Learning Spanish can be tough at times – verb conjugations, irregular verbs, subjunctive mood, and even articles can trip up a lot of Spanish learners. However, one thing that makes the learning adventure a lot easier is that there are hundreds of cognates in English and Spanish. Cognates are words that are either spelled the same or similar and often sound alike. Because English and Spanish have some of the same roots, there are numerous cognates that make communicating in Spanish a lot easier.
I remember when I was first immersed in Spanish conversation that I understood a lot more than I expected because of cognates! Even though I hadn’t necessarily studied certain words, I was able to pick up on their meaning because the familiar structure and pronunciation reflected their English counterparts.
Let’s look at some cognates that are spelled exactly the same:
As you can see from these examples, while the cognates are spelled the same, the Spanish pronunciation is slightly different, mainly because of the vowels. Also, note that some cognates add an accent in Spanish!
Have you ever just added an ‘o’ to the end of an English word to make its Spanish equivalent? While this doesn’t always work, there is some truth to it. Let’s check out some nouns that can be changed into a Spanish word with just adding an ‘o’ or ‘a’ to the end:
Easy right? Now, some more words sound like you just add ‘o’ or ‘a’ to the English word, but the spelling changes a bit more than that. Check them out!
Did you see how some vowels change or disappear, like in blusa and pingüino? In certain words, a ‘ph’ is replaced by an ‘f,’ like in teléfono, or a letter is added, like in carro. Either way, these words are extremely similar in both spelling and pronunciation. Now, all of these words that we have looked at so far are nouns, or sustantivos. There are many more adjectives, adjetivos (look at that! Another example of cognates!), that follow the rule of “just add an ‘o/a.’”
Can you find any patterns to help you know which English adjectives just add an ‘o’ in Spanish? Here’s a hint: What do most of the English words end in? Yes! Most of them end in -ic or -al. The ones that end in -ic just need an ‘o’ added on to the end (and sometimes an accent mark) to turn them into their Spanish equivalent. For the words that end in -al, we need to take away those last two letters before adding on the ‘o.’
Now, keep in mind that these adjectives will not ALWAYS end in ‘o.’ If you remember, the adjectives in Spanish change to agree with the noun. If the noun is feminine, the adjective will end in ‘a;’ if the noun is plural, the adjective will end need an ‘s’ at the end.
Ella es muy romántica. Él es muy romántico.
Ellas son muy románticas. Ellos son muy románticos.
So, while these cognates are pretty simple to form, remember that they change to maintain the noun-adjective agreement! Also, did you happen to notice that every Spanish word has an accent mark on the third to last syllable? Don’t forget those crucial tildes!
Are there more patterns to making Spanish cognates, you ask? Why, of course! This next group of words are more nouns; check out how easy it is to make their Spanish equivalent!
-Y to -IA
As you can see, all these English words end in a -y. To make the Spanish cognates, you keep the base of the word but change the -y to a -ia. Be careful, though, because some words have an accent on the final ‘i.’
There is another group of cognates that changes to an -ia at the end of a word. Check out these nouns!
-ANCE to -ANCIA
-ITY to -IDAD
Now, not all words that end in -y in English end in -ia in Spanish. For those words nouns that end in -ity, the rule is a little different. The -ity becomes an -idad. Practice with these examples:
There’s one more cognate group of nouns; these are probably some of the most well-known ones.
-TION to -CIÓN
Phew! That’s a lot of noun cognates! Do you remember talking about some adjective cognates in Spanish? Well, there’s more. English words that end in -ous can change in two different ways in Spanish, either changing that ending to a -oso or just an -o.
-OUS to -OSO
-OUS to -O
Don’t forget what we previously talked about concerning adjectives – the ‘o’ ending is only for adjectives describing masculine words. If it is describing a feminine or plural noun, the ending will be slightly different.
Alright, we’ve looked at cognates with nouns and adjectives, but what about verbs? You guessed it! There are many verbs that are cognates as well. Before we start, do you remember the infinitive verb endings in Spanish? They are -ar, -er, and -ir. So, when we talk about verb cognates, we are referring to verbs in English that can be changed into Spanish verbs by just adding one of the infinitive endings. The trick is to know which one!
Now, not every cognate follows a rule or pattern. There are some words that unique – but are still cognates nonetheless!
Wow! There are so many cognates in English and Spanish, and there are countless more than just the ones listed here – this is just to get you started! Now that you know some of the main patterns to form Spanish cognates, you can try using them when you get stuck in a conversation. If you are not sure how to say a word in Spanish, try forming a cognate; more times than not, you’ll be correct! So many times, when I ask how to say a word in Spanish, it is just a cognate of the English word!
However, do be warned. These rules are not written in stone, and there are many exceptions and false cognates. Be sure to brush up on the false cognates before traveling to a Spanish-speaking country or immersing yourself completely in the language. In my experience, though, people are very forgiving and generally understand the idea you’re trying to get across. Trust me – if you make a mistake with cognates, you won’t be the first one!
Be sure to practice with a native Spanish speaker by trying a FREE class with us! Our teachers can give you more cognates and help you with your pronunciation!
Hello Spanish Learners! You are working so hard on mastering Spanish by taking classes, reading our blogs, and watching our YouTube videos – way to go! To be fluent in Spanish, you will need to understand through listening and reading as well as communicate by speaking and writing. You are almost there – keep working hard and expose yourself to Spanish every day! Whether it is through music, a podcast, noticias, telenovelas, speaking a tu mejor amiga or reading a terrific book!
