It’s moving day guys! How many times have you moved? In the first 3 months of our marriage, my husband and I moved 4 times, and we are constantly traveling to visit family. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of experience packing and moving – and I don’t particularly like it! It can be such a stressful experience, especially if you’re doing it in a foreign country. With all this experience of moving around a Spanish-speaking country, though, I have picked up some key vocabulary in Spanish that will hopefully help make your next move go smoothly.
If you ever need to move to a Spanish-speaking country, or if you have Spanish-speaking workers help you move in the States, the following vocabulary and phrases will definitely help you make the moving process go smoothly. Let’s check them out!
One English Word, Two Spanish Words
Did you catch that first word in the chart? To move? It is not mover, as you might have thought, but mudarse! Be very careful with this one, as it is a common mistake for Spanish learners to use mover when talking about moving to a new home. Mover is for every type of movement, except moving to a new house! That is exclusively mudarse. I’m not quite sure why moving to a new home has a separate word in Spanish, but if you think about all the work that goes into packing, relocating, and unpacking, it is a quite different idea from other movements that we do throughout the day. It is a pronominal verb as well, so keep that in mind when talking about where and when you’re moving. Check out these phrases to help you in your conversations:
Nos vamos a mudar a Argentina.
We’re going to move to Argentina.
Me mudé a Guatemala en 2013.
I moved to Guatemala in 2013.
¿Estás pensando en mudarte?
Are you thinking about moving?
Él se muda a España el viernes.
He is moving to Spain on Friday.
Remember that with pronominal verbs, we include a reflexive pronoun. The placement of that pronoun can vary depending on the sentence, as shown in the sentences above. For more information on where to place the reflexive pronoun, click here.
Another English word that has two potential Spanish translations is ‘to live.’ Yes, as you probably guessed, the most common translation in vivir. However, there is another word that translates to live, which is morar. The first time I saw this word, it was in the past participle form he morado (I have lived), and I was thoroughly confused. I have purple? Purple is a verb? While it may look like the word for purple in Spanish (morado), it is not! It is another way to say ‘to live,’ or more formally, ‘to dwell.’ In English, ‘to dwell’ sounds very formal, and so you may tend to reserve the use of morar for equally formal occasions like I have (I’m not sure that I have ever used morar in conversation). However, it does not exclusively mean such a formal idea! It is also a synonym for vivir, and I have heard it used several times in informal conversation. This is just something to keep in mind as you talk to people in Spanish about where you have lived and are living.
What is your role on moving day? Are you the one listening to commands, obediently carrying and packing boxes? Or are you the one giving the commands, making sure everything is in order? Either way, you need to know how to use and understand commands in Spanish! For a more in-depth look at the imperative voice (commands), check out Spanish Commands Part 1 and Part 2.
In English, the verbs don’t change when we give a command:
I put it over there. / You put it over there.
Put it over there!
Can you see how the verb ‘put’ stays the say in general statements and a commanding sentence? Unfortunately, the Spanish command form isn’t quite that simple. There are different conjugations for each person you could give a command to (tú, usted, ustedes). We don’t have a conjugation for all the pronouns in the imperative form because you can’t give a command to yourself or to him or her. While we can’t give commands to ‘us,’ we do have a unique way of encouraging teamwork in both English and Spanish! In English, we would say something like, ‘let’s do this!’ or ‘let’s work together.’ In Spanish, the verb would actually take the subjunctive form to represent that idea of ‘let’s.’ It is often considered part of the command conjugations but is technically the subjunctive form!
In our chart above, there are several commanding sentences. Can you find some? They are all referring to either tú or nosotros. If you want to use those sentences with usted or ustedes, the verb would have to change. Let’s look at how some of them would change so you are completely prepared if you want to give a command to a group of people or someone you respect.
Are you able to see some patterns in how to conjugate the verbs in the imperative? Click here for more help! Poner is probably the most useful verb for moving day, and it is, unfortunately, an irregular verb. However, the imperative tú form is quite simple – pon. If you want to have just one simple phrase to remember for moving day, I would recommend the following: Pon eso allí. Put that there. It will get you through a lot of conversations when moving. Even if you don’t quite understand everything being said, the most important thing is where to put the boxes! With that little sentence, you can survive moving in Spanish!
