Education is a top priority for most parents, and choosing the perfect school for your child can be such a headache. Numerous types of schools exist: public, private, Christian, Catholic, Charter, boarding, and of course, homeschool. For many parents, the decision about which school to send their child to depends on their financial status and the proximity of the schools. For Christian parents, though, there is another far more important factor that weighs heavily on their hearts: What values are the teachers imparting to my child?
This question alone causes parents to consider private Christian schools or homeschooling over other options. However, not every parent can pay for private schools, and not everyone can tackle the planning and patience of teaching from home. What’s the solution, you wonder?
The University-Model® school.
What Is a University-Model School?
University-Model® schools are relatively new, as the National Association of University-Model Schools (NAUMS) was founded just 18 years ago. This style of education is spreading across the country where almost 100 schools are operating across 19 states. Before you discount this type of school by assuming that there isn’t one close to you, check out this list of locations and read more about this mom’s experience with this type of school. Parents themselves who saw a need for this type of education in their area started each campus.
What makes these schools so different, you ask? Let’s find out!
The name makes it pretty obvious that this type of school is modeled after university classes. Many students have a difficult time adjusting to the freedom of college after spending eight tightly structured hours a day in school for twelve years. They don’t know how to manage their time well, take advantage of different learning opportunities, or set their own schedule. These struggles often lead to a frustrating first couple of years of college, and maybe even some failed courses. However, the University-Model®’s goal is to make the transition into college as smooth as possible.
(If your child is not interested in going to college, this model is still a viable option since life, in general, is not as structured as traditional schools. The type of schedule shown below is a great way to transition your child smoothly into adulthood.)
Comparing Hours of Class Time
If you look at this chart, it shows how the adjustment into traditional public and private school classes (green line) at a young age is abrupt, as is the transition out of that style of learning into a college setting. On the other side of the spectrum (blue line), you have generic homeschooling, which has a much easier start, but the change going into college can be drastic. In the middle (yellow line), you have a slow progression of hours spent in the classroom throughout the child’s life: 4 hours a week at 5 years old, and a maximum of 15 hours a week at 18 years old.
Those maximum 15 hours a week are referring to the time spent in an actual classroom setting. The classes are usually chosen by the students and/or parents each semester and meet 2 or 3 times a week, depending on the students’ age. The rest of the time during the week is spent at home (or “satellite classroom”), learning with the parents using a structured plan given by the school. So while there are only 15 hours of classroom teaching, the student is receiving much more than that, but in their own home and in the manner the parents see fit.
Having limited classroom time frees the parents to supplement that teaching. Just like traditional homeschooling, the University-Model® classes allow students to pursue extracurricular activities such as sports, music, and art while still receiving a solid education.
Additionally, the parents can teach the classes at home in their own way. Even though each parent receives a plan of study, they can add their own twist to it by doing hands-on activities, taking trips, or including online classes (for language studies, for example).
On the other hand, if the parents are not gifted with the ability to teach or do not have the time to plan extra activities, this model still works for them because the school sends an organized plan for each child.
The bottom line is that the majority of the education is taught at home in the way that the parent desires. They can freely emphasize core values and beliefs with each class unlike in public and private schools.
While the name of this type of education does not give any clues to what values are prioritized, the mission statement of University-Model® makes it very clear:
“In partnership with one another, parents and the school work together toward a mutual goal: to produce wholesome, competent, and virtuous followers of Christ who will change the world in their generation.”
The parents, of course, have the freedom to impart Christian values in the classes taught at home. What is unique with the University-Model® schools is that the teachers also reinforce those same values in the classroom, something that not many traditional schools guarantee.
Another unique aspect of the University-Model® schools is that teachers and parents work hand-in-hand, as co-teachers, to provide quality Christian education to the children. With homeschool co-ops, the parents carry most of the teaching responsibility and outsource to professional teachers when needed.
The difference with the University-Model® is the shared responsibility between the parents and the teachers. If you look back at the mission statement, it clearly expresses the partnership between the school and the parents.
This All Sounds Great…But What about the Cost?
A huge deciding factor for parents is cost. Private schools usually have high tuition costs, but homeschooling can also be a big investment in books, supplemental classes, and materials.
So, how do the University-Model® schools compare?
Each campus is essentially its own entity, so tuition costs can vary. That being said, the prices are anywhere from 40-75% cheaper than standard tuition in other schools. The difference comes from the fact that students spend much less time in the classroom, so the schools don’t need to charge such a steep price to cover the teachers’ salaries. The education is just as exceptional in University-Model® schools as in private schools, with more flexibility, freedom, and peace of mind.
Whether your child is still a toddler and you are just beginning to think about schools or you have an older student already in school, take the time to learn more about the benefits of the University-Model® and see if it is a good fit for you! With this model, you can be sure there is sufficient time to include essential classes, like Spanish, with additional online classes. Try a free class today and see how our program can supplement your studies with or without the University-Model®!Read More
Next to the front door sits your packed suitcase with your passport and flight confirmation sitting on top. You’ve been to all the team meetings and eagerly reviewed the week’s itinerary multiple times. The excitement builds as you await the mission trip to Latin America that is bound to change your life. Yet one thing threatens to smother your sense of adventure: you lack sufficient Spanish skills. Maybe you’ve studied Spanish for years, or perhaps this trip is your first experience with Spanish. Either way, to have a successful mission trip in Spanish, you need to communicate to some extent with the people. Prepare to do ministry in Spanish with the following list of vocabulary and phrases!
