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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.

SpanishPod101

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 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?

Conversation.

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?

Pase
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!

https://www.facebook.com/HelpingYouLearnSpanish

https://www.facebook.com/MySpanishNotes


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