Friday, August 14, 2015

Up close and personal with Gritty Spanish

Gritty Spanish
I just recently came across Gritty Spanish and it grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it.  There are a lot of products to help you learn Spanish, but not many like this one.  

I'm going to give you a tour of Gritty Spanish and tell you why it's so different from everything else and why I think it's worth your hard-earned plata (cash).

The official Gritty Spanish web site has a lot of information about the product, it's actually very informative, much more so than many other product websites.  With that said, it's always nice to get an opinion of someone who  has used the product, so I'm going to share my feedback with you.

To start off with, Gritty Spanish targets intermediate and advanced students.  Its got 31 dialogues (MP3 format) with matching PDF's.  Since we're on the topic of dialogues, let's talk about those.  

Here's the complete list:

01 Drama on the F train-Drama en el tren F
02 Hotdog Stand-Puesto de perro caliente
03 Dirty Cop- Policía corrupto
04 Chat with Bartender- Charla con el camarero del Bar
05 Men Hating- Los hombres criticando a otro
06 Yankee Stadium Concert- El concierto en el estadio de los Yankees
07 Pregnant Girlfriend- Novia embarazada
08 The Vagrant- El Mendigo
09 Club Security- Securidad del Club
10 Racist Taxi Driver- El Taxista racista
11 Visiting New York- Visitando Nueva York
12 The Hooker- La Puta
13 Vietnam Hustler- Estafador de Vietnam
14 The Lying Superintendent-El Superintendente mentiroso
15 Bodega Chat- el Chatear en la Bodega
16 Taxi after the Club-Taxi después el Club
17 The Sports Fan- El fanático de los deportes
18 Facebook drama with Girlfriend- Drama de Facebook con una novia
19 Club Scene- escena del club aburrido
20 Psycho Boyfriend- El novio loco
21 An Experienced man- un hombre experimentado
22 Cheating Boyfriend-El novio infiel
23 Shopping in Harlem- Ir de compras en Harlem
24 Strip Club- Club de striptease
25 Drinking in the Street-Bebiendo en la calle
26 Road Rage- El rabia del camino
27 Boy Selling Candy- El niño vendiendo dulces
28 Women Gossip- Chismes de las mujeres
29 Ice cream truck robbery- Robo del camión de heladoo
30 Food & drink at a local Diner- Comida y una bebida en un restaurante local
31 Rough night in the Bronx- Una noche difícil en el Bronx

I've seen a good amount of learning Spanish dialogues, and I can tell you for a fact they don't have titles like these.  Just as the name Gritty Spanish suggests, the dialogues are edgy and very realistic.  These are conversations and situations that take place between people everyday, using the language people use everyday.  One of things that I believe is missing in the majority of learning Spanish products is just that, the Spanish people use day in and day out.

Here's a sample dialog.  Not all of the dialogues are as gritty as this one, but it's a fun one.

If you want to see a few more samples you can just go directly to the Gritty Spanish website.
  Let's talk about some other aspects of Gritty Spanish.  

The Audio

The sound quality is excellent.  The recordings are very high quality with great sound effects that make the dialogues feel even more realistic.  It's obvious a lot work went into putting the audio together.  Each dialog has it's own sound effects that makes it feel even more natural.  I got the feeling I was actually there, in the scene being set by the actors.

As you listen to the MP3's you can also view the Spanish text and the English translation, they've been included in the file as lyrics.  I discovered this by accident, but it's a nice feature. And while MP3 tags are far from the most important feature of a dialog, they are well done and make the dialogues easy to organize and search on your smartphone, tablet or iPod.  I really like this because I spend a lot of time updating the MP3 tags on other podcasts/audio files.

The length of the conversations vary between almost 4 minutes to a max of 10.  I personally think is the  perfect length.

And there's a version of each conversation that's 25% slower. While I don't believe they speak incredibly fast in the natural speed versions, they talk at a good pace that at times might be challenging to keep up with depending on your level and exposure to Spanish.  The normal speed files and the 25% slower files are in separate folders, which I also like.  

The Dialogues

The list of the conversation titles pretty much says it all.  In Gritty Spanish you'll hear people ordering food and drinks, trying on clothes, haggling, arguing, swearing, shopping, talking about sports, gossiping and more.  

