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
One of the most amazing sensory experiences you can have when visiting a country like Guatemala is visiting mercados (markets) to go shopping in Spanish! The market is an explosion of colors, sounds, and smells like no other! Not all of the smells are pleasant, but all of them are a part of the whole experience! And shopping in Spanish – or in any foreign language – is a very culturally enriching experience by itself! Also, if you’re already in Guatemala, you may want to visit at least of one the Top 5 Spring Break Destinations here!
And check out our latest video! If you’re an auditory learner, it will be a great way to learn some new phrases and vocabulary that will be useful in the market.
What is the mercado?
At the mercado, you will find colorful produce of all kinds – the known and the unknown. I don’t even know the name of tons of produce they sell there, but the colors are all so pretty!!! You will hear animals in the distance, women yelling the names of the products they sell, birds chirping, men walking around holding so many things you wonder how they can even walk, trucks pulling over, kids laughing, the chatter of people. You will get to smell all the fruits, vegetables, flowers, freshly prepared meals, and – also a part of it but least pleasant of them all – the freshly cut meat! Yes, this is all part of the shopping in Spanish adventure we’ll embark on today!
The market is also the place where you can get pretty much anything you can think of: from baby clothes through crafting supplies, fabrics, coal, grains – all the way to cooking utensils, stationery, and baskets – I have a thing for baskets! Now, in order to buy all the things that you may like or want to fill up that awesome shopping basket you will probably buy (I’m telling you, they are so cute!), you will need to know some vocabulary. So let’s explore the mercado together and learn how to shop in Spanish!
Knowing the Basics to Go Shopping in Spanish
Before we venture into the market, we need to learn some phrases that will be useful in order to know the prices of things. We will also need to know how to ask for a certain something.
Let’s start with prices:
Other useful sentences:
There will be a lot of not knowing what things are because there are tons of produce that we’re just not used to! It’s nice to know the names of things – and to have a little notebook to write the names down. The ladies at the mercado are usually super nice, so they can help you write it down if you nicely ask for help! Find even more tips on how to learn Spanish here!
*A little cultural sidenote:
Por favor and Gracias. Please and Thank You!
Politeness is very important in Guatemala. Wherever you go – but especially for the older women selling vegetables. Here, people will treat you very differently if you’re impolite to them – and not in a nice way! You’re visiting a different culture, so it’s important to take this into account! You’d appreciate the same if someone visited your house!
If you noticed, the conjugation of dar (deme) is in usted instead of in tú. (Deme is an imperative form – a command. Lee más about Spanish commands here and here!) Why? In Guatemala, we use the usted form to show respect to older people or to create a respectful distance between the person we’re speaking with and us. You can find a lot on personal pronouns here.
Let’s visit the mercado and go shopping in Spanish
Okay. First of all, whenever you go to the market for the first time, you should always make sure you have at least a couple of hours to spare. Why? Well, for starters, it really is a one-of-a-kind experience that is amazing to wander through. Secondly, if you’re like me, you’ll get lost at least a couple of times. I’ve been going to the same market for about a year and I still get lost often – Guatemalan markets are like labyrinths and everything is so colorful. It’s extremely easy to get distracted – and lost!
I live in Antigua Guatemala, where the headquarters of Homeschool Spanish Academy is! Whenever I go to the market, I visit the biggest one in Antigua! My first stop is always the veggies stand! To get there, I go past the stands with clothing and shoes, burned DVDs, electronics, and beauty supplies. I always make sure I’m on the right path a couple of times because everything looks the same and I get easily lost. Then…yes! Here we are on my favorite veggie stand on the corner close to the meat section (the only way I remember where it is).
So, we’re at the veggie stand now. I like the bigger ones because then I can buy everything at one place and also, the more things you buy, the better the price they will give you! This is not like a supermarket. Things are not tagged, so you need to ask how much everything is! Let’s start. What I normally get at the veggies, I take out my veggies groceries list.
My Mercado Shopping List
Shopping in Spanish at el supermercado
Although you can buy almost everything in the market, there are things I prefer to buy at the supermarket. Chicken is one of those things because I like to buy frozen chicken. Salmonella is a thing and sanitary conditions in Guatemala are usually not the best at the meat section of the mercado, so I’d rather not get sick. There are other products I also get at the grocery store because it’s just easier to buy them there.
Also, the supermarket is a completely different thing to the mercado. You can find signs on the aisles and prices on things! I know this sounds obvious, but believe me. Once you’ve been to a mercado, nothing is ever the same again. We do take a lot for granted! The signs and price tags do make shopping a lot easier – but the experience less memorable! Also, you’re less likely to get lost. So if you’re the less adventurous type and traveling alone, the supermercado might be a better option!