Are you ready to move? Hopefully, with this blog, you are able to take away some of the stress of moving by having a straightforward list of key phrases for packing and moving in Spanish. If you think of any more words that you need to use for moving day, or if you want to translate a specific command or sentence, talk with one of our teachers! They are all native Spanish speakers, and they would love to help you. You can sign up for a FREE trial class here, or you check out how our classes work here. You don’t want to miss a chance to perfect your Spanish-speaking abilities. Sign up today and happy moving day! ¡Feliz día de mudanza!Read More
The rewarding challenge of raising bilingual children can often take an unexpected turn into confusion. Despite your best efforts, you notice that your child refuses to speak their home language. The frustrations mount and parents often begin to feel helpless in this situation. But wait, the good news is up ahead! If you have a young one who used to speak Spanish at home and has stopped, then this article may help you to understand why. Parents understand the benefit of being multilingual but, the truth is, most children simply do not. Even so, how can you encourage them to speak Spanish at home when it’s their native language? Let’s look at the reasons why they may refuse to speak it and what we can do to encourage a change.
The Bilingual Child’s Dilemma
In general, the benefits of being bilingual are not clear to a child caught between two worlds. Very often, they will decide that the minority language – the one spoken by fewer people in their daily experience – has to go. Two prominent theories about why this happens are (1) due to peer pressure, and (2) the breaking down of the person-language bond.
According to Barbara Abdelilah-Bauer, a French linguist, social psychologist, and founder of Café Bilingue, “[Dropping the home language] is something that often happens because children don’t want to be different from their friends at school.” In countries like the United States, for example, an average of only 2 out 10 of children are bilingual. In other words, the minority of children do not speak English at home. Unfortunately, this may contribute to the peer pressure they feel to conform to speaking English all the time as the community language.
The person-language bond refers to a strong psycho-emotional connection the child makes to a caretaker that also involves the chosen language they speak to one another. Let’s look at an example: a mother lives in an English-speaking community and chooses to speak Spanish-only to her son. As he grows, he realizes that he speaks Spanish with mom and English with everyone else. This strengthens his person-language bond with his mother and he will very likely refuse to speak English with her. If at some point the child’s mother begins to speak to him in English as well, it will quickly break down the strong language association that he had had with her. This will erode his need to speak Spanish to his mother and lead to him speaking to her in English, as it is the majority language in this example. “Children use the easiest strategy when it comes to languages. When they see that you understand and talk other languages that are more important at the moment (social environment, school, and friends) they will prefer those dominant languages,” says Ute Limacher-Riebold of ExpatSinceBirth.
What are other possible reasons they are not speaking Spanish?
Aside from the examples above that do not apply to everyone, what might be some other reasons that your child is not speaking Spanish at home?
- Discomfort: Make sure your child doesn’t feel pressured to speak Spanish in certain situations. This can lead to a sense of embarrassment that becomes associated with the language. Also, kids tend to notice if a parent feels uncomfortable speaking a certain language and they will eventually end up feeling the same way toward it.
- Few language resources: Does your child have a rich collection of books, DVDs, board games, computer games, and other language-heavy types of media? If not, then it’s time to start gathering as many Spanish-speaking resources as possible and make a space that grabs your child’s attention.
- Spanish is being learned, not lived: An important fact about language acquisition and usage is that the language must be relevant and meaningful for the child in order for them to use it. If it is being taught inside the home instead of being used in a meaningful way, it may lose its sense of purpose and its appeal.
- Not enough exposure: How many hours a week is your child exposed to Spanish-speaking situations? If less than 30% of their waking hours are spent in this kind of environment, you may want to consider adding more “living resources” (such as people and family members who only speak Spanish) to their daily life.
- The parent speaks the community language more often: How often do you find yourself speaking Spanish with your child or with the people in your life? Do you notice that you speak more frequently in the majority or community language? This can affect your child’s idea of how necessary or important it is to speak Spanish when another language is more dominant or frequently used.
Dormant or Passive Bilingualism?
While a child may choose to stop speaking Spanish for whatever reason, the good news is that they don’t typically lose their bilingual ability (unless they go years without any practice). To be most effective in encouraging a change in the child’s language choice, it’s important to understand whether your child is dormant or passive when it comes to Spanish fluency.
Sometimes, a person will go into a mode called dormant bilingualism, where, despite knowing two languages or more, they choose to interact with the world in only one language. Swiss psycholinguist, François Grosjean, says that this could be due to a “major life change such as immigration, the loss of a close family member, a separation, a change of jobs, or simply growing up and leaving one’s language community.” In this case, they would still have a strong fluency level in Spanish, but they no longer choose to speak it while they adapt to their new circumstances.
Passive bilingualism refers to a type of speaker who was exposed to a language since birth and has a native-like comprehension of it, but who did not develop an active command of speaking the language. In this case, they would need educational reinforcements and confidence-building to help them establish an ability to speak Spanish (not just understand it).