Speaking of books, there are so many wonderful options to begin with! You will be so incredibly proud of yourself when you complete a proper book, cover to cover, en español!
Read below for tips on finding a book in Spanish that suits your needs:
Find a Topic That Interests You
We all have finite time during the day, so you will want to choose a book that appeals to you! Similar to reading in your native language, you will be more likely to start (and finish) a book that you enjoy on a subject/topic that holds your interest.
Choose a Book that is Not Too Long
You want to accomplish the task of finishing your first Spanish book! Begin with one that is a good length and not too overwhelming. Something you can easily fit into your school, sports, and homework schedule.
Find the ‘Just Right’ Book – One That is Challenging but Not Too Difficult
Remember when you read your first book in English around 1st grade? Chances are you picked up a book, flipped to a random page, read a few words and then decided if it was too easy or too difficult. Similar to Spanish, you want to find a good balance that is challenging, but not too easy. Using the Five Finger Rule helps you do just this:
- Choose your book and read a random page
- Hold up a finger for every word you don’t know
- If you have held up 5 fingers before finishing the page then the book is too difficult.
- Likewise, if you have held up only 1 finger, the book is too easy. You want to find the ‘just right’ book which is 2-4 fingers.
Finding your ‘just right’ book will encourage you to continue on with the story, challenge you just enough, and build your confidence!!
Choose Spanish and English ‘Side-by-Side’ Text
Have you ever read a paragraph in Spanish and you’re pretty sure you grasped the meaning, but there was that one word, or phrase, that left you questioning the meaning behind all the words? This happens to the best of us when reading in a new language. One way to self-check yourself is to read the Spanish text, and then verify you are on track with the English translation. Side-by-Side bilingual books are perfect for reading in Spanish and then testing your comprehension by reading the English section.
On a side note: I would recommend these text tools for your first few books, but then move on to books in Spanish only. You don’t want to rely on the translation and inhibit your immersion into the Spanish text.
Consider the Tense
Spanish is a complicated language with many tenses. If you are a beginner, then most likely you are most familiar with present, preterite and imperfect Spanish conjugations. Choose a book with this in mind!
Here are some great books to begin with:
Books with ‘Side-by-Side’ Translation in English and Spanish
- First Spanish Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book – This book is less than 100 pages with 41 stories. Each story increases in difficulty – beginning with stories in the present tense, and building from there. The book also includes exercises in Spanish.
- Stories from Latin America/Historias de latinamérica – 16 short stories from Central and South American authors. It includes free audio downloads of four chapters from the book! Good for advanced beginners, it provides cultural insights and includes a helpful vocabulary list.
- Spanish Short Stories 1/ Cuentos hispánicos 1 and Spanish Short Stories 2/ Cuentos hispánicos 2 – Short stories from Spanish-speaking authors. Instead of translating word for word, the English translation paraphrases the Spanish portions thus translating ideas. The book is recommended for advanced beginners and beyond.
Beginner Books in Spanish
- Papelucho– The author has published 12 books in the Papelucho series that are described as humorous, interesting and creative. The book speaks about everyday life in the present tense.
- Manolito gafotas/Manolito Four-Eyes – Follow 10-year-old Manolito as he navigates life in Madrid. This is a children’s classic in Spain and other parts of Europe and has inspired films and a TV series.
- Las tres reinas magas – This book is a modern twist on Los Reyes Magos (The three Kings- Spanish Christmas Story). The queens are holding down the castle as the Kings are away at war.
- Muerte en Buenos Aires -Spanish novels for beginners. There are many in the series by this author and they are simple to understand with fun and interesting detective plots.
Get started today
There are so many books out there. Comment below and let us know which one is your favorite! Also, enjoy a free class on us and ¡empieza a mejorar tu español ya!
Television often gets a bad rap in the realm of childhood development, but did you know that it can actually provide some benefit for your child learning a foreign language? For Spanish language learners, the regular (if not daily!) auditory experience of the target language is recommended in order to have the strongest impact. Television – in the right context – can help us achieve listening goals in Spanish and improve fluency. Additionally, by exploring what educational television has to offer, we can find what inspires and ignites in our child the curiosity to learn more! Let’s take a look at a few of the best educational TV shows in Spanish for kids. ¡Miremos tele!
- El Show de Perico (3-12 years)
This funny children’s show originates from Colombia. It mimics the style of a talk show, using its host, Perico, to interview a guest in each episode. Accompanying Perico are his friends, an egg who is afraid to crack his shell and an easily-offended tapir named Amanda. Together they discuss many topics, ranging from emotional awareness to the environment, as well as giving instruction on phonetics and spelling. At the beginning of each episode, the guest generally presents a problem to the young viewers. Perico and his friends try to find a solution throughout the course of the episode. You can find plenty of episodes for this show on YouTube.
- Migrópolis (3-9 years)
A moving mini-series based on real-life interviews; this show aims to educate even its smallest viewers on what it’s like to be an immigrant child living in another country. The scenes are animated with animal characters using the recorded children’s voices who talk candidly about their feelings toward moving to such a drastically different place. The program takes us all over the world to meet Spanish-speaking children whose stories will fill you with joy, curiosity, and sometimes even a bit of sadness. The colorful cartoon will keep the youngest viewers super engaged while the somewhat older children (5+ years) will be inspired by what they hear. Complete episodes of the first season are on YouTube.