My Supermercado Shopping List
The other things
I like to buy my miel (honey) from a local honey farm because I’ve been to that place and I know those are happy bees, they produce high-quality honey and their honey has no added sugars (like many honeys do)! I also enjoy buying local and knowing exactly what I’m putting in my body! If you’re ever in Antigua Guatemala and are interested in bees, go pay them a visit! They offer honey farm tours: Bee Miel.
And then there are also huevos (eggs). I’m famous for always squishing avocados on my way back home. Every time, at least one avocado suffers the consequences of having been in my bag. So two conclusions from my avocado squishing times: 1) I’m not trusted with avocados anymore haha and 2) I prefer to buy eggs near my house because I don’t want eggs to suffer the same faith as avocados have multiples times. There’s this place that sells eggs and honey (yes, Guatemala is weird like that) just a couple of blocks away from my house. The chances I kill a whole carton of eggs in two blocks are very low, so I hope for the best!
This has all been about me and all the things I eat! I’d love to learn more about you, so go get your FREE CLASS so that we can talk about YOUR shopping list!Read More
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Dried flowers as carpets, fruit as carved trumpets, and colorful sawdust for everyone. It’s the half happiest season of all.”
Nope, not Christmas.
We are talking about Semana Santa, or ‘Holy Week’ in English. This is normally the time when Americans and Anglo-Saxons celebrate Easter around the world. However, as always, Latin America gives it more spice, and there’s not an Easter Egg in sight!
Setting the Scene
It is a week for the senses. This is second level to street food. Take a deep breath and smell the burning sawdust and incense you find in novelty stores that makes you feel like you are in Asia. But we aren’t, remember…only Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Semana Santa!
Feast your eyes on all the flowers, fruit, and dyed sawdust used to create elaborate street carpets feathered with green needles from pine trees.
Why the carpets you ask?
These beautiful creations are for people carrying carved wooden floats depicting scenes from the crucifixion story of Jesus. Don’t worry, we will touch more on that later (just keep in mind that it’s called a procession, or procesión).
Just to give you a taste, here is an interview from Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala. Yes, we know it is in Spanish, but take it all in. ¡No te preocupes! We will review the main points of their interviews.
Before you watch the inside scoop, here is some basic Semana Santa vocabulary that should help you out:
- Los cucuruchos– people who apply to the church to carry the floats processions through the streets to express their adoration for Christ and the church.
- Cargar– to carry a float in a procession
- Las alfombras– hand made carpets made in the streets for people who are carrying floats
- La procesión – a special parade for Semana Santa
First scene: You see all of the sawdust, flowers, and pine alfombras that we were talking about! The narration presents us with Antigua Guatemala getting ready for one of the biggest procesiones of the 7-day event: La procesión de la Merced Church.
Afterward, there is a pep talk from one of the organizers talking to the first round of 80 men who will carry this GIANT, ONE THOUSAND POUND, hand-carved float from the church of La Merced along the path made of alfombras. He encourages them,
Today is your time to enjoy and take pride in carrying [the float]. Maybe with a tear in your eye, thinking about the love of God and how he has given you the strength to move forward.”
This speaks to the reason why people want to participate in Semana Santa in this way. Holy Week is about Catholic devotion and acknowledgment of Jesus’ suffering in the days leading up to his crucifixion. By carrying and participating in las procesiones, you get to show devotion on a deeper level. If you watch los cucuruchos try to pick up the float, I think we can all say that they are devoted. Go team Semana Santa!
This concept of joy and devotion found in the Catholic Semana Santa traditions spills over into the following interviews.
The first is with a living and breathing cucurucho! He talks about what an honor it is for him to have the privilege to help lead the procession out of the church. Out of all his years of participating in Semana Santa, this is the first time when he does not have to wait on another street block or at a different location to swap with the first turn of cucuruchos.
It is really exciting, especially today because of all of the devotion and love and mysticism that each cucurucho experiences when they cargan (carry).”
The father in the next interview expounds:
Being a cucurucho is considered a big privilege in Semana Santa, as the tradition is passed down through generations,”
He has been practicing the tradition of Semana Santa for 28 years in his household. He is so excited to be celebrating this year with his oldest son.
People also participate as a way to celebrate their gratitude for miracles that they have seen happen in their lives. In the interview with the woman Rosi, she explains that she especially wants to cargar this year because her father recently recovered from a long-term illness. She does it out of thankfulness, and boy are we happy for her too!
Another fun fact that one of the interviewees points out is that Semana Santa is celebrated in most Spanish-speaking countries. The young girl, Monse, says that her family is actually from Chile, but they live in Antigua. At first, she did not like the traditions of making alfombras and having to cargar, but once her grandfather explained it to her she appreciated it from a new and fresh perspective. Most countries in Central and South America celebrate Semana Santa, but they are on a smaller scale with maybe one or two big procesiones, which is nothing compared to the whole week of procesiones in Antigua.