How to Encourage the Use of Home Language
Knowing and understanding whether your child is a dormant or passive bilingual will help you to choose which of the following suggestions would be the best fit! What are some ways we can encourage usage of the home language?
- Seek out Spanish social groups or playgroups so that your child is encouraged to speak in the language in order to interact and play.
- Foster settings where your child will no longer have the choice of not using Spanish by exposure to a Spanish club, tutors, family members with whom Spanish is the only way to communicate, online Spanish classes at Homeschool Spanish Academy, babysitters, and other children. You can also invite home-stay guests, or have them home-stay with a family that only speaks Spanish.
- Actively promote a greater level of exposure to Spanish each day. Try to aim for 25 hours of active listening and speaking time each week with at least 15 minutes a day reading (and writing, if possible).
- Focus on making a rich home library with Spanish books and read with your child every night. Make use of effective reading strategies.
- Engage in lots of conversation by telling stories or folklore that you may know, talking about interesting events from your life, and sharing jokes and riddles.
- Introduce your child to Spanish music, computer games, TV shows, and other media that are fun and entertaining.
- Build up a fun collection of Spanish games: board games, card games, word games, and storytelling games.
- Balance your child’s Spanish experience with providing a need to speak it and maintaining constant exposure to it.
- Limit the amount of time you spend speaking to your child in any language other than Spanish.
- When you ask your child questions, offer up different choices or options instead of expecting a simple yes or no. This gives you the chance to model a richer, fuller use of the language.
Benefits of Bilingualism
While it is no easy task to get your bilingual child back on track, it is possible to do! We hope that with this article you have learned more about why your child may no longer be speaking Spanish and how to inspire them to change. If you would like to encourage your child to practice speaking with a native Spanish-speaking teacher from Guatemala, enroll them in an online Spanish class at Homeschool Spanish Academy! They are guaranteed to speak Spanish after the first class.Read More
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
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
Did you know that in addition to individual and paired Spanish classes, Spanish Academy is the leading expert for teaching virtual Spanish classes to groups?
We have been piloting this program for 2 years, developing and fine-tuning a format that works best for classroom settings. Look no further – you can have a certified native Spanish-speaking teacher in your classroom this year!
1. Global Immersion Every Day
We all know that it’s best to learn Spanish from a native speaker – they have the proper accent, a grasp of colloquial language usage and cultural awareness (such as when to use formal and informal expressions). Exposure to native Spanish-speakers is just a click away and you can join the exciting world of Spanish language ¡ahora mismo! Better yet, you can have an international guest in your class every day and this will set your institution apart!
2. Your College Application Will Shine!
Schools look for unique experiences and perspectives when comprising their freshman class. What better experience than to have international interactions in each Spanish class! This will set you apart. Exposure to the world generally, and to language specifically, leads to more open-mindedness, better problem-solving skills, adaptability, and flexibility.
3. Your Student Will Begin Speaking Spanish on Day One
One of Spanish Academy’s main goals is to ensure that our students begin speaking Spanish on their first day! Our classroom format is ideal for schools, hybrid schools, and other organizations that want high-quality Spanish instruction at an affordable price.
4. Hire Us and We Will Do the Rest!
Tell us what day(s) you wish to hold your Spanish class and we will provide a teacher to support you! Students can enroll in classes by semester or for a full year.
Our customized classroom package includes all homework, quizzes, and exams as well as direct access with our Care Team. The Care Team will go out of their way to help you with registration, payment preferences (i.e. group or individual family billing), payment tracking, explanation of software requirements, virtual set-up assistance as well as grades and student progress.
In addition to the Care Team, Spanish Academy provides an online portal that lays out the class plan – inclusive of all curriculum, schedules, and syllabi. How convenient is that!? Also, the portal is used for uploading and accessing exams and quizzes.
Highly Qualified Teachers, Small Classes and Cost-Effective
Our teachers are specially certified to teach a classroom from Antigua, Guatemala. An on-site moderator should be onsite to ensure software set-up and classroom management, but other than that we run the class!
Classes are taught in small groups of 3-10 students for maximum student attention, language exposure and practice. For example, if you have a classroom size of 25, then the class would be taught in groups of 10, 10 and 5 students.
The group classes are a more affordable option in comparison to individual or paired packages offered through Spanish Academy. They are also significantly less expensive than if you hired a local full-time Spanish teacher.
Spanish Academy can create and design courses, as well as customize the curriculum based on your school’s needs. The program can be designed to accommodate student’s levels of Spanish and any specific requirements schools have for their individual Spanish programs. The classes are effective in allowing students to have personalized attention within the classroom, as our teachers are trained to promote participation and conversation during class time.