- Érase una vez: el cuerpo humano (6-12 years)
“Once Upon a Time: The Human Body” is a series of Spanish animated television programs that tell colorful stories about the human body and how it works. Fun and unique characters describe detailed biological functions in simple terms and analogies that children can understand. All of the body parts and functions explored in the series appear as a real person. For example, the brain is a bearded old man whose name is Maestro (Master), neurotransmitters are little blue delivery guys who are always in a hurry, and any pathogens (bacteria and viruses) act as big and little bullies. It’s an excellent way to introduce the concept of a “society within the body” and to learn biology in Spanish! You can watch full episodes on YouTube.
Bilingual Educational TV Shows
In addition to these authentic Spanish shows, you can also include the English cartoons that your child knows and loves. If you use Netflix, Amazon Prime, or any other media-service provider, you can switch the language to Spanish and let your young one watch all of their favorite episodes. If you are looking for new material, try one of these educational programs:
- Creative Galaxy
- Peg + Cat
- Doc McStuffins
- Sid the Science Kid
Favorable Screen Time
Not all screen time is bad! With this list of educational TV programs in Spanish, you are equipped to help your child gain more experience listening to native speakers in interesting situations. If you’d like to give your child the gift of an interactive lesson with a native speaker, sign up for a free online class at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Your child will be speaking Spanish in the first class. What’s more, they will have someone to ask about the fun new shows they’re watching in Spanish!Read More
Splash, thud, vroom, zap! What is going on in here!? It sounds like a bunch of superheroes are starting to battle it out at a pool party. Herein lies the wonder of onomatopoeia, or words that imitate a particular sound. Now, read those four words at the beginning one more time. What images do you see when you read them? These words have the ability to evoke an image or sensation in your mind, rendering the communication that much more effective. When we are young, we learn many of these words casually through socializing and watching movies or cartoons. For parents who are teaching Spanish to their preschoolers, be sure to include a rich variety of books and sounds! As a Spanish learner, using onomatopoeia will enhance the creativity of your speech and writing. Your understanding will improve now that you know even more useful vocabulary. What’s more, you can better convey your personality and strengthen the impact of your descriptions of people, things, and their actions. Since onomatopoeia is a word form of a sound, it is a word form of movement. As such, we have three categories of things that move and make noise while doing it: people, animals, and objects. These movements can express themselves as sound effects or they can function as verbs, which is a distinction we will explore below. Let’s check out the most popular and useful Spanish onomatopoeia for you to start using right away. ¡Zas!
Onomatopoeia as Sound Effects
If you are familiar with comic books or cartoons, you are no stranger to the value of sound effects. What would Batman have been without his staple ‘boom!’, ‘whack!’ and ‘pow!’ is a question we will never have to ask. The words we use to portray sound can enliven and enrich the scenes of a storyline and, if used correctly, it will do the same for your conversations! The following sound effects are divided into the three categories mentioned previously: people, animals, and objects. You will notice that some are similar or identical to English and that others can be used by any of the three categories.
Onomatopoeia as Verbs
In our native language, we are very likely to use onomatopoeia verb-forms, especially when we are trying to paint a picture with descriptive words. There is a big difference between “the dog made a mean sound” and “the dog growled.” In the latter example, you can practically hear the dog’s aggression and probably even picture him baring his teeth. Again, the power of onomatopoeia is all about creating images and sensations in the listener’s mind. Keep in mind that all three categories mentioned above – people, animals, and objects – can make use of these verbs. Here is a list of common onomatopoeia verbs that are useful when describing in detail the noise that something makes:
Practice Makes Perfect
By practicing these fun and useful onomatopoeia, you will improve your Spanish and boost the quality of your conversations! Try them out next time you have to write a descriptive essay in Spanish or plan to teach someone some entertaining vocabulary. Would you like someone to practice with? Check out our free online class that guarantees you’ll be speaking Spanish before it ends!
On Part 1 of the Spanish subjuntivo series, we’ve learned what the subjuntivo is all about! The Spanish subjunctive allows us to express ideas, thoughts, desires, possibilities, and doubts.
Always keep in mind that the subjunctive is not a tense, the subjunctive is a mood! This means that it can be found in different tenses! Today, we’ll explore the conjugation of the subjunctive in the present tense!
Subjuntivo Conjugation in Present Tense
The conjugation of regular verbs in the subjunctive mood is really simple! Have a look at the table below, and take a note of your observations!
These are some rules that will help you learn the conjugation of verbs in the subjunctive even faster:
- The conjugation of -er and -ir verbs use the same endings:
-a, -as, -a, -amos, -an, -an
- In the case of -ar endings, we use the same stem in the present subjunctive as in the present indicative, and replace the ‘a’ with an ‘e’ – yo is an exception to this as we replace ‘o’ with an ‘e’
- In the case of -er and -ir endings, we use the same stem in the present subjunctive as in the present indicative, and replace the ‘e’ with an ‘a’ – yo is an exception to this as we replace ‘o’ with an ‘a’
As we already know, the conjugation of Spanish verbs is plagued with exceptions. In order to make it a little easier for you to learn them, we’ve separated them into groups!
As you can see from the examples above, even irregular verbs seem to follow a pattern! I told you when we started looking at the subjuntivo that there was nothing to fear, and as we disentangle all the little details of this verb form, it starts to make even more sense!