Now we find ourselves at a spectacular scene of music! As the cucuruchos prepare to wait at their stations to carry, the sixty-man band prepares to accompany them with some tunes. This orchestra has been preparing for 6 months just for Semana Santa! It is a full band with trumpets, flutes and, of course, crashing cymbals that can be heard from blocks away as the procesión follows the alfombras from the church.
The Final Product
It is incredible to believe that the planning and execution for only one procesión include seven thousand people and the procesión lasts only for fifteen hours!! Throughout the entire week, there are twenty tree procesiones all around Antigua, but the biggest ones are the ones that start on midnight of the Thursday that leads into Good Friday. People come from all over the world just to participate; turning the forty-five thousand population of Antigua to ONE MILLION PEOPLE.
The only Semana Santa comparable to that of Antigua, Guatemala is in Spain from which Semana Santa was born and was brought over to Latin America. No no no ladies and gentlemen, not an Easter egg in sight when it comes to these Latin American traditions!
So how can you celebrate? The easiest way to participate in Semana Santa is to make an alfombra. We encourage you to go outside and get creative! Use flower petals and pine tree needles to set your base. Now, use those pumpkin carving skills you save for Holloween to the task to carve out figures from fruits and veggies to adorn your carpet in the street. If you need inspiration, check out this how-to guide from Labor of Love with LOTS of pictures! We promise lots of fun and suspicious looks from your neighbors. The point is to enjoy yourself in participating with a tradition that has been blooming since 1521!
This has been HomeSchool Spanish Academy reporting live from Antigua, Guatemala for the Semana Santa Holy Week. Please stay tuned for more fun facts and, YES, pictures galore!
Don’t forget to talk to you Spanish teacher for more information about Semana Santa. Sign up for a Free Class here!
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Learning a new language can be daunting – the pronunciation, the grammar, the slang, the social nuances. Even when it’s a category 1 language like Spanish, the learning process can be quite intimidating, especially when you don’t know how to start.
There were two main things that held me back several years when learning Spanish: fear of making mistakes and lack of exposure. Now, I was exposed to Spanish as young as 5 years old, and I took classes and used audio books for about 6 years in middle school and high school. One year before I graduated, I took a trip to Peru. I was expected to be a translator since I was at the top of my Spanish class, but when I got there it was a complete shock. I did not understand one. Single. Word. Then, a few years later, I went to Guatemala and truly focused on my Spanish. Once I committed myself to Spanish immersion and practice with native speakers, I was holding conversations after one month and translating for my friends by 4 months. Now, complete fluency took a few years more, but that had to do more with learning the local jargon and perfecting the dreaded subjunctive. In those first months though, I did not take one single Spanish class. So, how was I able to learn so quickly? Well, I’ve put together some important points that helped me learn Spanish as a beginner. Hopefully, they will be of service to you as well!
1. Language Journal
I’m a visual learner. Still to this day, if I learn a new Spanish word, I cannot remember or reproduce it until I see it written. If you’re a visual learner like me, keeping a language journal is critical to the learning process. You can write down new words, make connections between them, study sentence structure….and the list goes on. Even if you’re not a visual learner, a language journal is still a great idea when learning Spanish as a beginner. You can write down new words you hear in a conversation or in a movie, mark down the pronunciation, and return to your notes at later times to keep practicing.
When learning a language, you are teaching your brain to think in a completely different way. Up until now, it has always thought and used English (unless English is not your first language!). In order to work towards Spanish fluency, your brain needs to create new pathways; it’s like digging a riverbed in a desert. At first, it will be extremely difficult, but with practice and repetition, the water will start flowing with ease. That’s where the journal comes in. You can’t expect yourself to remember every word you hear in class or in a conversation – you need reinforcement. With the language journal, you can write things down how you best understand and remember them. You can refer to your notes to practice or if you forget a word that’s on the tip of your tongue. It’s also extremely useful to have a small language journal to carry with you if you know you’re going to be situations that require Spanish conversation. I can tell you from personal experience that a language journal can be a lifesaver when you start learning Spanish as a beginner.
Like I said before, lack of exposure held me back from Spanish fluency for 6 years. 6 years! When I had accurate exposure to the Spanish language, I was conversing in months. Exposure to the language is absolutely essential when learning Spanish as a beginner, whether you’re 5 or 95! It may seem absolutely overwhelming initially, but remember what I said about building riverbeds in our brain? At first, the water trickles, but with practice, it will soon start flowing.