Students can learn Spanish from a native Spanish-speaking teacher and may then practice amongst themselves using the proper vocabulary, accent, and grammar that they learn in class.
Students enjoy learning in group settings because they will have a peer-group to practice with!
Earn High School Credit
We offer high school level foreign language credit!
Individualized classes are available through 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 class settings for additional Spanish conversation and language tutoring.
*supplemental material is available for an additional cost
Has your school decided to go without a foreign language because you cannot find a qualified native Spanish-speaking teacher at an affordable price?
Look no further! Contact our Care Team today for more information and customized pricing.
One of the more exciting aspects of learning a new language is finding out the unusual characters it contains, and Spanish is no exception. Not only do we have special characters like ‘ñ’, but also combined characters like ‘ll.’ There are also some letters that sound the same and others whose sound depends on its placement in a word.
Phew! All that can make your head spin if you take it all at once. In today’s blog, we’ll organize, simplify, and explain several of the tricky consonants that are found in the language. If you’re the kind of student that’s been speaking Spanish for a while, you’ll find these guides will help you perfect your understanding of the language. If you’re just starting out, these tips will serve as tools to jumpstart your Spanish career by helping you get ahead of the reading game! Remember that while these tips are useful, practice is the key to becoming a bilingual master. Let’s get started!
LL or Y – What’s the difference?
I remember that when I first began working with my new office mate from Costa Rica, she would make fun of me for not pronouncing the ‘ll’ and ‘y’ correctly in Spanish, as I would often use the ‘y’ sound for both. The truth is, I never really paid much attention to the differences between the two, and each culture has a different approach on how to pronounce these two letters. So, what’s the consensus on pronunciation?
For la doble l, the double l, the sound you make is the same sound that the letter ‘j’ does in a lot of English words. Juice, jade, June, and July are some examples of words that use the same pronunciation. You can then alternate words like juice and lluvia (rain) to practice!
For the letter ‘y’, it’s a bit more complex. Sometimes, you’ll use the same pronunciation as in la doble l, and sometimes you’ll use the same sound as the ‘ee’ in ‘eerie’. When should you use each one? The basic rules are as follows:
When the ‘y’ is found at the end of the word, it acts as a vowel, and its use is purely grammatical. Also, in some regions of Latinoamérica, people won’t change the way they pronounce the ‘y,’ having it act as a vowel all the time! It’s fun to learn how speech changes from one region to the next, your Spanish will improve faster if you talk with people from different countries.
B and V
Unlike the b and v in English, these letters are pronounced exactly the same in Spanish – the pronunciation is officially called a bilabial sonoro, or a bilabial sound. In other words, you use both of your lips, more like the English ‘b.’ The difference between the letters has been purely grammatical for over 100 years! While you may hear people in some regions pronounce them differently, the correct pronunciation that the majority of Spanish-speakers use is to not differentiate between the sounds.
Below you’ll find a chart with different ways to name these two letters. Bear in mind the names on the last row of the chart are very informal, and it’s best to avoid using them (especially in a business setting) but are important to know anyway.
Different names for ‘v’ and ‘b’
The letter H is like a spooky ghost!
It is probably the easiest letter you’ll ever learn how to say in Spanish, because you don’t say it at all! The ‘h’ is a silent letter. Much like how the English language has changed and been left with quirks and marks in writing, this letter is a vestige of the way we spoke some centuries ago. As the language became more sophisticated and evolved with time, the consonants became smoother. The ‘h’ actually became so smooth that people stopped pronouncing it all together; that doesn’t mean it’s completely useless, though! In some cases, the ‘h’ will guide the pronunciation of certain words like buho (owl) by separating the two vowels and making the word composed of two syllables as opposed to one, changing the way it’s said.
One noisy exception
As my preschool teacher used to say: “The ‘h’ is shy and doesn’t like to make noise, but if her best friend ‘c’ sits next to her, everyone will be able to hear them!” This was a neat way to let us know that our beloved ghost letter still holds some use in Spanish. If you’ve ever been to a mexican food restaurant you’ve probably ordered a ‘chimichanga’ or a ‘chalupa.’ These words are great because they tell us just how the letter ‘h’ combined with the ‘c’ sound. The examples I gave you, I believe, are a great way to remember when and how the ‘h’ makes a noise in Spanish. However, perhaps the easiest examples I can give you on how to pronounce these letters are words like chair, chimes, and cherry. It’s indeed charming how cheerful these letters sound together!
The deceitful D
It is not uncommon for native Spanish speakers to accommodate their speech to better communicate with someone who’s still learning. In fact, I believe that’s one of the beautiful aspects of learning a new language: people will make an effort to connect with you better, even if you’re not great at their native tongue. However, in situations like social gatherings, for example, there can be a group of Spanish speakers that all of a sudden start making no sense at all. How can you better understand what they’re saying when they don’t pull their punches?
