferma.
– Ana has become ill.

– María se ha puesto roja cuando Danny la ha mirado.
– Maria blushed when Danny looked at her.

– Me he puesto muy gorda después de las Navidades.
– I have put on lots of weight after Christmas.

– Petra se ha puesto triste cuando Luis se ha ido.
– Petra got sad when Luis left.

Volverse: Change of character or behavior as permanent. It is normally used to express an involuntary change referred to negative changes (but not always).

– Jose se ha vuelto muy tacaño.
– Jose has become very stingy.

– Desde que es jefe se ha vuelto insoportable.
– Since he’s a boss, he has become insufferable.

– Ana se ha vuelto más amable desde que es madre.
– Ana has become nicer since she’s a mother.

Quedarse: Change as a result of another circumstance. Normally is about negative changes and the most common cases are the permanent body changes (ie. blind, deaf, bold, pregnant…) or a family situation (ie. widow or orphan). It can also be used to express an emotional change caused by another situation, although in those cases we can choose between “ponerse” and “quedarse”.

– Bea se ha quedado coja tras el accidente.
– Bea became lame after the accident.

– Antonio se quedó viudo a los 50 años.
– Antonio widowed when he was 50.

– Me he quedado preocupada después de hablar con ella por teléfono.
– I got worried since I talked to her on the phone.

These are only four of the most common verbs of change, but there are more than we will go through in the next post. As you can see, these four verbs are reflexive, they end in “se“: hacerse, ponerse, volverse and quedarse. Remember to use the corresponding personal pronoun (me, te, se, nos, os, se) before the verb when you conjugate them, because those verbs without “se” mean a completely different thing: poner: ‘to put’, quedar: ‘to have an appointment’, hacer: ‘to make / to do’, volver: ‘to return’.

Now I will leave you with a short story that will help you to remember this four verbs of transformation in Spanish in the video below.

Story [Translation]

Hi, I am María and I’m a very normal person, but throughout my life I have changed a lot.
I am very a very shy person, so when I am with strangers I “get very nervous” and sometimes I “blushed” as well.
Since I am a little girl I always knew what I wanted to do when I was an adult. When I “grew up” I “became a teacher”.
The first time that I was offered a teaching job in a school in France, “I got very happy”, in those nine months I learned a lot, but I “was very sad” when the school year was over and I had to go back to Spain.
It has been four years since I work remotely, teaching Spanish via Skype, that’s why I can travel very often. Since I travel, I’ve “become more open minded and understanding” and also “I’ve become a little bit more adventurous”. 


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! 🙂


Three verbs to talk about length time in Spanish: “tardar”, “llevar” and “durar” 6

Do you know how to use the verbs “tardar”, “llevar” and “durar” in time expressions? Their use is fairly common to express how long it takes to do something, how long something goes on for or how long something has been going on. Let’s see the best way to use them:

  •  Durar: ‘to go on, to last’

durarWe use durar+ length of time to express how long something lasts.

– La película dura dos horas.
The movie lasts (for) two hours.

– ¿Cuánto dura el vuelo?
– How long is the flight? / How long does the flight take?

– La conferencia durará cuatro días.
– The conference will last four days.

  • Tardar: ‘to take (time)’

tardarWe use ‘tardar’ + amount of time + en  + infinitive to say how long it takes for someone (person, animal or thing) to do something.

Tardamos tres horas en llegar al pueblo.
– We took three hours to get to the village.

– ¿Cuánto se tarda en llegar de Madrid a Burgos en autobús?
– How long does it take to go from Madrid to Burgos by bus?

Tardar‘ also means to take too much time, as in delaying.

– Pedro tarda en llegar.
– Pedro is late in arriving.

  • Llevar

llevar– ‘Llevar‘ + time + gerund: ‘to be, to take’

We use this expression to refer to how long an action has been going on.

Llevo media hora esperando.
– I’ve been waiting for half an hour.

– ¿Cuánto tiempo llevas buscando a tus padres biológicos?
– How long have you been looking for your biological parents?

– ‘Llevar’ + time + sin + infinitive: ‘to go / to be for + length of time + without’

Lleva dos días sin comer.
– He hasn’t eaten for two days.

– ‘Llevar’ + amount of time (+ en) + place

We use this expression to say how long someone or something has been somewhere.

– La estatua lleva tres años en la plaza.
– The statue has been here for three years.

– ¿Cuánto tiempo llevas aquí?
– How long have you been here?


Gerund in Spanish (form and uses)

Gerund. And what’s that?

FORM

We make it by replacing the endings “-ar, -er, -ir” of the infinitive with -ando (verbs that ends in -ar) or -iendo for the verbs that end in -er, -ir

ger_1

Note: if the stem of the verb ends in vowel, ie. caer — ca-er, the ending for the infinitive would be -yendo.

ger_2

There are some irregular verbs in the gerund form

The verbs ending in -ir with an –e or an –o in the radical change those vowels by -i, or -u.

ger_3

 

USES

1. Temporal = while / when

Abriendo la puerta, descubrí al ladrón. (Cuando abrí la puerta)
– When I opened the door, I discovered the thief.

2. Causal = because / since

Viendo que se encontraba incómoda, nos fuimos de la fiesta. (Como se sentía incómoda)
– Seeing she was feeling uncomfortable, we left the party.

3. Conditional = if

Estudiando mucho desde hoy, podremos aprobar el examen (Si estudiamos mucho)
– If we study a lot from now on, we will be able to pass the exam.