Taking Spanish classes with a native English speaker may seem easier for you, but in the end, it will cost you – possibly even 6 years! Take the leap. Expose yourself to the Spanish language. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling to Latin America and completely immersing yourself in the culture and language (Although, if you get the chance, I highly recommend it). There are plenty of opportunities for exposure right where you are.
- Movies and Television – You may think that it’s not possible to learn a language this way, but I have met so many people who learned to speak English just by watching movies and TV shows like ‘Friends.’ It takes commitment, but it’s possible! This is a great way to get Spanish exposure at no extra cost, especially if you have young learners. Netflix is a great option as well because you can choose from shows in Spanish (like Narcos or Reina del Flow) and shows that have a mix of English and Spanish, or ‘Spanglish’ (Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time). Subtitles are another great tool to increase your Spanish exposure and comprehension. Learn more about how to use them to learn Spanish as a beginner here.
- Community – About 51 million people speak Spanish in the United States. Get out and make some friends! I know it can be awkward to start speaking your second language with a native speaker – trust me, I avoided it for a very long time. However, nothing can help you more than taking that step and initiating conversation with a native speaker.
- Online Classes – Here at Spanish Academy, we offer high-quality online Spanish classes to students of all ages around over the world. These classes are unique because they are taught by native speakers whose goal is to improve your Spanish fluency. You get great exposure to the language, a personal tutor to answer all your questions, and reinforcement materials. Instead of traveling all the way to Latin America, you can get the same benefits right in the comfort of your own home. Try a Free Class today to see if it’s a right fit for you!
So you have your vocabulary words written in your handy-dandy notebook. You increased your exposure to the language using one of the suggestions above. Now comes the scary part. Actually talking. I avoided conversing in Spanish for such a long time, thinking I wasn’t ready yet. Turns out, it was what I needed most of all. If you just do bookwork and never practice speaking, you’ll never be ready to hold a conversation. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to start conversations in Spanish even as a beginner. In my personal experience, many native Spanish speakers wanted to speak English with me so they could practice. However, when I expressed my desire to learn and improve my Spanish, they were more than happy to help me. I am forever grateful to them for their patience as they listened to me stumble through sentences and repeated themselves various times until I understood what they were saying. Find someone you feel comfortable with (possibly even with a personal instructor from Spanish Academy) and ask to practice your Spanish with them.
Of course, learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Everyone learns in a unique way at their own speed. You will make mistakes – I still do, in both languages! However, if you are persistent in learning Spanish and use the right tools, you will progress towards fluency. Don’t get frustrated!
Also, you will be surprised at how patient people are when you try to speak to them in their native language. When I was learning Spanish as a beginner, I was afraid they would get frustrated or not understand me. However, it was quite the contrary. The people around me understood what I was trying to say and helped me express myself in a more natural way. They were incredibly forgiving and so delighted that I was making an effort to communicate with them in Spanish.
‘La práctica hace al maestro.’ Practice makes perfect. This is especially true when talking about learning a language and creating those pathways in your brain. The more you practice, the easier Spanish will come. One great tool I can recommend to learn Spanish as a beginner is language apps. They aren’t the same as having your own Spanish teacher, but they are a great way to reinforce what you are learning in class or what you heard in your Spanish conversations. Check out our top 4 apps of 2019, and pick which one would best for your language needs. For complete beginners, I would recommend Drops.
To learn Spanish as a beginner, you need to make sure you have some sort of exposure to Spanish every day, whether that be through apps, TV, conversations, or classes. Taking a class here and there or using Duolingo once a month will not get you to fluency. Keep practicing diligently, and you will see impressive results in as little as a few months!
To learn more about our Spanish program and the classes we offer, click here. If you want to know why our method works, check out this blog, which also explains more about the way our brains function. And, of course, don’t forget to sign up for a free class today! When learning Spanish as a beginner, it really helps to have a native speaker help you through the process and answer all your questions. Choose your personal instructor from our 60+ teachers to guide you on the path towards Spanish fluency. ¡Empieza hoy!
Did you know that there are numerous words in Spanish that have multiple meanings? If so, great! We’ll learn more about it today! If not, let me introduce you to the first of many tiny Spanish words that have a LOT of meanings: ya.
Ya in Spanish can function as:
Now, what do these three weird words mean?
- You may already be familiar with adverbs, or words that describe and modify verbs. They are to verbs what adjectives are to nouns.
- The car goes fast.
- Locutions are expressions that are different than the usual meaning of the stand-alone word and are used in specific circumstances. Locutions can either consist of one single word or a phrase. We use the term locution to refer to a word or set of words that mean an entire concept.
- Pues ya veremos.
- Oh well, we’ll see.
- We also use ya in Spanish colloquially. In other words, we use the word in an informal fashion or in a more comfortable environment. For example, you can use the colloquial ya expressions we’ll discuss today with friends and family, but never for a formal occasion like a job interview!
