We’ve all heard me or te when learning Spanish. “Me llamo [insert your name here]” is probably one of the first things we learn to say. But this me and te are neither the English me or the Spanish tea (tea in Spanish is té with a tilde!). Me, te, se, nos are the Spanish reflexive pronouns that accompany reflexive verbs. What are reflexive verbs, you ask? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!
What are reflexive verbs?
We use a reflexive verb when we want to say that the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself. For example, in Spanish, you don’t shower, tú te duchas (you shower yourself). You see that the subject tú performs the action on itself. Now, if you use the verb as a non-reflexive verb, you perform the action on something or someone else other than yourself or a part of your body. Let’s see:
When using reflexive verbs, you will need a reflexive pronoun that matches the noun of the sentence that performs the action on itself. Let’s have a look at the reflexive pronouns:
Let’s check out how these look in sentences:
As you can see in the English translation, these are not actions directed toward ourselves, but to another object, so they are not reflexive! But, are there reflexive pronouns in English too? Yes! Let’s check them out to better understand their Spanish meaning:
Placement of Reflexive Pronouns
We place reflexive pronouns in a different part of the sentence, depending on how the verb is used:
Change in Meaning
Whenever we use verbs as reflexive verbs, the meaning of the verb changes slightly to refer to an action that the subject of a sentence performs on itself. With certain verbs, however, the change in meaning goes a lot further than that—it can completely alter the meaning.
Keep in mind that while it’s possible to turn most verbs into reflexive verbs, the meaning isn’t the same. In some cases, the meaning changes altogether. Let’s have a look at some verbs in which the meaning drastically changes when we use them as reflexive:
Of course, there are verbs that only exist in the form of reflexive verbs. We cannot use these verbs in a non-reflexive form, as they do not exist. Let’s check some of these out:
A Little Practice
Practice your reflexive pronouns with this short exercise. And don’t forget to book a FREE class today to practice even more with a qualified Spanish teacher. Study this guide and then start talking!
It’s always a good idea to practice as much as possible! Test yourself by building sentences with the following adjectives:
Companies are looking to hire employees who have an understanding of other cultures and have the ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds.
First Off – What Is Culture?
Per the Oxford Dictionary, Culture is defined as “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.”
Moreover, culture includes a group that we are born into – such as race, gender, socioeconomic class, national origin, or religion. It is also comprised of the circles we are associated with through relocation, a change in economic status, or by experiencing a disability.
Why Does Your Employer Care If You Can Communicate Cross-Culturally?
People from diverse backgrounds and cultures have different life experiences and have exposure to unique ways of doing things. These differences enhance the workplace culture by uniting thinkers who can look at business problems from varied perspectives and other information processing styles, which, in turn, leads to solving problems with uncommon solutions.
We look up at the same stars, and see such different things.”George R.R. Martin, Author
If your entire team at work consists of people from the same ‘culture’ (as defined above) – then it is highly likely that their problem-solving techniques and project recommendations will be the same. This is not a sustainable approach for competing in the global marketplace. Businesses need unique perspectives to stay competitive. At work, we are told to think ‘outside the box’ – this can be done by comprising teams of diverse backgrounds who have different viewpoints.
The USA has an exceptionally diverse talent pool which is comprised of many cultures. According to the US Census Bureau, as of July 2018, 18.1% of Americans are of Hispanic or Latino descent. Also, there are 41 million Spanish speakers in the USA, and Spanish is the most studied foreign language.
In summary, “A diverse workforce also generates diverse ideas, and diverse ideas help your company out-think the competition. In fact, the next billion dollar idea may come from a background none of your employees have yet.” Refer to this article for further reading.
How Diverse Should Your Company Be?
This question is answered eloquently in this Human Resources article,
“Your organization should be as diverse as your customer base. The important inverse of this is that your customer-base can only be as diverse as your organization.”
A Canadian think tank developed an index to rank companies on Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) back in 2016. This D&I Index ranks the top 100 publicly traded companies across the globe and measures 24 areas across four categories; Diversity, Inclusion, People Development and News Controversies. These are the Top 10 most Diverse companies in 2018,
- Accenture PLC
- Novartis AG
- Medtronic PLC
- Diageo PLC
- Gap Inc
- Telecom Italia SpA
- Kering SA
- Natura Cosmeticos SA
- L’Oreal SA
- Acciona SA
What Is Your Employer Looking For?
Adaptability & Flexibility
A few years ago, I had the experience of negotiating aerospace subcontracts in India. On one particular trip, I was sitting across the table from a subcontractor’s Program Manager, Finance Manager, and Lead Engineer when suddenly the lights flickered. My first reaction was to worry that there was an impending earthquake and I need to run to the sturdiest doorway! Then I remembered my previous experiences traveling to developing countries and the fact that power can be unreliable. The lights continued to flicker on and off until it became dark outside-and then they went out for the rest of the evening. We still hadn’t reached a negotiation agreement but had to press on – our faces illuminated only by the light of our cell phones. It is imperative to have the ability to adapt to unique circumstances without skipping a beat.
- Agreement on Terms and Conditions – Check.
- Unique experience – Check.
- Didn’t miss a beat and closed the deal – Check!
Employers are perusing résumés to determine if the applicant has experience with other cultures, thereby making them capable of adapting to different business climates, interacting with people of different backgrounds, and building relationships with people from/located in other quadrants.
Willingness to Listen and Learn
Employers want to hire people who are open-minded and willing to learn – not those who protest against company culture or other employees. One way to learn to be more open-minded is to have exposure to people who think differently than you. Refer to our blogto learn more on cultural competency.
According to an article on being culturally literate,
“Developing [employees who are] culturally literate and aware can enhance communication, productivity, and unity in the workplace. And when these employees deal with foreign employees [who are culturally literate and aware] … there will be little to no misunderstandings…[because] they can understand others who are different from them.”
Unique Problem-Solving Skills
Other ways to become more open-minded is by taking classes in new subjects that challenge your perceptions and thoughts, attend a cultural celebration different from your culture, listen to what people have to say so you can learn new perspectives, or pay attention to nuances that make someone different than you.
Companies often want to take successful products and ideas from one market and move them to another; however, these well-intentioned plans often go awry. Nothing highlights this better than the Chevrolet Nova. This small automobile had success in the American market, and Chevy executives wanted to prosper in Latin America as well. It is safe to assume that the Chevy marketing team did not include a Spanish speaker because if they had, the Chevy Nova would have never landed in South America.
‘Nova’ in Spanish is two separate words, no va – and this literally means ‘it doesn’t go.’ Who wants to buy a car that doesn’t go? The company was able to recover from this misnomer, but the lesson remains – know your market.
There is no better way to understand your business environment than to have a team comprised of people who grasp the local economy first hand!
According to an international business school article,
“Understanding local laws, regulations, and customs, as well as the competitive landscape, can help a business to thrive. Moreover, local connections, native language skills, and cultural understanding can boost international business development exponentially.”
