Saturday, August 2, 2014

How I learned to conjugate verbs

I run a Spanish meet up 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 memorize 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's ever owned 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 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 and really burns it into your memory.  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!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Spanish phrases every beginner should know

Here is a short list of phrases that every beginning Spanish learner should know.  Let's get to it.

One of the biggest challenges you'll face as a beginner is understanding what's being said to you, because everything sounds like one huge run-on sentence.  You might actually understand what's being said to you if they just didn't talk so fast.  Well, here are a few phrases to help you with that.

¿Puede hablar más despacio por favor?
Can you speak more slowly please?

While that phrase is pretty useful, it is a bit of a mouthful.  You can shorten it to:

Hable más despacio por favor
Speak slower please

You can actually whittle that down even more.

Más despacio por favor
More slowly please

Now that we've asked our Spanish speaking friend to slow down, you may need to ask them to repeat what they said.

¿Me lo puede repetir, por favor?
Can you say that again please?

Repita por favor
Repeat that please?

¿Cómo dijo?
What did you say?

Sadly, sometimes you just can't figure out what's being said.

No entiendo
I don't understand

You may want to follow that one up with:

¿Hay alguien aquí que hable inglés?
Is there anyone hear who speaks English?

Of course, you could start the whole conversation off with:

¿Habla inglés?
Do you speak English?

Who knows, you may get lucky.

Here are a couple of other phrases that might come in handy.

No hablo español muy bien
I don't speak Spanish very well

Todavía estoy aprendiendo español
I'm learning Spanish

¿Puede apuntarlo?
Can you write it down?

You can also combine these phrases. Here are some examples.

No entiendo, ¿puede hablar más despacio por favor?
I don't understand, can you speak more slowly please?

No hablo español muy bien, ¿puede hablar más despacio?
I don't speak Spanish very well, could you speak slower?

No entiendo, ¿habla inglés?
I don't understand, do you speak English?

That's it for today.  I think you'll find these phrases useful.  And if you're concerned that you won't be able to remember them, then check out My Spanish Phrasebook (for Android phones) which has all those phrases and more that you can carry with you where ever you go.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Casi me caigo de culo

Let's start with a translation:

Casi me caigo de culo
I almost fall on my ass

Hmm.  "I almost fall...".  That doesn't sound quite right does it?  At least not in English it doesn't.  The correct English translation would be:

I almost fell on my ass

So what's going on here?  There's a simple explanation for this.

While in English we use the past tense to talk about what we almost did, in Spanish you have to use the present tense.  Don't ask me why, that's just the way it works.

Let's look at some more examples.

Casi me quedo dormido en clase
I almost fell asleep in class

Casi me olvido de tu cumpleaños
I almost forgot about your birthday

Casi rompo la dieta
I almost broke my diet

Casi me muero de la risa
I almost died laughing

Pan comida, ¿verdad?

This bit of Spanish is really straight-forward and easy to integrate into your Spanish toolbox, even if you're a beginner.  The thing I found surprising is I had been learning Spanish for years without knowing or even thinking about how to say something almost happened until I was listening to my copy of Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 3.  It's good stuff, check it out.  One of these days I'll get around to doing a review of it.

Here are some other posts you may find useful:

1.  How to say you forgot something in Spanish
2.  Expressing accidental actions in Spanish
3.  How to say could have in Spanish

I hope you all learned something from this post.  Don't forget to follow this blog on Facebook.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pa'l Feis

The topic of contractions in Spanish doesn't seem to come up often, and there's a very good reason for that. There are only two.

Yep, you read that correctly.  There are only two official contractions in the Spanish language.  Let's take a look at them.

We'll start with the contraction al.

Voy al parque
I'm going to the park

So what is al? Al is....

Voy a el parque

A + el = al

Simple isn't it?

But let's back up for a second.

Unlike English, in Spanish you cannot pick and choose when to use (or not use) contractions.  In Spanish you are required to use contractions.  So that means Voy a el parque is incorrect.  If you say it that way you'll be understood, but it will sound really, really weird.

OK, one down, one to go.

Soy del sur
I'm from the South

What is del?

Soy de el sur

De + el = del

And just like with al, you have to use the contraction.

One thing I need to point out is not to confuse el with él.

el = the and él = him or his

So if we have the sentence:

Es de él
It's his

We don't use the contraction del.

And that's all there is to it.

Sort of.

Remember when I said there were only two official contractions in the Spanish language?  The operative word is "official".

There are actual other unofficial/colloquial contractions you'll hear in Spanish, like this one:

What is Pa'l?  It's a contraction of "para el".  You may also see it written as simple as pal or pal'.

Casi Muero, Pa'l Facebook
I almost died, this (photo) is for Facebook

If you don't understand the joke and you have 3 minutes to spare, this video says it all.  Heck, you should watch it no matter what, it's just plain funny.