- ¡Ay, nada que ver!
- Literal translation: Oh, nothing to see.
- Interpreted translation: Oh, it has nothing to do with it.
The various uses of ‘ya’
‘Ya’ in Spanish: Adverbs
When we use ya in Spanish as an adverb, its meaning depends on the context. We use it:
*What is a distributive conjunction:
Conjunctions are words that join other words, clauses, phrases, or sentences. Some examples are: and, or, but, since, because, when, while. Distributive conjunctions are not a thing in English. However, in Spanish, we use them to present two ideas that are equally important, which can be either complementary or contradictory.
‘Ya’ in Spanish: Locutions
As mentioned above, locutions are expressions that can either consist of one single word or a whole phrase and have a meaning other than the usual meaning of the stand-alone word. There are several different types of locutions! The type depends on the function the locution has in the sentence. Let’s look at some ejemplos:
Check this link out to see more uses of ‘mero’.
‘Ya’ in Spanish: Colloquialisms
Colloquialisms are words or expressions we use in a more informal fashion, or in a more comfortable and familiar environment. Explore these Spanish Quotes to find more hidden language gems. Ya in Spanish as a colloquialism can be a:
As a parent, you want the best for your child – especially where education is concerned. When it comes to foreign language, sometimes our local options fall short as we don’t always have access to native teachers. Therefore, many people turn to online alternatives for second-language courses, such as Spanish classes. However, good Spanish programs can be lengthy and difficult, especially if you choose a program that doesn’t fit your child’s needs. Is it worth it to invest in a private instructor? Do Spanish textbooks alone work? What about the multiple online software programs?
Weighing your options is always a good idea. Below, you will find 5 popular alternative Spanish classes for children and teenagers. If you are looking at courses for adults, please visit our blog here. ¡Vamos!
Although you may not consider these options to be exclusively ‘online’ programs, they are quite popular with families looking for Spanish fluency. These applications are very similar in structure (for a more detailed description, click here) and offer interactive activities to enforce learned vocabulary and grammar. Memrise has a more game-like vibe, while Duolingo is a little more focused on grammar. However, with Memrise you can choose from hundreds of Spanish courses made by users. This ensures your child learns what they need for their level or what peaks their interest. Duolingo also offers a placement test so your students start right at the level they need.
You can find both programs online or on your phone as an application. The free versions offer a variety of language learning options, such as games, vocabulary exercises, pronunciation, and writing. Although there are not live teachers helping your child along, he or she can watch short videos of natives speaking and listen to authentic pronunciations.
Rosetta Stone is a favorite among families looking for authentic Spanish classes. Developed in 1992, this program is a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software. In other words, the student learns with an automated program.
The platform uses images, text, sound, and repetition to help your child learn Spanish. It also analyzes aspects of your student’s progress to help them learn at their own pace and enjoy the process. For example, it tracks how many questions the student answered correctly, how accurate their pronunciation is, and how long each lesson is taking. However, like the apps, there is no live instructor to help the student along.
So, those first two options don’t offer any live teachers to guide your child through their learning journey. A private instructor is always a plus, especially if your child is quite young. Are there any affordable options available with personal instructors? Let’s look at the Kids’ Club Spanish School.
This platform is a bit newer, created in 2017. The classes allow the child to sit down with a live teacher and interactive software to learn Spanish. The backbone of the program is the
Panda Tree is another program that offers live Spanish instruction at your own convenience. This one offers classes in both Chinese and Spanish, and it has been in operation for 5 years. Just like the Kids’ Club Spanish School, the classes utilize interactive software ideal for younger children. This way, kids can sit down with their teacher as if they were in a real classroom. The learners also have access to additional songs and activities to practice with outside of class.
However, this platform doesn’t offer a free trial class to see if it is a good fit for your child. Another drawback both Panda Tree and Kids’ Club Spanish School have is that there is a maximum age limit. Many high school students need Spanish credits to graduate or to apply to college, but these programs are geared mainly towards younger students.
Spanish Academy, though, offers live classes to all ages – preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school. There is even a program for you, mom and dad! This platform combines personal classes at your convenience with a written curriculum so your child has a complete learning experience. If you have two kids that want to learn together, you can even sign them up to study at the same time. That way, they can have more fun learning Spanish together!
Best of all, the price for classes are significantly lower than both Panda Tree and Kids’ Club Spanish School, even though all three programs offer live, personalized classes online. The only drawback is that availability with Spanish Academy may be limited during the school year because of its great popularity.
Is your little learner ready to start learning Spanish? Click here to sign up for a free class today and give your child a brighter future!Read More
A big part of communication happens through spoken language. As opposed to written language, or the words we read and write, spoken language is everything we speak and hear. Another type of language we utilize is body language, or nonverbal communication. You may be wondering, what does this all have to do with TV and learning Spanish? Well, keep reading & you’ll find out how to learn Spanish by watching TV!
