“Yo hablo español!” are three precious words we want our child to say, and what’s more – to mean. Given the amount of language tools and resources for Spanish that never seem to end, the road to Spanish fluency can seem long and paved with obstacles. Fear not! One of the most powerful tools you have is also one of the most fun: reading! Learning a second language through reading offers a number of benefits, including an increase in cognition, memory, and listening skills. There are two types of children’s books to enjoy while sharing a love for Spanish: bilingual books and Spanish-only books.
Bilingual books create a bridge between the two languages (in this case, English and Spanish) and help you understand the story you’re reading. Spanish-only books will help you internalize the new language since it lacks the presence of English as an aid to understanding. Both types of books are essential in your quest to teach Spanish to your little one. If you are a true beginner of Spanish yourself, then pick up some (or all) of the bilingual books listed below to lead your child in learning along with you. If you feel confident about basic Spanish skills and pronunciation, then graduate to Spanish-only children’s books to read at home. Either way, you will be providing your child with the chance to discover new stories in a new language. ¡Vamos a leer!
Bilingual Books in English and Spanish
A great way to stimulate your child’s interest in Spanish is to read bilingual books to them. Cuddle up somewhere comfortable and peruse the book together. First, read the story (or a few pages, depending on your child’s capacity for attention) in English and talk about what’s happening. Then, read it again in Spanish in a playful way. This is a fool-proof way to get your child curious about the language. You can point out people or objects in the pictures when you say a vocabulary word, compare the words with those in English, and talk about the differences in sounds. The goal here is to make it fun and exciting so that each time you pick up the book, your child will be eager to hear it in Spanish. Here is our list of popular bilingual books that you and your child are sure to love!
English-Spanish Bilingual Books
For ages 3-6 years, this book of new words is big, bright, and easy to read. Each page has a central theme around which colorful pictures are displayed with labels in Spanish and English. Learn the names of colors, food, toys, farm animals, objects in the home, and many others. This is a fun way to explore Spanish vocabulary and to encourage your child to remember new words.
A perfect learning combination of art, culture, math skills, and Spanish vocabulary, this little book is a must-have! It is designed to engage babies and toddlers alike with its pretty pictures and big numbers. Follow baby Frida as you count all of the things in her world, such as clouds, leaves, toes, and dresses.
A book about mice mixing colors can only be great fun! The three mice in the story find three jars of paint in blue, red, and yellow. The story comes alive with lovely illustrations that will teach your child how to mix colors and what to call them in Spanish. This would be especially memorable if it was read along with a painting activity!
This is an endearing board book about the love of family and all the kisses that come with it. It has cute pictures to share with your child while teaching them some basic Spanish words like besos, gato, perro, and a few more. While it’s not a book for learning a ton of vocabulary at once, it captivates your little one’s attention gives you a reason to shower them with kisses while learning Spanish.
A charming story in the form of poetry, this book is about María and the llama who follows her to school. Based on the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the new poem carries the same rhythm in both English and Spanish. It takes place in Peru and embodies all the elements of Peruvian culture with illustrations of the village where Maria lives, the typical dress of the villagers, and more. It is sure to be a quick favorite!
By reading stories to your child entirely in Spanish, you can immerse them in the language momentarily. Take advantage of it by trying to use Spanish only during the time that you are actively engaged with the book. Early literacy skills are inspired at a young age by hearing oral language. The more often you can read these stories in Spanish to your little one, the more likely they are to imitate what you say or to associate new words with the pictures. Check out our blog on strategies for teaching your child Spanish to get a better understanding of why this is. Here is a list of some excellent Spanish-only books to be treasured and enjoyed!
A book of sounds is perfect for children ages 1 to 3. Learn what sounds the animals in the book make and practice Spanish onomatopoeia at the same time! This is a Spanish rhyming board book with cute illustrations and a farm animal charm to it. It’s easy for reading, repeating new words and sounds, and enjoying the practice of Spanish.
This book is an excellent tool to teach basic emotions in Spanish and to discuss the colors that may be associated with them. The monster has accidentally mixed up all the colors and feelings so as you read to your child, you can help put them back where they belong. It’s a fun and educative book.
A diverse little group of animals is curious to know what the moon tastes like. Working as a group, they pile on top of each other to reach as high as possible. The book shows what can happen when friends share dreams and cooperate with one another. Along with the important life lesson it offers, it’s a great book to learn animal vocabulary!
This is a unique and enjoyable book that never ends! Read through the board book, learning characteristics of a strange animal. When you think you’ve finished, you are directed to flip it over and read it from back to front! It’s definitely a fun way to teach descriptive words and phrases in Spanish.
The author of this children’s book was a primary school teacher who knew what inspired and engaged students the most. This is a large, beautifully-illustrated alphabet book that uses a different animal for each letter. As it is one long, rhythmic poem, it is a fun way to teach children new words while enjoying the pleasant rhymes.
Richness of Reading
By exploring and sharing these books that are rich in language, your child is sure to develop important skills each time you sit down to read. Overall, the best thing a parent can do is to encourage reading habits early with their little one – especially when learning a second language! If you would like to practice your Spanish with a native speaker before you begin reading books to your child, try our free online Spanish lesson. Or, consider signing up your child for Spanish classes online to boost their fluency, as it’s a guarantee they’ll be speaking Spanish after the first class. With this list of books to choose from, we are positive that you will enjoy your Spanish-learning journey with your child!Read More
Being bilingual in today’s world is not only a perk but a serious advantage. One might even consider it a necessity! As parents doing our best, of course, we want to impart this linguistic talent to our children. Spanish is an especially popular language choice with more than 500 million speakers worldwide. However, what if you only speak English? What if you learned Spanish years ago in high school, and now you’ve forgotten how to pronounce everything? There are so many questions that arise when we want to teach Spanish to our children but are limited by our language capabilities. The internet is full of overwhelming amounts of information about how to teach this foreign language at home, whether we speak it or not, and the sheer volume of resources can be daunting to sift through. In this article, I will boil down the excess into manageable chunks to explain the what, the why, and the how of teaching your child Spanish at home.
How to Learn
First, let’s imagine this: you are building a house. Before the house can be constructed piece by piece, you must first lay down a solid foundation. In this analogy, our understanding of how to learn Spanish is the foundation, and the pieces of the house are the strategies explained in detail below. To understand how our children learn a foreign language, we will turn it over to linguist Stephen Krashen who developed a useful theory on how children experience language learning:
The result of language acquisition … is subconscious. We are generally not consciously aware of the rules of the languages we have acquired. Instead, we have a ‘feel’ for the correctness. Grammatical sentences ‘sound’ right, or ‘feel’ right, and errors feel wrong, even if we do not consciously know what rule was violated. (Krashen 10)
While we may think of language learning as all the grammar, vocabulary, and drills, it’s, in fact, more effective to use the language in a meaningful way. The interaction itself is what grabs our attention and holds it at a very deep level. Children subconsciously learn the rules of their native language. In order to maximize the learning potential for acquiring a second language, it would be wise to use the same method. Let’s look at these two opposing examples:
(1) The teacher stands in front of the students, pointing to a list of new Spanish vocabulary words on the board. He asks the students to write the words in their notebooks: agua, arena, lodo, polvo. The students are then instructed to look up the definition of each word in the dictionary, make flashcards, and memorize their meanings.