Furthermore, research from consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed 366 public companies across industries in Canada, United States, Latin America, and the United Kingdom and found that highly diverse companies “are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
How Do You Highlight Your Uniqueness On Your Résumé?
- Add study/work abroad and extended travel experiences on your résumé – it inherently implies that you have been put in situations where you became self-reliant and made adjustments to adapt to circumstances in each unique place.
- List additional languages that you speak as well as your proficiency level – even if you are just starting out – because it shows interest in culture.
- Include any professional affiliations and cultural organizations that you are a part of
- Highlight interdisciplinary and multicultural teams that you’ve contributed to
Are You Lacking These Experiences?
It is OK if you cannot add any of the above to your résumé today because you can also become more culturally aware through other avenues.
One way is by interfacing with people from other countries! Spanish is the most prudent language to learn so that you can interface with people in 21 other countries AND 41 million people in your own backyard!
Another way to learn Spanish is to sign up for online classes with instructors located in Antigua, Guatemala who are ready to share about culture, colloquial words and their everyday life experiences!
You could also check the ‘travel’ box by visiting Guatemala as your next travel destination!Read More
I’ve often written that language is very closely tied to culture, and therefore to people! And what is the one thing we humans do every single day of our lives? We eat! Food is one of the things we all need and enjoy. It also brings us together – remember all those fun family lunches and dinners you’ve attended?
We all also have that one food that brings us back to our childhood; just the smell of it reminds us of when our mother, grandmother, aunt – or in my case, both my grandmother and great-grandmother – cooked the dish! All this talk about cooking got me thinking about the one dish that immediately brings me back to a younger version of myself. So, I grabbed the phone, called my grandmother, and asked her for her amazing chiles rellenos recipe – the one she learned from my great-grandmother!
It was nice to talk on the phone with her, and to catch up. She took a long time explaining really carefully and with much detail how to prepare the dish. Like a typical Guatemalan abuela, she only cooks in really big batches! Last time she cooked chiles rellenos, she made over 50 at once! However, she tried downsizing it for me to only 20 chiles rellenos instead.
Primero lo primero – First Things First
Like with any other recipe, before we start, we first need to make sure that we have all the necessary tools and ingredients. What I try to do whenever I cook is to take all the ingredients out and put them on the counter to make sure I have everything I need! Those last-second trips to the grocery store are not always ideal!
What we will need for this recipe:
- A lot of patience (there’s a lot of mincing by hand involved!)
- A blender
- A very big pot
- A big bag
- A towel
I had done this recipe once before many, many years ago, and throughout my life, I’ve watched my great-grandmother and grandmother do it more times than I can remember. The one thing I remember best is that my grandma always prepares the stuffing one day and she finishes the chiles rellenos the next. Why? Because it’s A LOT of work! This time, I naively believed I’d be able to manage to do everything on the same day – ha ha – be warned!
The reason why it takes so long to prepare the stuffing is because there is a lot of VERY TINY MINCING (picar – to mince). Let’s get started!
I know, I know, it seems like I’m exaggerating when I say it takes a long time to get this ready because the instructions seem pretty easy. Believe me when I tell you that once you’re done with all that, there’s nothing else you want to do because the mincing such tiny itsy bitsy pieces of food takes a long time and is exhausting! So don’t worry if you need to make a pause now, just put everything to the side, make yourself a toast for dinner, and continue with this recipe the next day. This stuffing that we made needs to be room temperature, so you need to wait for it to not to be hot anymore anyway.
Everything that comes now is a lot easier! Let’s continue.
And now what?
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve prepared your first traditional Guatemalan meal! At my family’s house, there was always a special way to serve chiles rellenos – with lettuce, a couple of raw onion rings and chopped parsley! It tastes especially well if you put it in a bun. Once cooked, you can store the chiles rellenos in the fridge!
We hope you enjoyed this recipe and don’t forget to book your FREE CLASS to tell us about your experience with this awesome dish!
So, you’ve been taking Spanish class for a while now, and you’ve got the basics down. You feel confident enough to have your first real-life conversation with a native speaker. Everything starts off well – you introduce yourself with the correct phrases and ask the right questions. And then they ask you how long you have been studying Spanish and you can’t quite remember the word for ‘ago.’ You start stumbling over your words, not knowing how to continue, and all your newfound confidence slowly wanes.
Have you been there? Have you ever just needed a moment in a conversation to collect your thoughts, remember the correct translation of that tricky word, or recall how to conjugate irregular verbs in the past tense? I have. Oh, I have been in that situation too many times to count. Even now, as a fluent Spanish speaker, I still have moments where I get confused between Spanish and English, or a particular tense trips me up (yes, this happens to me in both languages now). Are we destined to always stumble over our words while we think of the correct way to express ourselves? The answer is no. There is a trick I’ve learned over the years that can give you those extra couple seconds you need to remember the past tense of decir in the ‘usted’ form.
Have you ever noticed how native speakers – of any language – pause naturally to think about what they want to say? It is usually accompanied by a transition word to let the other person know that they just need a moment to gather their thoughts. For example, how many times do you use ‘uhm’ or ‘like’ in a conversation as a transition word between sentences? If you’re anything like me, it would be a lot. Very few people can hold a conversation flawlessly without using these little words to help them along. The only issue is…they aren’t international.
There are some words that take a lot of work to switch into our second (or third or fourth) language because they are second nature. For me, the hardest phrase to translate was ‘I mean….’ I would be speaking fluent Spanish and out of nowhere, I would stick an ‘I mean’ into my sentence. I have heard other native English speakers trip up of words like ‘alright,’ ‘like,’ and even ‘uhm.’ If your goal is fluency in Spanish, then these words can be a small but impending obstacle. However, I have put together a list of phrases that I have learned to use as transitional words to give me some extra time to think and put together my thoughts in my second language.
Let’s start simple. ‘Uhm.’ I can’t even tell you how many times I use this word in a day. We use it when we’re thinking, as a pause, when we don’t understand, etc. It is such a common word that it may seem weird that it is not universal. Of course, if you say ‘uhm’ while speaking Spanish, you will be understood, no question. However, you may start to notice that native Spanish speakers say it a little different.
Instead of ‘uhm,’ it’s more of an em sound. Here are some examples to look at:
“Em…la verdad no sé.”
“Uhm…honestly, I don’t know.”
“Él habló sobre, em, el tema de desigualdad.”
“He talked about, uhm, the topic of inequality.”
So, we started simple. This one is just a change in pronunciation. Let’s look at another simple word
Since English has become the international language of business, many English words have infiltrated various languages, especially Spanish. This means that Spanish speakers understand and even use this word, ‘okay,’ but it is not as common as the Spanish equivalents – and let me tell you, there are many. If it is your goal to become fluent in Spanish, it is always good to know the correct way to say things in Spanish and not just use a common English word in its place.