To learn more about the different types of communication and how they impact our interactions with others check out this blog post.
If we think of spoken language, we can divide it into two parts:
- What goes out – the words we say
- What goes in – the words we hear
We know that language learning is a skill like any other, and to get better at it, practice is key! If we are learning to speak Spanish, we need to actually speak Spanish. Before we can have a conversation, though, we need to understand spoken Spanish. One way to better our comprehension is consistently listening to Spanish! The thing is, Spanish has numerous sounds that the English language doesn’t, so we need to train our ears to get accustomed to this new world of sounds. And why not learn Spanish by watching TV?
Fun fact: did you know that some languages only exist in spoken form? In some languages, there are no written words to the spoken ones! According to Ethnologue, almost half of the over 7,000 spoken languages around the globe have no written form. Isn’t that fascinating?
Mashed Potatoes vs. French Fries
Let’s be honest. When you’re just starting to learn Spanish (or any language), and you hear people speak, it’s hard to point out where one word ends and another begins. At first, hearing the language feels more like mashed potatoes when in reality every word is a French fry! The more we listen to Spanish, the easier it will become to recognize the different sounds, and where words begin and end. It will be easier to pull the French fries out of the potato mash!
Now, how can we use all this knowledge to our advantage when learning Spanish? We’re very lucky to live in an age when technology offers so many different options that we can use differently depending on the level of our language skills. Let’s learn Spanish by watching TV! Series, movies, documentaries, cartoons…anything with spoken words will be of great help on our path to becoming fluent Spanish speakers!
Talking about technology, why don’t you check out our blog post on the Top 4 Spanish Apps of 2019!
Learn Spanish by watching TV
Let’s go back to words being French fries! Some fries are only seasoned with salt and pepper, while other fries are so heavily seasoned you can barely taste the potatoes! That’s exactly what happens with Spanish and all its different accents! While some are very easy to understand because the speakers pronounce words very clearly, other accents are an entirely different story!
Spanish is my native language, and there are series and movies in Spanish that I’ve watched with English or Spanish subtitles. Why? Because sometimes I want to focus on the plot instead of on trying to understand what people are saying. This is entirely normal: my ear is not accustomed to such an accent! If you need subtitles as a Spanish learner, don’t feel bad because even I as a native speaker need them sometimes too. You and I are definitely not alone on this!
Speaking of different accents, this blog post will help you improve your own accent.
Where to Start
¡Empecemos! Go to Netflix or your preferred streaming service. Pick out your favorite cartoon, series, or movie. Yes, that one you’ve watched at least once (but probably more times than you’d like to admit) in English. Choose to watch the Spanish dubbed version with English subtitles! Wait a second. What?! The original is in English and I’m saying you should choose to hear it in Spanish with subtitles in English? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Why? Well, there are two reasons for this:
- You’ve watched this before, and you know what to expect. You know the plot and the characters so your brain already has an idea of what it will be about. This means you’ll have a fun time watching something you like even if you don’t understand everything you hear. It also allows your brain to focus on learning these new sounds with everything you hear!
- The language used on dubbed versions is a lot more neutral than the one from series or movies originally filmed in Spanish because it’s meant to cater to different audiences in various regions. Therefore, this is a great place to begin!
Where to Continue
Once you are past level 1, any of the following combinations will be great to continue learning Spanish by watching TV:
- Spanish audio with English subtitles: This will help train your ear to the sound of Spanish.
- Spanish audio with Spanish subtitles: You’ll hear and read very similar information. Therefore, you’ll start connecting spoken words to written words!
- English audio with Spanish subtitles: This will help you get used to Spanish spelling and written language.
And what should you watch? I don’t want to recommend anything in particular because whatever you watch should be fun for YOU! Learning Spanish by watching TV is educational without you even realizing it because it is so enjoyable! My only recommendation on this aspect is to start with series or cartoons, as movies are way longer and you don’t want your brain to be overwhelmed! We want this to be a fun ear-training activity!
My Personal Experience
Very often, people ask me where I learned English. This is not an easy question for me to answer because English is the only language other than my native tongue I didn’t primarily learn in a classroom – as was the case with German, Italian, French, and Latin. Instead, I learned English in a very organic way. I watched TV and played video games in English! What did I watch? I chose cartoons, series, documentaries, and movies! And even though it never felt like learning, I was learning English and training my ears to the sounds of the language.
It’s simple this time: pick a show you like and have fun while learning! And why not try a FREE CLASS with us to tell us about your experience learning Spanish by watching TV!