Build Connections One Step at a Time
Don’t set your expectations too high when it comes to conversing with the locals—you won’t understand everything that people say! Because Spanish is so widely spoken, each Latin American country has its own accent and slang. It takes time to learn the complexity of a language, and a short-term mission trip in Spanish won’t provide enough time to learn every detail.
Focus on communicating what you can. Generally, people are very grateful and impressed when you attempt to connect to them in their language. Even if you stumble through broken Spanish, they probably can understand what you want to say and help you fill in the blanks. Your mission trip in Spanish is going to be a success by using the following tips!
To get through the week, use the words and phrases below! If you would like more general travel vocabulary, visit our travelers’ blog post.
Survive the Airport
Most missionary organizations provide transportation to and from the airport, but getting out of the airport can be a little difficult—especially if you are questioned by immigration. Here are some helpful terms, questions, and phrases to survive in a Latin American airport:
|El control de inmigración||Immigration Control|
|El reclamo de equipaje||Baggage Claim|
|¿Por cuánto tiempo estará aquí?||How long will you be here?|
|Estaré aquí por ___ días/semanas/meses.||I will be here for ___ days/weeks/months.|
|¿Dónde se quedará?||Where will you be staying?|
|Me voy a quedar en ____.||I will be staying in ___.|
|Abra la maleta.||Open your suitcase.|
|Sigua, por favor.||Continue, please.|
|El equipaje perdido||Lost baggage|
|¿Hacia dónde tengo que ir?||Where am I supposed to go?|
|¿Dónde está el baño?||Where is the bathroom?|
Look closely at the questions above. Do you notice a pattern? They all use the usted form. Most people in airports will treat you with respect by addressing you as usted, which is a formal pronoun. It might throw you off-guard at first, but just remember that they are being polite!
|¡Buenos días!||Good morning!|
|¡Buenas tardes!||Good afternoon!|
|¡Buenas noches!||Good evening/night!|
|¡Buenas!||Good day! (use anytime during the day)|
|¿Cómo estás?||How are you?|
|Estoy bien, gracias.||I’m good, thanks.|
|¿Cómo te llamas?||What’s your name?|
|Me llamo…||My name is…|
|Mucho gusto.||Nice to meet you.|
|¿Te ayudo? / ¿Necesitas ayuda?||Do you need some help?|
|¡De nada!||You’re welcome!|
|¡Nos vemos!||See you later!|
|¡Qué te vaya bien!||Take care!|
|¡Qué Dios te bendiga!||May God bless you!|
Learn the Lingo
¡Qué Dios te bendiga! is a very common phrase in Latin America, both in and out of the church. Just because someone uses this phrase doesn’t necessarily mean they are a believer; instead, it is a polite phrase used to say “thank you so much,” “take care,” or even “hello” in church settings.
Anytime you are doing ministry, a translator is usually available to help. However, if you make that first connection with someone in their native language, it means so much more. Here are some phrases to get the conversation going. If you don’t understand their responses or want to take your conversation deeper, you can always ask the translator to help.
|¿Tienes un momento para hablar?||Do you have a moment to talk?|
|¿Crees en Dios?||Do you believe in God?|
|¿En qué crees?||What do you believe in?|
|¿Eres cristiano?||Are you a Christian?|
|Soy cristiano/católico/mormón/ateo.||I am a Christian/Catholic/Mormon/atheist.|
|¿Tienes una Biblia?||Do you have a Bible?|
|Aquí está una Biblia para ti y tu familia.||Here’s a Bible for you and your family.|
|¿Asistes a alguna iglesia?||Do you go to church?|
|¿Quieres venir a la iglesia conmigo?||Do you want to come to church with me?|
|No importa tu pasado.||Your past doesn’t matter.|
|Dios te ama tal y como eres.||God loves you just how you are.|
|Jesús se murió en la cruz por tus pecados.||Jesus died on the cross for your sins.|
|Jesús resucitó y está vivo.||Jesus resurrected and is alive.|
|Dios te está persiguiendo.||God is pursuing you.|
|Dios quiere una relación contigo.||God wants a relationship with you.|
|¿Te puedo contar lo que hizo Dios en mi vida?||Can I tell you about what God did in my life?|
|Dios siempre está contigo.||God is always with you.|
|¿Te gustaría un tratado?||Would you like a tract?|
|Gracias por tu tiempo.||Thank you for your time.|
Use Tú or Usted?
All of these Spanish sentences use tú when referring to the listener. If you are at a beginner level, stick with tú for everyone so you don’t have to memorize more conjugations. However, if you feel confident, check out our blog post on when to use tú versus usted.
Pray from the Heart
Talking to God is a very intimate act, and it may feel uncomfortable to do in a foreign language. What’s more, prayers are difficult to translate because of their intensity and quick pace. Do you want to try to say some of your prayers in Spanish? Practice using the phrases below. If it proves too difficult for you, though, then pray from your heart in English. Most people do not mind what language you use to pray!
|¿Puedo orar por ti?||Can I pray for you?|
|¿Tienes alguna petición específica?||Do you have a specific prayer request?|
|Dios, te doy gracias por este día.||God, I thank you for this day.|
|Gracias por la oportunidad de conocer a ___.||Thank you for the opportunity to meet ___.|
|Te pido que le ayudes, que le des fuerza.||I ask that you help him/her, that you give him/her strength.|
|Dale consuelo en tiempos difíciles.||Give him/her comfort in difficult times.|
|Bendiga su vida, su familia y su trabajo.||Bless his/her life, family, and job.|
|Ayúdale buscar más de tí.||Help him/her seek after You more.|
|Da a conocer tu presencia en su vida.||Make your presence known in his/her life.|
|En el nombre de Jesús oramos, amén.||In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.|
When praying in Spanish and asking God to move, you use the subjunctive mood a lot. This is an advanced topic, but if you feel ready for it or are curious as to why you use it in these situations, check out our subjunctive blog post!