4. Concessive (+ aun) = although

Aun lloviendo, iré a correr (Aunque llueva)
–  Even if it rains, I will go for a run.

5. Modal = answer the question “how” and the gerund is equivalent to “this way”

– Los sueños se cumplen trabajando en ellos (¿Cómo se cumplen los sueños? Así = Trabajando)
– The dreams are come true by working on them.

6. Relative = sentence with “that” and works as an adjective.

– La niña hablando con el policía es mi prima. (La niña que habla con el policía)
– The girl speaking with the policeman is my cousin.

Valores del Gerundio

And, if you are an English speaker, this is a very important part of the post.

We don’t use the gerund…

As a subject, in which case we use the infinitive.

Estudiar español es muy fácil.
Studying Spanish is very easy.

 

Ficha de teoría: Valores_gerundio_teoria

 


“Echar”: 7 meanings + 7 common expressions

“Echar” is a very tricky but I’m here to help! 🙂

If you look for the meanings of “echar” in the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary) you will find about 48 meanings and as many expressions that use this verb.

But despite all this abundance of meanings, the idea of “echar” implies movement from inside to outside or put away. Some of the meanings are ‘to throw’, ‘to expel, fire’, ‘to pour’, amongst many others…

Let’s see with detail some of the most used and useful meanings of “echar”

MEANINGS

1. ‘To throw, throw away’ – ‘Hacer que algo vaya a parar a alguna parte, dándole impulso’ (rae) ( to put (something) in a particular place in a careless or forceful way, to cause to move suddenly or forcefully to or away from a particular place) (merriam-webster).

– No deberíamos echar desperdicios al mar.
– We shouldn’t throw waste into the sea.

– ¡Échalo a la basura ahora mismo!
– Throw it away right now!

2. ”To throw out, to fire, to expel’ – ‘Hacer salir a alguien de algún lugar, apartarle con violencia, por desprecio, castigo, etc. // Deponer a alguien de su empleo o dignidad, impidiéndole el ejercicio de ella’ (rae). ‘To remove from a place, office, or employment usually in a sudden or unexpected manner (merriam-webster).

– La profesora me ha echado de clase esta mañana.
– The teacher threw me out of class this morning.

– Tengo que aceptar todos los proyectos que me dan si no quiero que me echen del trabajo.
– I have to take on all the projects they give me if I don’t want to get fired.

3. ‘To move, to lean, to push’ – ‘Inclinar, reclinar o recostar’ (rae). ‘To incline, deviate, or bend from a vertical position’ (merriam-webster).

– Puedes echar la cabeza a un lado que no veo bien?
– Can you tilt the head because I can’t see properly?
4. ‘To post, to give’ – ‘Dar o repartir’ (rae) ‘To post a letter // to give’ (merriam-webster)
– He echado la carta al buzón. Llegará en tres días.
– I post the letter. It will arrive in three days.
– Mamá pato echa de comer a los patitos.
– Mum duck feed the ducklings.
5. ‘To reckon, to count, to estimate’ – ‘Hacer cálculos, cuentas. Suponer o conjeturar el precio, distancia, edad, etc., que nos son desconocidos’. ‘To think or suppose, to believe that something is true or possible. To calculate or guess (an amount, number, value, etc.). To have or form a general idea about something’ (merriam-webster).
– ¿Qué edad le echas?
– How old do you reckon he is?
6. ‘To take time, to spend time’ – ‘Invertir o gastar en algo el tiempo que se expresa’. ‘To allow (time) to pass in a particular place or while doing a particular activity’ (merriam-webster).
– ¿Cuánto tardarás en llegar? – Échale dos horas.

– How long will it take you to arrive? -Let’s say two hours.

7. ‘To show‘ – ‘Representar o ejecutar comedias u otros espectáculos’ (rae). ‘To give a theatrical performance, to be staged or presented’ (merriam-webster).

– Echan una peli de Julia Roberts en la tele esta noche. No me la pierdo.
– There’s a Julia Roberts movie on TV tonight. I won’t miss it.

EXPRESSIONSechar_expressions

• echar a perder: ‘to spoil, to go off’.

– Con este calor la carne se echa a perder enseguida.
– With this heat, the meat goes off immediately.

• echar de menos: ‘to miss someone’.

– Juan está tan triste porque echa de menos a su amiga Marta que está de viaje.
– Juan is so sad because he misses his friend Marta who is traveling.

• echarse atrás: ‘to cry off’.

– Estaba todo organizado para la compra del piso pero se echaron atrás en el último minuto.
– It was all organized for the purchase of the house but they cried off at the last minute.

• echar un cable: ‘give a hand’.

– No te preocupes, te echaré un cable hasta que encuentres otro trabajo.
– Don’t worry, I’ll give you a hand until you find another job.

• echarse encima de alguien: ‘pounce on’.

– Los alumnos se me echaron encima cuando les mandé más tarea para el lunes.
– The students pounced on me when I gave them more homework for Monday.

• echar un vistazo: ‘have a look, take a look, take a glance’.

– He echado un vistazo al examen y no parece difícil.
– I have taken a look at the exam and it doesn’t seem difficult.

• echar en cara: ‘throw something is someone’s face’.

– No aguanto más que Pedro me eche cosas en cara constantemente. 
– I can’t stand anymore Pedro throwing things at my face constantly.