Although there are many ways to say ‘okay,’ we are going to look at one that is incredibly popular in Latin America – va. It can actually be used in two main ways. The first would be short for the word for vale, which (also) means okay. The second way is actually short for the word true, verdad, and is used at the end of sentences. Let’s take a look:
“Necesito que llegues a las 8 en punto.” “Ah, va. Está bien. Allí estaré.”
“I need you to be there at 8 sharp.” “Ah, okay. That’s fine. I’ll be there.”
“Tengo que estar allí a las 8, ¿va?”
“I have to be there at 8, right?”
Now, for the purposes of this blog, we will be focusing on the first use. It is normally used as a response to someone to express your understanding and agreement, but you can also use it to give you some time to process what that person said before responding.
This transition word is va, pronounced more as a ‘ba’ than a ‘va.’ Although the correct pronunciation would be with a ‘v’ sound, the majority of people pronounce the ‘v’ and the ‘b’ as a combination of the two sounds, leaning more towards the ‘b’ sound. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between botar and votar based on pronunciation alone. You would have to use context clues to know which word is being spoken.
“Well, I’m not sure.” How would you translate this sentence to Spanish? What about, Bien, no estoy seguro. Unfortunately, that would be incorrect. Although ‘well’ does often translate to ‘bien,’ it has a completely different translation when used as an interjection. The correct word to use would then be pues. Let’s look at some more examples:
Pues, creo que estás equivocado.
Well, I think you’re mistaken.
Pues, necesito terminar aquí primero. Dame 5 minutos.
Well, I need to finish up here first. Give me 5 minutes.
If you are unsure of how to respond to someone, the word pues can give you that little extra time you need to form your response without making it seem like you are struggling.
Have you ever been in the middle of a great conversation and then been interrupted? In English, we usually return to the previous conversation by saying ‘anyways…’ If you are unsure of how to use this word in Spanish, you may be stuck frantically racking your brain for a way to return to that great conversation you were having – as I have many times. Don’t worry, though! This short, simple phrase will convey that you would like to return to the conversation topic that you were involved in before the interruption: pues sí.
This phrase literally means ‘well yes’ or ‘so yes,’ but it would be most accurately translated colloquially as pues sí. Let’s imagine you’re talking with a friend at a café, and another friend stops by to greet you.
“¡Qué gusto verte otra vez! Hablamos después. ¡Adiós! Perdón, Alex. Pues sí…”
“It was so great to see you again! We’ll talk later. Bye! Sorry about that, Alex. Anyways
Maybe you are talking to someone outside and see a car run a red light, almost causing an accident:
“¡Ay, Dios mío! Qué miedo. La gente debe ser más cuidadosa. Pues sí…”
“Oh my gosh! That was so scary. People need to be more careful. Anyways…”
No matter the situation, pues sí is your key phrase to get you back into the conversation you were having – and it’s the perfect excuse for a pause to collect your thoughts as you switch gears back into the previous topic.
For a long time, I thought the English word ‘alright’ had no appropriate translation. When I was teaching my classes in Spanish, I would always change topics by saying ‘alright’ in English. I knew it sounded strange, an English interjection in the middle of Spanish conversation, but I was stumped by how to correctly express myself in Spanish. After listening closely to Spanish conversations, however, I realized that there is such a word in Spanish – bueno.
Yes, yes, bueno does mean ‘good.’ As you have seen with these transition words, they often have multiple meanings. Part of the beauty of learning a language is discovering all the different ways you can use one small word.
“Hacer ejercicio es bueno para la salud.”
“Exercising is good for your health.”
“Tenemos buenos recuerdos de ese lugar.”
“We have good memories of that place.”
“Bueno. Empecemos en la página 28.”
“Alright. Let’s start on page 28.”
As you can see with the last example, when used at the beginning of a sentence as an interjection, bueno means ‘alright.’ You can use it to wrap up one topic and start another – or as a way to quickly organize your thoughts before starting a new subject of conversation.
It’s just that…
This next transition phrase is by no means official, but it is extremely common in informal conversation. Have you ever found yourself saying phrases like ‘it’s just that…’ or ‘it’s like…’ to introduce an explanation or reasoning to something? There is often a pause following these phrases as we figure out how to best express ourselves. Guess what? There’s a similar phrase in Spanish: es que.
This literally translates as ‘it’s that…’ which is very similar to the English counterparts. You will hear this very often as native Spanish speakers organize their thoughts or think of how to better explain something. It’s time for you to try it out as well if you need some extra time to form your sentence in Spanish.
“Es que…necesito averiguar que haya tiempo para esa actividad.”
“It’s just that…I need to check that there’s time for that activity.”
“Es que…la razón por la cual dije eso es porque no quise ofender a nadie.”
“It’s just that…the reason I said that is because I didn’t want to offend anyone.”
This phrase often has no connection to the following sentence but is just used as a filler while the speaker decides what they want to say. This makes it perfect for all you Spanish learners – you can use this trick to sound just like a native speaker while you search your memory for those tricky rules about the subjunctive tense.
We all have trademark phrases that we use way too often. One of those phrases for me is ‘I mean…’ This was made blindingly obvious to me as it came out in English all the time while speaking Spanish with my husband. While he eventually understood what I intended to say, it frustrated me that I was lacking a key phrase in Spanish.
The word ‘mean’ (used to clarify what you are saying) does not have a direct translation in Spanish, which makes it difficult for those of us who use it all the time in English! However, there are other ways to express the same thing. Let’s look at some examples:
“Reunámonos el viernes. Digo, el sábado.”
“Let’s meet up on Friday. I mean, Saturday.”
“Tu correo dice que el total es $110. ¿Es correcto?” “Oh, perdón. Quise decir $100.”
“Your email says the total is $110. Is that correct?” “Oh, sorry. I meant $100.”
As you can see from these examples, the translation for ‘I mean’ would be digo, or ‘I say.’ However, if you want to use it in the past as ‘I meant,’ it would be quise decir, or ‘I wanted to say.’
Both phrases are helpful to know, but in reference to transition words, digo is definitely one of the keywords to learn. When speaking our native language, we can mix up our words and accidentally say the wrong thing. This becomes all the more probable when speaking another language, which is why this small word will help clear up confusion quickly and effortlessly.
In other words…
Speaking of clarifying things, there is another great phrase that is used to reword something: ‘o sea.’ This can be used to reword what you have just said or to put what someone else said into your own words to ensure you have understood them. Although this looks like ‘Oh sea’ in English, the pronunciation is pretty different. The ‘o’ is the same, but the ‘sea’ is pronounced ‘say-ah.’
This phrase is a great way to give yourself another chance at explaining something or to be sure that you understand what is being said in the conversation without saying no entiendo. It literally translates to ‘or it is,’ but we would say ‘in other words’ in English. You can use the phrase ‘en otras palabras,’ but ‘o sea’ is much more common in informal conversations, and it is less of a mouthful.
“Nos falta mucho para terminar. O sea que tendremos que trabajar este fin de semana.”
“We still have a lot to do to finish. In other words, we’ll have to work this weekend.”