Live to Serve
There are so many different types of ministry that you could do on your short-term mission trip in Spanish. Here are some basic phrases that are useful in almost any situation. If you would like a longer list of useful vocabulary, read this blog post about outreach trips with your youth group!
|¿Cómo te puedo ayudar?||How can I help you?|
|¿Qué necesitas?||What do you need?|
|Aquí está.||Here you go.|
|¿Qué tienes?||What’s wrong?|
|¿Necesitas medicina?||Do you need medicine?|
|¿Quieres comer algo?||Do you want to eat something?|
|Te invito.||My treat.|
|Estamos repartiendo comida gratis.||We are giving out free food.|
|Estamos construyendo casas.||We are building houses.|
|Estamos haciendo una jornada médica.||We are doing a medical outreach.|
|Mañana hay una actividad con los niños.||There’s an activity for kids tomorrow.|
|¡Todos están bienvenidos!||Everyone is welcome!|
Give without Expectations
When you ask somebody if they would like something (food, coffee, clothes), they may often respond with just gracias. This is another way of saying “yes, thank you,” but the “yes” is implied. Furthermore, people you meet might be shy and unsure of whether to accept your help or gifts. Te invito (which literally means “I invite you”) is a way to show them that there are no strings attached and that they can accept the offer without hesitation.
Now It’s Time for Your Mission Trip in Spanish!
As the date for your short-term mission trip quickly approaches, practice these phrases and questions as much as possible. You can even write them down in a small notebook to carry with you while on your trip so you are always prepared! If you have any questions or would like to practice your Spanish conversational skills before your trip, schedule a free class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers! They can help perfect your skills and give you even more information to help you connect with the people in Latin America. ¡Feliz viaje!
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Being a Spanish teacher is at times hard. Countless tasks vie for your attention: lesson planning, managing anywhere from five to thirty students, grading, and juggling multiple classes at once. If that wasn’t enough work, you must instruct in a foreign language and help students speak and understand it. How do you balance classroom management and teaching while ensuring your students are progressing to become fluent in Spanish at an appropriate speed?
Avoid Quick Fixes
If you are struggling to improve your students’ Spanish fluency, you might be tempted to invest in language-learning software. Household names, such as Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, may seem like a cheap way to engage your students and better their fluency, but they lack personalized curricula and instruction. Fluency requires so much more. Before spending money on software, check out these tips and tricks for your classroom below that are much more effective and won’t break the bank.
Teacher (You!), Use the Target Language
This is a no-brainer, right? Of course, you have to actually use the language to get your students to become fluent in Spanish. The unfortunate truth is, many teachers (myself included!) often find themselves reverting to English because it’s easier for the students to understand.
In my first years as a language teacher, I often made the blunder of switching to the students’ native language when teaching. The confused looks on their faces in response to the target language convinced me to use it less than 50% of the time. I thought this would help them comprehend more fully. While their fluency definitely improved, it was at an almost insignificant rate compared to the later classes that I taught completely in the target language.
Foreign language teachers have varying opinions on what percentage of the target language to use in class. Explaining complex grammatical topics is arguably much more efficient when taught in the students’ native language. However, that’s not how we naturally learn a language. As a child, your parents used songs, images, and games 100% in the target language. The grammatical explanations came later when you already spoke the language. Does that mean that as a teacher, you should also teach completely in the target language?
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), using the target language as much as possible is imperative to achieving fluency.
“ACTFL therefore recommends that language educators and their students use the target language as exclusively as possible (90% plus) at all levels of instruction during instructional time and, when feasible, beyond the classroom.”
Motivate Students to Become Fluent in Spanish
How do you keep your students attentive and well-behaved while speaking 90% of the time in a foreign language? If you don’t know the answer to this, you’re not alone! The ACTFL has a list of recommendations to help you achieve this level of Spanish usage. Use the additional tips below to help your students transition to Spanish immersion:
- Be conscious of what vocabulary you use. Luckily, Spanish and English share many cognates. Try and use words that look and sound like their English counterparts. This is especially important when teaching verbs and vocabulary that don’t necessarily translate well. If you combine the new information with words that are easily understood, you can help the students connect the dots without translating.
- Use a lot of visual aids. This is how you learned your first language and is a great way to teach a concept without translating.
- Act it out! Don’t be afraid to get a bit goofy in front of your students if there isn’t an image that represents a concept.
- Establish your classroom rules on the first day. If you have a beginner class or teach younger students, explain the rules in English and Spanish. Have a visual aid with you while you introduce these rules, with an image that represents the action next to the Spanish phrase or command. This ensures that the students understand the expectations. Keep the visual aid somewhere in the classroom so you can refer to the images while saying the Spanish command.
- Be flexible! If your students don’t understand a concept, try another way to explain it in Spanish. Try at least three different ways in Spanish before you give them a hint in English. If you see your students are clearly frustrated, you can use some English. You want to keep their confidence high, so redirect things if they are losing patience.
- Get the students involved. Ask them questions and encourage peer-to-peer discussion. If they aren’t sure how to answer, give them options to choose from that they would understand. For example, when teaching beginner students the question ¿Cuántos años tienes?, give them numbers to choose from. Write them on the board so they can visualize what you are saying. Once they understand, have them use the concept in pairs or groups. If one student does not understand, ask one who does to explain it to them.