¡Hola, vos! Vos. Who or what is vos in Spanish? In English, we use the personal pronoun ‘you’ when referring to the second person singular (or plural – don’t worry, we’ll save that one for another time!). In Spanish, however, there are different ways to refer to the same concept! Before we start, take a moment to review the basics of Spanish Pronouns.
Now, you’ve probably heard of tú, the most standard form. There is also usted, which we use to show respect or create distance between us and the person we’re speaking with. And then there is vos! Have you heard about vos before? Why is there even a need for three words that refer to the same concept? Let’s just say, one of the beauties of language is that it doesn’t always make sense!
The following vocabulary will be useful throughout this post:
Vos in context
Vos is mostly a part of informal speech. If you imagine a horizontal line, usted is on the very left wearing formal attire, tú is right in the middle being all dressy casual, and vos is on the far right end wearing jeans and a T-shirt. In some places or circumstances, vos might even be more informal, wearing shorts and flip-flops. It all depends on the social context and region!
Interestingly enough, vos originates from an archaic form of Spanish in which vos was the way to address kings and other important people. Back then, it was the way to show respect in Spain! As the Spanish language continued evolving both in the old continent and in the Americas, the formal use of vos disappeared from common speech.
Vos in its formal form is now only used during special ceremonial events or in literary works that reflect the language of other times. A great example of a literary work that uses vos in the formal form is the oldest preserved Spanish epic poem: El Cantar de mio Cid.
The use of vos doesn’t only have an impact in the conjugation of the present tense. It also influences the conjugation of the verb when used in an imperative mood – when using commands: (vos) hacé instead of (tú) haz, (vos) tené instead of (tú) ten. If you need a refresher on basic Spanish commands, visit our Spanish commands blog.
The conjugation of verbs in the subjunctive also changes: (vos) hagás instead of (tú) hagas, (vos) tengás instead of (tú) tengas.
In the tables below you can see examples of the conjugation of regular and irregular verbs in the present tense, imperative, and subjunctive!
As you can see, the irregular verbs conjugated in vos have more of a regular verb conjugation since the stem doesn’t always change as it does with the verb conjugated in tú:
Different forms of vos
As you know, Spanish is the official language of many countries: 21 to be exact! Go have a look at some of the flags of these countries here. The Spanish language has evolved differently in various regions. Therefore, there are three forms of ‘
- vos pronoun paired with the vos conjugation
- tú pronoun paired with the vos conjugation
- vos pronoun paired with the tú conjugation
Let’s have a look at some examples:
Vos in a map
As mentioned above, how people use vos in Spanish depends on the region or country. This distinction encompasses both the combination of pronoun and conjugation and the context in which speakers use vos. Below you can find some examples from different regions:
Mexicans mainly use both the tú pronoun and conjugation. Only in southern states like Tabasco and Chiapas speakers use vos in very specific social contexts: it’s either used by the unschooled population or in the family circle of educated people.
Most Central American countries generally accept the use of vos in all social classes. Slightly more formal situations require the use of tú pronoun + tú conjugation. The use of vos has two levels in this region:
- Most common: tú pronoun + vos conjugation
- More informal: vos pronoun + vos conjugation
Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay
The region of Río de Plata accepts the use of the vos pronoun + vos conjugation without any reservations. However, using the pronoun tú + vos conjugation can be seen as more prestigious than using the vos pronoun + vos conjugation. To learn more about Spanish in this particular region, visit Spanish from Argentina, That Voseo Thing.
So, recuerda (tú) or recordá (vos) – just keep in mind – that if you ever want to use vos, you should first learn how it is used in the country or region you’re in! In some regions, you only use the vos pronoun, vos conjugation, or both together. And while in some places it’s okay to use it the first time you meet someone, in others you only use it when you’re really close to the other person.
It may seem like a lot to take into account just for one pronoun, but practice makes it a lot easier. ¡Vos podés! Are you ready to practice? We have exercises for you with a helpful answer key. Start today!Read More
Nothing beats the smell of a fresh textbook, newly sharpened pencils, and a bright, clean eraser. At least, for those of us who liked school. But you have to admit – even if you didn’t like school, brand new school supplies always seemed to bring a sense of fresh beginnings. You had the chance to start over – a new you, new classes, new friends.
Now, maybe you’re still in school, or perhaps those years are well behind you. Either way, the fact remains the same that online learning is surging in popularity – despite missing out on those exciting new school supplies. How can you get the same level of quality that in-person classes offer while studying online? Let’s be real. There may be classes available near us, but our hectic schedules and thin wallets don’t always allow us that privilege. So, logically, we turn to online tools but get overwhelmed by the options.
Lucky for you, we’re here to help you discover how to learn Spanish online!
Pick a program that is right for you
Before you get bombarded by the thousands of results that come up when you google ‘how to learn Spanish online,’ you should decide what type of online classes will work best for you.
