Thursday, June 28, 2007

Genetics of Spanish vocabulary

The most essential part of the Spanish vocabulary is derived from Vulgar Latin. Thousands of words from classical Latin were included in the Spanish vocabulary with the development of the literary language.

Some words were borrowed from the languages of the pro-Roman inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula (the Iberians and the Celtiberians). The invasion of the Visigoths early in the 5th century AD introduced a few Germanic words; those of them which were beginning with w- received a prothetic g-, e.g., Gmc. werra war -> Sp. guerra.

The Muslim conquest in the 8th century later brought in a large number of Arabic words, many of which are easily detected by their polysyllabic structure (e.g., berenjena aubergine) or by the prefixed Arabic article al- (e.g., alcalde mayor, alfil officer, almohada pillow etc.)

Under the influence, beginning in the 11th century, of French ecclesiastics and pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, the Spanish vocabulary was appreciably augmented by words and phrases from French. During the 15th and 16th centuries an infusion of elements from the Italian occurred because of Aragonese domination in Italy and the great vogue of Italian poetry in Spain. Relations between Spain and its colonies and possessions have led to the introduction of terms from Native American languages and other sources, and scholarly activities have constantly increased the stock of borrowed words.

Spanish language phonology and vocabulary skills

Here, we are going to do a little autopsy of the Spanish phonology and understand how it can help us improve our vocabulary effortlessly and more naturally. Words retained this way tend to retain for longer.

Spanish has simplified the Vulgar Latin vocal system to only 5 open vowels (as in Classic Latin) -- a, e, i, o, u -- that are pronounced clearly and without reduction in both stressed and unstressed positions. The vowels, that are short in Classic Latin, diphthongize when stressed in Spanish, except for a:

CL porta door -> Sp. puerta,

CL herba grass -> Sp. hierba.

The long and stressed vowels, e, o are replaced by i, u, and the short and unstressed vowels i, u, by e, o:

CL fêci (I) did -> Sp. hice.

The accent may fall on the ultimate, penultimate or antepenultimate syllable. Its place is recognizable from orthography. As compared with the accent of Classical Latin, it shows a tendency to move towards a syllable containing –r:

CL tenebrae darkness -> Sp. tinieblas.

The Latin consonants p, t, c between vowels are voiced to b, d, g in Spanish:

CL apotheca (th=t) store-room -> Sp. bodega.

The intervocalic -d- disappears (CL cadere to fall -> Sp. Caer), and the intervocalic -g- may disappear or become a glide sound [j] written y (CL legere to read -> Sp. Leer; CL reges kings -> Sp. Reyes), while the intervocalic -b- is preserved, but tends to become aspirated as v (CL habere to have -> Sp. haber).

The initial f- is replaced by a mute h-:

CL facere to do -> Sp. hacer.

The consonant clusters ct, lt are transformed to ch (act to ech):

CL octo eight -> Sp. ocho,
CL multu (m) much, many -> Sp. mucho,
CL lactuca lettuce -> Sp. lechuga.

The clusters cl, fl, pl are palatalized to ll:

CL clamo (I) call -> Sp. llamo,
CL flama flame -> Sp. llama,
CL ploro (I) weep -> Sp. lloro.

The clusters ali, eli, ili, oli, uli are transformed to aj, ej, ij, oj, uj:

CL alium garlic -> Sp. ajo,
CL filius son -> Sp. hijo,
CL mulier woman -> Sp. mujer, etc.

The clusters lr, mr, nr are divided by epenthetic -b- or -d- and become ldr, mbr, ndr, as in:

venir to come + he (I) have -> vendré (I) will come.

The words beginning with s- followed by a consonant (s impure) receive a prothetic e-:

CL stare to stand -> Sp. estar.

With this insight into the fundamental structure of Spanish and its semblance to Latin, the parent language of all Romance languages and a major contributor to the English vocabulary, you will be able to understand the anatomy of Spanish vocabulary better and enhance your vocabulary more naturally. Given that many English words derive from Latin and Latin is a direct predecessor of Spanish, you will, more often than not, discover Spanish words that have not-so-distant cousins in the English language too! Makes learning easier?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Visualize and improve your vocabulary in 10 minutes!

In continuation with a previous article on visualization for vocabulary, here are 10 more words with their visual tags to help you further boost your vocabulary of the Spanish language. Remember, this technique is effective only if you can relate the visual image with the word and the meaning given below.

cuaderno notebook (picture a Tai Kwan Do class where they kick through a notebook instead of a board)

dama lady (in English, we also call’em dame, don’t we?)

daño damage, harm (imagine the Danish Vikings on a rampage)

despertarse to wake up (imagine being desperate to save your arse after seeing a bad nightmare)

echar to throw, to pour (imagine throwing charcoal)

edad age (you must respect your dad for his age!)

fábrica factory (what is a factory, after all? A place to fabricate goods!)

fácil easy (I have just facilitated your learning Spanish, made it easier, by writing this guide, haven’t I?)

feo ugly (few people are uglier than transvestites, don’t ya agree?)

gafas glasses (imagine saying, glasses, with a lisp and cold. Funny, ain’t it?)