By the way, you may have noticed the title of this post uses the word feis.  That's a colloquial way to refer to Facebook, pronounced "face", which is used heavily by Mexicans and possible others.  You'll also see it referred to as "el face".

And speaking of Facebook, if you need to brush up on your Spanish vocabulary for Facebook, then read my post Si tu ere dominicano dale like.

Let's take a look at some more unofficial contractions.

Para + allá: Pa'llá

Voy pa'lla ahora mismo

I'm headed over there right now

Para + arriba: Pa' rriba

Voy pa' rriba
I'm going upstairs

Para + qué: Pa' qué

Préstame el coche.  ¿Pa' qué?
Loan me the car.  For what?

Pa' qué tu sepas, voy al super
Just so you know, I'm going to the supermaket

These colloquial contractions are extremely common, so it's a good idea to become familiar with them.

And don't forget to follow me on Facebook!

That's it for today, espero que les sirva.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Yo te invito

The verb invitar means to invite, and it's usage is pretty straight-forward.

Quiero invitarte a mi casa
I want to invite you to my house

¿Hiciste una fiesta y no me invitaste?
You threw a party and didn't invite me?

Te invito a festejar mi cumple
I invite you to celebrate my birthday

While we're on the subject of birthdays, some of you may be confused about the word cumple.  I won't address that in this post, but you can read my post Estoy de cumple, and everything will be explained.   By the way, that post is on my companion blog, My Spanish Notes.

Getting back to the subject at hand, let's take a look at one more example.

Te invito a cenar
I'm inviting you to dinner

This is where things start to get a little tricky.  You see, invitar also implies that when you invite someone somewhere, you're paying.

Let's try translating that sentence again.

Te invito a cenar
Let's have dinner, I'm buying

Here are some more examples:

Te invito a un cafecito
Let me buy you a coffee

Vamos por una cerveza, yo te invito
Let's go for a beer, I'm buying

You can invite people to more than just beer and coffee.

Now let's look a couple of ways we can invite people out and not have to foot the bill.

One way is to avoid the word invitar altogether.

¿Voy por una cerveza, quieres acompañarme?
I'm going to get a beer, do you want to go with me?

Another way is to tell your friend they're paying.

I'm inviting you out for some beers, but you're paying.

That's pretty much it for today, but I'll leave you with one last piece of advice that's very well known in the Spanish speaking world.

El que invita, paga
Whoever invites, pays

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook:

¡Hasta la próxima!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Informal Spanish Greetings

If you're completely new to Spanish, then you should learn the basic greetings, and here's a great lesson to help you with that:  Basic Spanish Greetings

While knowing the basic greetings is really important, they aren't very exciting.  In this post I'm going to talk about some very colloquial greetings that your Spanish book or teacher may not have mentioned.  Let's get started.

I'm sure you know about buenos días, buenas tardes and buenas noches - Good morning, good afternoon/evening and good night  respectively, but there's also buenas.

Buenas is an informal greeting that you can use anytime of time of day.  Just smile and say buenas.  You can even follow it up with a ¿Cómo estás?.  This an extremely common greeting that you'll hear quite often.

Another one of the most common greetings you'll hear is ¿Qué tal?.  It's a basic Spanish greeting used all over the Spanish speaking world.  So what does Qué tal mean?  Simple.

¿Qué tal? is the equivalent of "What's up?".   You can use it any time of day although it's informal.

¿Qué onda? is the Mexican version of "What's up?".  Notice I said it was Mexican.  That doesn't mean other Spanish speakers won't understand what you're saying, but rather that it's primarily a greeting Mexicans use.  While nothing is impossible, it's not likely you'll hear a Spaniard or an Argentine using it.

You'll also hear phrases like ¿Qué hubo?  which is also a very slangy version of "What's up?".

Just like in English where we sometimes skip the hello and go straight to "how are you?", you can do the same thing in Spanish.

As you probably know, ¿Cómo estás? means "How are you?", but there's one more way to skin to that cat.

¿Cómo andas?  is a great alternative to  ¿Cómo estás?.  Think of it as a somewhat slangy "How's it going?"  In fact, andar is a great verb with quite a few uses, and this is just one of them.

¿Cómo te va? is a more literal translation of "How it's going?".

¿Qué hay? is a shortened version ¿Qué hay de nuevo?, both of which mean "What's new?".

Well, that's it for now.  Adding these phrases to your Spanish toolbox will impress your friends and make speaking Spanish a little more fun.  Take a look at the additional posts below to learn even more about informal Spanish greetings:

1.  ¿Quiubo parcero?
2.  ¿Cómo andas? Using Andar
3.  ¿Qué onda wey?
4.  ¿Cómo amaneciste?

¡Hasta luego!