“Debes usar esos otros marcadores para escribir en el pizarrón.” “O sea que ¿este es un marcador permanente?”
“You must use those other markers to write on the board.” “In other words, this is a permanent marker?”
As you can see in the last example, another possible translation for o sea can be ‘mean.’ We could have translated that part as “You mean this is a permanent marker?” and it would have the same effect. Since ‘mean’ does not directly translate to Spanish, you can use a couple of these transition phrases to express yourself – just make sure you use digo only when you’re clarify something you personally said.
The thing is that…
This phrase can be literally translated to la cosa es que, but there is another phrase that is very unique. I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to translate it to English, and the phrase ‘the thing is that’ is the closest I could think of, but it doesn’t quite do it justice. Fíjate que (or fíjese que in the ‘usted’ form) literally means ‘pay attention’ or ‘notice’ something. It is in the command form, which basically tells your audience ‘listen up!’ However, in context, it has a much softer voice. It has actually become notorious as the introduction to excuses!
“Fíjese que mi hermanita botó agua en mi tarea y por eso no la traje.”
“The thing is that my little sister spilled water on my homework, and that’s why I didn’t bring it.”
“¿Ya revisaste los documentos?” “Fíjate que no. No he tenido tiempo.”
“Did you check the documents yet?” “The thing is that no, I haven’t had time.”
As you can see, colloquially, fíjate is often used to introduce bad news or news in general. This is also one of those great examples of a word that has no good translation in English – you can understand the meaning but there is no word that truly captivates its essence in the English language.
This last transition word is just as versatile as the rest – ‘look.’ No, we are not talking about actually looking at something but the interjection. “Look, I think we should start over.” We are not asking someone to physically look at something, but instead, we are introducing an idea or a solution. Either way, the translation would be the same in Spanish – mirar can be both a verb and a transition word.
The most common form of mirar that I have heard as a transition word is mirá, which is the command form of ‘vos.’ Depending on what country you are in, this form may also be popular. If you are unsure, you can always use the ‘tú’ form, which would be mira (accent on the ‘i’ instead of the ‘a’). You can even use the ‘usted’ of mirar is the occasion calls for it: mire.
“Mirá, creo que debemos rehacer esta parte aquí.
“Look, I think we should redo this part here.”
“Mira, hagamos un plan.”
“Look, let’s make a plan.”
“Mire, necesito ayuda con estos documentos. ¿Me los puede autorizar?”
Look, I need help with these documents. Could you authorize them for me?
No matter the form you use, this word is a great way to introduce ideas and give you some extra time to organize your sentence in Spanish.
That was a lot of information! I hope these words helped your Spanish conversation skills – try using them one at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed! Also, listen for these words in Spanish conversations, movies, and songs. Now that you are familiar with them, you’ll notice them and hear more of their uses! Don’t be surprised if you hear combinations of these words, such as mirá pues, pues, fíjate que, or bueno pues. This is just a short guide to all the nuances of Spanish transition words! Don’t forget to practice them with your Spanish teacher in class, and feel free to ask them any questions you may have. ¡Hasta la próxima!Read More
Raise your hand if you have a busy schedule. Yeah. That’s what I thought. So many of us have filled our schedules to the brim – not always voluntarily. As a working mother with a couple of side jobs, I completely understand having a busy schedule. However, I am a language addict. Every time I meet someone from a different country, I want to learn their language. I currently have nine languages on my practice list. Nine! To be fair, though, I am only working consistently on two – German and Chinese. Still, that is a lot to put on an already overflowing plate. How does one find time to study another language?
Before we talk about making time, we need to establish what language is the most practical to learn. Let’s be honest. If we are already extremely busy, why waste precious time on a language that we will hardly ever use? I would like to make a strong case for learning Spanish. If you would like a more extensive list of why Spanish is the best language to learn, click here. For now, I will just leave you with this – Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. There is no need to worry about never using Spanish, as there are about 500 million native speakers worldwide – about 100 million more than native English speakers.
So, we’ve decided that learning Spanish is worth the time and effort. How much effort are we talking about, though? If you are serious about learning Spanish, you will need to be consistent in your study habits. You cannot expect to make progress if you think about Spanish once every month. When you learn a language, you must actually retrain your brain how to think about things. It requires consistency and repetition. However, it does not require hours of extensive study each week. There are several ways that you can study on-the-go or for just a couple of minutes a day. Everyone’s schedule looks different, so I will leave you with several different ideas that you can choose from.
This is probably the easiest way to fit Spanish into your crazy schedule because you can dedicate as much (or as little) time as you would like to your studies. Most of the best apps have a feature where you can determine what your daily goal is – 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. They keep track of your progress, reward your dedication, and remind you when some of your vocabulary words have become weak. My personal favorite is Memrise, but there are several other excellent apps to learn Spanish on the go. The application Drops actually limits you to only 5 minutes of learning per day, so you don’t overwhelm yourself with vocabulary.
In this technological age, most people don’t leave the house without their phone. We depend on our phones for everything – directions, transportation, games – which ensures that it is always with us. Instead of browsing Instagram the next time you look at your phone, start with learning a bit of Spanish. Find a time you have available every day that you can dedicate five minutes to studying. For example, I often study on the bus or in an Uber. However, if I want to use the pronunciation feature, I prefer to be alone. I have two 15-minute breaks at work, and I usually dedicate one full break to language learning with an application. So, find a couple of minutes in your daily schedule that you can spend on your phone – doing something productive instead of browsing social media.
2. Surround Yourself with Language
Where do you spend most of your time? Maybe you often find yourself in the kitchen, your cubicle at work, or perhaps even your car. Wherever that place is, look up the vocabulary for the objects that surround you and make small labels. These can be either handwritten or typed out, whatever works best for you. Tape the labels onto each object so that every time you use that item or walk past it, you see the word. This will help you relate that object to the word in Spanish.
A big step in language learning is being able to immediately relate an object to its corresponding word in the target language instead of having to translate it in your mind. Basically, when you start learning Spanish, you start by thinking about what you want to say in English, translating it to Spanish, then producing it. The goal is to eliminate any English go straight to Spanish. To get to that point, you need to repeatedly see the object and connect it to the Spanish word, which is where our labels come in; every time you use a labeled object, you will be reminded of its Spanish name. This will create new pathways in your brain and rewire it to associate objects immediately with their Spanish names.
Once you’ve moved past objects and would like to start forming sentences, you can do the same thing. For example, once you’ve learned the words ‘sartén, olla, and estufa,’ you can label those objects with phrases like ‘yo uso el sartén y la olla para cocinar en la estufa.’ This method may take a bit of time to get started, but you will be learning Spanish while doing your daily tasks, which will save you a lot of time.
3. You May Say I’m a Dreamer
Now, this one may sound a bit crazy, but it has greatly helped my progress in various languages. Talk to yourself in Spanish! Whatever you are thinking about, try to express it in Spanish. Instead of stumbling over words and phrases when you are in an actual conversation, practice with yourself first to make sure the words flow!