The dialogues are fun and interesting.  I mean, who doesn't enjoy listening to a jealous girlfriend getting on her boyfriends case about a woman who doesn't belong on his Facebook page?  Or a racist cab driver, road rage or even a friendly chat about baseball?

The voice actors do a very good job of bringing the stories to life and you'll hear several different accents - Mexican, Dominican, Colombian, Puerto Rican and Argentinian.   This is important because you don't always get to choose who you speak Spanish with and being able to understand various accents is a plus.

There is also a PDF that talks exclusively about the voice actors and identifies the nationality of each voice actor in the scene.  I think that was a very nice touch.

In general the conversations include a fair amount of profanity, some more than others, so keep that in mind if you're sensitive to that.  The profanity they use is pretty neutral and would be understood in any country.  In fact, I would say the Spanish as a whole is very neutral, so you're learning Spanish that can be understood by Spanish speakers everywhere.

The PDF Transcripts

The PDF's have a very polished and professional look.  Each PDF has a synopsis with the English and Spanish side-by-side.  

You get a PDF that includes all the conversations in one file.  There's also a .mobi version for your Kindle.   

You also get a separate PDF for each dialog, but there are no corresponding Kindle versions for the individual PDF files.  

The translations are accurate.  There are no grammar explanations, but I consider this to be a conversational Spanish resource, so I personally don't see that as a big deal.

I own a lot of learning Spanish products, so I debated for several days before buying my copy,   but I have to admit I've been enjoying it.  It took a lot of effort not to listen to all the dialogues on the first day.  I really got in sucked by conversations and they kept me wanting more.  

What's wrong with Gritty Spanish?

So you may be wondering if there's anything negative about Gritty Spanish.  In my humble opinion, no.  I would have made some different choices in some of the translations, but translation is not an exact science and two translators will come up with different translations with both of them being equally correct.  

Spoken Spanish is very regional with each country having its preferred manner of speaking and I would say Gritty Spanish qualifies as US Spanish.  It's just as valid as Spanish in any other region, and it's perfectly understandable in any country, so I don't a see a problem there.  By the way, if you're wondering what the difference is between US Spanish and what I'll loosely call standard Spanish (to be honest I'm beginning to doubt that that such a thing exists), you can check out this book, Speaking Spanish in the USA.  

All things said and done, this is a solid and very unique product that will make a great addition to your Spanish toolbox.

That's it!  Go forth and get your copy of Gritty Spanish, I'm positive you'll love it as much I do.

¿Falta mucho?

The verb falter is one of the many verbs you'll need to have in your Spanish toolbox,  so today we'll take a look some examples to give you the basics of how to use the verb faltar.

Faltar can be used a few different ways, let's take a look.

It can mean to lack or to need something.

Me falta tiempo

Literally this would be "to me time is lacking (or missing)" , but a more natural translation would be:

Me falta tiempo
I don't have time

Le falta sal
It needs salt

¿Nos falta algo?
Are we missing anything?

Nos faltan tres sillas
We need three chairs

Before we continue, did you notice what just happened there?  We went from using falta to faltan.  If you're wondering why, it's actually pretty simple.

When you're talking about more than one of something, you need to use faltan.  If you were only missing one chair it would have been:

Nos falta una silla
We need a chair

OK, Let's keep going.

Faltar can mean to be absent or to be missing.

Nos faltan Juan y María
Juan and María aren't here

¿Quién falta?
Who's missing?

Siento que algo falta en mi vida
I feel like something is missing in my life

You can miss work, which is faltar al trabajo.

Me quedé dormido y falté al trabajo
I overslept and missed work

¿Puedo faltar mañana?
Can I miss work tomorrow?

A more natural translation would be:  Can I take tomorrow off?

Tengo una buena excusa para faltar al trabajo
I have a good excuse to miss work
You can use faltar to talk about missing more than just work.

Falté la cita con mi doctor
I missed my appointment with my doctor

Ella faltó a la reunión
She missed the meeting

If you want to know how much longer something is going to take, then you definitely need the verb faltar.

¿Falta mucho?
Is it going to be much longer?

 Is it going to be much longer?
Did you already take the picture?  Can we go?

¿Cuánto falta para que comamos?
How much longer before we eat?