If you don't remember all the words given above within 10 minutes, you are probably not focusing on the visual image or maybe, you should customize your own image with more details, colors, or vividness.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Some Spanish verbs easy to learn - III

Here is the third installment of the series that last appeared on June 20, 2007, by the name, Some Spanish verbs easy to learn. In this series, we discuss some Spanish verbs that derive from roots common to their English counterparts making it easier for you to learn most of these vital words in Spanish. Here are 50 such verbs for this installment:

Autorizar to authorize

Avaluar to value, to appraise

Avanzar to advance

Avasallar to subject, to dominate, to subdue (similar to vassal)

Aventurar to venture, to risk

Avinagrar to sour, to make sour or acidic (do you see vinegar?)

Balancear to balance, to rock, to roll, to swing

Balotar to ballot, to vote

Basar to base

Batallar to battle, to fight, to struggle

Batear to bat

Batir to beat, to whip

Beneficiar to benefit, to do good

Calcular to calculate

Calibrar to gauge, to measure, to measure the caliber of

Calmar to calm, to quieten, to soothe

Cancelar to cancel

Capitalizar to capitalize

Capitular to surrender

Capturar to capture, to arrest

Cardar to card, to comb (wool)

Catalogar to catalogue

Causar to cause

Ceder to cede, to transfer, to yield, to surrender, to submit

Celebrar to celebrate

Cementar to cement

Censurar to censure, to criticize

Centrar to center

Certificar to certify, to register

Cesar to cease, to stop, to quit

Clarificar to clarify, to make clear

Clasificar to classify

Coagular to coagulate, to thicken

Coincidir to coincide

Colaborar to collaborate, to work together

Colonizar to colonize

Colorar to color, to stain, to die

Comandar to command (troops)

Combinar to combine, to unite

Comenzar to begin (similar to commence)

Comisionar to commission

Conmemorar to commemorate

Comparar to compare

Compeler to compel, to force

Compilar to compile

Completar to complete, to finish

Complicar to complicate

Computar to compute, to calculate

Comunicar to communicate, to notify

Conceder to concede, to grant, to admit

Works for you? I am sure it should. Part 4 of this series will follow shortly. So, keep visiting and spread your learning! Happy learning...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Spanish visualization tricks

Here's another list of Spanish visuals. Every word has its pronunciation, meaning, and a little phrase to help you remember the word and its meaning.

A visual phrase is worthless without the right connections for your memory, the best way to remember what an orange is in Spanish is to get an orange, feel it's peel, smell the skin, listen to the sound when you cut through the peel, feel the resistance give way as the knife penetrates, take in that bright, vibrant, orange color of the flesh, taste the sweet tangy juices, smell the juices, feel rippled, slippery skin all the while connecting the essence of an orange to how Spanish expresses it: naranja.

The worst way is to memorize a rhyme connecting a pun on the color orange to the fruit orange. Three unrelated steps: reading a rhyme (something processed in a totally different part of the brain,) the color orange, and then an actual orange. It might work to get an "A" on a test, but you will have a stutter when you are in Mexico.

Used correctly a visual phrase is somewhere in between the two extremes of true understanding and rote memorization. With enough practice, especially in an immersion environment, the brain will make the direct connection to naranja circumventing the visual phrase, but never like our first language.

The correct way, or more awkwardly the most correct way, to use visualization is to incorporate as much of the essence of the thing being memorized into as many senses in the most ridiculous way possible.

Abajo below (relate it to baja which relates to Baja California, also called Lower California)

Afietarse to shave oneself (imagine shaving your arse/ass sitting in a Fiat car)

Alcoba bedroom (imagine a deadly cobra crawling across your bedroom floor)

Armario closet (you find out a secret closet full of guns and swords and the words, armory, inscribed on its doors)

Azul blue (relates to an old English word for sky, azure)

Bailar to dance (ever heard Enrique's famous number, Bailamos?)

Caballero gentleman (a yellow cab with a gentleman inside)

Caber to fit, to make room (imagine pushing the people inside a cab to make room for some fresh air)

Capillarse to brush oneself (imagine brushing your arse with a caterpillar)

Correr to run (picture a news correspondent running behind Paris Hilton when she is arrested for drunk driving)

Creer to believe, to think (do you really believe when they show those weird creatures on Animal Planet?)

I am sure you'll retain these Spanish words for a lifetime without any need for senseless recitations.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How quickly can you learn 10 new words in Spanish?

How does '3-minutes' sound? Incredible? Well, not really. Come, let's discover the wonders of this powerful technique called, visualization.

Just read through them one word at a time. Read the Spanish word first and then the meaning. Then read and understand the visualization given next to it. Notice the syllables/words/phrases that appear in bold. Try to relate the visual image to the word and its meaning. Now, close your eyes and just imagine the visual imagination you just read and repeat it to yourself for 10-15 seconds. Now, open your eyes. Before you realize it, you have already learned the word forever! Try it here:

Zorro fox (a fox in the mask of Zorro)

Gato cat (a cat with wide gaps between his toes)

Perro dog (a dog jumping over a pair of rowboats)

Oso bear (a sloth bear...oh, so big!)

Chico boy (it would be a Chick, i.e. female, but it isn't, because it has an o on the end, which makes it masculine)

Mesa table (imagine a table made of salt licks)

Falda skirt (imagine a skirt worn in the fall by your dame)

Agua water (water = Aqua = the Spanish word Agua)

Cabeza head (a head sitting in a cab at the base of the passenger's side, crying out, "Ah!" when the driver makes a sharp turn)

Chica girl (imagine kissing a girl on the cheek)

So, how did it feel learning 10 new words in 3 minutes flat? Happy visualization, hasta la vista!