Conjugate the verbs in parenthesis! Remember that in Spanish, you don’t need to use personal pronouns like you do in English, so use the English translations to make sure you conjugate the verb in the correct form!
Yo quiero que _____ (venir) mañana.
I want you to come tomorrow.
Tú no crees que _____ (tener) suficiente tiempo.
You don’t believe we have enough time.
Ella busca una blusa que _____ (tener) rayas.
She’s looking for a shirt that has stripes.
Nosotros no pensamos que eso ______ (ser) cierto.
We don’t think it is true.
Ustedes dudan que _____ (llegar) a tiempo.
You all doubt he will be here on time.
Ellos necesitan que _____ (escribir) una carta.
They need you to write a letter.
Practice makes perfect! Book a free class with us and so that we can practice together everything we learned on the 1st Part of the subjuntivo series (when to use the subjuntivo), and combine it with what we’ve learned today (conjugation in the present tense)!Read More
There comes a point in your Spanish learning journey when you hear about the infamous subjunctive: el subjuntivo. Many fear it without really knowing what it’s all about because they’ve heard that it’s hard. But hey, it’s not that bad at all! As I’ve mentioned before, there are elements of language that cannot be translated into another language as is. Sometimes, we need to create a new concept in our heads. While the subjunctive exists in English, we don’t use a specific subjunctive conjugation in every case – as we do in Spanish. Join me today as we disentangle the intricacies of the Spanish subjuntivo and learn why there’s no reason to fear it!
Don’t forget to follow these links to learn how to conjugate the subjunctive in the present tense and past tense. If you’re more of an auditory learner, check out our videos on the subjunctive here (and here – when we have the second one out)!
¿Qué es el subjuntivo?
What’s the subjunctive anyway? When we classify verbs, we can classify them according to different criteria. One of the criteria is the tense – present, past, future – which indicates when an action is taking place. Another one is the mood, which indicates the intention of the speaker. There are three moods in Spanish:
- indicative – expresses the meaning of the verb as a reality:
- Soy feliz. I am happy.
In this case, being happy is a reality, a fact.
- subjunctive – expresses the meaning of the verb as a non-reality:
- Si fuera feliz. If I were happy.
In this case, being happy is a wish, something that is not part of the current reality.
- imperative – expresses the meaning of the verb as a mandate or order:
- Sé feliz! Be happy!
We order someone to be happy. We use the imperative in the 2nd person, both singular (tú, vos, usted) and plural (ustedes) because these are the people we can “give orders”.
*We sometimes give an ‘order’ to a group of people we belong to: we – nosotros. Nosotros is the 1st person plural, not the 2nd person. While the mood is imperative, there’s no conjugation for nosotros in the imperative mood, so we ‘borrow’ the conjugation from the subjunctive.
Using the subjunctive in Spanish
Now that we know what the subjunctive is, we need to learn how and when to use it. As we learned above, the subjunctive is a mood that indicates the intention of the speaker. The fact that there are specific situations that call for the subjunctive makes it a lot easier to learn when we need to use it! You’ll see that it’s not that hard after all!
We use the subjunctive when we want to express uncertainty, desire, beliefs or possibilities. As you can see, all of these scenarios live in the realm of the unreal. These are all things that are not facts, but instead, what we think, guess, wish for, or believe.
1. Dependent clauses introduced by the relative pronoun que
Dependent clauses, also known as subordinate clauses, are a combination of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence since they are not a complete idea. They provide additional information to an independent clause. Independent clauses can stand alone because they do portray a full idea). Let’s look at some examples to understand this better:
Es posible + que vayamos al cine.
It’s possible + that we go to the movies.
We can see in these examples how the subordinate clause starts both in Spanish and English with que and that respectively!
Let’s look at some of the most common examples. All the expressions below are expressions that when followed by the relative pronoun que – that (written in the examples for clarity) require a subjunctive:
2. Adjective clauses introduced by the relative pronoun que
Adjective clauses are a set of words that describe a noun – they are a combination of words that work as an adjective. An adjective clause that begins with the relative pronoun que can either be in subjunctive or indicative. This depends entirely on the context of what we’re saying.
Let’s have a look at these two examples:
Questions and negative statements
Whenever you use adjective clauses starting with the pronoun que to question whether something is real or not, or when you negate the existence of something, you also use the subjunctive!
This is because you’re referring to something that is not part of your ‘reality.’ Let’s have a look at some examples:
3. After certain conjunctions
Conjunctions are words or sets of words that allow us to join words, phrases, and clauses. There are certain conjunctions that call for the subjunctive because they express doubt, uncertainty, or condition. These are the different conjunctions that can go along with the subjunctive if the context is right:
4. Conditional clauses – si (if) clauses
Conditional sentences have two parts (two clauses). The first one is the clause that indicates the condition – si clause -, and the second one is the clause that indicates the result if the condition is met.
There are 3 types of conditionals in Spanish. We use the subjunctive in two out of these three cases. While we won’t go into much detail in this blog post about each type, we’ll show you their structure:
This may seem a bit complicated, but the awesome thing is that these structures cannot be changed. If you’re using conditional sentences, anything other than what’s on the table above is wrong! That certainly makes it easy to learn!
We’ve explained the subjunctive and used many examples so that you can know exactly when to use it! Now, book a free class with one of our teachers so you can perfect your subjuntivo!