(2) Students gather in a circle. The teacher reveals a sensory table with four different textures, each with its own label. She asks the students to touch each substance while saying its name: agua, arena, lodo, polvo. They will immediately associate the tactile sense of each substance (water, sand, mud, dust) with its Spanish name.
In each example, the students are learning. The question is – how are they learning? Number one shows memorization and number two shows a combination of associative memory and subconscious acquisition. Although both examples lead to learning, the second method will be more effective with longer-lasting results since it is made meaningful by the experience.
Children, especially toddlers or younger, are much quicker to imitate words, phrases, or song lyrics when they acquire it instead of learning it – when they experience it instead of memorizing it. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most effective strategies you can use at home to improve language learning!
Strategies for Success
1. Learn along with your child
Your kids need a compelling reason to learn a second language. As soon as they understand that it will increase interaction time with you, they will be extra motivated to engage. Brush up on your skills or start from scratch – it’s going to be a rewarding ride! Enroll in an online class at Homeschool Spanish Academy (the first class is free!) or check out our blog to review your best options. You will want to make sure your pronunciation skills are in good shape as you begin your learning journey with your child.
2. Set up a daily schedule for language learning
A 10 to 30-minute daily routine that is set at the same time is necessary for the best results. Children thrive in learning environments where they understand what to expect. Depending on their ages, they will need to start with shorter time frames and then slowly increase their stamina over a period of a few weeks or more. Create a routine that suits you and your child by dividing the time up into experiences that encourage learning. For example:
5 minutes – a fun song with a meaningful dance
10 minutes – color a picture and practice pronunciation with an activity
10 minutes – play a game to reinforce new vocabulary
5 minutes – a fun song with meaningful dance again
3. Choose your themes
Focusing on specific topics, or themes, helps you and your child focus on related information and makes learning easier. By building mental bridges between similar ideas in a theme, you are more likely to create meaningful memories. Spanish themes you might like to include will revolve around a central theme. For instance, the theme could be “On the Beach” and for 2 to 4 weeks you discuss different sub-topics using vocabulary (warm weather, what you bring to the beach, what you see on a beach), phrases and verbs (vamos a la playa, me gusta nadar), and play beach-related games (toss a beach ball and say new words or phrases, sing songs about hot weather, or fill up a kiddie pool!). Organize your themes into a notebook and jot down new ideas as you move through the year of learning.
4. Use props and TPR
Props are broadly defined as “serving a means of assistance,” and in this case, they are assisting you to bring the lesson to life. You use toys and gadgets to grab your child’s attention and excite their inner desire to play. A squishy toy frog is a whole other world compared to a simple picture. If you’re trying to encourage subconscious learning then you will want to stimulate the child’s senses and – again – give them a reason to learn.
Along the same line of props is TPR, which stands for Total Physical Response. This is a method used by language teachers to help students understand new words by using physical movement. We parents do this automatically when teaching our babies to speak our native language, so this should come naturally! TPR means to use your body to show the meaning of words while teaching them and then have your child imitate the movement and the word or phrase. For example, you can rub your hands over your eyes in a sleepy motion when teaching the phrase Tengo sueño (I am tired). Have your child repeat it and use the same motion. It’s important to be consistent when choosing movements for whichever words or phrases you’re teaching.
5. Combine learning and play
Learning is much more effective when it is fun! While teaching your child Spanish, keep in mind that it shouldn’t feel like homework or a chore. You can combine learning and play easily by using songs, dances, toys, and lots of physical activity. One excellent idea is to use a Spanish-only puppet! Find a funny puppet at a thrift store and give it a Spanish name together. Tell your child that this puppet only speaks Spanish so anytime they communicate together (you are the puppet, of course!), your child has to try really hard to remember the vocabulary they’ve learned.
6. Add Spanish to established routines
Your morning and bedtime routines are goldmines for language learning! Take advantage of the daily repetition in these activities and gradually add new Spanish words and phrases to them. While brushing your teeth, you say, “¡Me cepillo los dientes!” as your child repeats. Point to your teeth and say again, dientes so your child can repeat. While changing into pajamas, repeat, “Me pongo el pijama!” and hold up the clothes and say together “pijama.” The key to this is repetition and association of name to object or phrase to action. This is a guaranteed way to teach new vocabulary.
7. Try family ‘Spanish time’ once a week
Everyone in the family can get in on the action by setting up a weekly time that the whole family practices Spanish together. A good time might be once a week during dinner or a Spanish game night. Everyone tries to communicate as best they can for 10 minutes (or as long as they can manage) using only the Spanish they’ve learned!
8. Collect new vocabulary words in a Libro de Palabras
While you are teaching new words to your children, it will be helpful to have an organized place for them to store it all (since unfortunately it won’t all be stored in their heads!). Reuse an old binder or pick up a notebook and use it as a home for vocabulary. By calling it a “libro de palabras” you will easily teach your child two words – libro and palabras. Have your child glue down colored pictures of objects and their names on it that he or she colored, cut, and practiced. Then, every week, have a time when you both can sit down together and simply look through them as a review.
9. Seek out community support
We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” but it’s also the case with teaching a new language to a child! A great way to gather ideas and resources, ask questions, voice concerns, and vent when you need it to those who understand (we’ve all been there!) is by joining a like-minded group. You can look for meetups in your area for parents teaching bilingual children, join groups online by searching Google or Facebook, or ask around at your child’s school to see if any other parents are teaching their children Spanish.
10. Try out Spanish learning videos
While videos aren’t the same as having a live teacher, they do have a place! Let’s use the “On the Beach” theme as an example here, also. If this were a theme in your house and you already learned some songs, vocabulary, and a few of the sub-topics had already been explored, then it would be helpful to use a video. The video should make use of some of the words and phrases you covered. Use this as a review. You could pick out one or two new words to focus on as a learning goal while watching the video to extend it or ignore the new vocabulary and just use it as a review. If you’re looking for some great videos with a specific topic or for video lessons, check out our YouTube Channel, Spanish Academy TV!
11. Enroll your child in online Spanish classes
The ultimate support in your quest to your child Spanish is to enlist the help of a native Spanish teacher. This is an extremely efficient way to give your child the gift of bilingualism. Sign up your child today with a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy, where they will start speaking Spanish immediately! By using an online classroom to provide the bulk of instruction and experience, you can focus on supplying the boost at home using the ideas listed above. If your child is too young for online classes, consider taking the class yourself to improve your Spanish and share the talent with your child. It’s a win-win!
You Can Do It!