I studied Spanish for several years, but I just could not speak it for the life of me. I traveled to Peru, thinking I could speak fluent Spanish, but as it turns out, I could barely get a few sentences out. There is a big gap between understanding a language and actually being able to reproduce it – those are even two different types of fluency. So, to help me get used to thinking in Spanish and quickly forming sentences, I tried to think in Spanish, and I spoke out loud at times to make sure I could pronounce what I was imagining. I specifically remember one morning at home. I was doing laundry and talking to myself in Spanish. If you had seen me, you may have thought I was a bit on the crazy side, but this really helped me when there were no native Spanish speakers around to talk to. You can still flex those speaking muscles by yourself while doing one of the million tasks you have for the day.
If you spend most of your day around other people, I wouldn’t recommend speaking out loud. However, you can still work on thinking in Spanish. Try and remember how to say a certain phrase in Spanish that you just said to your coworker. Look up some words if you need to. Practice it in your head. Remember, learning a new language is retraining your brain, and training takes consistent practice.
4. Classes with a Native Speaker
All of these previous choices do not give you the ability to actually converse with a native speaker. They are great tools to supplement but to reach fluency you need to actually communicate with someone else who speaks the language. However, that would involve hours of classes a week, loads of money, and lots of travel time to get to the class. What if I told you there was a way to learn Spanish wherever you are (in your home, at a café, on your lunch break) for a fraction of what normal private tutors charge. It is possible!
Here at Spanish Academy, we offer online Spanish classes at a cost you can afford. If you don’t believe me, click here or here to see our price comparisons with some of the other leading companies. Our company is located in Guatemala, so all of our teachers are certified, native Spanish speakers. That means that instead of relying on the conversations you have with yourself, you can ask someone who actually speaks Spanish for some help with your pronunciation and sentence formation.
Even if you have a crazy schedule and only have a half hour free during your lunch break, you can take a class then. Our flexible scheduling ensures that you get to take a class at the best time of day for you. You can even choose from over 50 teachers to find one that best suits your personality and learning needs. As I have learned, nothing beats immersing yourself in the language. I have done all of the above practice habits and they have definitely helped, but they are more of a supplement to my real-life conversations with a native speaker.
Now it’s up to you. You have four methods to chose from to make sure you fit learning Spanish into your busy schedule. You can’t use the excuse that you’re too busy anymore! Choose which of these options above would be best for you…or do them all! Take a Free Class with us today to see how our program can meet your specific needs and start supplementing with the other methods mentions. You’ll be speaking Spanish before you know it! ¡Estarás hablando en español antes de lo que piensas!
If you are looking to get a good handle on Spanish in just a short amount of time, check out our video and accompanying PDF!
There’s only one thing other than the two-month long holiday at the end of the year* I miss about school: wearing a uniform! I went to the same school for 14 years, and for 12 of those years, I wore a uniform! Now, it’s been almost ten years since I graduated, but I just realized that for almost half my life I’ve known what to wear! Don’t you think it would be easier sometimes if you didn’t have to decide what to wear every single day? Just think of those days you stay at home wearing pajamas. Isn’t it nice not having to think about clothes or what to wear? Since you’re starting to learn Spanish, you’ll start thinking about these things in Spanish, too: ¿Qué me pongo? – What should I put on?
Nuestro uniforme era un pantalón o falda gris y una camisa polo blanca. (Our uniform was grey pants or skirt and a white polo shirt.) Just imagine a couple hundred children wearing the same clothes! While wearing a uniform makes life so much easier, I do like being able to decide what to wear. I love wearing vestidos (dresses) and botas de combate negras (black combat boots) – that would have been a big no-no at school! So, today let’s learn how to describe the clothes we wear – la ropa que nos ponemos.
*Fun fact: In Guatemala, the school year begins in January and ends in October!
If you want to hear the pronunciation of the following phrases and vocabulary, check out our video! You can also download the printable version of this blog as a PDF.
¿Qué te pones o qué llevas puesto?
While there is more than one way to say ‘to put on’ and ‘to wear’ in Spanish, we will focus today on ponerse (to put on – the act of getting dressed) and llevar puesto (to wear – the act of using clothes).
The main difference between the two is that you say ponerse when you’re referring to the action of putting clothes on only.
Ponerse is a reflexive verb.
‘Poner’ means to put, and ‘-se’ means oneself.
This means that in Spanish you are literally putting clothes on yourself – not just ‘on!’
As we’ve mentioned several times, language is way more than just translating words. Something interesting happens here:
- In English, when you’re wondering which dress would be best for your cousin’s wedding you ask: What should I wear to the wedding? – referring to the action of already having the clothes on, of using them.
- In Spanish, however, you would ask: ¿Qué me pongo para la boda? – What do I put on for the wedding? – referring to the action of putting on clothes, instead of starting to use them.
As we learned above, ponerse is a reflexive verb. We use a reflexive verb when we want to say that the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself. In this case, we are putting the clothes on ourselves. We conjugate this verb like this:
Use of Articles
As we have seen above, the use of articles- or lack thereof – depends largely on the context. Let’s review!
Llevar means to carry. In the context of clothes, we say in Spanish that we carry the clothes that are on us. The way to say this is to use the adjective* puesto to describe where the clothes are. Llevar puesto [insert noun here] then means that we are actively using the clothes, carrying them placed onus: we are wearing them!
llevar ropa puesta
llevar – to carry, ropa – clothes, puesta – placed/put on us
* puesto is also the participle of the verb poner – in Spanish (just like in English), we can use participles as adjectives to describe nouns!
Something very important to note here is that since puesto is an adjective, it needs to match the noun it refers to! The matching needs to occur both in number and gender.
Let’s look at it:
Since puesto is an adjective, we can place it both before or after the noun. Whether it goes before or after depends on what you’re saying! Check out more on Spanish adjective placement here. So we can say:
* Keep in mind the use of articles with ponerse. We use them the same way we would with llevar puesto! If you need a refresher, check out the table above once more!
Conjugating llevar puesto
When we conjugate llevar puesto [noun], we need to keep in mind that
- the verb llevar matches the subject of the sentence,
- the adjective puesto matches the noun that the subject of the sentence is wearing!
The best way to learn how to describe what you’re wearing is to practice every day as you’re getting dressed! I suggest adding the articles every time so that you get extra practice with the new vocabulary! As an example, let me tell you what my morning looked like:
Yo me pongo el pantalón. Yo me pongo la playera. Yo me pongo las calcetas. Yo me pongo los zapatos. Me pongo gorra antes de salir. Al estar afuera, pienso, ¡llevo puesta toda esta ropa!
(I put on pants. I put on a T-shirt. I put on socks. I put on my shoes. I put on a cap before I leave. Once I’m outside, I think, “I’m wearing all these clothes!”)
Now it’s YOUR turn to practice! Book your FREE CLASS with us so that you can tell us all about your favorite clothes and when you like to wear them!