- Reward participation in Spanish. Give out fun incentives for students to speak Spanish in class, like these paper pesos.
Be Patient with Change
A lot of teachers are accustomed to using both English and Spanish in the classroom. If that’s you, be easy on yourself and your students. The change to 90% of the target language takes time, patience, and dedication.
Involve Activities of Interest
Another way to get your students to become fluent in Spanish without any extra cost is to pique their interest. Many curricula have topics that aren’t necessarily useful to the students or applicable to their lives. To interest students, include relatable projects that apply their new knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. When they engage deeply in a topic or project, they work harder and unknowingly move faster towards fluency.
Practical Application of Activities
These activities can vary widely depending on your students’ ages and Spanish level. Here’s a list of possible projects that will engage your students. Feel free to adapt them to your students’ needs!
- Get musical! Learning songs in Spanish is a great practical application of the language. Whether your students are in preschool or high school, music makes up a big part of their lives. Learn more about what Spanish songs to choose in our elementary and high school music blog posts.
- Design your own restaurant/video game/park. This project can be adapted to any age or Spanish level. Have the students design something of their own that utilizes the vocabulary and grammar they have been studying. For preschoolers, this can be as simple as choosing which animals they want in their zoo. More advanced students can get really detailed with this project and learn extra vocabulary that interests them.
- Set up mock conversations. Split your students into groups of two or three and assign them each a separate character (like waiters and restaurant diners, teachers and students, or interviewers and potential employees). They must use learned vocabulary and grammar to interact with each other. While it isn’t quite the same as real-world experience, this gives them a chance to practically apply what they’ve learned in a fun way.
- Discuss literature. This project also adjusts to any age level. For preschoolers, you can do projects aligned with storybooks like La Oruga Muy Hambrienta. For older students, you can choose a Spanish book at their level.
- Watch and discuss TV shows or movies. This is a great way to practice language skills. Use screen-time as a prize for good behavior or incorporate it into the curriculum. Maximize the learning process with TV and movies.
- Assign research papers. This may sound quite boring at first, but if you ask your students to research topics that interest them, it is a great way to get them reading and writing in Spanish. The trick is to ensure that the research is actually in Spanish, not English.
Homeschool Spanish Academy Resources
Providing real-life Spanish experience in the classroom is difficult. Even if you are a native Spanish speaker, your students get used to your accent and the way you speak. It’s important to expose them to other native speakers, either through live interactions or resourceful videos. Homeschool Spanish Academy offers many interactive language tools that can be used as supplemental resources in your Spanish classes or as the whole class itself.
Spanish Academy TV
- Homeschool Spanish Academy has its own YouTube channel called Spanish Academy TV that produces episodes covering everything from grammar lessons to popular songs in Spanish to cultural adventures. Use these videos to introduce a topic, provide extra practice, or review before an exam. Explore all the videos on our channel and see which ones work for you!
- Spanish Academy TV offers lecturas and conversational exercises at different levels for more listening practice. The scripts are provided with the video so you can have your students either follow along or check how much they understood after listening.
Live Interaction with a Native Speaker
- Homeschool Spanish Academy offers one-on-one and two-on-one Spanish classes. Any students that are falling behind or need personal attention can sign up for classes at their convenience. The teachers will reinforce what you are teaching in your classes and give the students the extra help and confidence they need to succeed.
If you are looking ahead to the next school year and wondering how to provide quality Spanish classes, Homeschool Spanish Academy is your answer! With budget cuts and growing classes, finding affordable options for Spanish classes seems nearly impossible.
Luckily, even with a tight budget, you can still schedule group classes with one of our excellent Spanish teachers. Our affordable prices, top-notch curriculum, and live online classes are a great way to save money and still provide quality education. Compared to other popular alternative choices, our prices are much lower and our success rate is much higher. If you are interested in the group classes, feel free to email us!
Whether you are looking for extra resources for your pre-existing Spanish classes or need to organize Spanish classes for your students, Homeschool Spanish Academy has what you need. Try a free class or contact us for more information!
The airy notes of a wooden flute and the ting-tong of a tortoise-shell drum float down the cobblestone street and into the rest of the town. A small crowd promenades through the narrow roads and alleyways, its members dressed warmly to keep out the December night chill. Some carry torches to light the way while others rest poles on their shoulders, supporting the weight of a wooden, altar-like platform with religious figurines adorning the top.
Children and adults alike march through the streets, stopping at pre-selected houses. The travelers sing back and forth with those who wait for them at each door. The traditional song they sing goes something like this:
En nombre del cielo pedimos posada,
Pues no puede andar mi esposa amada.
Aquí no es mesón. Sigan adelante.
Yo no debo abrir, no sea algún tunante.
No seas inhumano, tennos caridad.
El Dios de los cielos te lo premiará.
Ya se pueden ir y no molestar,
Porque si me enfado os voy a apalear.
Venimos rendidos desde Nazaret.
Yo soy carpintero de nombre José.
No me importa el nombre. Déjenme dormir.
Pues que yo les digo, que no hemos de abrir.
This exchange continues until the members are welcomed into the house to partake in a joyous celebration. Have you seen anything like this before? You may have witnessed it in certain areas in the United States as it has grown in popularity in the past couple of decades. However, this holiday tradition is usually celebrated throughout Mexico and Central America, and it is called Las Posadas.
The Meaning of Las Posadas
Do you recognize any words in the traditional lyrics above? If you are familiar with the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus, you may recognize these words:
Nazaret – Nazareth
Carpintero – carpenter
José – Joseph
Dios – God
La historia navideña
As the story goes, Joseph (a carpenter) and his pregnant wife Mary left their town of Nazareth to be registered in the Bethlehem census. When they got to Bethlehem, they could not find a place to stay. All the inns were full, and they were turned away every time–until, finally, they received refuge in a stable. Las posadas represent this journey.