Have you ever wondered if your child is getting enough – or too much – homework? The debate about homework rages on with parents and educators around the globe. Those with opinions take position along a spectrum, ranging from completely against homework to believing that kids today just aren’t getting enough. Where do you stand? According to research, the amount of time spent daily on homework has both positive and negative effects. When it comes to learning another language, like Spanish, experts suggest that homework is critical, no matter the amount of time spent on it. In most cases, class time in a foreign language simply isn’t enough. This means that homework is necessary to bolster the steady progress of fluency-building outside of the classroom. Ultimately, as we seek to know how much schoolwork should be done at home, the answers are anything but clear. Let’s take a look to see what the experts have to say about it!
Time Spent on Homework
Educational researchers have attempted to understand the homework dilemma and create guidelines for teachers and families to use. Thanks to organizations like the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, we get the “10-minute per day per grade” rule. In effect, with kindergarten starting at no homework, this means that first graders do 50 minutes of homework a week, second graders do 100 minutes a week, and so on. “The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life,” says Donaldson-Pressman, co-author of The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life.
Other experts argue that the amount of homework that students do these days is not much different than it used to be. Brian Gill, a senior social scientist at the Rand Corporation, explains, “If you look at high school kids in the late ’90s, they’re not doing substantially more homework than kids did in the ’80s, ’70s, ’60s or the ’40s. In fact, the trends throughout most of this time period are pretty flat. And most high school students in this country don’t do a lot of homework. The median appears to be about four hours a week.”
The NEA’s research on best practices in education found that “in the last 20 years, homework has increased only in the lower grade levels, and this increase is associated with neutral (and sometimes negative) effects on student achievement.”
While the amount of time spent on homework continues to be a hot-button issue, there are some important disadvantages and advantages to consider in the debate.
The Disadvantages of Homework
Despite the many benefits that homework can have, it is obvious that too much homework can actually be harmful. The American Educational Research Association says that “whenever homework crowds out social experience, outdoor recreation, and creative activities, and whenever it usurps time that should be devoted to sleep, it is not meeting the basic needs of children and adolescents.” Students and their parents often consider homework to be one of the greatest stress factors in their home. A Stanford Study of Student Experiences Report from 2017 indicated that 80 percent of students considered themselves “often” or “always” stressed by schoolwork. They were doing, on average, between 2.75 and 3.38 hours of homework on weeknights. Similarly, time dedicated to homework reduces overall quality time with family and has been documented to increase anxiety and depression.
Surprisingly, there are also studies that show that homework does not improve school performance. According to researchers at Macmillan Education UK, most homework is repetitive busy-work that does not contribute to new learning. Moreover, often the homework is too complex and difficult for students to complete by themselves. They conclude that homework is not only a waste of time but a detrimental stressor that should be eliminated.
The Advantages of Homework
Research published in 2012 in the High School Journal points out a “sweet spot” of average time spent on homework that correlates to higher scores on standardized tests. By spending 31 to 90 minutes on homework each day, high school students “scored about 40 points higher on the SAT-Mathematics subtest than their peers, who reported spending no time on homework each day, on average.” Additionally, homework is a motivational skill-builder for students who learn time-management, responsibility, problem-solving on their own, and perseverance. It helps them to become organized and to plan ahead in order to complete the tasks on time.
Both older and younger students benefit from homework by sharing it with their families. When parents get involved in homework, it helps the child develop effective learning strategies that otherwise would not have improved. For children with a possible learning disability, doing homework together can show the parents details on their child’s strengths and weaknesses in learning. It is also a useful way to help parents understand whether or not their child has any learning disabilities at all. As Duke University professor Harris Cooper, Ph.D., noted, “Two parents once told me they refused to believe their child had a learning disability until homework revealed it to them.”
Homework to Learn Spanish
Amid the debate on how much time we spend on homework is the idea that homework is essential for language learning. A study published in Foreign Language Annals indicates that “foreign language teachers at all levels [feel] strongly that homework is essential to language teaching and learning.” Doing language homework is critical to a student’s learning goals for three main reasons:
- It guarantees continuous exposure to the target language outside of the classroom. The amount of time that one engages with a foreign language correlates to higher fluency and deeper learning.
- It guides the student in generating questions they may have to gain clarity on areas they don’t understand. This bolsters the students’ ability to self-assess and to practice weak spots with the teacher.
- It allows students to prioritize language learning outside of the classroom. Without homework, a student may not know how to self-direct to continue learning. It ensures that students have a focal point while studying and repeating what they’ve learned.
At Homeschool Spanish Academy, we believe that every student deserves the opportunity to become fluent in Spanish. Along with our one-on-one classes with a native Spanish speaker, we provide enough homework for students to work on during their days off from class. The general rule we follow is creating practical homework exercises that take the same amount as the class. For a 25-minute class, there will be 25 minutes worth of homework, for a 50-minute class, 50 minutes of homework, and so on. It’s designed to give students the ability to prioritize language learning: even on their days outside of class, they can practice Spanish!
For students who choose not to partake in the benefits of homework, we do offer a Freestyle Option that excludes homework, tests, and quizzes. Additionally, for our preschool students, homework is optional.
For more information about our classes and homework, check out this article on what a year with Spanish Academy is like.