For more practice, download this PDF complete with exercises and an answer key!
Don’t forget to practice your pronunciation with our supporting video lesson!Read More
You just landed a job that will send you around the world to hold important business meetings in Spanish-speaking countries – this is a dream come true! Doing business abroad is exhilarating and enhances your global awareness; all the while adding measurable content to your resume. Then, as you’re landing in Buenos Aires you realize that you only speak English. Now you wish you had paid attention in your high school Spanish class or had taken a language at university.
Being bilingual in the workplace gives you an advantage over your monolingual peers. Speaking Spanish will increase your competitive edge, connect you with people on a deeper level, and help you fully grasp the meaning behind what is being said in your business meetings. It is also more gratifying to communicate with people in their native language.
Watch people light up when you unsuspectingly greet them
in Spanish with ¡Buenas!
It doesn’t have to take years to learn a second language; with the right tools, you can become fluent quickly. Check out the blog ‘Learn to Speak Spanish Fast’ where our CEO of Spanish Academy discusses how traditional learning methods are flawed and how he became fluent in only 3 months.
1. Connect and Build Relationships
Let’s face it – we enjoy doing business with people we trust and respect. Successful interactions occur when both parties correctly infer what the other person is trying to convey.
You show respect to the person you are in a business meeting with by greeting them in their native language and understanding a bit about their culture. If you are conducting a business meeting in Buenos Aires and don’t yet speak Spanish, then you would need to speak through an interpreter or expect that your counterpart speaks English.
Why put the burden on everyone else to know English?
Why not learn Spanish today?!
As we all know, the world economy is dependent on global trade and communication. The ability to connect with a business partner in their native language can remove barriers and help establish long-lasting relationships. Propel your importance by being bilingual in the workplace and become the go-to person for all regional and cultural questions.
“One of the most rewarding parts of learning foreign languages is that it helped me to make connections with people overseas. It is amazing how people’s perception of Americans abroad change(s) when they speak the language of the host foreign country. For me, it immediately transformed the way people perceived me from an outsider to a friend. Even though initially my conversation skills were quite elementary, it allowed me to build trust more quickly and to establish a stronger relationship with people. In my small way, through the time and resources spent to learn foreign languages, I was showing honor to the mother countries of these languages.”
2. Improve your Competitive Edge
Colleagues from the same culture are inclined to think similarly. Being bilingual in the workplace empowers you to navigate another culture, learn new perspectives and develop strategic angles for your negotiation positions. This makes you more competitive at your job and will show your Supervisor how you “think outside the box” on another level.
A few years back, while on a business trip to Asia, our team got lost on the way to an important meeting. We found ourselves in an area where no one spoke English – and we didn’t speak the local dialect. Our team was panicked because we were going to be tardy to the meeting. I approached a police officer and asked the common phrase asked by most Americans abroad, “Do you speak English?” The response was a blank stare and so I decided to try something unconventional – “Señor, ¿habla español?” He responded with “¡Sí, Senora! Puedo ayudarte! ¿A dónde vas?” The officer and I were able to communicate in our mutual second language and our team was finally headed in the right direction!
Being able to speak Spanish availed my team in a way
no one would have ever predicted.
A while ago, a friend of mine was hired on by the US Military to help train soldiers before their tour to the Middle East. She was hired on with a significantly higher salary than her monolingual peers who were doing similar work. Why? Because she was a greater asset to the company by being bilingual in the workplace.
3. Enhance your Experience and Have Fun
Speaking a foreign language is so rewarding! You learn to speak in a varied word order, learn new sounds and letters, and expand your social media network by millions of people who speak Spanish! When you are enjoying your job by using Spanish in the workplace, then you’re at your best. This will catch the eye of that boss in the corner office who is in charge of promotions.
Language is your ticket to speak to people in their code, have more meaningful interactions, and immerse yourself in another culture.
4. Do Your Job Better
Being bilingual improves cognitive skills, memory retention, and multitasking capability. It can even fight off early cognitive decline. These skills will make you an employee worth hiring…and keeping for the long run.
Evidence suggests that being bilingual enhances the brain’s executive function which is used for remembering instructions, multitasking, focusing, and planning, which thus helps us with filtering distractions, task prioritization, impulse control, and achieving the goals we have set for ourselves.
Researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium recently published a study that researched how bilingualism promotes a ‘significant delay’ in the manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease and ‘therefore strengthens the claim that bilingualism contributes to cognitive reserve and postpones the symptoms of dementia.’
5. Avoid Misunderstandings
Not all words are created equal. When you are bilingual in the workplace and understand the culture in which you are doing business, then you can understand the nuances of language and better comprehend what you are concurring to on behalf of your company.
Don’t misconstrue language the same way my friend did. She wanted to express her regret in Spanish by expressing that she was embarrassed for being late to the meeting due to traffic congestion. Instead, she apologized by saying “Estoy embarazada, pero el tráfico…” – wait, WHAT? Did she just tell everyone she’s pregnant?!
Embarazada might sound like a Spanish word for embarrassed, but quite the contrary.
To say you are embarrassed in Spanish is estoy avergonzada. There are many more words that can be misspoken – with Spanish language fluency you can evade these blunders.
Other misunderstandings can occur when interpreting numbers and decimal points. The Guatemalan company you are negotiating with just slides a Memorandum of Understanding across the table and it reads that you will pay a profit of 10,00% and the first payment will be 100.000 quetzales – Huh? Are we signing up to pay a profit of 10,000% and give them $100? No!
Around the world, decimal points and commas are used differently. For Example:
10,00% = 10%
Q100.000 = $100,000*
*For illustrative purposes only. Exchange rates need to be considered.
Avoid the embarrassment of putting your company and job in jeopardy; take time to understand the numbers of the country you are working with.
Conclusively, by being bilingual in the workplace, you can avoid making the mistake my husband made last week while abroad on a business trip – he came home with a bag of dried plums when he thought he was buying us candies!
Prepare yourself today by taking classes at Spanish Academy.
Sign up for your free class and learn Spanish online with one of our amazing teachers in Guatemala!
You’re walking down the street and you meet one of your friends who speaks Spanish. You haven’t seen each other in a long time so while catching up, you tell him or her that you’ve just started learning Spanish online with Homeschool Spanish Academy! They are very happy to hear that you’ve started the adventure of learning a new language, so they say jokingly to test your skills: Hola. ¿Cómo estás? You turn red because you still feel a bit unsure about Spanish pronunciation and the correct use of verbs. You smile nervously. Thankfully, your friend has had Spanish lessons for a long time and explains that you can answer with just a short bien, you can say me siento bien, or you can also answer estoy bien.
Now, we’re here to help! Watch this awesome video we just released and keep reading this blog post! We’ve got you completely covered!
Would you rather download this blog with additional exercises? Click below! Don’t forget to practice with this video as well!