Teaching a foreign language to your child is certainly a challenge, but with the right tools and a positive attitude, you can do it! Take advantage of this list of ideas while you gather your resources and make your teaching plan or schedule your free class with Homeschool Spanish Academy today. We would love to help you achieve your language goals. No matter how you choose to teach your child Spanish, remember how great of a parent you are for helping your child to master a foreign language. ¡Buen trabajo!Read More
Today is my 20th birthday! My party will be at the fifth house on the second avenue. As of now, you’re the first to know! Ok, ok, so today isn’t really my birthday, but without the use of ordinal numbers, I wouldn’t be able to tell you all about it. Ordinal numbers tell us about an object’s position in relation to others. They are the numerical labels that help us arrange objects or ideas in order: first, second, third, etc. They are different from cardinal numbers, or natural numbers, that represent a quantity that we can count. When we learn about ordinal numbers in Spanish, it’s important to remember the vocabulary as well as the ways that they are used.
Ordinal Numbers 1-10
The most commonly used números ordinales in Spanish are numbers 1-10. As you will soon see, the numbers after 10 grow in complexity and length, which has undoubtedly persuaded Spanish speakers to use the cardinal numbers between 11 and a million much more frequently. Let’s start with a list of the numbers 1-10 in their ordinal form with a pronunciation cheat sheet!
It is important to take note that we do not use these ordinal numbers in Spanish exactly the same way that we use them in English. For example, unlike English, we write the days of the month with the cardinal number to specify a date. The only exception is for the first day of the month, where we use the ordinal number:
Cardinal number: El diez de agosto (August 10th)
Ordinal number for the first day of any month: El primero de abril (April 1st), el primero de agosto (August 1st)
The use of the ordinal number to denote the first of the month is a general and common rule for Spanish, but it is acceptable only in Spain to use uno instead of primero (El uno de abril).
Give it a try
Here is a quick quiz to see if you can fill in the blanks with the correct ordinal number, using the chart above to help! (See the answers at the end of the blog to check your work!)
1. el ______________ (8th) carro
2. el ______________ (1st) de noviembre
3. el ______________ (10th) suéter
4. el ______________ (5th) hermano
5. el ______________ (9th) cuadro
Ordinal Versus Cardinal
While cardinal numbers act as adjectives, ordinal numbers can be adverbs, pronouns, and adjectives. The major difference between them is that cardinal numbers do not usually change according to the gender and number of the noun, as ordinal numbers do. Here are a few examples that show how ordinal numbers change in order to adapt to the noun that they describe:
You will see that the ordinal number ending in ‘o’ comes before masculine nouns, while the ordinal number ending in ‘a’ precedes feminine nouns.
Do you notice anything strange in the chart above? Take a closer look at the ordinal number in the sentence Me dieron el primer boleto. In our example, it’s no mistake that primer is written without the final ‘o’. Ordinal numbers primero and tercero both lose the final ‘o’ when they are in front of a singular noun. This is the case even if another word is in between, as in, el primer gran día (the first big day).
El primer momento libre = the first free moment
El ganador del tercer lugar = the third place winner
Give it a try
Which ordinal or cardinal numbers do you need to fill in the following blanks? (See the answers at the end of the blog to check your work!)
6. Tengo ______________ (2) animales.
7. Tengo el ______________ (2nd) animal.
8. Hoy es la ______________ (1st) vez.
9. Lo hago solo ______________ (1) vez.
10. Comienza la ______________ (4th) entrada.
We have just learned that ordinal numbers are often adjectives. As you may know, an adjective generally comes after the noun it describes in Spanish. In the case of ordinal numbers, however, they come before the noun unless discussing a member of royalty or the pope.
El sexto libro = the sixth book
Mi primera foto = my first photo
Juan Carlos Primero = Juan Carlos the First, the former king of Spain
San Juan Pablo Segundo = Pope John Paul the Second
Numbers 11 to 100
Ordinal numbers are not ordinarily used after 10, but it is still important to expose yourself to them so that you can recognize them when they do appear. Both 11th and 12th have two acceptable forms, which the chart below shows. While there is, unfortunately, no formula to memorize for all the ordinal numbers after 11, there are a few guidelines we can follow. For numbers 13-19, we use a combination of decimo + ordinal number 3-9, as in decimocuarto (14th). For numbers in between 20-100, we use the ordinal number ending in -gésimo or -agésimo + the unique singular ordinal number 1-9, as in vigésimo primero (21st).
As you view the chart, keep in mind that all of these ordinal numbers can be written together or apart, as in decimoprimero or décimo primero. Additionally, if they describe a feminine noun, their form changes to decimaprimera or décima primera.
Similar to English, Spanish ordinal numbers can be written in long form or using superscriptions. While in English we use “st” “nd” “rd” and “th” as the superscriptions (as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th), Spanish uses “o” for masculine nouns or “a” for feminine nouns, as in the following examples:
Another way of abbreviating numbers is by using roman numerals, which we read as ordinal numbers. We can use roman numerals with centuries, popes, monarchs, emperors, books, volumes, chapters, and recurring events. Keep in mind that in informal speech, the use of ordinal numbers above 10 is fairly rare. Instead of saying, el quincuagésimo capítulo, one would more likely say el capítulo cincuenta.
Now that you have learned how to use ordinal numbers, be sure to keep practicing them regularly in speech and writing. Be sure to check out our blog on cardinal numbers to refresh your memory or learn new vocabulary! To enhance your language skills, schedule a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and start speaking Spanish with a native speaker today!
Answers to Give It a Try:
How old are you? How many siblings do you have? How long have you been learning Spanish? These are just a few of the questions that you can answer with numbers! Los números help us quantify and categorize things or experiences in our lives. They are so important that they are essential for almost every area of human society, including economics, science, and many social interactions. Number awareness in Spanish will let you set a coffee date with a friend, barter down the price of goods at an outdoor market, and understand how many spots are left on the bus for travel. Let’s take a look at how to comprehend, construct, and pronounce numbers in Spanish! Then we’ll get into the games and learning activities we can use to memorize what we’ve learned. ¡Aprendamos a contar!
Types of Numbers in Spanish
Cardinal vs. Ordinal
Cardinal numbers are the simple, original form of a number: 1, 2, 3, etc. This is in contrast to ordinal numbers, which are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. As we begin our journey of number awareness, it’s important to start with cardinal numbers so that they can serve as the base for learning ordinal numbers later. Keep in mind that Spanish speakers use cardinal instead of ordinal numbers when talking about la fecha, or the calendar date. They add “de + month” after the cardinal number. An example is: veinte de julio (July 20).
Here we have a chart with numbers 0-20 in Spanish:
Spelling numbers in Spanish is easy once you understand certain patterns. If you remember, numbers 16-19 have a distinct pattern where they all begin with “dieci”. These numbers were originally written diez y seis, diez y siete, etc. and have since changed their spelling. In a similar fashion, the spelling for numbers 21 through 29 has changed. It is not uncommon to see these numbers written as veinte y uno, veinte y dos, etc. However, according to the Real Academia Española, this is no longer an acceptable form of spelling. The form we must learn combines the two numbers and changes the ‘y’ to an ‘i’. In order to move the emphasis to the last syllable, there is an acute accent mark on veintidós, veintitrés, and veintiséis.