La Posada Meaning
la posada is a noun that comes from the verb posar, which means to lay down or rest. Likewise, dar posada means to let someone stay with you for free, and pedir posada is to ask for a place to stay (rent free). The noun form, la posada, literally means “the inn,” but when it refers to this Christmas tradition, it entails the reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to rest.
Celebration of Las Posadas
Las posadas are mainly celebrated through Mexico, Central America, and Cuba, whose origins date back as far as the 900s AD. While they originally served as a creative way to teach the Christmas story to those who were unable to read the Bible, las posadas are now another beloved Christmas tradition. For some, they have a deeply religious meaning, while for others, it’s a treasured holiday tradition just like putting up a tree.
The origin of las posadas is based in Christianity; but, not all Christians in the countries listed above participate in this tradition. Catholics typically celebrate these types of traditions and processions. The Catholic Church in Latin America is recognized for creating larger-than-life, colorful, and intricately-detailed processional traditions throughout the year. While they are much more extravagant and popular during Holy Week, smaller processions during the year celebrate and honor important events and people in the Catholic faith. For example, there are processions for every Sunday of Lent, for various saints and their designated days of worship, for the Virgin Mary, and for caring for the disabled.
9 Day Posada
Las posadas occur on a smaller scale (compared to Semana Santa), but you can usually find them in every town. Every night for nine consecutive days before Christmas, a group of people from the Catholic church goes into the town and travels to a predetermined home. While many holiday traditions occur throughout the month of December, this particular one only happens for nine days to represent the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy before the birth of Christ.
Process of Celebrating
Depending on the region, people may have two individuals dress up as Mary and Joseph, or they may carry their figurines on a platform. Once they reach the designated houses, the group sings back and forth with the inhabitants, or “innkeepers,” as you saw in the introduction. (Want to see a full version of the song?) Mary and Joseph beg for a place to stay as each innkeeper denies them—until they realize that it’s the Virgin Mary. Meanwhile, the innkeepers who reject them join them in the journey to the final house.
Pride and Privilege
For those involved, it is a special privilege to accept Mary and Joseph into their house during one of the nine nights, as it represents hospitality and generosity. While it is indeed a blessing for the accomodating family, it requires a lot of preparation and money. A beautiful nativity scene is an expensive endeavour, while its presence is a prerequisite for every home that plans to welcome Mary, Joseph, and the unborn Jesus to stay the night. Additionally, the travelers look forward to refreshments awaiting them at the last home.
Once at the house, everyone sings carols, or villancicos, and shares in food and drink. Depending on the economic status of the family, they may offer a humble snack of hot chocolate or go all out and make traditional tamales and ponche. In some areas, like Mexico, they also celebrate in the home by breaking a piñata.
See It for Yourself!
If you would like to see las posadas in real life, reach out to your local Latino community. If you are able, you can also travel to Mexico or Central America during the holidays to see this unique tradition for yourself. To learn more about las posadas and understand the meaning of the villancico, talk to one of our Spanish teachers! They are all native speakers from Guatemala, where the tradition of las posadas is thriving. If you would like to visit and see las posadas, check out other places to visit while you are in Central America or Guatemala. Don’t forget to sign up for your FREE trial class before you go. You can learn more about the culture and language with one of our fantastic teachers! ¡Felices fiestas!
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When you just start to learn a foreign language, the grammar is completely overwhelming. You probably don’t think about which verbs you use and how to conjugate them in everyday speech, right? Now, with a new language (especially one like Spanish), it probably seems that grammar is all you think about! To calm the chaos, a good place to start is with present tense conjugation, since this verb tense gets you through basic conversations, directions, and questions.
The Simple Present Tense
What’s in a Name?
While the term “simple present” seems to imply that this tense is uncomplicated, there are a few things that may come as a surprise to you. First, let’s look at the name. In Spanish, the simple present is called el presente del indicativo. While you may want to refer to it as el presente simple, there are actually two different presente simple tenses in Spanish.
Yes, you read that correctly!
Spanish tenses are divided into three different moods:
Interestingly, both the indicative and subjunctive moods have a simple present tense. For now, that’s all you need to know; stay tuned for another blog post that explores the differences between the moods more extensively.
So, while “simple present tense” refers to one specific thing in English, it includes two separate tenses in Spanish. Therefore, when talking with your HSA Spanish teacher, make sure to use el presente del indicativo to ask questions about the simple present. From now on, we will use the term “simple present indicative” to refer to this tense just to get you in the practice of differentiating between the moods and to avoid any confusion.
Uses of the Presente del Indicativo
To understand the uses of the simple present indicative, we are going to first look at some examples of the simple present in English and then compare them to the Spanish form.
We go to Mexico every summer.
When it rains, it pours.
We start school on January 6th.
From these sentences, you can see that we use the simple present in English for
- habitual activities
- general truths
- set future events
Now, for the simple present indicative in Spanish, we use it for these three uses and more! (If you want to skip to the conjugations, scroll down below the uses!)
How Spanish Uses the Simple Present Indicative
1. Habitual Activities
Just like in English, we use the simple present indicative to talk about habitual activities in Spanish.
Vamos a México cada verano.
We go to Mexico every summer.
Me cepillo cada mañana.
I brush my teeth every morning.
Siempre leo un capítulo de mi libro antes de dormir.
I always read a chapter from my book before sleeping.