¿Cuánto falta para que empiece la película?
How much longer before the movie starts?

 ¿Cuánto falta?
 How much longer?

Falta una semana para la noche de brujas
It's a week until Halloween

Sólo faltan cuatro días para la fiesta
It's only four days until the party

Faltan tres días para mi cumpleaños
It's three days until my birthday

Faltar is a very useful, high frequency verb, meaning that you'll hear it a lot, so it's important to get a good handle on it.

I'll leave you with one last thing.  If you want to put those Spanish ears of yours to work, then watch this short video called ¿Cuánto falta? and see the verb faltar in action.

Here's the link if you can't see the video:

Now you've got everything you need to start becoming an expert on faltar!

Don't forget to take a look at my sister blog, My Spanish Notes to learn how Spanish speakers really speak, no grammar, no textbooks, just real Spanish I learned from real conversations.

¡Ojála que les sirva!

Friday, March 6, 2015

6 Uses of llevar

Your Spanish book will most likely tell you the verb Llevar means to take, and it does.  But the verb Llevar has several uses that your Spanish book might have left out.  Let's take a look at a few of them.

1.  To talk about what you're wearing

No llevo gorras
I don't wear ballcaps

Ella decidió llevar la blusa roja
She decided to wear the red blouse

2.  To talk about how much time has passed

Llevo 3 años viviendo aquí
I've been living here for 3 years

Lleva tres días sin dormir
He hasn't slept in three days

Llevan esperando aquí dos horas
They've been waiting here two hours

Te llevo mucho tiempo esperando
I've been waiting a long time for you

3.  To ask for (and give) a ride

Llévame al aeropuerto
Take me to the airport

Pedro nos llevó al super
Pedro took us to the supermarket

¿Me llevas al banco?
Will you take me to the bank?

4.  Food related uses

Dos hamburguesas para llevar por favor
Two hamburgers to go please

¿Que lleva el taco?  
 What does the taco have on it

El pastel lleva huevos, aceite, pasas, miel y harina
The cake has eggs, oil, raisins, honey and flour

5.  To talk about what you're carrying around with you

No llevo mis llaves 
I don't have my keys

¿Llevas el pasaporte encima?
Do you have your passport on you?

No llevo dinero encima
I don't have any money on me

6.  To talk about how people get along

Technically, you need to use Llevarse, Llevar's reflexive cousin.  The expression is Llevarse bien con alguien.   Or Llevarse mal con alguien, if you don't get along with them.

Nos llevamos bien
We get along well

No se lleva bien con su madre
He doesn't get along well with his mother

Me llevo mal con mi suegra
I don't get along with my mother-in-law

Mis hijos se llevan como el perro y el gato
My kids fight like cats and dogs

Well, that should certainly be more than information to get you started with the verb Llevar.  But if you want more, then take a look at what says about the verb Llevar.    Yabla Spanish also has a very useful lesson on Llevar, click here to read it.

That's it for now.  ¡Hasta la próxima!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

¡Tardaste mucho!

The verb tardar is is really useful and will make a great addition to your Spanish tool box.   If you want to talk about how long it takes to do something, then this is the verb you need.  Let's look at some examples.

You can use it to talk about how long it will take you or someone else to do something.

¿Vas a tardar mucho?
Are you going to take a long time?

Tardé una hora en escribir la carta
I took an hour to write the letter

Voy y vengo, no tardo mucho
I'm going and coming right back, I won't be long

No tardes
Don't take too long

You can use it to talk about  how long it takes to get somewhere.

¿Cuánto tiempo tarda en llegar al aeropuerto?
How long does it take to get to the airport?

¿Tarda mucho en llegar?
Does it take long to get there?

Tarda dos horas en llegar
It takes two hours to get there

¿Cuánto tiempo va a tardar mi orden?
How long is my order going to take?

And you can use tardar to talk about how something takes in general.

¿Cuánto tiempo va a tardar?
How long is it going to take?

And of course you can tell someone they took too long to do something.

How long did it take you to think of that answer?

¡Tardaste mucho!
You took a long time!

There's also the expression A más tardar.

Te pago a más tardar en tres días
I'll pay you in three days at the latest

And there you have it.  Everything you need to know start using the verb tardar like a native Spanish speaker.