How to Build Bigger Numbers
Numbers begin to build on each other after 15. You will see that deiciséis through diecinueve are a combination of diez + y + number. This was, in fact, how they were all originally spelled. This construction is currently used for numbers from treinta y uno (31) to noventa y nueve (99). By combining the number in the tens place (30, 40, 50, etc.) with the number in the ones place (1, 2, 3, etc.) and placing y in between, we form the following numbers:
Now, when we reach 100, we say cien, but any number between 101-199 uses ciento. Except for 500 (which is quinientos), numbers 200 and higher use cientos in plural form. These bigger numbers are a combination of the whole hundred + cientos + number. For example, doscientos diez (210), trescientos once (311), etc. This is different from mil, which is 1,000, where it does not add an -s for dos mil (2,000) and higher. Whew, what a mouthful! This can be tricky at first, but with plenty of practice, it will seem natural. Additionally, take notice of the spelling differences in the number (700) setecientos and (900) novecientos. Here is a chart of some of the bigger numbers:
Gender in Numbers
When we list Spanish numbers in their original form, they are generally gender-neutral. However, the whole hundreds in the numbers 200 through 900 change to feminine when they quantify a feminine noun, by changing -cientos into -cientas. In addition, numbers that end in -uno undergo a spelling change in certain conditions. If the number proceeds a masculine noun, such as 21 cats, the number 21 is written as veintiún gatos. However, if the number proceeds a feminine noun that begins with the letter a, such as 31 eagles, the number is most commonly written in masculine form: treinta y un águilas. Learn more about that here. When a number like 41 precedes a feminine noun that doesn’t start with an a, then the ending is -una: cuarenta y una manzanas.
To make the most of learning about numbers, we have to be able to pronounce them correctly! Check out our video to get you started on perfecting your pronunciation! Test yourself on some of the more difficult numbers that are similar in pronunciation and sometimes confused with one another!
Games and Activities
The best way to retain any new information is to play games, of course! Engage your senses and skillsets with some of these fun ideas:
- Bingo is a popular game and is especially helpful when trying to tune those listening skills. If providing for a bigger group of learners, you can print out blank Bingo cards, pass them out for students to fill in numbers in their numerical form, and you can call out numbers 1-100 at random. If you would like a pre-made set of 4 Bingo Cards and a Spanish Numbers Calling Sheet, feel free to use our free gift to you! (Find the link at the end of this blog!) It’s fun for the whole family and keeps learners excited.
- Catch and Count is a ball game that requires at least 2 players. Everyone stands in a circle and chooses the numbers they will be counting (from 1-50 or 1-100, for example). The person holding the ball says the first number then tosses it to someone else who must say the next number in the sequence. The group tosses the ball around until they reach the maximum number. If someone messes up, they have to start all over again!
- Uno is an obvious game to play to practice numbers, especially because of its name! While playing this family favorite, make sure to require that all players say the numbers in Spanish before they play them. Each player can say their number by using the phrase, “Yo tengo el número _____.”
Spanish Number Sense
Now that you’ve learned your numbers in Spanish, you can practice using them with friends, family, or in the classroom. Expand your knowledge by taking online classes with Homeschool Spanish Academy where you will learn how to have conversations using numbers! Your journey into Spanish learning is well on its way now. Keep up the good work and stay inspired with our other blogs!
Keep practicing with our Bingo game!Read More
Have you noticed that certain songs get stuck in your head? Or phrases from songs seem to appear out of nowhere and haunt you for days? This is the magic of music. Looking back on our childhood, we can remember the first songs we heard and learned to sing; they became our first stories. Thanks to the lyrics we memorized, we expanded our vocabulary. We asked more questions to our parents about the meaning of the song and we created more imagery in our heads.
Now, it’s time to pass on the joy! By listening to these children’s songs in Spanish with amusing tunes and playful lyrics, you will start filling your head with new Spanish words and phrases that you won’t forget any time soon. We highly recommend that you find one or two that you want to memorize and teach to a friend or a child who would love it. Check out our list of 10 popular Spanish songs for kids. ¡Vamos a cantar!
One by one, another elephant comes in to swing on the spider web! This is a counting song for young children learning to count by one. It has fun rhymes and repetitions to keep the little listeners engaged.
Key Words and Phrases
Se balanceaban – they were swinging
La tela de una araña – a spider’s web
Fueron a llamar – they went to call
Como veían que resistía – since they saw that it held
Mothers are very fond of this song. It is a special chant they sing when their child has just hurt themselves. By rubbing the minor injury while singing this tune, their little one magically starts to feel better! Part of the healing process is the laughter that comes when mom breaks out the silly song in a serious moment.
Key Words and Phrases
Colita de rana – little frog’s tail
Sana – present tense ‘heal’
Sanará – future tense ‘will heal’
This folk song is originally from France and survives in popularity since the 14th century. Children like to sing it while they form a circle and hold hands. Then, they choose a boy to stand in the middle. As the song goes “con esta sí, con esta no,” the boy in the middle picks a girl to be the señorita of the song. She takes his place in the middle and chooses a boy next.
Key Words and Phrases
Sepa – present subjunctive tense of the verb saber or ‘to know’
Coser – to sew
La viudita – the little widow
A great way to start the day is by singing this happy, classic nursery rhyme. There are popular variations to the original that add the days of the week to help kids practice. The lyrics teach concepts like night and day as well as today and tomorrow. Teachers love using this song with their students. It makes them smile with funny images of chicks, a calf, and Pinocchio drumming with a spoon and fork.
Key Words and Phrases
Caliéntame – warm me up
Cascabelera – jingling
Tocando el tambor – playing the drum
Jacobo Morcillo from Spain, the author of this time-honored nursery rhyme, wrote about a milk cow. While there is a lyrical debate on whether the cow gives leche condensada or leche congelada, the message remains the same: everyone loves the cow because of the milk she gives! This song is especially popular in Latin America where it helps young children develop their pre-reading skills.
Key Words and Phrases
No es una vaca cualquiera – It’s not just any cow
Un cencerro – a cowbell
El rabo – the tail
What do the little chicks say? ¡Pío pío! This is a great song for learning high-frequency phrases in Spanish like tener hambre and tener frío. Children love this song with all the great movements that go with the singalong. It teaches kids about chicks: the animal sounds they make, the food they like to eat, and how they stay warm with their mama hen.
Key Words and Phrases
El trigo – wheat
Les da abrigo – she shelters them
Quietecitos – nice and still
7. Veo veo
This is the Spanish version of the popular English kid’s song “I Spy.” It focuses heavily on the usage of proper vowel sounds. To answer the question, ¿Y qué cosita es? the child pronounces the first guess incorrectly. The song not only corrects the pronunciation but includes even more words that begin with the same vowel! This is one of the best songs to use for expanding vocabulary. Be sure to have your dictionary on hand. The fun rhythm of the song will help you to remember the new words.