2. General Truths
Likewise, we use simple present in both languages to talk about general truths (including the zero conditional for all you English grammar aficionados).
Cuando llueve, llueve a cántaros.
When it rains, it pours.
El sol sale en el este y se pone en el oeste.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
El agua se congela a los cero grados Celsius.
Water freezes at zero degrees Celsius.
3. Set Future Events
While it may seem backward to use the simple present tense to talk about events in the future, we actually use it quite often in English and Spanish. (If you would like more explanation about this particular use, check out Part Three of our Future Tenses in Spanish blog post.)
Empezamos la escuela el 6 de enero.
We start school on January 6th.
Su boda es el 24 de septiembre.
Their wedding is on September 24th.
El avión aterriza a las 9:04 de la mañana el martes.
The plane lands at 9:04 am on Tuesday.
4. Current Actions
Now, this is where the simple present tense starts to differ from English. When you talk about actions happening right now in English, you use the present continuous:
I am doing – yo estoy haciendo
However, in Spanish, you can use either the present continuous or the simple present indicative.
For example, a common question in English is “What are you doing?” which is in the present continuous form. Using the simple present “What do you do?” has a completely different meaning. Meanwhile, in Spanish, both types of questions are appropriate: ¿Qué estás haciendo? and ¿Qué haces? can be used interchangeably.
You can often hear native speakers using the simple present indicative to talk about the activities they are currently doing. Here are some examples:
Voy a la tienda para comprar un poco de azúcar.
I’m going to the store to buy a little bit of sugar.
Ella hace la limpieza en la sala.
She is cleaning the living room.
Caminamos en el parque.
We are walking in the park.
5. Events in the Near Future
Just like how you can use the simple present indicative for current actions, you can also apply it to events happening soon. These activities do not have to be set in stone but are considered to still be within the realm of the “present,” hence why you use the simple present indicative.
Mañana viajamos a la playa.
We’re going to the beach tomorrow.
Terminamos en más o menos una hora.
We’ll finish in about an hour.
Ahorita regresa ella.
She’ll be right back.
6. “If” Clauses
In English grammar, we call this type of sentence the 1st Conditional. However, in Spanish, we don’t use that title because the tenses are much simpler. Remember, even when you talk about events in the near future in Spanish, you use the present tense. The “present” in Spanish encompasses much more than it does in English. With that in mind, when you talk about hypothetical situations in the present, you use only the simple present indicative in Spanish. There is no need to involve the future tense like in English.
Si llueve, se arruina la fiesta.
If it rains, the party will be ruined.
Si llegamos tarde, no nos dejan entrar.
If we arrive late, they won’t let us in.
Si pierdo este examen, no gano la clase.
If I fail this test, I won’t pass the class
7. Passing of Time
There are so many similarities in English and Spanish grammar that Spanish learners sometimes assume every aspect of grammar is the same in both languages. While many grammatical structures are the same, the uses often vary in subtle ways. For example, when you talk about an event that has continued for an extended period of time, you use the present perfect (we have studied – hemos estudiado) in English. This tense is acceptable in Spanish, but there is another way to express the same idea using hace (ago) and the simple present indicative.
Hace un mes que trabajamos en este proyecto.
We’ve been working on this project for a month.
Hace un año que no nos vemos.
We haven’t seen each other for a year.
Hace tres horas que te esperamos aquí.
We’ve been waiting for you here for three hours.
8. Ordering Food and Drink
Similar to the previous example, using the simple present indicative for ordering food is not the only acceptable verb tense. There are multiple ways of ordering food in Spanish. However, if you’re anything like me, you probably wouldn’t think of using the simple present indicative in this scenario. It is very common, though, which is why it appears on this list. Check out some examples:
Me trae un vaso de agua, por favor.
Can you bring me a glass of water, please?
Quiero dos pupusas y una limonada, por favor.
I would like two pupusas and lemonade, please.
Me trae más picante, por favor.
Could you bring me more hot sauce, please?
Note that to maintain the formality of the situation and show respect to the waiter, you use the usted form in each of these sentences.
Regular Verbs in the Simple Present Indicative
Now that you are familiar with the uses of the simple present indicative in Spanish, it’s time to learn about the conjugations. The Spanish conjugation chart below is divided into three sections: -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs. These titles refer to the three different endings for Spanish verbs in their infinitive (non-conjugated) form. The far left column contains the personal pronouns in Spanish. If you don’t quite remember what they mean, check out our pronoun blog post!
The following chart shows the endings for regular Spanish verbs in the simple present indicative. “Regular” means that the majority (not all!) of verbs in Spanish use the same endings listed below.
Conjugations of Regular Verbs in the Simple Present Indicative
|-AR Verbs||-ER Verbs||-IR Verbs|
|Hablar (to talk)||Comer (to eat)||Vivir (to live)|
|Él / Ella||habla||come||vive|
|Ellos / Ellas||hablan||comen||viven|
Do you see any patterns in the chart? There are a couple that can help you memorize the conjugations!
- For all three types of verbs, the yo ending is the same: -o.
- The conjugations for tú always end in -s.
- The endings for usted, él, and ella are always a single vowel.
- The conjugations for nosotros always end in -mos.
- The conjugations for ustedes, ellos, and ellas always end in -n.
- The endings for -AR verbs all start with the vowel a, except for the yo form.
- The endings for -ER verbs all start with the vowel e, except for the yo form.
- The conjugations for -ER and -IR verbs are the same, except for the nosotros forms in which the e changes to i for -IR verbs.