Easiest ever guide to Spanish genders

Words in Spanish have gender, which is the attribute of being masculine or feminine. In this sense, you can think about words being either boys or girls.

Let's raise their knickers and see exactly what gender they are. Words that are masculine generally end in o and words that are female generally end in a. Two important exceptions are el día and la mano.

Another way a teacher taught it was this: guys are LONERS and girls like DIJON mustard. Words ending in l, o, n, e, r and s are masculine. Words ending in d, i, a and sión are feminine.

NOTE: It is true that there are many more exceptions to this, but if you have to guess at the gender of a word, it's a good method to try most of the times.

Some Spanish verbs easy to learn - II

Here is the next installment of the series on Spanish verbs similar to their English counterparts. In this series, we discuss some Spanish verbs that derive from roots common to their English counterparts making it easier for you to learn most of these vital words in Spanish. Here are they:

Anexar to annex

Animar to animate, to give life to

Anticipar to anticipate

Anular to annul, to void, to cancel, to abolish

Anunciar to announce, to advertise

Aparentar to appear, to seem

Apartar to set apart, to separate

Apasionar to arouse passion, to fill with passion

Apasionarse to become impassioned

Apelar to appeal

Apilar to pick up, to pile up, to stack, to heap

Aplacar to appease, to pacify, to soothe (similar to placate)

Aplanar to level, to flatten (similar to plane)

Aplaudir to applaud, to clap

Aplicar to apply, to put on

Apreciar to appreciate, to value, to esteem

Aprehender to apprehend, to seize, to arrest

Aprisionar to imprison

Aprobar to approve

Apropriar to fit, to adapt

Apropiarse to take possession of, to confiscate (similar to appropriate)

Aproximar to place or bring near, to approximate

Apurar to purify, to verify, to finish, to worry or annoy

Aquietar to quieten, to calm, to hush

Arbitrar to arbitrate, to umpire

Armar to arm

Armonizar to harmonize

Argüir to argue, to deduce, to infer

Arreglar to arrange, to put in order, to regulate

Arrestar to arrest, to stop

Arriscar to risk, to venture

Arruinar to ruin, to destroy

Articular to articulate, to join, to unite

Asaltar to assault, to attack

Ascender to ascend, to climb, to promote

Asentir to assent, to agree

Asesinar to assassinate, to murder

Asimilar to assimilate, to digest, to absorb

Asir to seize, to take hold of

Asociar to associate

Aspirar to aspire, to long for, to seek, to inhale, to breathe in

Asumir to assume

Atacar to attack

Atender to heed, to pay attention, to attend to, to take care of

Atentar to attempt, to try

Atenuar to attenuate, to lessen, to tone down, to dim

Aterrar/aterrorizar to terrorize, to frighten

Atestar to attest, to testify, to witness

Atormentar to torment, to worry, to afflict, to tease, to bother

Atribuir to attribute, to ascribe, to impute

Aumentar to augment, to increase

Doesn’t Spanish seem easier than you thought? There are hundreds of such verbs still to come in future posts. Just keep your eyes open.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mnemonics to learn Spanish verbs, ser and estar

There has always been a major confusion for new learners of Spanish over the translation of the English, to be. This is because, Spanish has two different words (estar & ser) for this verb and you need to be extremely careful in their usage. Any mistake might drastically change the meaning!

That said and done, it is very tedious to learn the complicated rules on where to use estar and where to use ser. This is where mnemonics come into play. Here's the mnemonic that I used while learning Spanish. It's called Doctor Elf:

Doctor (usage for ser)

D escription (Ella es alta.)

O ccupation (Soy profesor.)

C haracteristic (El es antipático.)

T ime / Date (Son las ocho; hoy es el ocho de julio.)

O rigin (Soy de Virginia.)

R elationship (Ella es mi madre.)

Elf (usage for estar)

E motion (Estoy contento.)

L ocation (Estoy al concierto.)

F eeling (Estoy enojado.)

Another way to remember the places where estar is used, is by memorizing the following rhyme:

How you feel and where you are,
That is when you use estar.

Think you'll ever make a mistake with these two Spanish verbs in the future? I don't think so. Happy learning...

Some more Spanish through visualization!

Let's try learning these common words and their english meanings through the tried and tested method of visualization:

Playa beach (imagine playing on the beach with your kids)

Abogado lawyer (a lawyer is also called advocate which has a common Latin origin to Abogado)

Pan bread (imagine yourself cooking a whole loaf of bread in a pan!)

Piscina pool (ever pissed in a swimming pool when u were a naughty, little kid?)

Cabina phone booth (imagine a stupid cabbie trying to fit his cab in a small phone booth)

Casa house (picture living in an enormous suitcase!)

Cara face (a magic car that makes faces at other vehicles!)

Now don't tell me you took more than 5 minutes to memorize all the 7 words listed above by heart!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Learning Spanish weekdays through their roots!

The names of the days of the week in Spanish and English don't seem very much alike. But in fact they have similar origins. Surprisingly, however, the day with the names in the two languages sounding the most alike — Saturday in English and sábado in Spanish — has names that aren't connected.

The etymology (word history) of most of the days the week are linked to Roman mythology. The Romans saw a connection between their gods and the changing face of the nighttime sky, so it became natural to use their gods' names for the planets — the ones they were able to track in the sky were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Those five planets plus the moon and sun made seven major astronomical bodies, so when the seven-day week was imported from Mesopotamia early in the fourth century it was a natural to use those astronomical names for the days of the week.