Key Words and Phrases
¿Y qué cosita es? – What little thing is it?
Un montón de cosas más – a bunch of other things
¿Qué será? – What could it be?
8. El sapo
This beloved toad is determined to keep his feet dirty! This is one of the more challenging songs due to strange pronunciations of words, but this also makes it one of the most fun to sing. A simple chant is repeated again and again while using only one vowel sound for each turn. Prepare yourself for a whole lot of silliness and plenty of exercise for your mouth muscles!
Key Words and Phrases
Se lava el pie – washes his/her foot
La laguna – the lagoon
Apestoso – stinky
This Spanish children’s song spans generations, originating sometime in the 15th century in Spain. It’s about a lovely little doll in a blue dress who gets sick. The girl who has the doll has the doctor cure her and the song has a happy ending. There are many variations, but the most popular one includes math practice doing addition. For Spanish learners, singing this song is an easy way to practice new vocabulary and numbers.
Key Words and Phrases
la saqué a paseo – I took her out for a walk
se me constipó – she got a cold
jarabe – syrup
This song is by the famous Mexican cricket, Cri-Cri, who was a favorite radio character for kids all over Latin America during the 1950s. He entertained listeners with a handsome voice and inspiring imagery in his songs. The original singer who called himself Cri-Cri was Francisco Gabilondo Soler, a Mexican composer and performer.
Key Words and Phrases
Dormilones – sleepyheads
Se puso a llorar – he/she began to cry
Roncar – snore
Learning Through Music
Memories of our childhood would not be complete without the silly songs we all learned and loved. With this handy list of Spanish kids songs, you and your family can share in the learning of the Spanish language and its culture of children’s music. Start memorizing, singing aloud, and teaching to others! For a chance to understand these songs even better, try a FREE Spanish class today at Homeschool Spanish Academy. We guarantee that after just one free class, your child will be speaking Spanish!Read More
Central America is one of the most vibrant and diverse areas in the world to visit. While you’re challenging yourself to learn more Spanish, we hope that you’re dreaming of where it can take you! Combine your love of the language with a passion for exploration and you may find yourself on one of the best vacations imaginable. To help you out, we have compiled a list of some of the top travel destinations for you to investigate and to enjoy! Buen viaje!
Ambergris Caye is the largest island off the coast of the mainland of Belize. It has a little bit of everything to suit everyone’s taste, whether you are traveling alone, in a big group, or with family. Enjoy water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, and parasailing. Then head to the jungle for hiking, zip lining, or simple nature walks. You will also find here the western hemisphere’s longest-running coral reef system that is full of underwater wildlife. Take advantage of all the natural beauty when visiting this gorgeous place!
How Safe Is It?
While traveling it is important to take safety into account and use common sense. This island is considered safe with some reported instances of theft (of passports or credit cards), burglary, and sexual harassment toward lone women. Always keep your personal items in a secure location and try not to flash expensive items while out in public.
The great majority of island dwellers speak English, but you will also hear Spanish and Creole, the local mestizo dialect. More than 80% of locals speak Spanish, so feel free to use it as you travel along!
The long, skinny island of Roatan sits atop the beautiful and ancient Mesoamerican barrier reef. Imagine soft sandy beaches, palm trees swaying with a light breeze, and crystal waters. This island has what you’re looking for, whether it be absolute luxury or simple budget travel and lodging. You will definitely want to get into the water however you can, so join a glass-bottom boat tour, rent a kayak, or charter a fishing trip! Once you’re ready to come back to land, plan a trip to the art or underwater museums, visit the iguana conservatory, go bicycling, or gather a group for mini-golf. The options for fun and entertainment are truly endless.
How Safe Is it?
While safer than mainland Honduras, we advise you to enjoy your travel experience more so on the west end of the island. Take greater precautions while visiting the east end of the island which is less developed and less populated.
Although most islanders speak English, a big group of mainland Hondurans finds their way there for work. This means that even though English is the most commonly-spoken language on this island, there are plenty of opportunities to use your Spanish. Keep in mind that the English you will hear is a unique dialect of the region and might not be what you’re expecting!
This little town in Costa Rica, often simply called “La Fortuna,” is 10 kilometers away from one of the most popular and powerful volcanoes in the country: Arenal Volcano. Until 2010, it was the most active volcano in all of Costa Rica. With more than a million visitors per year, this area provides plenty of entertainment for all types of tourists. You will find amazing spas that take advantage of the natural thermal waters from Arenal and various hot springs to enjoy. Go sightseeing at the miraculously tall waterfall, La Fortuna Catarata, that towers upward of 70 meters. For more adventure and physical activity, try horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, hiking or jump onto a canopy tour!
Is It Safe?
If you plan on traveling between towns (Monteverde to La Fortuna, for example) by bus then you will definitely need to keep an eye on your bags! If you can avoid it, try not to put them in the rack above your seat. Aside from this important detail, traveling around this area is safe if using common sense.
Most locals do not speak English and they will expect that you have brushed up on your Spanish skills before trying to communicate! Check out our Travel Spanish Guide for useful phrases you can practice on your plane ride.
Panama City shines bright as a bustling metropolitan area where international bankers and businessmen wine and dine. Luckily, it is also accessible for the budget traveler if you know where to look and you know how to negotiate taxi fare! After a day or so of cultured exploration, non-stop traffic and crazy city life, take a day trip to the beach on the Carribean or Pacific shore or watch the boats come and go through the famous Panama Canal.
Is It Safe?
In areas like this with a highly concentrated population, it is important to keep a vigilant eye. Beware of service guides who wish to give you a tour. Often they will begin the ‘tour’ without your consent and soon become aggressive when asking for payment. Keep your belongings tucked away in an inaccessible pocket or bag.
Spanish is the national language of Panama, while around 14% of inhabitants speak English. Make sure to practice asking for directions, ordering meals, and checking into hotels or other lodgings. Improve your skills even more by joining one of the various Spanish Schools offered in Panama!
Granada is a calm and relaxing place with plenty of architectural beauty. You will see attractive and colorful colonial buildings everywhere with horse-drawn carriages moving in between. Take a stroll on land or visit Lake Nicaragua and take a boat tour. For even more adventure, climb one of the nearby volcanoes or go hiking in one of the wildlife preserves.
Is It Safe?
In Granada, violent crime is extremely low, and as a traveler, you will only need to worry about pickpockets. Sometimes, due to civil unrest, Nicaragua will close its borders to travelers and so it is necessary to check on its status before planning your vacation.
Very few locals speak English,so Granada is an excellent place to challenge yourself to speak more Spanish. Bring a travel guide along with you in order to have the phrases you need at your fingertips!
In Southwestern Nicaragua, located along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, sits the colorful town of San Juan del Sur. The temperature stays at a fairly warm temperature for most of the year with a bit of cold from November to January. It has several different beaches to choose from that combine perfectly with hot weather. No wonder it is considered a hub for beach parties! Surf the waves, go swimming, sunbathe your heart out, and then go investigate the giant Jesus statue that overlooks the village.