Irregular Verbs in the Simple Present Indicative
Here comes the most difficult part of any Spanish conjugation: the irregular verbs. Before you start panicking, there are more patterns that can help you memorize all the irregular verbs.
These irregular verbs are called “stem-changing” because the base, or stem, of the verb changes slightly in the simple present indicative. Think of the stem as the part of the verb that remains when you take off the infinitive endings -AR, -ER, and -IR. For example, the stem of hablar is habl-. There are many verbs that alter their stem in the same way, so we have separated them into groups to represent those similar changes.
Stem Change: E to I
|Decir (to say)||Pedir (to ask for)||Servir (to serve)|
|Él / Ella||dice||pide||sirve|
|Ellos / Ellas||dicen||piden||sirven|
*Note that decir has an additional change in the yo form. The c changes to g.
Stem Change: E to EI
|Querer (to want)||Tener (to have)||Pensar (to think)|
|Él / Ella||quiere||tiene||piensa|
|Ellos / Ellas||quieren||tienen||piensan|
*Note that tener, like decir, does not exactly follow the change in the yo form. Here, there is no stem change, and a g is added.
Stem Change: I to IE
|Adquirir (to acquire)||Inquirir (to inquire into)|
|Él / Ella||adquiere||inquiere|
|Ellos / Ellas||adquieren||inquieren|
Stem Change: O to UE
|Soñar (to dream)||Mover (to move)||Recordar (to remember)|
|Él / Ella||sueña||mueve||recuerda|
|Ellos / Ellas||sueñan||mueven||recuerdan|
Stem Change: U to UE
|Jugar (to play)|
|Él / Ella||juega|
|Ellos / Ellas||juegan|
This list of stem-changing Spanish verbs represents but a few of the verbs that undergo such changes in the simple present indicative. There are numerous other verbs that change in the same way; the above verbs are some of the most common ones to get you started.
Stem-Changing… or Not?
Did you notice that one form never changed in any of the verbs? Exactly! The nosotros form does not participate in any stem change.
Pro Tip: any verb that ends with one of these stem-changing verbs also undergoes the same changes. For example, contener (contain) ends in tener, which is a stem-changing verb. Therefore, contenter is conjugated in the same way as tener, just with the prefix con- before each form.
Keep in mind that these stem changes are only for the simple present indicative. Many of the verbs on these lists are regular in other forms, and others are irregular but change in different ways.
Irregular 1st Person Singular (Yo)
We’ve already seen two verbs that have a unique yo form: tener and decir. There are other stem-changing verbs that do not follow the rule for yo.
Venir (E to IE) – Yo vengo. Tú vienes.
I come. You come.
Seguir (E to I) – Yo sigo. Tú sigues.
I follow. You follow.
Regular Verbs With An Irregular Yo Form
These next verbs are all regular except for the yo form. Many of the spelling changes occur to maintain the correct pronunciation of the verb.
Endings -ger, -guir, and -gir
As a rule, verbs that end in -ger, -guir, and -gir change only in the yo form because an o following a g changes the sound of the g. You can learn more about vowels and hard/soft letters in our pronunciation blog post.
|Escoger (to choose)||Distinguir (to distinguish)||Dirigir (to lead, manage)|
|Él / Ella||escoge||distingue||dirige|
|Ellos / Ellas||escogen||distinguen||dirigen|
The chart shows verbs that end in -ger and -gir replace the g with j before adding the appropriate ending for the yo form. Any verb that ends in -guir removes u along with -ir before adding the yo ending. In all the other forms, the verbs are conjugated normally.
Endings -cer and -cir
Likewise, verbs that end in -cer and -cir add a z before the c in the yo form:
|Conocer (to know)||Producir (to produce)||Traducir (to translate)|
Add -g- or -ig-
|Poner (to put)||Hacer (to do)||Salir (to leave)|
|Traer (to bring)||Caer (to fall)|
|Dar (to give)||Estar (to be)|
*The other forms of estar have a bit of a twist to them. While the conjugations are the same as other -AR verbs, every form except nosotros has an accent over the a. (Tú estás. Ellos están.)
|Ver (to see)||Caber (to fit)||Saber (to know)|
Completely Irregular Verbs
One last group of irregular verbs doesn’t quite fit into any of these other categories. Although unique, they are quite common in the Spanish language. Haber is a special auxiliary verb which we will explore in another blog post, so if you want to just focus on ir and ser for now, that’s completely fine!
|Ir (to go)||Ser (to be)||Haber (to have – auxiliary verb)|
|Él / Ella||va||es||ha|
|Ellos / Ellas||van||son||han|
Congratulations! You’ve survived your first Spanish grammar lesson! It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but with practice, you can soon become a master of the simple present indicative. Remember, it even takes native Spanish speakers years to learn all the nuances of the conjugations and irregular verbs. Be patient with yourself! Also, if you have any questions or would like more practice, schedule a free class with one of our exceptionally knowledgeable Spanish teachers! ¡Tú puedes!
Want more Spanish grammar? Check these out!
- Nouns in Spanish: Everything A Beginner Wants to Know
- Prepositions in Spanish: Por Versus Para
- Present Tense Verbs in Spanish Part 1: The Simple Present
- How to Pamper Yourself in Spanish
- Ten Spanish Commands to Use with Kids
- Spanish Subjunctive – Part 3 – Imperfect
- The Future Tense in Spanish Using the Present (Say What!?)
- Pronominal Verbs in Spanish
- The Near Future Tense in Spanish ¡Vas a Aprenderlo!
