Friday, 16 September 2011

One that got away

Here's a curiousity, that had the promise of becoming a useful tool in my Spanish learning kit, but didn't quite make it.
It's a 3D environment, reminiscent of Secondlife, populated with 3D characters, who you engage in dialogues.
There are a couple of difficulty levels, and the program allegedly uses speech recognition to assess your proficiency.
The character voices are obviously computer-generated but, for the most part, fairly clear, although there were some sentences that got cut short  once or twice.
It's an interesting concept, that uses on screen text boxes to prompt you what to say next, with translation to English, and a phonetic guide to pronunciation, along with the text in Spanish.
There's an option to remove the phonetics, and the English, but it would have more useful to leave the English, and remove the Spanish, so you would have to translate for yourself.
You can also click on various object to discover their names in Spanish, and some background or cultural information in English (I have to admit, I did learn a couple of things)
The download is a 60-minute limited version, and the link to 'Buy now' doesn't work, so I guess it was never a commercial success, which is a shame, as it's very easy to get drawn in and find yourself reading the Spanish, without fear of embarrasment, as you're only talking to your PC.
You can download it at

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Waiter, there's a dictionary in my newspaper. . .

I know, I've mentioned Spanish and Mexican newspapers before, but how about an online newspaper, with a dictionary which is only a double-click away.
Imagine how useful it would be, for anyone doing the Times crossword, or a Sun reader struggling with more than two syllables (sorry, Lads. Chanting 'In-ger-land' , at a footie match doesn't count as three!)

I often find, when I'm perusing the foreign press, over breakfast, thats it's just too much hassle to pick up a dictionary, or go to and type in a word I don't know, and will simply pass on to another article.
Until, that was, profesora Ximena (my teacher in SecondLife) asked me to prepare a presentation on an article from the Mexican paper La Jornada.( ) and I made this discovery.

La Jornada has a simply brilliant app, built into the page, which allows you to just highlight a word (click and drag) then double-click to open up a dictionary definition in a pop-up window. Even better, if you don't understand the explanation (did I mention it was in Español?), you can highlight any word INSIDE the pop-up , and double-click again, for ITS definition! Brilliant! ¡Cojonudo!

Looks as if, thanks to 'Dixio technology', I'll be forsaking El Universal, in favour of La Jornada.
Oh, one other thing. If you just fancy a quick read, La Jornada has a regular column called 'Mar de Historias', written by Cristina Pacheco. They're short stories, not too taxing, and make a break from 'hard news' , or harder novels ;¬)


Written the morning after.
Just noticed that the Dixio dictionary doesn't seem to be enabled on the Site's Homepage, but don't be put off, it appears to work on all the other pages I've tried.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Pussy Galore.In Spanish, of course.

If you listen to the 'News in slow Spanish' podcasts, you'll be familiar with the phrase 'Expresiones, la salsa del idioma', and it's true, Spanish has its fair share of colourful sayings.
I decided to do a little research, based on a few sayings I'd come across, referring to El Tigre's domestic cousin, the Cat, and found there were a good many more than I expected.
Here's a selection – there are more but, to be honest I didn't understand some of them! ;¬)

Aquí hay Gato encerrado
There's something fishy going on here. (There's a cat locked up here)

El hijo de la gata, ratones mata
Like father (mother), like son. (The son of the cat kills mice)

De noche, todos los gatos son pardos
All cats are grey in the dark (at night)

Cuando el gato sale, los ratones bailan
While the cat's away, the mice will play (dance)

Hasta los gatos quieren zapatos
Everybody's after something (even the cats want shoes)

La curiosidad mató al gato
Curiosity killed the cat

A gato satisfecho no le preocupa ratón
A satisifed cat doen't care about a mouse.(Interpret that however you like ;¬)

Con ladrones y gatos pocos tratos
Be careful who you do business with (certainly not thieves or cats!)

Al ratón que no sabe más que un agujero, el gato lo pilla presto.
Always have a plan 'B' (the cat will soon catch the mouse that only knows one hole)

Cara de beato, y uñas de gato
Every rose has its (her) thorn (a beautiful face but claws like a cat)

Casose con gata por amor a la plata, gastose la plata, quedose la gata
Marry in haste, repent at leisure (marry the cat, for love on a plate, enjoy the meal, but the cat remains)

Como me tratan de gato salvage, me pongo a robar gallinas
Treat me like a human being, and I'll act like one (treat me like a wild cat, and I'll steal your chickens)

Dar gato por lievre
To pull a fast one, con someone (to serve cat as hare)

Donde hay chorizos colgando, no faltan gatos husmeando.
The nearest I could get to this is the rather unsavoury 'they're like flies around sh*t'
(where sausages hang, cats will come sniffing)

El gato gruñón no caza raton
Softly, softly, catchee monkey (the grunting cat can't hunt mice)

Como los gatos siempre cae parado
He always lands on his feet (like a cat, he falls standing)

Hermanos (or reyes) y gatos, todos son ingratos
Brothers (or kings) and cats are all ungrateful

Más come en una semana un gato que cien ratones en todo un año
The cure is worse than the disease ( a cat eats more in a week than a hundred mice in a year)

No importa el color del gato, lo importante es que se coma a los ratones
Any port in a storm (it doesn't matter what colour the cat is, so long as it eats mice)

Pajaro que dice pio pio se le come el gato
If you stick your head up, someone will blow it off. Know when to keep quiet (the cat will eat the bird that tweets) Hmm, better lay off Twitter for a while.

Si no es gato, es gata, y si no, gatito.
Whichever way you look at it, it's still a cat!!

I've included English sayings with the same sentiment, where possible, otherwise the translation shows the meaning pretty well.
If you want to wallow in even more Spanish colloquialisms, on all types of subject, head on over to and have a party.

Spanish Eyes (and Greek ones, too)

One of the things I like most about Spanish, and I have mentioned this before, is that each letter in the alphabet has only one pronunciation, making reading aloud, and learning new words by reading, so much easier than in English.
There are, however, a couple of letter which have very similar sounds, and, if you're trying to learn the Spanish alphabet, one of them has a peculiar name, which I used to find very easy to forget.
The letters are I and Y.
So, here's an explanation of why Y is called 'igriega' and why you're never going to forget it again.
In Maths, we use a lot of Greek letters as symbols, alpha, delta etc and, in the same way, what was originally a Greek letter was imported into the Spanish language.
Who knows why they decided that they needed two letters that both made the 'i' sound, but there had to be a way to distinguish one from the other.
If I tell you that another name for the humble letter 'I' is 'i latina' and that the Spanish (female) adjective for 'Greek' is 'Griega'. then you're never going to forget that 'Y' is just a Greek 'I', which makes it 'igriega'.


Saturday, 3 September 2011

More free Spanish eBooks.

I'm really going to have to get myself an ebook reader.
There are just SO many books, just waiting to be read, and so little space left on my bookshelves.
Now the situation has been made worse, by my discovery of
Worse yet is the fact that you can type l:es into the search field on epub, and it returns titles for which the language tag is set to Spanish.(or you can just click here and save a little typing :¬)
We're not just talking crusty old Classics here, either (not that there's anything wrong with don Quixote). Fancy Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, or the True Blood series?
All there, in Spanish, along with literally hundreds of others, free to download, at least until somebody hits them with a copyright suit, and closes them down.
So, be quick, get them while they're still available, and enjoy some modern novels,en Español.