Is It Safe?
San Juan del Sur has grown in popularity over the years, which means that there are more opportunistic types who are attempting to prey on visitors. Again, it’s a place where common sense will keep you out of trouble. Avoid being out at night on your own and keep all of your belongings in a safe spot.
San Juan del Sur is a fantastic place to build your Spanish skills through one of their tailored Spanish school options. From one-time lessons to immersion and community outreach, there is a way for everyone to learn.
Quirigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Guatemala, the heart of the Mayan civilization. This amazing archaeological site has ancient carved monuments that show Mayan mythology and important historical events. Visit one of the many museums that explain more about Mayan history and provide fun small-scale models of what the area looked like long ago.
Is It Safe?
While touring this ancient city, it is necessary to keep items of importance in a safe space. Other than possible theft, there are no other major precautions to take.
While you can get a tour guide to bring the city to life for you in English, you could just as easily ask for a tour in Spanish! Expand your vocabulary through a real-life history lesson! After you visit Quirigua, take a bus to any of these other incredible destinations in Guatemala and head over to Homeschool Spanish Academy for fun and practical Spanish lessons.
La Ruta de las Flores is called la ruta because it is just that: a route. It is a passage of blooming flowers that grow along 20 miles of five main colonial towns and coffee plantations. The best time to go in order to see the blooms is between November and February. There are plenty of other activities to explore along the way including a 7-Waterfall hike in Juyayua, ziplining in Apaneca, and going on a coffee tour in any of the other villages along the route.
Is It Safe?
Exploring this route is traditionally done by chicken bus, where you will need to exercise caution with your personal belongings. Make sure to keep them close to your body and, if possible, avoid leaving them in the rack above the seats.
You will have many chances to use your Spanish! In each of the towns along the route, you will need your skills to order food, talk to locals, find lodging, learn more about the history of the towns, and ask for directions.
Best Trip Ever
Now that you are equipped with all the best travel destinations in Central America, you can start packing. You can practice your Spanish while you explore some of the greatest spots between North and South America. Want the best Spanish learning experience before your trip? Take a class with professional, friendly teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy for an awesome head start to your travel. Enjoy the best trip of your life and maybe you’ll be able to add even more great destinations to our list!Read More
Have you ever wondered why Spanish names are so long? As you may have noticed, the names of people in Spanish-speaking countries consist of a first name and two surnames. Traditionally, you will see the first surname of the father followed by the first of the mother. Presently, laws have changed on gender equality and now allow any order, but we normally see the original order. People always use their full name in legal settings. In informal contexts, however, they use their first name and first surname to introduce themselves.
The first name can be simple, such as José (Joseph), or composite such as José Miguel (Joseph Michael). Nevertheless, in the given name, Miguel is not a middle name but is part of the name José Miguel. Contrary to English-speaking countries, the idea of a middle name does not exist and, as such, is very rare to see.
Transmission of Spanish Surnames
The two last names come from what is called a “generational transmission” from both parents. Currently, the two first surnames of each parent are combined. As stated above, the father’s surname is often first while the mother’s surname comes after. Interestingly, the paternal, or father’s, name will eventually eliminate the maternal name of the family line. An example of this is with two parents, Lucía López García and Jorge Rosales Castillo. Their child will most likely use the traditional order and hold a name such as Paola Rosales López. She will marry and her name will change to Paola Rosales Mendoza or Paola Rosales de Mendoza. As you can see, the maternal name has been dropped and replaced by the husband’s name. Nonetheless, the transfer of the father’s surname was not always the norm. Spanish-speaking societies once practiced the transmission of one Spanish surname, choosing between the mother or father.
The Four Categories of Surnames
When looking at Spanish surnames, a clear pattern emerges. History tells us that by the twelfth century, as populations grew, people needed a way to distinguish one name or family from another. They began to follow specific traditions that helped them understand which surname to use. Namely, four types of surnames appeared. They became the origin of most Spanish surnames we see today.
Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames
Patronymic means the surname comes from the father’s first name, while matronymic means it’s from the mother’s name. Now, if you met two men name Juan, you might mix them up. However, by distinguishing who their fathers are, their names suddenly become distinct. The paternal surname was a combination of the man’s father’s name and a suffix meaning “son of”: -ez, -az, -is, -oz (or -es), -as, -os. In other words, someone with the name Juan Fernandez means Juan “son of Fernando”. If he had a son, his name would have been Diego Juanez, Diego “son of Juan.” Given this fact, surnames weren’t at all consistent. Eventually, a specific surname stuck with the family and was passed to future generations. Matronymic surnames are less common, often a result of illegitimate children or a mother of higher noble ranking.
Geographic surnames tell us where the first person with a surname lived. This includes very specific surnames, such as de Soto (from Soto), from families that typically owned land. More general surnames like Iglesias (lived near a church) acted much like nicknames. Similarly, they may refer to what type of land the person lived on. For example, del Valle (from the valley) or de la Vega (from the meadow) depict certain features of the original homeland.
Occupational surnames refer to a person’s job or trade. Two types of occupational surnames are standard and titular. Standard occupational surnames represent a common trade, such as Zapatero (shoemaker) and Barros (an artisan or builder who used clay). Nobility often gave these surnames to the commoners under their rule. Conversely, the nobility used titular occupational surnames that denoted their position. For example, Hidalgo means “nobleman,” and Marques means “marquis.”
Descriptive surnames are less common and much more personal. They refer to a quality, characteristic, or physical trait of a person. It’s worth noting that this type of surname was frequently given to commoners as a form of insult. For this reason, the bulk of these surnames have not survived over time. Those that remain show a fairly neutral trait or a positive attribute. Examples include Bravo (brave), Cano (gray), Cortes (courteous), Delgado (thin), and Orejón (big ear).
Spanish Surnames in Foreign Countries
Entering into a foreign naming system often requires vigilance and necessary changes. One example is when a Spanish person lives under an English naming system. In order to avoid confusion, they may hyphenate their last name, turning Marcela Pérez Rubio into Marcela Pérez-Rubio. In view of the one-surname system used by English-speakers, there may be legal confusion and her name could become Marcela P. Rubio on a government document. This poses a big problem for her identity since, in her home country, her name would be abbreviated as Marcela Pérez R.
Foreign Surnames in Spanish-Speaking Countries
In Spanish-speaking countries, foreign immigrants keep using their cultural naming customs. However, if they choose to obtain citizenship, they must assume a name in the Spanish manner. If the person comes from a culture with a unique family name, they repeat it twice. As a result, an English name “William Stewart Mirren” turns into “William Stewart Mirrén Mirrén.” The law allows a person to adopt the mother’s maiden name if they choose to. Lastly, the Spanish custom connects the first and middle name making it the two first names for legal documents.