Idioms aside, one of the letters that Spanish speakers skip the most (besides the ‘s’) is the ‘d.’ When saying words like nada (nothing), native Spanish speakers like myself will say ‘nah-ah’ instead, and that can easily throw you off the flow of conversation if you have to listen in an active manner, like all language learners must do. Some Americans do this too! In some areas of the States, people cut out the ‘t’ of words. For example, instead of saying ‘mountain,’ you may hear ‘moun-ain’ without the ‘t!’ Even though a letter is skipped, the audience still understands. In Latinoamérica we do the same!
Another important thing to note is that the ‘d’ sound is a lot softer in Spanish. The main difference lies in the position of the tongue when saying this letter. You might be tempted to say the ‘d’ the same as ‘th,’ but that will make words like oportunidad (opportunity) way harder to say. To simplify things, to the Spanish ‘d’ sound you just have to move your tongue behind your teeth rather than in between, making a ‘doh’ sound instead.
J is a funny letter
If you’ve ever interacted online with someone who’s a native Spanish speaker, you might come across a text message that looks like this: jajajaja ¡qué risa!
It might look like they missed the keyboard when they tried to type “hahaha, that’s funny!” but that’s because the ‘j’ sound is the same as the basic ‘h’ sound in English. There is a subtle difference though, and that is that the ‘j’ sound can be both identical to the ‘h,’ or have a more ragged, raspy feel to it. The difference is regional (Guatemala has a raspy ‘j’ while El Salvador is known for doing more of an ‘h’ sound), and it mostly affects your accent rather than your understandability, so you can stick with the basic ‘h’ sound no problem.
My N has a little hat!
One of the two extra letters you’ll find in Spanish and not in English is the ‘ñ.’ I have a little trick that will help you say this letter right, and it’s a very easy trick at that! The way to pronounce the ‘ñ’ in Spanish – eñe – is as simple as saying the word ‘lanyard’ while keeping your teeth together. The sound that will come when you say ‘nya’ is the sound that belongs to our friend the eñe. Below are some Spanish words to practice with.
Last but not least, the Z
This letter is tricky because it’s one of the main differences between España and Latinoamérica when it comes to pronunciation. For Latinoamérica there’s really no difference between ‘z’ and ‘s,’ but if you’re in Spain, you might want to consider the following:
To pronounce the ‘z’ as they do in Spain, just talk as if you had a lisp, changing the ‘z’ for a ‘th’ as in the word ‘thick.’ Some word that’ll help you practice the ‘z’ are cereza (cherry), zapatos (shoes), and Suiza (Switzerland).
Take it one step at a time
Consonants are often a milestone when learning a new language. They can be scary and confusing, so remember to tackle them one by one! We cover most of the letters in this blog in our video about confusing consonants on our YouTube channel. Subscribe to receive great content to improve your Spanish! Make sure you visit our website to receive a free Spanish class live with one of our teachers.
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If you have studied Spanish for a little while, you have probably noticed that there are many connections between English and Spanish. Since they both have roots in Latin, there are many similarities, making it pretty easy to identify the meaning of new words in Spanish…or so you think. While you may be able to stick an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ to the end of some English words or change an -tion to a -ción to make them Spanish equivalents (tranquil — tranquilo, education — educación), it is not always that simple!
These words that look alike and have the same meaning are called cognates. Let’s look at some more:
- Plate — Plato
- Intention — Intención
- Capital — Capital
These examples either have the exact same spelling or just slight differences. There are other examples where the words may not look exactly the same but look enough like each other for us to make the correlation between the two:
- Necessity – Necesidad
- Lamp – Lámpara
While these connections between the two languages are great and can help us understand a lot more Spanish than we expect, it can often set us up for some awkward situations. How many times have you not known a word in Spanish and tried to just put a Spanish ending on the English one and hoped for the best? This often works (like with education and educación), but not always. There are numerous false cognates, or false friends as they are often called, that create confusion and miscommunication. Possibly the most common example of this is embarrassed and embarazada. They look similar, so they must mean the same thing, right? Wrong! Embarazada is actually pregnant, and the correct translation of embarrassed would be avergonzado(a). Can you see how false cognates can cause a lot of problems? Let’s look at some more.
Phew! That’s a lot of false cognates. Don’t stress, though! I learned a lot of these through trial and error, and it’s okay if you confuse these, too. Keep practicing, and be sure to talk with one of our certified Spanish teachers if you have any questions. Sign up for a FREE class now!