While homework for language learning is essential for consistent learning, homework in other subjects that do not require regular exposure is highly debated. Our research reveals clearly that too much homework is damaging. How much is too much? For students in high school, the average time spent on homework without negative effects is averaging one hour a day. Students who are in middle school and below may benefit from a homework policy that uses the “10-minute per grade” rule. If you feel your child is getting too much homework, try talking to their teachers or school administrators for the reasoning behind their policies.Read More
Among my group of friends and colleagues, business trips are as common as ordering your next latte at Starbucks. It is given that in most work environments, you are going to get on a plane and travel…very far… and oftentimes land in a Spanish-speaking country. Just in the past year I have heard business travel stories from Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia, Peru and Guatemala – all wonderfully unique countries that speak Spanish as their official language.
Once you land at the airport, go through immigration and exit the airport, your senses immediately experience the new sights, sounds, and smells of entering a new part of the world. It is exciting and can be overwhelming. Herein lies an opportunity to speak Spanish!
Let’s review helpful Spanish phrases for your next viaje!
Let’s review Spanish greetings!
In English we often begin a conversation with ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ and then begin. Depending on where you live, the conversation can be rushed and to the point. Good Morning/afternoon/evening aren’t as common and are typically reserved for more formal situations or business meetings.
In Spanish, greetings are numero uno. It is very important that you greet Spanish speakers before you board the plane, begin a conversation at the ticket counter, ask for directions, or ask for help.
Buenos días. Estoy perdido/a. ¿Puede ayudarme a encontrar el área de reclamo de equipaje?/ Good Morning. I am lost. Can you help me find baggage claim?
You can also simply use Buenas, which is an informal greeting, but acceptable to use in many countries as a proper greeting in an informal situation. Review the usage rules for formal vs. informal here.
Now that you can greet others with confidence, let’s learn words that will help you navigate the airport and airplane.
Vocabulary Words for the Airport and Airplane
Useful Phrases for the Airport and Airplane
¿Dónde está la taquilla?
Where is the ticket counter?
¿Dónde recojo mis maletas?
Where is the baggage claim?
¿A qué hora viene el vuelo?
What time will the plane arrive?
¿En cuánto tiempo llegamos?
How much longer until we arrive?
¿A qué hora traen la comida?
What time will the food be served?
¿Hay problema si me levanto ahora?
Is it okay to get out of my seat now?
Asking for Directions and Exploring the City
Now you’ve landed and your eyes are wide open as you experience new sights and try to find your way to your hotel. Here are some useful phrases for asking and giving directions.
Vocabulary Words for Getting Around
Useful Phrases for Getting Around
Al final de la cuadra.
Walk to the end of the block
La tienda está en la esquina.
The stores is on the corner.
¿Dónde consigo un taxi?
Where can I get a taxi?
¿Dónde está la parada de autobús más cercana?
Where is the nearest bus stop/station?
¿Dónde está la estación de tren más cercana?
Where is the nearest train stop/station?
¿Cuánto cuesta el ticket de tren/bus?
How much does a bus/train ticket cost?
Me gustaría comprar un ticket para Juanito por favor.
I would like to buy a ticket for Juanito, please.
¿Qué tan lejos queda?
How far is it?
¿Cuánto me va a tardar?
How long will it take me?
¿Cómo llego al museo?
How do I get to the museum?
Checking in and out of the Hotel
At the hotel, you will want to use these keywords to communicate.
Vocabulary words for the Hotel
Useful Phrases for the Hotel
Perdón, no entiendo
Sorry, I don’t understand.
¿Puedes hablar más despacio, por favor?
Can you please speak more slowly?
¿Cuánto me cuesta por día?
How much will that cost per day?
¿Eso tiene cobro extra?
Is there an extra charge for that?
¿Tienen más cuartos disponibles?
Do you have additional rooms available?
¿Me puede dar la llave del cuarto 105?
Can I have the key/keycard for room 105?
Me gustaría una habitación con vista.
I would like a room with a view.
Necesito que lleven mis maletas al cuarto, por favor.
I need my luggage brought to my room, please.
¿En dónde puedo estacionar mi carro?
Where should I park the car?
¿Este precio incluye desayuno?
Is breakfast included in the price?
Registraré mi salido mañana en la mañana.
I will check-out tomorrow morning.
¿Puede llamar un taxi, por favor?
Can you call a taxi, please?
Do you have any….?
I would like….
Would you like…?
Mi cuarto aún necesita ordenar, gracias.
My room still needs to be made up, thank you.
See You Later!
You’re wrapping up your trip and want to express your gratitude and thanks. Here are some phrases to help you do so!
See you later!
¡Que tenga(s) un buen día!
Have a good day!
¡Que tenga(s) un hermoso día!
Have a beautiful day!
¡Espero verte de nuevo!
I hope to see you again!
Gracias, me ayudó mucho.
You have been so helpful, thank you.
Espero regresar pronto a este hermoso lugar.
I can’t wait to come back to this beautiful place.
You’re all set!
Before you pack your bags, enjoy a complimentary class with Spanish Academy and practice your new vocabulary words!
There is a special place in my heart for people who can speak both English and Spanish. My parents taught me how to speak English from a very young age, so it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. This means that whenever I meet a bilingual person, my ‘Spanglish’ chip comes online and I start mixing both languages. Why is it that sometimes a word or phrase… feels right in one language, but not the other?
Most people, as they become bilingual, learn that there are concepts that are unique to each language. Some words convey certain thoughts and feelings that are harder, if not impossible, to describe in any other language! Recent studies have shown that knowing more than one language will help with the development of cognitive functions as well as preventing their decline as we age. There’s also been research suggesting that bilingual children develop better social-emotional and behavioral skills, so the benefits of learning a new language are many. You can learn more about this on our blog about the perks of being bilingual.