Why do you want to learn Spanish online?
Of course, we all want to learn Spanish for different reasons. Maybe you want your children to learn Spanish from a young age, or perhaps you want to travel to Latin America on your next vacation. You may even need Spanish to finish school or for your work. Whatever your reasons, clearly defining your learning goals will definitely help you pick the perfect program for you.
- If you are looking to learn Spanish online as a supplemental tool to your regular classes, then I would definitely recommend an app or programs like Memrise or Duolingo. These programs will not get you to fluency, but they are a great supplemental tool to practice Spanish (or any other language, for that matter) while on the go or in short periods of time.
- One of the most important aspects of language learning is actually speaking. If you are looking for a platform that has an extra special focus on pronunciation, I would have to recommend Pimsleur. This program sells packages of audio lessons that you can listen to at home or on your way to work. Every time a word or phrase is introduced, the teacher breaks down the pronunciation for you in a very simple, straightforward way.
- There are a couple of courses that are specifically designed to help with conversation to make sure you are equipped to travel abroad. Pimsleur does this through their audio courses by utilizing relevant conversation phrases and prompting the listener to respond appropriately. Another tool is Babbel. Similar to Duolingo and Memrise in its setup, its software directly focuses on dialogue and conversational skills.
- Rosetta Stone is a very well-known language program for both students and adults. It teaches the student Spanish through a more natural method, just like how kids learn their native tongue from their parents. Instead of translation, it focuses on teaching implicitly. Another option for school Spanish would be Homeschool Spanish Academy, or HSA. This course has programs specifically designed for students if all ages – especially those looking for high school courses. Instead of sitting in a large class, listening to a non-native speaker teach Spanish, HSA offers live one-on-one classes. The classes help each student reach fluency while learning the same material offered in most schools.
- For those of you looking for courses specifically for kids, I found two great programs expressly geared towards your little ones. The first is Panda Tree. While other platforms offer various languages, Panda Tree offers only Spanish and Chinese, giving it expertise in those two languages. The programs are designed for children to have live teachers and interactive dynamics. Similarly, HSA also has classes just for kids, and only teaches Spanish. This is great for those of you wanting to learn Spanish online because you know you’re working with experts in the language. HSA has its own curriculums for each age group, and the teachers work with the children to create fluency using the curriculum and engaging activities.
- Honestly, you could use any of these options mentioned to prepare for your trip abroad. It all depends on how serious you are about learning Spanish online. If you just want to know a couple of phrases to survive on your trip, I would recommend sticking with the free apps. However, if you plan on staying for an extended period of time, or if you want to be able to converse with the locals, a program like Babbel or HSA is the way to go. Although HSA’s classes are structured around its own curriculum, just mention that you want to focus on travel, and the teacher will accommodate accordingly.
Cost to learn Spanish online
But…how are you going to choose between one of these courses? Well, the price is normally the deciding factor. Each program sells its classes and software differently, but let’s compare the costs.
Both Duolingo and Memrise have free or Premium options. While you can learn a decent amount just with the free account, there are benefits to paying a little extra. For example, with Memrise you can get extra practice with all those difficult words that you just can’t quite remember.
- Duolingo – $9.99/month
- Memrise – $5.00-$8.99/month
Although it may seem that Babbel is also mainly free, you actually need a subscription to get access to the lessons.
- Babbel – $6.95-12.95/month
Those are the cheapest programs to learn Spanish, and if you want a more intense program, you will have to pay more.
- Rosetta Stone – $179 for 1 level, $479 for 5 levels
- Pimsleur – $550 for 5 levels, or $15-$20/month for a subscription
Of course, none of these courses have a live tutor. So, how much more do you have to pay to learn Spanish online as if you were in a real class? If you opt for private tutors, such as those offered through Italki, you could be looking at $30 per class. Likewise, the classes from Panda Tree can range all the way up to $45 per session.
- Panda Tree – $19-25 per class of 25 minutes, $34-45 per class of 50 minutes
Is there any way to get quality classes with a live tutor without breaking your wallet? Well, the classes with HSA come as low as $6.65 per live class! That’s over half the price of Panda Tree for live, one-on-one classes that can be tailored to your student’s needs.
- Homeschool Spanish Academy – $6.65-9.93 per class of 25 minutes, $9.98-14.60 per class of 50 minutes.
Start learning Spanish online
Alright! We’ve given you the basics for just a couple of the online Spanish programs. There are many more options, of course, but these are just a few of the more popular choices.
If you are looking for high-quality, live classes that actually get you to fluency, we would invite you to try our Free Trial Class. These classes are tailored to your needs and won’t send you into bankruptcy. ¡Pruébalo!Read More