Under Constantine, the first day of the week was named after the sun, followed by the moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.

The names of the week were adopted with little change throughout most of the Roman Empire and even beyond. In only a few cases were changes made.

In Spanish, the five weekdays all retained their planetary names. Those are the five days whose names end in -es, a shortening of the Latin word for "day," dies. Note how the English and Spanish names of the days of the week have common origins:

1. Sunday (domingo) derives from a Latin word meaning, "Lord's Day."

2. Monday (lunes) derives from Luna, Latin for Moon.

3. Tuesday (martes) derives from Mars, the Roman God of war.

4. Wednesday (miércoles ) derives from Mercury, a Roman God.

5. Thursday (jueves) derives from Jovian, the Latin adjective for Jupitar, a Roman God.

6. Friday (viernes) derives from Venus, the Roman Goddess of love.

7. Saturday (sábado) derives from Sabbath, the day of rest.

By now, I hope you know the Spanish week as naturally as the English one! Bienvenidos!

Some Spanish verbs easy to learn

When looking at the verbs that follow, remember that Spanish verbs end in ar, er, or ir. Accept that fact and then, in your mind, remove the Spanish verb-ending. You will find that the Spanish verb bears a close similarity to one of the English equivalents that appear on its right.

Oh, By the way, Spanish mostly doesn't use double consonants, such as bb, cc, rr, ff, gg, nn, etc. (An ll is the noticeable exception.) If you remember this, it will be easier for you to see the similarity between Spanish and English words.

For example, remove the ar from abortar and what do you have? To miscarry or to have a miscarriage. Isn't that the same as to abort?

The same is true for the Spanish verb, abandonar and absolver. Remove their endings and you are looking at to abandon and to absolve.

Included in the list, however, are a few verbs that differ from English by more than their ar, ir, or endings. For example, included in the list are erabalanzar (to balance), acelerar (to accelerate), abreviar (to abbreviate), and agitar (to agitate). Here they are. The Spanish is on the left; the English on the right.

Abalanzar to balance

Abandonar to abandon, to desert

Abolir to abolish

Abominar to abominate, to abhor, to detest

Abortar to miscarry, to have a miscarriage, to give birth prematurely, to fail (similar to abort)

Abreviar to abbreviate, to shorten, to condense

Abrogar to abrogate, to repeal, to annul

Absolver to absolve, to free from guilt, to pardon, to acquit

Absorber to absorb

Abstenerse to abstain, to refrain

Abusar to abuse, to mistreat, to misuse

Acelerar to accelerate, to speed up, to quicken, to hurry, to hasten

Acentuar to accentuate, to emphasize, to accent

Aceptar to accept, to approve, to admit

Aclamar to acclaim, to cheer, to hail, to applaud

Acomodar to arrange, to adjust, to accommodate, to lodge, to place

Acompañar to accompany, to escort

Acreditar to credit, to bring fame or credit to

Activar to activate, to make active, to speed up, to hasten

Acumular to accumulate, to gather, to pile up

Acusar to accuse, to denounce

Adherir to adhere to, to stick

Adjudicar to adjudge, to award, to assign (isn't this similar to adjudicate?)

Admirar to admire

Admitir to admit, to let in, to accept, to allow, to permit

Adoptar to adopt, to accept

Adorar to adore, to worship

Adornar to adorn, to decorate

Adquirir to acquire, to gain, to win, to obtain (omit the d and you see the similarity)

Adulterar to adulterate, to corrupt, to make impure

Advertir to notice to warn, to advertise

Afectar to affect, to move, to pretend to have or feel

Afirmar to affirm, to assert, to make firm

Agenciar to negotiate, to procure by negotiation, to promote (similar to agency)

Agitar to agitate, to excite, to stir, to wave, to shake

Aglomerar to mass together, to cluster (similar to agglomerate)

Agraciar to grace, to adorn

Agrandar to enlarge, to aggrandize, to make greater

Agravar to aggravate, to make worse

Aguar to dilute with water, to water (remember aqua)

Ahumar to smoke, to fume (similar to fumar in French)

Ajustar to adjust, to fit tight, to regulate

Alarmar to alarm

Alegar to allege, to assert

Alegrar to cheer up, to gladden, to brighten

Aliar to ally, to unite

Alterar to alter, to change, to disturb

Alternar to alternate, to take turns

Amalgamar to amalgamate, to combine, to mix, to blend

Amoldar to mold, to shape, to adjust, to adapt

Amortizar to pay on account, to liquidate, to pay, to provide a sinking fund (similar to amortize)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Spanish makes it easier to learn many other languages!

Learning Spanish should be seen as an investment. Not only will you speak this beautiful and ubiquitous language, but you will receive a deep discount on other fine languages from the Romance family.

Should you want to learn French, Portuguese or Italian, three important languages, or even mess with Latin, Catalan or Romanian, you will learn them in 50% to 80% less time than it took you to learn Spanish. Those languages have very similar vocabularies, with many words derived from Latin, and almost the same grammar. Learn the dreaded but all-important subjunctive tense and you can use it in all these languages. The differences in grammar are minor and you'll need to concentrate mostly on differences in pronunciation, idioms and vocabulary.