I’ve gathered a list of common words and phrases that aren’t found in English, so you can learn a bit more about our culture through language.
Latinos are known for their strong sense of family. This is expressed by the word sobremesa, which describes the time taken after dinner to talk with the people you ate with. It’s common amongst Latinoamericanos to stay after the meal is finished, maybe with a cup of coffee or some Rosa de Jamaica, to talk about current events, joke around, and learn about each other. Sometimes sobremesa lasts a few hours after the meal is done! This is such a common cultural practice that we came up with a word for it, which is one of the wonderful things of a family-centered culture.
Hoy, en sobremesa, me contaron de la graduación de mi vecina.
Today, after eating, I was told about my neighbor’s graduation.
2. Buen Provecho
All this talk about food sure is making my stomach growl! Before lunch starts, however, I have to make sure to say buen provecho to my office mates. In English, you would normally use the term ‘bon appétit’ or ‘enjoy your meal.’ The difference is that in Latin America and Spain, saying buen provecho is used a lot more than in the United States. This phrase is also used in comedores, or small family-owned restaurants, by wishing the other patrons a nice meal if they’re still eating once you leave the place. This nifty bit of info is sure to leave a positive impression on the locals if you ever come to visit!
(Spoken to other people in a restaurant as you leave) “¡Bueno provecho!” “Muchas gracias, igualmente.”
“Enjoy!” “Thanks so much! You too!”
So I just finished having lunch, but there’s always room for dessert! Unfortunately, my sweet tooth got the better of me and I ate too much pan dulce. Now there are leftovers that can’t go to waste, so I offer them to my friend Sammy and tell her I can’t possibly have another bite, ‘estoy empalagado.’ Empalagar is a word used when you’ve had something so sweet you can’t even smell sugar anymore. When something is ‘empalagoso’ it means that it is very sweet, and probably best accompanied by coffee or water.
Este pastel está muy empalagoso. ¿Me pasas un cafecito para acompañar, por favor?
This cake is too sweet. Can I get some coffee to go with it, please?
4. Te Quiero
Speaking of sweet things, te quiero is one of my favorite Spanish phrases. This one is truly unique since it’s an expression that falls between ‘I like you’ and ‘I love you’. Te quiero is a universal phrase of affection, and it can be used to address friends, family, and significant others alike. It’s a phrase that indicates closeness to one another, without going too far nor falling short of said feeling.
Gracias por traerme al aeropuerto. ¡Te quiero!
Thanks for bringing me to the airport. Love you!
Al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda. It’s a phrase my grandma tells me every time I sleep in on family trips. That’s the Spanish version of ‘the early bird gets the worm,’ whose literal translation is ‘the one who wakes up early, God will help.’ In this case, ‘waking up early’ is summarized by the word madrugar, which implies getting up before the sun does. La madrugada starts at 1:00 am and ends at 5:00 am, but lazy people will say they have to madrugar at 8:00 am!
Mañana tenemos que madrugar para escalar temprano el volcán.
Tomorrow we get up at the crack of dawn to start climbing the volcano early.
Estrenar is a very special word, one that is almost always filled with joy. Estrenar means ‘to try out for the first time.’ You can use it when driving your new car for the first time, or when you put on those brand new pair of shoes you got for your birthday.
Estoy estrenando carro, lo acabo de sacar de la agencia.
It’s my first time driving the car. I just got it from the dealership.
Most university students are familiar with this one. It’s finals week and there’s too much to do, papers line up the desk, covering its every last corner. The coffee machine is brewing the next pot as notes are reviewed in preparation for the toughest week of the semester. Estar desvelado means to be sleep-deprived, and the word itself comes from a very interesting place. Velar refers to a state of vigilance, and the prefix des implies a lack of, so desvelar literally translates to ‘being out of vigilance,’ which is a very accurate description of how people look and act when they’re sleep-deprived. Remember to always catch some z’s and avoid el desvelo! It’s been proven that proper sleep is integral to memory retention.
La fecha de entrega es mañana. Me va a tocar desvelarme para terminar el trabajo.
The deadline is tomorrow. I’ll have to stay up all night to finish all the work.
This word is very unique, and while it has several approximations in English, I feel there’s no way to express this feeling in another language. Desesperado could be described as being fed up. In some cases, it can mean the same as desperate, but desesperado can go beyond that definition. Other times, it can be better described as impatience. Desesperado is like a salad of emotions that include annoyance, impatience, hopelessness, and anger. All that sounds quite negative, but there are different levels of desesperación, from standing in a seemingly endless queue to looking around your house for five hours because you can’t fund the car keys.
Esa alarma lleva 10 minutos sonando, ya me tiene desesperado.
That alarm has been going off for 10 minutes. I’m fed up with it.
My psychology teacher said to me once: ‘El deseo es más fuerte que las ganas.’ Ganas is a word used to express a want, coupled with an impulse leading to that action. It’s stronger than being in the mood for something but not as powerful as desire. So, my teacher’s phrase refers to that moment when you really don’t want to start your Spanish lesson, but your desire to learn is bigger, so you get up and do it anyways. Ganas is similar to whim, without the sudden and unexplainable nature of the word.
Tengo ganas de ver tele y comer comida chatarra.