- The Future Simple Tense in Spanish: el futuro simple
Do you wonder how to gauge your Spanish level? Maybe you are working on your first résumé, applying to college, or looking for a job that incorporates your Spanish skills—but one thing’s for sure: the time has come to put those years of language study to good use. So, what level do you put next to Spanish? Common options for you to use include “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced,” but what do those actually mean? The CEFR is one way we can answer these questions. As an international guideline that places language learners at specific levels through testing, it avoids the very confusion you’re feeling now.
Confusion with Language Levels
Many language classes and books are divided into the generic levels listed above, which are often too vague to be useful. Just because you are using an intermediate Spanish book does not mean you can speak at an intermediate level or that you are actually retaining all the information given.
For example, I have been “learning” German for years. My vocabulary level is high, but if you put me in a situation where I’d actually have to use German in a conversation, I would fail horribly. While I am progressing on language-learning apps, I still haven’t passed the beginner level after several years due to my lack of spoken practice.
Isn’t there a better, more specific way to describe our language level that actually takes into consideration the complexity of language? Thankfully, yes! This brings us to the Common European Framework of Reference, or CEFR.
What is the CEFR?
If you have already heard about the CEFR, that’s great! This placement test is not well-known in the United States, but it is extremely common throughout the rest of the world. Potential job candidates from Latin America, Africa, and Europe consistently express in their résumés their language proficiency level through the CEFR categories that you’ll see below. It is an internationally recognized way of communicating your language skills.
What I particularly like about the CEFR is how it considers each aspect of the language. For example, you can have a high reading level but a low speaking level—just like my German skills!
How Does It Work?
While knowing your overall language level is imperative for résumés, job applications, and language class placement, the CEFR placement exams test each aspect of language: reading, writing, listening, spoken interaction, and spoken production. You can take advantage of that to improve certain aspects of language, or you can look at the average score and put it on your résumé.
For each category, you can place in one of six levels. They are as follows: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.
A1 and A2: Learners at these levels are considered basic users. They can recognize certain words, understand starter questions, or form simple sentences.
B1 and B2: These two levels are for independent users. In other words, if you wish to travel or work a non-specialized job (in a bar, cafe, or restaurant) abroad, your goal would be to reach at least these levels. There still may be many things that you don’t understand, but at a B1 or B2 level, you can interact fluidly with confidence, hold conversations, and ask questions to clarify any misunderstandings.
C1 and C2: At these levels, language learners are considered proficient users, or fluent. Being at a C1 level does not mean you know every single word in the language, but it means you can attend university classes in your target language and are confident to partake in conversations about a variety of topics. The C2 level is often not reached by even native speakers; it’s typically well-versed individuals, such as university professors, who have a C2 language level.
These levels can be broken down even further into sublevels such as A1.1 or B2.2. However, they are usually used for language books or classes and are not necessary when talking about your general language level. If you are using a Spanish book to study and are curious about what CEFR level you are at, check the back of the book. Most language books have the CEFR level listed near the bottom of the back cover.
What is Your CEFR Level?
The most direct way to know your CEFR level is to take a placement exam. The official Spanish test is called the DELE exam. There is a test for each CEFR level, so you should know which level you are at before taking the exam.
If you don’t want to pay for an exam, you can complete a practice DELE test. The tests are divided into different parts, such as listening and reading comprehension, so you know how well you are doing with each language aspect.
You can also do a self-evaluation by looking at the CEFR self-assessment grid, a visual tool for self-placement. By knowing what level you are currently at and where you aim to be, you can set goals for yourself and focus on your weak areas. You can also find a copy of this chart in Spanish if you would like to assess your skills in your target language.
Will Generic Spanish Classes Improve My Level?
Often, Spanish classes only emphasize reading and writing while ignoring speaking and listening skills. This means that in these generic classes, students stay at an A1 or A2 level in their speaking skills while advancing to a B1 or B2 level in reading and writing even after four or more years of study. While students may be able to converse with their peers and answer the teacher’s questions in Spanish, the real-life application of language is quite different.
In high school, I was in the Spanish club and I aced several levels of Spanish. As soon as I went to Peru my senior year, though, I could not understand a word or speak a complete sentence. After years of study, I could barely make a single sentence. I was at an A1 level.
Many Spanish learners are in the same situation as I was, and they are now turning to Homeschool Spanish Academy to help them improve their Spanish CEFR level. After observing classes and speaking with students who have studied with HSA for years, I can tell you that the students are advancing at a much quicker pace than in the normal Spanish classes you find in a high school setting.
How Does Homeschool Spanish Academy Use CEFR?
Homeschool Spanish Academy is in the process of assigning a CEFR level to each curriculum. Nevertheless, the curriculum was designed with a similar thought process. Most other Spanish classes focus on limited aspects of the language and provide little individual attention to each student’s progress. Homeschool Spanish Academy, on the other hand, provides individualized instruction focusing on every area of language learning.
Get Quick Results with HSA
Students who start studying with the Homeschool Spanish Academy at a preschool or elementary level can expect to be at an A2-B1 level as they enter high school.
For students who complete only high school courses, they can expect to be at a B1-B2 level at the end of the high school curriculum.
That is a vast improvement from the A1 level I achieved after 6 years of Spanish study! You can expect such a quick improvement in your Spanish skills because of the individualized attention from a native speaker. The curriculum itself is designed to quickly improve your reading and writing skills—and combined with a skilled native teacher, it’s the perfect toolset to become an independent language user in no time.
Feel free to take a look at some sample curriculum and try a trial class at no cost! Whether you want to pass the DELE, travel abroad, or become a proficient user, Homeschool Spanish Academy can get your CEFR level to where you want it. ¡Sigue adelante!Read More