If you do not already speak another Romance language, learning one is an absolute must. Spanish makes good candidate for a first Romance language, because if you stop after you have learned Spanish, you will be stuck with a useful language. If you start by Romanian because you like Vlad Tepezsch, you will still benefit from the 'discount' should you want to later study other, more important Romance languages, but in the meanwhile you will be stuck with a language that is spoken in few countries only. It's like buying one DVD for $19.99 and getting an 80% discount on every other DVD in the store. Or a lifelong all-you-can-eat buffet. French is a close competitor for a good first Romance language.

A few words on Spanish vocabulary

There are quite a lot of Spanish words you will recognize if you speak English. If you speak another romance language, most words will look familiar after a few weeks of study.

When learning a Spanish word, you need to remember its gender. It is a must so don't get lazy on this.

You need to pay attention to the few but important false friends or false cognates. There are not so many of those pairs of words that look very similar in two languages, but if you do not study them properly you will sound like a fool.

To see a list of some of the most prominent false pals in Spanish, see Beware! false pals ahead!!

Some important trivia on Spanish grammar

Spanish presents few grammatical difficulties. The main difficulties, shared with other Romance languages, are:

Word genders: All nouns are either masculine or feminine . For instance, the famous phrase from an Arnold Schwarzenegger line, 'No problemo!', is an error in Spanish! The word problema, despite its ending in -a, is a masculine. Students of Spanish tend to 'correct' the felt gender of the word, problemo (masculine) with a more masculine-sounding, -o ending. However, the correct phrase is, 'No problema!'. I got myself scolded by the Dominican wife of the owner of a favorite restaurant of mine when I tried my Spanish on her with this innocuous phrase, so I remember it. But there are scores of such mistakes you can make in Spanish. You just have to deal with it if you don't want to sound like a moron.

Conjugation: Unlike English, Spanish verbs take many, many different endings depending on the tense, mood and person doing the action of the verb. If this is your first Romance language, it will take some study. If it is your first language with a strong conjugation, it will take more study. It is not immensely difficult and with a good language program and dedication, you should be able to overcome this difficulty.

Subjunctive: The subjunctive mood is a key point to master in Spanish as in other Romance languages. You absolutely need to have this one right, even if it looks a bit alien, otherwise your Spanish will sound awkward.

The unique Spanish sound system

Spanish is easy to pronounce. Though, considering it is still a foreign language, it is bound to have some of its uniqueness in its sound system, there are actually only two major challenges:

* Rolled 'R': like Italian, Spanish uses manly 'R's that sound like an old tank cranking up. If you get some proper instructions as to tongue position, there is no reason why you should not master this sound after a few days. I like pronouncing those rolled 'R' - they are great fun.
* 'J' or Jota: this sound found in other languages, such as German 'Ach' or Scottish 'Loch'. It is not hugely difficult to master and you absolutely need to get it as raucous as the native speakers if you want to speak correctly.

English speakers often have difficulties with the highly regular word intonation in Spanish. In contrast to English, where words are 'sung' in a way that defies understanding, Spanish is spoken like a machine gun, with only one syllable per word spoken stronger, usually the one before last. I strongly caution English speakers not to speak Spanish words with English intonation. You will sound like fools and people will probably not understand what you say.

If you wish to hear these two sounds in one word, ask a native Spanish speaker to say 'Guadalajara', 'naranja', 'ejercicios' or 'Borgès'.

Variations in Spanish

Unlike Arabic or Chinese, with Spanish, you will be able to speak and understand people in every single Spanish-speaking country in the world. Regional variations and accents do not get in the way of understanding after a few hours of practice with a local.

The variations in the Spanish language from one country to another are similar to those of French between Canada, France and Switzerland although slightly more important. For instance, in Chile and in the Caribbean, Spanish speakers eat up the final '-s' in most words. This sounds like the famous Cuban song, "Todo' lo' negro' tomamo' café," which in regular Spanish would be, "Todos los negros tomamos café." In Argentina people use an additional person when conjugating verbs, vos, and pronounce the 'y' as a 'zh'. In Madrid, people pronounce 's' in a wet and whistling fashion that recalls mating snakes. Spaniards generally use Vosotros instead of Ustedes.

These differences in accent will not pose you many problems if you recognize that they exist and work for a few hours on learning the differences, and will be a source of great fun when speaking Spanish with people from across the world.

There are also many regional languages in Spain. Within the current political context of Spain, they are called languages and enjoy an important political status:

Castellano or Castilian is used to denote the regular Spanish, by opposition to the other languages spoken in Spain.

Catalan is the official language of Catalunya, the Spanish state around Barcelona. This is a fun language close to Provencal and French. With Basque, it is the 'dialect' with the most political clout.

Galego, a language close to both Portuguese and Spanish, is spoken is Galicia, the Spanish state just north of Portugal.
Valenciano, very similar to Catalan, is spoken around Valencia.

Basque is not at all related to Spanish and is a very difficult language. It is spoken in the Basque country, capital Bilbao, on both sides of the French-Spanish border.

• Other Spanish dialects/regional languages include Aragonese, Asturian, Murcian, Leonese and Andalusian.

These regional languages should not pose you any trouble as a tourist, but if you travel in Spain you will hear them everywhere. For instance, although everybody in Barcelona does speak Spanish, most people actually converse in Catalan. This will not pose any problem to a visitor, but if you want to speak as the local do, you'll need to learn Catalan.