I feel like watching television and eating junk food.
Ajeno is a word that describes all that is outside of oneself, something that corresponds to someone else, or that feels unrecognizable. Ajeno applies to feelings, topics, and conversations. Ajeno can also be used to describe freedom from something. If someone is ajeno to sadness, that means this person does not know how sadness feels like, for example.
Nunca había ido a un bar de salsa, me sentía ajeno a ese ambiente.
I had never gone to a salsa bar before. I felt like a stranger in that place.
Which word was your favorite?
Personally, mine is te quiero. It’s amazing how learning another language can give us new ways to express ourselves! If you want to get a head start on Spanish, I suggest you try out a free class with one of our teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy!Read More
As a native Spanish speaker, I’ve had the pleasure to work with people from all over the world. One of the common themes that I see my coworkers struggling with is Spanish pronunciation. Now, this is not because it’s a hard language to speak, but because they can be a little shy about their accent. From my experience, most Latinoamericanos greatly appreciate when a person makes an effort to work on their pronunciation, even if it’s not perfect. The best way to improve your Spanish pronunciation is to talk, sing, and interact with people in the language. By reading the following guidelines, you’ll have the edge you need to skyrocket your pronunciation skills to a whole new level!
5 vowels, 5 sounds
Vowels in Spanish are one of the simplest concepts to learn, but when your native tongue has several ways to say the same letter, like those tricky English vowels, it can become confusing. To make things a bit easier, you’ll find a chart below with English words that contain the appropriate vowel sounds for Spanish:
The letter ‘u’ can be tricky. In English, the ‘u’ sounds like ‘you’, but in Spanish, the sound is more similar to ‘oo’. Think of “A spooky ghost saying boo!” as a fun phrase that will help you with pronunciation. Many Spanish learners struggle with the pronunciation of vowels. What helps them get better is to focus on the 5 basic sounds when speaking. A great word to practice with is murciélago (bat) because it has every single vowel in it! So if you want to practice, remember the pronunciation ‘moor-see-ay-lah-goh’. Once you master that, you’ll be ahead of the Spanish game!
These words give you a rough understanding of the sounds attributed to each vowel in Spanish. Now, how do you even start to polish these sounds? A well-known method that is also fun to do, is singing! You can try singing along to the Spanish version of “A Whole New World” sung by our Spanish experts, as well as the timeless classic Cri Cri, used to teach Spanish to kids all over Latinoamérica.
Let’s see the letter C
The letter ‘c’ in Spanish has 3 different pronunciations. Much like in English, there’s the soft ‘c’, the hard ‘c,’ and the ‘ch’ sound. The pronunciation for the soft ‘c’ is much like the ‘s’ in English, and the hard ‘c’ sounds a lot like a ‘k;’ the ‘ch’ sound is the same one as in English too. Below you’ll find a handy chart with examples for the different kinds of pronunciation!
The last sound in this chart, ’cu’, has a sound that is exactly the same as the ’kw’ in English. Words like ’clockwise’ and ’kwanza’ are good examples. The ‘ch’ sound is much like the English sound for those letters. Words like chalice, champion, and clutch all have the same ‘ch’ sound as the Spanish words chile, chocolate, and chicle (pepper, chocolate, and gum).
Did you know?
One of the first differences between Spanish and Latino accents is the way we pronounce our Cs? In Spain, they differentiate the ’c’ from the ‘s’, while in Latin America we use the same soft pronunciation for both! This is just an interesting nuance of the language in between continents and has no impact on understandability at all.
Pronouncing the letter “G”
When I was in middle school, I remember feeling overwhelmed when trying to learn the different ways the letter ‘g‘ is used. While it is not hard by any means, it does require some memory and practice before it becomes second nature. The basic rules for the ‘g’ are similar to the ‘c,’ so try mastering the ‘c’ pronunciation before this one to minimize the difficulty at the time of practicing.
There are two main sounds with this letter: the strong and soft ‘g.’
The strong ‘g’ is probably the easiest one to start with because it’s exactly the same as the ‘g’ used in English. The word ‘gulp’ is the perfect example of how the soft G should be pronounced. The soft ‘g’, on the other hand, is a sound that is not found in the English language by default. So, how does the soft ‘g’ even work? The fastest way to learn this is by hearing it in our detailed video about Spanish pronunciation! To give you an idea of what a strong ‘g’ sounds like, think about the letter ‘h’ in English. The soft ‘g’ is like a raspier version of it.
When to pronounce a soft or strong G?
Special use of G
Now we know when a ‘g’ should be strong or soft! Sometimes, however, you’ll encounter words that will sound like ‘ge’ and ‘gi’ but with a hard sound. Oh no! How can we tell the difference?
There’s actually a very easy way to tell when you need to use a strong ‘g’ on these occasions, and it has to do with the letter ‘u.’ When you find a ‘u’ between ‘ge’ or ‘gi,’ that’s when you’ll need to use a strong G, while the U itself stays silent.
Did you know?
The concepts of strong and soft g are inverted in English and Spanish? What native Spanish speakers consider a ‘soft g’ is actually a ‘strong g’ if you’re speaking English! Keep this tidbit in mind and you may surprise your Spanish professor in your next class.
The great thing about learning a language is that you can learn it by interacting with others and connect with them. If you wish to learn more, and practice with some expert teachers, check out our Spanish learning programs, and don’t forget: practice makes perfect!
Keep practicing with our video!Read More