Expressing Our Feelings
As you may have learned from that interaction with your old friend, you can express the way you feel in Spanish in more than one way. Let’s have a look at that:
Sentirse vs. Sentir
Sentirse means to feel, and sentir, without the se of the reflexive verb, means to feel. Wait, what? They translate to the same English word, but they have two slightly different meanings in Spanish. It’s a little bit like that blog we wrote on ya and its 14 meanings! Check it out here if you haven’t had a chance to do so already. In this particular case, ‘to feel’ in Spanish can either be:
- sentirse: to feel oneself, to recognize one’s feelings,
- After the verb, we have an adjective: Me siento feliz (adj.). I feel happy (adj.).
- sentir: to feel a feeling
- After the verb, we have a noun: Siento felicidad (noun). I feel happiness (noun).
- sentir: to feel something outside oneself
- Siento la textura. I feel the texture.
When we say me siento or estoy, we’re using linking verbs* to help us describe the way we feel. After these linking verbs, there always comes an adjective! Do you remember how in Spanish an adjective has to agree with the gender and number of the noun?
* Linking verbs are verbs that connect an adjective to a noun. They are like a bridge that helps us connect the description of an adjective to the subject of a sentence, unlike other verbs that describe the action that the subject of a sentence performs. Linking verbs help us describe a subject. Some examples of linking verbs in English are: to be, to appear, to smell, to become.
Let’s have a look at examples of gender-number agreement when it comes expressing the way we feel:
As you can see here, the adjective changes in both gender and number to match the subject of the sentence. In this case, we used personal pronouns only to give a better example, but we can replace these with nouns:
- Instead of él/ellos, we can write el niño/los niños
- Instead of ella/ellas, we can write la niña/las niñas
* In any case, the adjective needs to match both in gender and number the personal pronoun or the noun that we use in the sentence! That’s always very important when using adjectives, and not only the ones that reflect the way we feel!
As with almost every rule in language, there are exceptions. There are adjectives that are invariable. This means that they change only to agree with the noun’s number (not the gender), or they do not change at all. Let’s check those out!
Number agreement only
As you can see with these two examples, the adjective changes when used in plural and singular, but there’s no difference when the gender of the noun changes.
The’s one more way in Spanish in which you can express how you’re feeling at a specific point in time. In English you are hungry, or thirsty. While in Spanish you can estar hambriento or estar sediento, it’s a lot more common to say that you tienes hambre (you have hunger) o tienes sed (you have thirst).
As you may have noticed, this construction includes the verb:
tener (to have) + a noun
Let’s see how this works:
A Little Practice
Let’s enjoy this little practice exercise by feeling in the blanks! Remember the gender and number agreement! Don’t forget to book a FREE class today to practice even more!
|Yo ___ feli__.||I feel happy.|
|Tú ___ trist__.||You are sad.|
|Ella ___ emocionad__.||She feels excited.|
|Nosotros ___ preocupad__.||We are worried.|
|Ustedes ___ feli__.||You all feel happy.|
|Ellos ___ nervios__.||They are nervous.|
Now it’s your turn to build sentences with these adjectives:
If you are wondering how to pronounce these words and phrases, check out our supplementary video lesson!Read More
Our family members: we love them, we get annoyed by them and we have fun times with them! Most importantly: we know we can count on them whenever we need them! So many of our memories are tied to the time we’ve spent around our family. I think we all know how important they all are! So it’s good that when we speak Spanish, we know how to refer to them!
Today, let’s learn how to say write and say the family in Spanish! If you haven’t yet, watch our latest video! At the end of this blog post, you’ll also find a table with all the vocabulary words you need to describe your family in Spanish! Don’t forget to download the PDF as well to keep practicing!
Christmas Eve Dinners
I’ve lived abroad or in a different city than my familia for almost 10 years. Because of that, there’s one thing I try to do whenever possible: spend navidad (Christmas) with them. Even if it is usually only in spirit! For as long as I can remember, we’ve celebrated two Christmas Eve dinners. One is at my abuela’s (my mother’s mother), and the other one is at my abuelos’ (my father’s parents). Both dinners have always been filled with love, tons of laughter, good food, and as many family members as we can get together!
My Mom’s Family
Christmas Eve always starts at my abuela’s house. Back when I was a little girl, my bisabuela (great-grandmother) used to make tamales, pierna, ponche, and all the good Guatemalan food we eat for Christmas. When I was old enough to help, she would even let me be the sous chef! I think there was more talking than cooking from my part, though. My bisabuela meant the world to me! She would babysit me and my hermano (brother) all the time when we were kids, up until she passed away. She was like a second madre (mother) to my hermano and me. Now my mamá (mom) is in charge of most of the Christmas dinner! Her tamales are the best ever! No wonder, she uses my great-great-grandmother’s recipe (that’s a hard one in Spanish: tatarabuela!). My abuela (grandmother) also participates in the cooking, but she lets my mamá take the lead on the tamales!
The Awaited Tamal
Making tamales is a group effort and it takes a loooong time. In the late afternoon on Christmas Eve’s Day my mamá or abuela brings out the “tamal de prueba” (“trial tamal”). This is the first tamal of the whole batch and they bring it out so we can try it. They make tamales only a couple of times a year, so this is a BIG moment that my hermano, my tía (aunt), and I are always anxiously awaiting. We sit down on the big dining room table, everyone with a fork in hand, and we share the first tamal. Every time, I tear up on my first bite because it tastes just like family, like all the beautiful moments we’ve spent together. It feels like being with my bisabuela again because my mamá’s tamales taste just like hers!
My Dad’s Family
After the “tamal de prueba,” we get into the car and head to my abuelos’ house. A huge dinner of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, apple sauce, and my tía’s special gravy awaits us there! If we get to gather the whole crew, it’s my abuela, my abuelo, my four tías (aunts), my prima (female cousin), my primo (male cousin) my papá, my hermano, my hermana (sister), my sobrino (nephew) and I! We normally arrive by the time dinner is ready because we were at my abuela’s giving the emotional support for the whole tamal-making process.
A Family Tree
Now, it’s time to understand a little bit more about my family tree. My hermana is really my medio hermana (half-sister). Her father is my father, and her mother is my dad’s first wife. So my mother is not my sister’s mother. My mom is her step-mother – or her madrastra! And my sister is my mother’s hijastra (step-daughter). My primos are my first cousins (primos en primer grado) because they are the children of my dad’s sister, but the children of my dad’s cousins are my second cousins (primos en segundo grado). I do get to see my primos en segundo grado around this time because my abuelo’s sister – my tía abuela – has a piano school and she hosts a Christmas recital every year! The recital is tons of fun! One of my favorite parts about going to the recital is that we get to sing German Christmas songs that my abuelo and his hermanos used to sing as children!