That's it for today, ¡Hasta la próxima!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Great podcasts for beginners

I run a Spanish conversation group and every Saturday I get asked the same question, what should I do to help me learn Spanish? 

To answer that question, I can't help but flash back to how I learned a significant percentage of my Spanish - through podcasts.  I consider podcasts a fantastic way to learn Spanish, for a variety of reasons.   My first thought was to put together a list of podcasts for the group members, but then I thought why not share it with the world? 

These are in no particular order, so with out further delay, let's get to it.

Learn Spanish with the independent (Cactus Language Learning)

Cactus Language Learning offers lessons at the Elementary, Beginner and Beginners Plus levels.  They also have podcasts for all levels, so even if you're not a beginner you should still take a look. 

Q&A Spanish

This is a unique podcast that answers questions of all levels submitted by listeners.  You can access the episodes through iTunes.

Spanish from Scratch, from Spanish Obsessed

This site is run by a wonderful couple, Rob and Liz, and they produce podcasts for all levels, but this particular series is designed for someone with little to no background in Spanish.  They also offer a beginner level.  Be sure to take a look at the entire site and take advantage of everything they have to offer.

Liz hails from Colombia, and they provide great insight into the culture and Spanish of Colombia.

LightSpeed Spanish

Another great site run by a beautiful couple named Gordon and Cynthia that offers beginner lessons and more.  They tend to focus Cynthia is from Spain, so if you have a particular interest in the Spanish of Spain, you'll really enjoy this site.

123 Dialogs

This site is packed with video lessons that allow you to see and hear what you're learning at the same time.  With a 100 dialogues to watch, you'll be busy for quite a while.


This site has an amazing archive with hundreds podcasts for all levels, including Survival Spanish, Introduction, Beginner and Absolute Beginner.  Every week they offer free beginner lessons, all you need to do is sign up for a free account to get your free lessons.  But if you want access to the complete archives, then you'll have to buy at least a basic subscription.

Notes in Spanish

Another site that has some great lessons for beginners and zeroes in on Spanish from Spain.   Also run by a couple, Ben and Maria. 

Yabla Spanish

As a beginner you have two big challenges, one is be able to use complete sentences, the other is being able to understand what people say to you.  Yabla Spanish can help you with the latter.   Improve your listening skills through entertaining videos that leverage subtitles and an integrated dictionary.  It's a pretty amazing site and with a price of only $10 a month, it's worth a look.

Easy Spanish

This site offers videos on various topics in Spanish, with both Spanish and English subtitles.  Videos like these are very hard to find but really go a long way in helping you approve your listening abilities.

That's it for now.  I'll continue to update this page as I discover more useful podcast resources.

Know any good podcast or video sites that are good for beginners? Post it in the comments and I'll add it to the list, or you can share it on the Helping You Learn Spanish Facebook page.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How I learned to conjugate verbs

I run a Spanish conversation group and one of the questions I routinely get from beginners is "What's the best way to learn to conjugate verbs?".  Good question right?

Verb conjugation is one of the most brutal parts of learning Spanish because there are no shortcuts, you have to put in a lot of hard work.   In this post I'm going to share the resources I used with the hope that the path I followed will work for you as well, or at the very least provide a starting point for you to make your own path.

Let's get to it.

One of the first resources I started with was the Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Verb Tenses book, from the Practice Makes Perfect Series.  It's packed full of examples and exercises to not only help you learn the conjugations, but also to help you learn to use them in context. 

I still remember the late night and weekend study sessions, ah the good old days. 

While we're on the topic of books, here's another one that everyone but me seems to own, 501 Spanish Verbs.   I've never looked at it for more then 5 minutes and I normally only recommend resources I've successfully used and benefited from, but everyone I know that owns this book loves it, so I'd feel irresponsible if I didn't mention it here.

Here are some great online resources that became an indispensable part of  my studies.

A teacher by the name of Fred F Jehle has an amazing website that has a huge collection of verb charts, great explanations and even printable worksheets for you to practice with.   I really suggest you take a look.  I think I still have printouts of the material he has on his site laying around the house.

Fred F Jehle Spanish Verb Forms

Another great web site that I used religiously for quite a while is the Spaleon Verb Conjugation Tool.