Today is my 20th birthday! My party will be at the fifth house on the second avenue. As of now, you’re the first to know! Ok, ok, so today isn’t really my birthday, but without the use of ordinal numbers, I wouldn’t be able to tell you all about it. Ordinal numbers tell us about an object’s position in relation to others. They are the numerical labels that help us arrange objects or ideas in order: first, second, third, etc. They are different from cardinal numbers, or natural numbers, that represent a quantity that we can count. When we learn about ordinal numbers in Spanish, it’s important to remember the vocabulary as well as the ways that they are used.
Ordinal Numbers 1-10
The most commonly used números ordinales in Spanish are numbers 1-10. As you will soon see, the numbers after 10 grow in complexity and length, which has undoubtedly persuaded Spanish speakers to use the cardinal numbers between 11 and a million much more frequently. Let’s start with a list of the numbers 1-10 in their ordinal form with a pronunciation cheat sheet!
It is important to take note that we do not use these ordinal numbers in Spanish exactly the same way that we use them in English. For example, unlike English, we write the days of the month with the cardinal number to specify a date. The only exception is for the first day of the month, where we use the ordinal number:
Cardinal number: El diez de agosto (August 10th)
Ordinal number for the first day of any month: El primero de abril (April 1st), el primero de agosto (August 1st)
The use of the ordinal number to denote the first of the month is a general and common rule for Spanish, but it is acceptable only in Spain to use uno instead of primero (El uno de abril).
Give it a try
Here is a quick quiz to see if you can fill in the blanks with the correct ordinal number, using the chart above to help! (See the answers at the end of the blog to check your work!)
1. el ______________ (8th) carro
2. el ______________ (1st) de noviembre
3. el ______________ (10th) suéter
4. el ______________ (5th) hermano
5. el ______________ (9th) cuadro
Ordinal Versus Cardinal
While cardinal numbers act as adjectives, ordinal numbers can be adverbs, pronouns, and adjectives. The major difference between them is that cardinal numbers do not usually change according to the gender and number of the noun, as ordinal numbers do. Here are a few examples that show how ordinal numbers change in order to adapt to the noun that they describe:
You will see that the ordinal number ending in ‘o’ comes before masculine nouns, while the ordinal number ending in ‘a’ precedes feminine nouns.
Do you notice anything strange in the chart above? Take a closer look at the ordinal number in the sentence Me dieron el primer boleto. In our example, it’s no mistake that primer is written without the final ‘o’. Ordinal numbers primero and tercero both lose the final ‘o’ when they are in front of a singular noun. This is the case even if another word is in between, as in, el primer gran día (the first big day).
El primer momento libre = the first free moment
El ganador del tercer lugar = the third place winner
Give it a try
Which ordinal or cardinal numbers do you need to fill in the following blanks? (See the answers at the end of the blog to check your work!)
6. Tengo ______________ (2) animales.
7. Tengo el ______________ (2nd) animal.
8. Hoy es la ______________ (1st) vez.
9. Lo hago solo ______________ (1) vez.
10. Comienza la ______________ (4th) entrada.
We have just learned that ordinal numbers are often adjectives. As you may know, an adjective generally comes after the noun it describes in Spanish. In the case of ordinal numbers, however, they come before the noun unless discussing a member of royalty or the pope.
El sexto libro = the sixth book
Mi primera foto = my first photo
Juan Carlos Primero = Juan Carlos the First, the former king of Spain
San Juan Pablo Segundo = Pope John Paul the Second
Numbers 11 to 100
Ordinal numbers are not ordinarily used after 10, but it is still important to expose yourself to them so that you can recognize them when they do appear. Both 11th and 12th have two acceptable forms, which the chart below shows. While there is, unfortunately, no formula to memorize for all the ordinal numbers after 11, there are a few guidelines we can follow. For numbers 13-19, we use a combination of decimo + ordinal number 3-9, as in decimocuarto (14th). For numbers in between 20-100, we use the ordinal number ending in -gésimo or -agésimo + the unique singular ordinal number 1-9, as in vigésimo primero (21st).
As you view the chart, keep in mind that all of these ordinal numbers can be written together or apart, as in decimoprimero or décimo primero. Additionally, if they describe a feminine noun, their form changes to decimaprimera or décima primera.
Similar to English, Spanish ordinal numbers can be written in long form or using superscriptions. While in English we use “st” “nd” “rd” and “th” as the superscriptions (as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th), Spanish uses “o” for masculine nouns or “a” for feminine nouns, as in the following examples:
Another way of abbreviating numbers is by using roman numerals, which we read as ordinal numbers. We can use roman numerals with centuries, popes, monarchs, emperors, books, volumes, chapters, and recurring events. Keep in mind that in informal speech, the use of ordinal numbers above 10 is fairly rare. Instead of saying, el quincuagésimo capítulo, one would more likely say el capítulo cincuenta.