Top 50 Most Common Spanish Surnames
The chart below shows the top 50 most common Spanish surnames in Spain. As well, you will see the estimated population of how many people have this particular last name. Take a look at the chart and see how many names you recognize. Do you see which of the suffixes is most common among these names?
Prepositions “de” and “y”
There are times that Spanish surnames include a preposition between the paternal and maternal surnames. Some people choose to use “de” and/or “y” for three main reasons. Firstly, it shows nobility, such as the name of Gabriel de la Cueva y Girón, who was a sixteenth-century nobleman and military leader. Secondly, it denotes location, as is the case for the name Lope Félix de Vega y Carpio (de Vega means “of the meadow”), a famous playwright of undistinguished origin. Lastly, it helps to distinguish between the first name and a surname that could be mistaken for a first name like Antonio Miguel y Morales. In this case, we understand that Miguel is not his second name, but instead the first of his surnames.
Obviously, Spanish surnames give us the chance to learn about a person’s family history. Not only is it fascinating to take a closer look at the meaning of a person’s surname, but it is also educational. By learning how these surnames were created, how they’re used in present day, and how to understand them, we can better comprehend their importance. Furthermore, it allows us to appreciate the complexity of the naming system in Spanish culture.Read More
Body language accounts for 90% of the information exchanged between two speakers. Unfortunately, we may go to another country without learning important gestures and their meanings. However, by learning body language and practicing it before traveling, we will be better equipped to communicate. If you know where you’d like to go in order to enhance your speaking skills and comprehension, then you’ll know what types of body language and gestures to learn based on the region. Additionally, you will benefit from learning the body parts in Spanish and their idioms.
Spanish Body Parts: The Vocabulary
The Spanish-speaking world, known in linguistics as the hispanosphere, is bursting at its seam with a variety of slang. The Spanish body parts vocabulary provides a variety of slang. These can differ in each country, so we will just focus only on the general words used and understood in every hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) culture. With an excellent basic foundation in understanding, you will be able to learn the relevant slang words much quicker and improve comprehension more efficiently by asking questions. Let’s look at some Spanish body parts!
The Human Body
The Head and Face
Spanish Body Parts and Idioms: Using the Vocabulary
Learning idioms is vital when communicating with the natives of a foreign country. They are the informal, figurative language we use in daily life that expresses feelings or situations in a phrase whose meaning doesn’t immediately stand out. For example, in English, we say “Hold your horses!” when we want to express the idea that the other person needs to wait. Clearly, we are not asking them to hold back their actual horses! This is informal, figurative (non-literal) language. To truly understand the conversation and the culture of a hispanophone country, we must be aware of these figurative phrases exist. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about them when you hear a strange phrase pop up!
List of Idioms
Body Gestures: Latin America and Spain
Watch out! (¡Ojo! / ¡Cuidado!) – put your index finger to your eye and hold or tap just below
I promise you. (Te lo juro.) – make a fist, bring the thumb to the mouth, kiss it and then flick it outwards quickly with thumb up to show that you really mean it
Slow down! (¡Más lento!) – hand open with the palm facing outward, moving in a patting motion
It’s delicious. (Está delicioso.) – fingers come together at the mouth then moved forward and opened
Come here. (Ven aca.) – hand out with fingers down, palm face down, move fingers simultaneously together, making a motion from the person toward your body
Thief! (¡Ladrón!) – palm down, while each finger touches the palm one at a time. You can do this if you’re on a bus or in a smaller space, and you notice a pickpocket nearby. This would be a great way to warn other people.
Body Gestures to Avoid
In Spain, people consider yawning or stretching in public vulgar. So, no matter how tired you are, avoid making this mistake! It is also a common cultural mix-up to use the standard American gesture of “come here” with your hand out, palm up, and index finger wiggling. This actually portrays a romantic interest in Latin culture, and people only use it in very specific situations. Remember to turn your hand over and use all your fingers in a sweeping motion toward your body to signal someone to come to you. On the other hand, if you’re in Latin America, avoid gesturing with your hand turned sideways with your fingers spread. This motion is a strong insult against the other person.
Let Your Brain Learn and Your Body Talk
During your Spanish-learning journey, you can begin to expand your horizons and learn more about Hispanic culture. Idioms and body language are, of course, a big part of that experience! Every time you learn a new theme, such as food or travel, challenge yourself to look up idioms and gestures that are used to communicate relevant information. You will soon see that you’ve built an empire of knowledge. This will help you improve your speaking skills, comprehension ability, and capacity to integrate into Spanish culture.Read More
What’s the difference between “martes” and “miércoles” in Spanish? If you still struggle with this answer, then you are in the right place! In this post, you will learn the seven most common words in Spanish: the days of the week. Additionally, we will cover how to pronounce them and use them in sentences. What’s more, if you need a boost in memory power, I’ll share below a proven technique for you to remember new vocabulary. ¡Vamos!
Días de la Semana
Firstly, there are a few differences you must know about los días de la semana in Spanish. For example, they are always lower case, unlike the days in English. In contrast to the English calendar that starts with Sunday, the week begins on Monday in Latin countries. Additionally, each day uses the masculine definite article in singular (el lunes) and plural (los lunes).
The Definite Articles: “El” and “Los”
When using the definite article “el” while we talk about the days of the week, it means “on”. Try out these phrases to practice the new vocabulary:
¿Vas a venir a mi casa el domingo?
Are you going to come to my house on Sunday?
Yo tengo que trabajar el lunes.
I have to work on Monday.
Él quiere ir al dentista el jueves.
He wants to go to the dentist on Thursday.
Furthermore, we can change the definite article to “los” and add an -s to the day when we mean to say that something happens habitually. Keep in mind, if the day already ends in -s then we don’t need to add another -s.
Yo hago compras con mi abuela los sábados.
I shop with my grandma on Saturdays.
Ella juega a las cartas los martes.
She plays cards on Tuesdays.
Los miércoles, yo trabajo como tutor de inglés.
On Wednesdays, I work as an English tutor.
How to Memorize
In order to remember the days of the week as quickly as possible, you can follow a tried-and-true memory technique. This requires a bit of creativity, but it’s well worth it! For each day, try to link the sound of the word with a crazy mental image. Surprisingly, this technique is consistent and effective. Let’s try it together…
El lunes – When you read the word, it sounds very similar to the English word “loony.” Think of a funny image of a loony-looking guy standing in front of a sign that reads “Lunes”. He is the first in a line of six other characters, which will be the other days of the week. You can even repeat in your head “Loony lunes” to reinforce both the pronunciation and the image.
Now you try!
Write your list of the next six days and write out a description of a super crazy, funny picture. Similarly, you could just draw it. Remember, the trick is in the image: the crazier it is, the easier it will be to remember. In no time, you will memorize all of the Spanish days of the week!
The Origin of the Spanish Days of the Week
The Spanish days of the week have a significant history and origin to their names. Read on to learn more:
Lunes comes from the Latin Dies lunae, meaning día de la luna. In English, this means, “Day of the Moon”.