Labeling some languages 'a dialect' and others 'a language' is a tricky path to walk and by doing so some people will feel offended. This can happen easily in Spain where regional languages often have a long historical tradition and can claim to be direct heirs of Latin. Spaniards justly proud of their regional language would thus react strongly if you label their mother tongue 'a dialect' whereas you would call Portuguese 'a language,' The language learner should, however, keep in mind that the actual differences between Castellano and any of the regional languages of Spain are probably not larger than that between the many dialects of Italian.

When choosing which Spanish accent to learn, for instance when planning a study trip, I recommend you stay away from the Caribbean, Chile and Argentina. These are fine countries, but their strong accents and grammatical particularities will automatically brand you as a native of these countries anywhere you go. If you learn Spanish in Cuba, every time you open your mouth in Spanish you will come across as a Cuban. Try to choose a country with a neutral accent and no grammatical variations.

In my humble opinion, the clearest Spanish is to be heard in Mexico, Colombia and the region of Castilla in Spain. I am sure plenty of people will disagree, so I emphasize that there is no 'right' and 'wrong' accent, but if I was to learn Spanish again, that is the sort of accent I would try to learn.

Spanish animals

The following 21 words relate to some commonly known animals (animales comunes). Just read through them one word at a time. Read the Spanish word first and then the meaning. Then read and understand the visualization given next to it. Notice the syllables/words/phrases that appear in bold. Try to relate the visual image to the word and its meaning. Now, close your eyes and just imagine the visual imagination you just read and repeat it to yourself for 10-15 seconds. Now, open your eyes. Before you realize it, you have already learnt the word forever! Try it here:

el elefante elephant – Wow! Both sound so similar!

el león lion – Similar again!

el hipopótamo hippopotamus – Another similar one!

el rinoceronte rhinoceros – Again, kinda similar.

el cuerno antler – A moose’s antlers have irregular curves and no hair.

la trompa trunk – An elephant uses his trunk to trumpet.

el colmillo tusk – An elephant’s tusks are the color of milk and slightly curved.

el tigre tiger – Similar sounding.

el alce moose – A big, poor moose having an ulcer in its mouth.

el oso bear – This little teddy is, oh, so sweet!

la llama llama – Need a trick to remember this one?

la cebra zebra – Similar pronunciation.

el bisonte bison – A bison having tea!

el caballo horse – A Californian mustang playing with a soccer ball.

el burro donkey – Imagine a little donkey living in a burrow!

la oveja sheep – Being an all-veggie animal, a sheep eats no flesh.

el venado deer – Deer flesh is called venison, which comes from venado.

el chivo goat – A chivalrous goat who bravely fought with a lion to save its life.

la jirafa giraffe – A giraffe laughing at your height, “Ha, ha, ha!”

el cerdo hog – The rich king has several servants, dogs, and pigs.

la vaca cow – Some longhorn cows grazing in the Scottish mead on a vacation.

Now, come back after a few hours and see how many words you still remember. Chances are, all of them! All you need to always do is to relate the word to its visual picture and that's it! Happy learning...

Did visualization help you improve your vocabulary on animals? If yes, then you might want to try working on some daily-life words related to your kitchen and your bathroom! Happy learning!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Some Boricua slang words

This is a list of phrases, words, and slang used in Puerto Rico. There are many phrases that are funny in one place and mean nothing in another country that speaks the same language.

This can be specially said of Spanish language phrases across Latin America: In Puerto Rico, for example, the word chocha is a slur word for vagina, while in Mexico that same word represents a bird! In Argentina, a chocha, when speaking of it in Puerto Rican terms, is actually called a concha (vagina), a word which in Puerto Rico signifies sea shell. Another example would be that in Puerto Rico, the word bizcocho means cake, while in Mexico it refers to a woman's genitals.

Here is a list of commonly used slangs in Puerto Rico, their purposes and a loose translation into the English language:

* Acho (I can't explain it, but we do say it to bridge between thoughts.)

* ¡Mano! (Literally means hand, but it is short for hermano, which means, Hey brother!)

* ¿Que es la que estapa?, ¿Que es la que? What's up?

* Algarete That's cool, or out of control.

* ¡Ahi va, a las millas del chaflan! There he/she goes, speeding that car with miles from hell! (Criticism)

* joder,chichar (also chingar, often used as 'chingai' as a play on Shanghai) Having sexual intercourse.

* Colgue and its many adjectives, such as colgar, colgaste and others, as in me colge (colgue or colgar, when told to a student who is failing in school, is a criticism.) The literal translation would be, “I got hung over in school.

* ¡Como alma que lleva "el" diablo! He/she took off running as if his/her soul was possessed by the devil! (Comical)

* Dar un tumbe We are going to kill or steal. (Criminal, usually used by mafiosos.)

* ¡Dejo los tennis en el piso! He/she ran so fast that he/she left his/her tennis shoes right there! (Comical)

* ¡En el carro de Don Fernando! (un ratito a pie y otro andando) (We are going) on Mr Fernando’s car, when there is no working car within reach.

* Ese salio por lana y llego trasquilao (Comical, meaning that a person went for something, using lana, money, as an example, and came back worse than when he left.)

* ¡Estas buena(o)! You're fine!

* ¡Esta(s) brutal! You're brutal! (Could be either a compliment or insult, depending on the situation.)