Now that you have learned how to use ordinal numbers, be sure to keep practicing them regularly in speech and writing. Be sure to check out our blog on cardinal numbers to refresh your memory or learn new vocabulary! To enhance your language skills, schedule a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and start speaking Spanish with a native speaker today!
Answers to Give It a Try:
Do you remember the blog about ya where we introduced you to the first of many Spanish words that have multiple meanings? Today, we’ll continue exploring the phenomenon of words that are spelled the same but don’t mean the same thing! We can categorize these words as:
- Polysemic words – words that have one single origin, but when used in different contexts have different meanings.
- Homonyms – two or more words that are spelled the same but don’t have the same linguistic roots; they, therefore, have different meanings.
The difference between these two is that a polysemic word is one single word with two or more meanings that depend on context, while homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but mean different things because they don’t have the same etymological background. This means that homonyms are words that are spelled the same by chance, not because they have evolved from the same word.
For all you grammar nerds, Etymology is the study of the origin of words and their evolution throughout history.
We’ll start with our first polysemic word; this one has caused the most trouble to all my English-speaking friends learning Spanish! In Mexico and Guatemala, we use the word ahorita. This is the diminutive form of ahora – we sure love our diminutives! Ahorita is a colloquial expression, which means that we use it in informal speech. There are two reasons why this word causes so much trouble:
- As a part of informal speech, we use it all the time in conversations. So, it’s really easy to misinterpret it as we really use it so often!
- The meanings of ahorita are very contradictory. It can either mean:
- Right now, like right now, now. Right this second.
- Just a little bit ago.
- In a little bit, or anytime between 5 minutes and a couple of hours.
- In an indeterminate amount of time.
In order to understand what the other person means with ahorita, I’ve often needed to ask something like, “Are you leaving the house ahorita as in right this second, or ahorita as in a couple of hours?” I’ve also had friends who live only a 5-minute drive from me tell me they’ll leave their house ahorita, only to come to my house 4 hours later! And once they arrived, I asked them, “Weren’t you leaving ahorita?” To which they would usually reply with something like, “Oh, yeah, I did. I was just finishing something.”
As you can see, the meaning of ahorita greatly varies depending on the context. This can cause a lot of frustration not only for people who are learning about a new language and culture but also to people who speak the language as a mother tongue. Don’t ever feel bad about these misinterpretations! Remember that a language is not always an exact science!
While most of these words are not as confusing as ahorita, it’s important to know them before you encounter them!
Spanish Polysemic Words
As we mentioned before, a polysemic word has one single etymological origin and multiple meanings that vary depending on the context in which we use the word. Let’s have a look at some of these words:
As we mentioned above, homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but do not have the same etymological background, so they have various meanings. Let’s look at some of them:
As you can see in all these examples, there are many Spanish words that we spell exactly the same way but that have more than one meaning! We understand what these words mean because of the context in which we’re saying them. If someone said puedes bajar la llama de la estufa, they could mean two different things:
- You can turn the llama down on the stove, or
- You can get the llama off the stove
What is certain is that the person is most likely referring to turning down the flame on the stove, and not telling you to get the fluffy animal off the stove!
Let’s have a look at some more examples! As you will see below, there are times when more than one sentence makes sense. This is why the context is so important! If you’re sitting at a restaurant, you’ll more likely ask for a menu than for a letter or a card. And while a baby is sure mono (cute, lovely, or adorable), he can’t wear a monkey (monkey also means mono in Spanish – the right word here would be onesies).
Me duele la muñeca
- My doll hurts
- My wrist hurts
Me puede traer la carta
- Please, bring me the card
- Please, bring me the letter
- Please, bring me the menu
Me encanta comer falda
- I love to eat foothills
- I love to eat skirts
- I love to eat brisket
Mis plantas están verdes
- My plants are green
- My factories are green
- My soles are green
Las carpas son de agua dulce
- Tents live in freshwater
- Carps live in freshwater
El mono le queda muy bien al bebé
- The monkey fits the baby well
- The cute one fits the baby well
- Onesies fit the baby well
If you have any questions regarding the use of any words, remember that you can always schedule a FREE class with us and we’ll help you solve any doubts!