Martes comes from the Latin Dies marte, meaning día de marte. In English, this means “Day of Mars”.
Miércoles comes from the Latin Mercurii dies, meaning día de Mercurio. In English, this means “Day of Mercury.”
Jueves comes from the Latin Jovis dies, meaning día de Júpiter. In English, this means “Day of Jupiter.”
Viernes comes from the Latin Veneris dies, meaning día de Venus. In English, it stands for “Day of Venus.”
Sábado comes from the Hebrew word Sabbat, the day of rest.
Domingo comes from the Latin Dies Dominicus, día del Señor or “Day of the Lord” in English. It is related to both the sun and the Christian reverence for the son of God, Jesus.
The Days of Our Lives
All in all, learning the days of the week in Spanish is important for conversations and meetings with friends. You will also be able to understand when they are trying to set a date with you. Moreover, you’ll be able to talk about some of your habits and routines when you are getting to know someone. Ultimately, every beginner Spanish learner should make sure they know the days of the week and how to use them in a sentence.Read More
When studying any new language, it’s important to understand the parts of grammar that we will be using. For example, let’s talk about pronouns! Do you remember those from your school days? Try to identify the pronouns in the following sentences:
- He went to the store to get her some medicine.
- I need to do it by myself.
- What do you need? I need something for my classes, but I can’t remember what she told me it was called.
- Give that to me, please.
Could you find the pronouns? There are actually 16! Let’s explore:
What are Pronouns
Pronouns are short and useful words that replace a noun. Thanks to pronouns, we don’t have to continue repeating whichever noun we’re saying. To clarify, consider the following examples:
- John is our boss. John is great to work with.
Now with a pronoun:
- John is our boss. He is great to work with.
As you can see, the sentences read smoother, and we don’t have to repeat ourselves. Spanish pronouns are equally as important. The most frequently used types of Spanish pronouns come in 3 categories. They will help you to better express yourself when speaking or writing.
3 Most Frequent Spanish Pronouns
1. Subject Pronouns
These pronouns replace the subject or the “naming part” of a sentence. They come in four categories: person, number, gender, and formality. Person refers to the identity of who is doing the action: first (I and we), second (you and you all), or third person (he, she, it, they). Likewise, numbered pronouns refer to singular (he) or plural (they) pronouns. Gender is specific for Spanish since every noun is either feminine or masculine. It must be remembered that masculine pronouns replace masculine subject nouns (‘el sol’ becomes él) and feminine pronouns replace feminine subject nouns (‘la casa’ becomes ella). Also, for groups of both men and women, we use the masculine plural form (a group of male and female students: ellos). Lastly, formality refers to the formal (usted) or informal (tú) pronouns used to address a person. This chart will help you understand and organize the subject pronouns in Spanish:
Usage of Vosotros versus Ustedes
Both vosotros and ustedes mean “you” in the plural form. They are used when talking to more than one person. Vosotros is used in Spain, while ustedes is always used in Latin America. Vosotros has two forms; the first is for a group of men or mixed group, and the other, vosotras, is for addressing a group of females.
The Omission of Subject Pronouns
It’s important to understand that subject pronouns are not always used in Spanish. At first, it can feel very strange to remove the pronoun from your speech or writing, but it’s perfectly natural for Spanish speakers. For example, the English sentence “She is a lawyer” can be stated in Spanish as “Ella es abogada” or “Es abogada.” Each sentence is perfectly understood, due to the feminine ending -a in abogada.
2. Direct Object Pronouns
The direct object is a noun that directly receives the action of a verb. It answers the question “What?” or “Who?” A direct object pronoun takes the place of the noun. Let’s look at some examples:
- He brought it. – He brought what? It is the direct object
- I know you! – I know who? You is the direct object
The following is a chart of direct object pronouns in Spanish:
Now, if you look at the previous English examples, you’ll see that the direct object comes after the verb. In Spanish, however, the direct object pronouns come before the verb!
- Tú me debes dinero. – You owe me money.
- ¡Te dije! – I told you!
- Lo conozco. – I know him/you/it.
While using direct object pronouns lo, la, los, and las, the direct object can be clarified by adding a usted, a él, a ella, a ellos, or a ellas.
- Lo conozco a él. – I know him.
- La espero a usted. – I (will) wait for you.
Let’s look at an example. Can you find the direct object pronoun?
3. Indirect Object Pronouns
Similarly, the indirect object always answers the question “to whom?” or “for whom?” It is generally telling you where the direct object is headed. Let’s see some examples:
- I toss the ball to Jack. – The direct object is the ball, but to whom is the ball being tossed? Jack is our indirect object.
Now, without using Jack’s name, we would say:
- I toss the ball to him. or I toss him the ball. – I toss the ball to whom? Him is our indirect object pronoun.
Just like with the direct objects, the indirect object pronouns in Spanish come before the verb, unlike inEnglish where they come after.
- ¿Me hablas? – Are you talking to me?
- Él nos enseña español. – He teaches us Spanish.
- Le doy mi llave. – I give you my key. / I give him my key.
To clarify or to add emphasis to the indirect object, an additional phrase can be added:
- ¿Me hablas a mí? – Are you talking to me?
- Él nos enseña español a nosotros. – He teaches us Spanish.
- Le doy mi llave a usted. – I give you my key.
- Le doy mi llave a él. – I give him my key.
Can you find the indirect object pronouns in this conversation? Hint: There’s three!
For You Pronoun Pros
If all of this has been a review for you, let’s look at something a bit more difficult. You will find there to be times when you need to use both direct and indirect object pronouns. Luckily, this is not particularly difficult; however, it is important to remember some essential rules. In English, this looks like the following examples:
- She gives it to me.
- I tell it to you.
- Send me that.
If you remember, the direct and indirect pronouns both go before the verb in Spanish. Therefore, when both pronouns are being used, the indirect object pronoun goes before the direct object pronoun, as seen here:
- Ella me lo da. (She gives it to me.)
- Te lo digo. (I tell it to you.)
- Me lo mandas. (You send me that.)
Can you find examples of both direct and indirect object pronouns here?
But, what if we want to say “I give it to her?”
Le lo doy – Try saying this out loud. Does it sound a bit funny?
In Spanish, when certain pronouns are used together, the indirect pronoun changes to “se” to avoid silly sounds like ‘lelo.’ Let’s call this the ‘Lelo Rule.’ Check out this chart to help you:
In order to clarify the indirect object, you can add a personal pronoun at the end using “a + personal pronoun.” This shows without a doubt who the indirect object refers to:
- Se lo digo a usted. (I tell it to you.)
- Se las doy a ellos. (I give them to them.)
The Importance of Pronouns
As you may have noticed, many of the pronouns are similar or exactly the same. This requires a great deal of concentration when learning, studying, and using new pronouns. The good news is, the more you study and practice, the faster you will be able to understand the different pronouns when native Spanish speakers use them. After enough practice, the pronouns will become second nature. Above all else, you will be able to automatically choose the right pronoun for every grammatical occasion.