* ¡Esta(s) Cabron! (Same as ¡estas brutal!, only that, when used for a person, its usually a criticism. When used for a subject, it is usually meant as a compliment.)

* ¡Estas tenso, papa! Your muscles are tense, daddy! (Comical, invented by Sunshine Logrono, a satirical phrase towards homosexuality.)

* Las cosas se pusieron a chavito prieto Things turned for a penny each (Comically used to describe a serious economical situation.)

* Los huevos se pusieron duros
The eggs turned hard. (Same as, las cosas se pusieron a chavito prieto.)

* ¡Mi amigo el pintor! My buddy, the painter. (Comical, used frequently to make fun of men whose wives commit adultery.)

* ¡Miercoles! Wednesday! (A less offending phrase than mierda, which sounds like miercoles but means excrement.)

* No lo encuentran ni en los centros espiritistas It can't even be found in a spiritualist center, when things get lost (Comical.)

* Perro que huele carne.... Dog that smells meat... (Comical, describes a situation where a person might suspect something he or she wants is within reach.)

* ¡Se formo un corre y corre! A race was formed for everyone to get out of there! (Comical; exact meaning as,
¡Se formo un sal pa' fuera!.)

* ¡Se formo un sal pa fuera! A get-out-of-here-situation formed! (To describe a violent situation in which many ran from the scene in a lighter way, also used to describe a street fight or other violent situations.)

* ¡Se lucio el chayote! The coyote is showing off! (Criticism to speeding drivers, honking drivers or drivers that screech their wheels before parking their car.)

* ¡Sientate a esperar! Sit down and wait! (Used when a person promises someone something while lying.)

* ¡Tanto nadar para ahogarse en la orilla! So much swimming, only to drown at the coastline! (Lament, usually used for someone who has come very close to completing something but failed.)

* ¡Te cagaste del miedo! You shit in your pants out of fear! (Comical.)

* ¡Tu eres bien fiebru(a)! You are really into that! (Usually a compliment used to admire someone's passion for something.)

* ¡Tu si que eres presentao!, ¡So presentao!, and ¡Tu eres bien presentao! (Criticism, when someone thinks the other person is getting into what is not your business.)

* ¡Va pa chirola! Someone is going to jail!

* ¡Vete pa'l Caribe Hilton! (Less insulting version of ¡Vete pa'l carajo!.)

* ¡Vete pa'l carajo! go to hell! (Insult, sometimes accompanied by a so cabron(a) right after it.)

* ¡Volando Bajito! flying low (Usually to describe road speeders.)

* ¡Y se le(s) esta haciendo tarde! and it's becoming too late already! (Sport phrase used when an individual or team is far behind on scoring as the event nears its conclusion.)

* como el Rosario de la Aurora (This is used when a party ends up with a fight.)

* Se armo la de sanquintin (Similar to "El Rosario de la Aurora.”)

* chota tattletale (Known in Mexico as soplon.)

* comemierda shit eater. (It is used when some person thinks that he/she is the greatest person on Earth, known in American English as "snob".)

* mamabicho cocksucker. (The same as chupaverga in Mexico.)

* loco crazy or crazy man.

Some phrases from other countries (especially those used in El Chapulín Colorado and El Chavo del Ocho Mexican shows) have made their way into Puerto Rican slang. Among the most popular ones are, Chapulíns no contaban con mi astucia (They didn't count on my smarts),
¡Siganme los buenos! (Follow me, the good ones!) and ¡Chavos fue sin querer queriendo! (I purposely did it, but not on purpose!)

¿Boricua o Puertorriqueño?

There are many Puerto Ricans often proudly identify themselves as Boricua, loosely based on Borincano (archaic), both words originating from the Taíno word Boriken (also known as Boriquén, Borinquen, or Borinquén), to illustrate their recognition of their Taíno heritage.

The word Boriken, which translates to "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord", was used by the original Taíno Indian population to refer to the island of Puerto Rico before the arrival of the Spanish. The use of the word Boricua has been popularized in the island and abroad by descendents of Puerto Rico heritage, commonly using the phrase, "Soy Boricua" ("I am Boricua", or "I am Puerto Rican") to identify themselves as Puerto Ricans.

Apart from Puerto Ricans calling themselves "Boricuas", people of the Dominican Republic often refer to Puerto Ricans as "Boricuas" (they, in turn, call themselves "Quisqueyanos" for the Taino name for their island: Quisqueya).

In my bathroom (cuarto de baño)

The following thirteen words relate to the day-to-day usage in the context of your bathroom (tu cuarto de baño). Just read through them one word at a time. Read the Spanish word first and then the meaning. Then read and understand the visualization given next to it. Notice the syllables/words/phrases that appear in bold. Try to relate the visual image to the word and its meaning. Now, close your eyes and just imagine the visual imagination you just read and repeat it to yourself for 10-15 seconds. Now, open your eyes. Before you realize it, you have already learnt the word forever! Try it here:

la bañera bathtub (a beautiful girl in a banana-shaped bathtub in open air!)

el excusado toilet (a constipating third-grader to his teacher: “Excuse me! I need to do it in the toilet!”)

el lavamanos washbowl (a large volcanic crater minus the lava looks like a giant’s washbowl)

el botiquín medicine cabinet (a bottle of gin rhyming with kin – in my medicine cabinet)

el jabón soap (a bone made up of soap. How weak!)

la toalla towel (a new towel is given free to all the new members of this gym)

el cortinero curtain rod (a curtain on an aero plane window)

el gorro de baño shower cap (he just gored a hole through his shower cap so that water could wet his head during a baño (shower), ain’t he a fool?)

la ducha shower (a gorgeous-looking duchess emerging from her bathroom just after a long shower)

la jabonera soap dish (a jabón kept in a soap dish in open air)

la esponja sponge (a sponge for your ears)

el champú shampoo (a Chinese shampoo!)

el desagüe drain (agua is water and it is discharged through a drain)

Now, come back after a few hours and see how many words you still remember. Chances are, all of them! All you need to always do is to relate the word to its visual picture and that's it! Happy learning...