All The Laughter
Back to lovely Christmas Eve! During dinner, I try to cat up with everyone because it’s one of the only times of the year I get to see them all! Last year’s dinner I heard some great news: my prima is getting married this year! I’m looking forward to meeting her prometido (fiancé) and having tons of fun at her wedding! Another amazing thing is that multiple languages are spoken. We mainly speak Spanish, but there is also the occasional English and German. Sometimes my abuelo will even throw in some French into the mix! Each and every time, at some point, one of my tías will start laughing, and we’ll all follow suite and laugh until our bellies hurt! It’s very enjoyable to laugh uncontrollably, but I do not recommend trying this at home – especially after all the food of a Christmas Eve dinner!
More Tamales and More Love
After having dinner at my abuelos’, we head back to my abuela’s house where more tamales will be awaiting us! I’m telling you, I’m sure I eat more on Christmas Eve’s Day than on any other day of the year! All the food is made with so much love and I just can’t refuse it!
For the more visual and auditory learners out there and anyone else who would like to do a recap of this blogpost on a video: here you go!
Now, let’s do a recap of all the vocabulary we just learned! To hear the vocabulary spoken, don’t forget to check out the video and PDF below!
Okay. Before we start today, have a look at this awesome video! After I watched the video, I tried to snap my fingers to chanin-chanin! It didn’t quite work and it made me remember how many years ago, my best friend spent a crazy amount of time trying to get me to do it “right.” Despite her efforts and 25 years of being Guatemalan, I still can’t make the snapping sound. Now the important question: were you able to do it? It’s okay if you can’t! That makes two of us! Either way, this expression and hand gesture has an important influence on Guatemalan culture.
Chanin, chanin-chanin, or the hand movement that accompanies those words, is ingrained in Guatemalan culture in an inexplicable way. Whether or not they actually say the words, everyone does this hand movement. Some people do it everywhere, others do it only in the familiarity of their homes. Some make it snap, while others just shake their hands like pom poms (and I raise my hand to this!!!). The video got me thinking that I do it a lot (and I mean a LOT) more often than I initially thought I do. It’s just one of those things that you learn at a very young age because everyone around you does it!
What is ‘chanin chanin’?
Let’s divide this in two and explore its meaning:
- Words: Saying ‘chanin’ or ‘chanin-chanin’
- Gesture: The famous finger snapping hand movement
The origin of the word chanin
Guatemala’s official language is Spanish. However, different cultural groups across the country speak another 24 officially recognized languages! Yes, that’s a lot of languages for one country! 22 out of those 24 languages are Mayan languages spoken by indigenous people.
Now, going back to chanin and Guatemalan Spanish. Because of the cultural exchange that exists between the various groups in Guatemala, Mayan languages have influenced – and still are influencing – Spanish greatly! Many words we use in Guatemalan Spanish, like chanin, originate from a Mayan language. Chanin, in particular, means apúrate, or hurry up.
To practice some Spanish reading, visit Guatemala’s official page on our linguistic heritage: Guatemala, un País con Diversidad Étnica, Cultural y Lingüística. There are also some maps for you to see where these different cultures and languages exist! You can also check out these Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala and compare the places listed here to where each Mayan language is spoken.
Origin of the chanin gesture
As for the hand movement, I’ve been asking some abuelitas, and no one really knows where it comes from. I can only assume that someone, one day, really needed to get something done. So, they started shaking their hands to communicate a sense of urgency to another person who spoke a different one of the 24 languages. Since they couldn’t understand each other with words, hand gestures had to do the job!
Imagine if you’re in the middle of something and someone starts frantically shaking their hands to signal that you should hurry up – believe me – you’ll hurry up!
The Languages of Guatemala
Languages are directly related to ethnic groups and culture. There are four different ethnic groups in Guatemala and one uses different languages:
Learn more about Guatemala’s culture and ethnic groups here!
*Information on the number of native speakers from 2002 Census.
Spanish in the context of indigenous languages in Guatemala
Although Spanish is the “main” official language of Guatemala, a big percentage of the population does not speak Spanish! But how does this happen? The Spanish arrived in Guatemala almost 500 years ago in 1524 AD and as part of their colonization, they taught the indigenous people Spanish.
While 500 years may seem like enough time for everyone to learn Spanish, Guatemala is a country divided (and united!) by different cultures and landscapes. The various groups did not always accept a new language being imposed on them (who would?). Plus, the fact that some villages are so far removed from political, economic, or cultural centers allowed for many to just keep living their life without needing to learn a new language.
This is all now changing, but we’ll talk more about Spanish in Guatemala in another blog post! In the meantime, you can read a little something on Guatemalan history here.
Something to keep in mind: The Spanish of each Spanish-speaking country is greatly influenced by the languages the indigenous populations spoke or still speak! That’s the reason why there are sometimes big differences in the words the people of different Spanish-speaking countries use.
Y ahora, and now, exploremos the other languages of Guatemala!
According to the 2002 census, 41% of the Guatemalan population identify themselves as indigenous (descendants of the Mayans). All these people speak various Mayan languages, and each one is a descendant of the language Protomaya, which came to life some 6,000 years ago! Yes, it’s been a long time! There are now 22 indigenous Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala, each spoken by a different cultural group! And yes, each one of them is a language of their own (not a *dialect!) with unique grammar, sounds, and vocabulary!
Let’s have a look at these 22 Mayan languages:
*dialect: “A particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group.” Thanks, Oxford English Dictionary!
As you can see, only a very small percentage of the population speaks each of the Mayan languages! These numbers have greatly decreased in the last few years and are still rapidly declining due to multiple reasons. For one, technology is only available in certain languages. Similarly, most services and information are only accessible in Spanish. People are also moving to bigger cities for work or studies, and because of that many families consider it more important for their children to learn Spanish than an indigenous Mayan language. Parents and grandparents have struggled to live in a country where they cannot speak the official language, and they don’t want their children to have that same experience.
However, it’s important to mention that Guatemala’s government and different NGOs have started campaigns to promote Mayan language learning in schools and through any possible platform. The thing is, a language is not only a set of words we use to communicate with others. Languages carry the entire historical background of a whole culture! As such, it is important to value and cherish each Mayan language as much as we value and cherish all those beautiful colors we see when we visit a Guatemalan market!
Check out these quotes by Guatemalans to understand a little bit more about the importance of language as part of a culture: Discovering Treasures Through Spanish Quotes
Xinca is a language that doesn’t belong to the same group as the other 22 indigenous Mayan languages. Its origin is unknown, but it used to be widely spoken throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. While some sources say the language is extinct, others say there are currently only about 100 people who speak this language.
Garifuna is the only language from the Arawakan language family spoken in Central America. All other languages from this language family that are not extinct, are spoken in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. Up until 1797 when the Garifuna people were deported to Honduras, the language was only spoken in some Antillean Islands. Now, a total of about 200,000 people speak this language throughout Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and the US. If you’d like to learn more about the Garifuna culture, check out this documentary film in Garifuna language (and English): Garifuna in Peril.
Language is a huge part of culture! When you learn a language, you’re not only learning to say things with other words, but you’re venturing into a new world of ideas and customs. Continue learning more about Guatemalan culture and language by scheduling a FREE CLASS with us today!Read More