Spaleon is a great tool that allows you customize your practice sessions by selecting the tense and verbs that you want to practice.  It's truly an amazing site.  Another one you don't want to miss.

Spaleon is a great tool for the internet, but the Verbarrator brings that same flexibility and more to your computer.  It goes far beyond teaching verb conjugations by adding vocabulary and putting everything in context with real sentences that you can hear as well as see.

I could go on and on about the Verbarrator, but I've already covered the Verbarrator in detail and you can read my review here.  In all honesty I wish it had been available when I first started learning Spanish.  This is how everyone should be learning to conjugate verbs in the 21st century if you ask me.

And lastly I come to Learning Spanish Like Crazy.   It's one of the many courses designed to teach you Spanish, but the one thing it does an excellent job of is teaching you verb conjugations.  Not through boring exercises, written drills and old-fashioned memorization, but through spoken Spanish using the listen and repeat approach to learning.

Every dialog that introduces a new verb walks you through every single conjugation of the verb (except vosotros) while adding in a ton of vocabulary as well.  This is how I really learned verb conjugations, through listen and repeat.  There's also level 2 and level 3 which combined walk you through all of the Spanish verb tenses.

When all is said and done, I used a number of different resources, but I've yet to mention the resource that helped me the most.  And best of all, it's free.  And if you ask me, it's the most effective tool out there.  What is this magical resource you ask?


Yep, hit the streets and start flapping those gums.  No other method is as fun or effective as talking to a real person. Using everything you've studied in real life conversations is what puts it all together, burning it into your memory and making you a Spanish speaker.  If you don't actually use what you learn there's nothing out there that can help you. 

That's it for today.  ¡Ojala que les sirva!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

¿Qué te pasa?

Today we're going to take a look at the verb pasar, and you can use it to say a lot more than ¿Qué pasa?.

I don't think there are to many people who don't know what ¿Qué pasa? means. It's not the most exciting phrase you can use the verb pasar for, but it is a good place to start.

¿Qué pasa?
What's happening?

This works as a greeting and as a way to find out what's going on.

In fact, you can use pasar to talk about things that happen in general.

Mierda, eso siempre me pasa
Shit, That always happens to me

Por suerte, eso nunca me pasó
Luckily that never happened to me

You can also use pasar to talk about passing or stopping by.

Voy a pasar por tu casa 
I'm going to stop by your house

Pasa por mi oficina por favor
Stop by my office please

El bus pasa por mi casa
The bus passes by my house

Need a ride?

Mi vuelo llega a las 6.  ¿Puedes pasar por mi?
My flight arrives at 6.  Can you pick me up?

You can also use pasar to ask someone what's wrong.

¿Qué te pasa?
What's wrong?

And if  you use the right tone of voice it can also mean:

¿Qué te pasa?
What's wrong with you?

The verb pasar can even come in handy when you're on the phone.

Pásame a tu hermana
Pass me over to your sister

And you can pass more than telephones.

Don't judge me.  And pass the salt.

By the way, pásame should have an accent.

You'll need the verb pasar, or pasarlo bien,  if you want to talk about having a good time.

¿Lo pásate bien?
Did you have a good time?

Que te lo pases bien
Have a good time

Want to invite your guests in?

Come in

I quite often use pasar to find out if a bar or restaurant is showing an event.

¿Va a pasar la pelea?
Are you going to show the fight?

This is a common way to ask someone to send you a link to a web page.

Pásame el link
pass (give) me the link

When someone goes just a tad to far with their words or actions, you can say:

Con este chiste te pasaste
You went to far with that joke

Or simply,

Te pasaste
You went too far

Well, that's it for now.  This should be more than enough to get you off to a good start with the verb pasar.

Here are some related posts I've written involving the verb pasar.

Pasa vs Pasar Por vs Pasarlo bien

¿Me puede pasar corriente?

¿Puedes pasar por mi?

Lastly, here are a couple more things you don't want to miss out on.

You can have all of these handy phrases (and more) at your fingertips no matter where you go if you have an Android phone and the My Spanish Phrasebook app.

Don't forget to follow my other blogs, My Spanish Notes and ¡Que Boquita! No Seas Pelangoche.

And of course, you can join me and lots of other Spanish learners on Facebook in my Estudiantes de Español group.

That's it for today, ¡espero que les sirva!