Did visualization help you improve your bathroom vocabulary? If yes, then you might want to try this for kitchen-related words! Happy learning!!

What you must know about Spanish fillers

Spanish has two common ways of introducing an afterthought, unrelated comment or offhand remark, ways that are typically translated as "by the way" or "incidentally" in English.

The expressions used are a propósito and por cierto, with the former being somewhat less casual. Here are some examples of their usage:

* Por cierto, ¿no estás descargando música ilegalmente? (By the way, are you downloading music illegally?)
* Por cierto, el libro tiene 100 páginas. (By the way, the book has 100 pages.)
* A propósito, la ciudad está a menos de 40 kilómetros de la frontera. (By the way, the city is at least 40 kilometers from the border.)
* A propósito, tenemos más de 40.000 alumnos. (Incidentally, we have more than 40,000 students.)

Note that por cierto does not mean "certainly," as you might expect. As a noun in other usages, cierto often expresses certainty.

In some contexts, a propósito can also mean "on purpose" or "deliberately." (As a noun, propósito typically means "intention" or "purpose.") When used in that way, a propósito typically comes after the verb instead of at the beginning of a sentence. Example: Determinaron que no fue a propósito. (They determined it was not done deliberately.)

A propósito de also can be a way of saying "with respect to," "concerning" or something similar. Example: Recordé una historia que Mamá me contaba a propósito de mi padre. (I remember a story Mom would tell me about my father.)

Get your directions right in Spanish!

Expressing Directions in Spanish
The directions of the compass in Spanish are vaguely similar to those of English and ultimately come from the same Indo-European roots. However, Spanish also has some synonyms for some of the directions as well as special adjective forms that also should be learned.

The four points of the compass are as follows:

* norte — north
* este (or, less commonly, oriente) — east
* sur — south
* oeste (or, less commonly, occidente)— west

As in English, the directions can be combined to indicate intermediate points:

* nornoreste — north-northeast
* noreste — northeast
* estenoreste — east-northeast
* estesudeste — east-southeast
* sudeste — southeast
* sudsudeste — south-southeast
* sudsudoeste — south-southwest
* sudoeste — southwest
* oestesudoeste — west-southwest
* oestenoroeste — west-northwest
* noroeste — northwest
* nornoroeste — north-northwest

In some areas, the use of sur- as the stem meaning "south" is preferred, so you'll also hear the variations such as sureste and suroeste alone as well as in combination forms such as sursureste. Combinations using oriente and occidente, such as suroccidente for "southwest" and nororiente for "northeast," are also used.

Adjective forms — such as the equivalents of "northern" and "eastern" — can be made by preceding the direction with del (literally, "of the") as in del norte and del sur to mean "northern" and "southern," respectively. These are indicated below along with the special adjective forms:

* del norte, norteño, septentrional — northern
* del este, oriental — eastern
* del sur, sureño, austral, meridional — southern
* del oeste, occidental — western

To indicate directly of movement, forms such as del oeste for "from the west" and hacia el oeste for "toward the west" are used. Thus, an easterly wind (one coming from the east) is a viento del este, while to say that a door faces east, for example, you could say "la puerta mira hacia el este."

The Spanish alphabet

It may interest you to know that not all authorities (or at least not all textbooks) agree on which letters make up the alphabet. Some lists don't include W (sometimes referred to as doble ve) and K, which exist almost exclusively in words of foreign origin, such as kilowatt. And some lists count RR (erre), CH and LL, all of which have distinctive sounds in combination. However, here is a comprehensive, universally accepted listing:

A: a

B: be

C: ce

D: de

E: e

F: efe

G: ge

H: hache

I: i

J: jota

K: ka

L: ele

M: eme

N: ene

Ñ: eñe

O: o

P: pe

Q: cu

R: ere

S: ese

T: te

U: u

V: ve

W: uve doble

X: equis

Y: i griega

Z: zeta

It used to be that dictionaries would list all the words beginning with CH separately, after the words beginning with C, so, for example, the word achatar would be listed after acordar. But in most modern dictionaries, the words are alphabetized as they would be in English (except that the
Ñ comes after the N).

Note also that the letters B and V have exactly the same pronunciation, and their names are pronounced exactly alike. Some colorful expressions are used to indicate which letter is being used, such as B de burro and V de vaca (roughly, "B as in burro" and "V as in vaca"). Sometimes B is referred to as be grande ("big B") and the V as uve or ve chica ("little V").

You will find as you learn Spanish that vowels are often written with accents, as in tablón, and the U is sometimes topped with a dieresis or umlaut, as in vergüenza. However, vowels with such diacritical marks are not considered separate letters as they can be in some other languages.

Note also that the letters of the alphabet are feminine: la a, "the a"; la b, "the b."