In English, whenever you are happy, at home, or cold, you use the verb to be (am, are, is) to refer to all three things. However, in Spanish, we say estoy feliz (or in some cases soy feliz), estoy en la casa, and tengo frío! Three different verbs are equivalent to the English verb “to be.” Today, we will discuss when it is most appropriate to use each verb! If you’d like to learn more about how to express your feelings in Spanish, go have a look at our blog post on feelings.
Ser vs. Estar
Although they express something similar (the characteristics of a person or thing), estar and ser convey distinct ideas. Pointing out this difference to an English speaker, or a speaker of any language that doesn’t differentiate between these ideas, is a little complicated. Since we use only one word to refer to both concepts, you’ll have to create an approach in your mind and learn how it works. And don’t worry, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. In fact, why don’t you download this awesome practice PDF to improve your skills on your own time?
Ser expresses the attributes of a person or thing. When you use ser, you’re talking about characteristics that are a part of the essence of a person or thing: something unchangeable.
Since ser helps us express the characteristics of a person or thing, what comes after the verb is an adjective! The structure for these sentences is ser + adjective:
Another way you can remember when to use the verb ser is to completely get rid of the verb and see how the adjective matches your noun. Adding the verb ser turns this phrase into a sentence*:
*Sentences are grammatical units that include a subject (a person or thing) and a predicate (which includes a verb and whatever follows) and help us express a complete idea. Conversely, phrases are a set of words that form part of a sentence or clause.
Think of estar as a status or condition. Estar expresses how a person or thing exists, finds itself in a place or situation, how it feels, or how it remains with stability in a place, situation or condition.
As you can see, estar refers to something that can change and that doesn’t belong to the nature of the person or thing.
Estar can help you say how you’re feeling, express a place that you’re at, or something that you’re currently doing. When forming sentences with estar, you want to use the following structures:
*Gerund: in Spanish, the gerund (verb with -ando and -iendo endings) helps us describe a continuous action that started taking place before we mentioned it and is still taking place as we talk about it. The equivalent of this in English is the present continuous tense that we form with the verb to be + verb + ing (I am running, she is laughing, etc.).
Ser vs Estar Examples
Conjugation of Ser and Estar
Now that you know when you should use each verb, let’s have a look at the conjugation since they are both irregular verbs. As you will see, estar only varies on the first person singular while the rest of its conjugation is regular:
Tener means to have, to own, or to possess. This verb may be a little easier to understand because it is a verb that exists in English. We can use tener to express something that we physically possess or a way we feel at a certain point in time—that is, a feeling or a need we “have.”
As we learned in our blog post about expressing the way we feel, we can use tener (to have) to express needs or emotions at a specific point in time.
The construction for this is tener + a noun. Let’s have a look at some examples and what a literal translation would look like:
Tener is like estar and ser; it is an irregular verb. You need to keep that in mind when building sentences with it:
Like we reviewed in our common mistakes blog post, you need to keep in mind certain things to improve your Spanish. When you want to express the way you feel, remember this list:
- Tengo calor: while in English you say “I’m hot,” in Spanish you say “I have heat” (I experience heat). Saying estoy caliente or soy caliente means that you are aroused by something, so you really want to avoid making this common mistake and having people look at you funny.
- Tengo frío: in Spanish, we say that we “have cold” (we experience cold). To properly say that you’re cold, you need to say tengo frío. To say estoy frío or soy frío me means that you’re a cold person—a person who doesn’t show their feelings.
- Estoy mal vs. soy malo
- Estoy mal: since we’re using the verb estar, we’re referring to a condition that is not a part of the character of a person. In this case, estoy mal means that you feel physically sick or that you’re upset about something.
- Soy malo: ser expresses qualities about a person or thing that are part of them and therefore unchangeable. If we say soy malo, we’re saying that we’re a bad person, not that we’re feeling unwell. Another thing to keep in mind here is that if you want to say that you’re “bad at something” like I am at playing soccer, you say soy malo para el fútbol. We use ser in this case because not being able to play soccer well is a part of me that’s not going to change.
- Estoy bien vs. soy bueno: estoy bien and soy bueno work the same way as estoy mal and soy malo.
- Estoy bien: we’re using estar so we refer to a condition that we’re currently at. When you say estoy bien, it can either been that you’re physically or psychologically fine.
- Soy bueno: since we’re using ser, we’re talking about a part of our character. We’re saying that we’re a good person. Like with soy malo, if we want to say that we’re good at something—at something being the keyword here—we say soy bueno para jugar ajedrez (I’m good at playing chess). This means that being good at playing chess is a part of our skills.
I know this is a lot to take in, and the best way to learn all this is by practicing and practicing! There’s no time like the present—jump into a FREE class with us so that you can practice with one of our certified teachers! Or, continue practicing with our handy-dandy PDF!