Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The gender-bending eagle

According to one of my recent postings, nouns ending in 'A', apart from some exceptions, are feminine and, if you look up águila (eagle), in a Spanish-English dictionary, it will probably say 'NF' (noun, feminine)

So why, if you type 'eagle' into the dictionary at www.spanishdict.com , does it come back with 'EL águila'?
Stranger still, type in 'the eagles', and you will get 'LAS águilas'
Finally, just to completely confuse you, try 'the bald eagle' and you will get 'EL águila calvA' not 'calvO'

It all revolves around the fact that Spanish speakers don't like 'cacofonía', things which sound bad. So, while 'águila' IS indeed feminine, as is seen in the plural, and the agreement of adjectives, 'LA águila' sounds awful, and is awkward to say, so they just changed it!

That's not the only example, it also applies to 'EL hacha', a hatchet, or axe.

The same dislike of awkward sound combinations probably explains why the pronoun 'le' is changed to 'se' when it sits alongside the pronoun 'lo'
I gave him a book = 'le dí un libro'
I brought it for him = 'lo traje para él'
I gave it to him = 'se lo dí' and NOT 'le lo dí'

But that's why we learn Spanish, rather than, say, German. It just SOUNDS better!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Are we there yet?

Here are a few little words which can cause some confusion, when you first come across them, especially in their negative forms.
Todavía, aún and ya.

First off, the easy bit. Todavía and aún are pretty much interchangeable.
Now the straightforward, positive, meanings.

ya = already or yet
ya hemos comido - we've already eaten
todavía = still
todavía vive con sus padres - he still lives with his parents

The negative versions are a little different, however.
ya no = no longer
ya no vive con sus padres - he no longer lives with his parents
todavía no = not yet
todavía no hemos comido - we haven't eaten yet.

You see, in the negative ya and todavía seem to swap places.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but it will be easier now you're aware of it.
Keep practising!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Guru? Maybe not.

Those of you who visit this Blog regularly ( and that's the odd thing about blogging . . you actually have NO idea if the same people ever come back, or what they think of your ramblings) may have noticed the new addition, below the Blog archive list.

Just before I began taking lessons with Ximena, in SecondLife, I signed up for an online course with Rocket Languages. As I had a limited amount of time available to use the PC, I didn't spend as much time on the course as I should, and concentrated instead on my virtual classwork.

Just recently, however, I've revisited the course and, while it's now much more basic than the level I'm currently studying, it includes some useful listening practise and some online tests, just to brush up on the basics. After all, I did pay for it, and it's a crime to waste my investment and, finally, I just took the Stage One exam.
I have now received, by email, a certificate ( I may even print it off) and have permission to use the logo you see on the page.

To be honest, completing Rocket Stage 1 definitely doesn't qualify me as a Guru but, if you're taking the Rocket course, and have worked down the seemingly never-ending list of multiple-choice questions, against the clock, you'll know that the occasional recognition of your hard work and achievement, by a third party, is a welcome boost.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Future is now

The first option some courses will give you, for expressing the Future in Spanish, is to use the Present tense.
An example you will hear often is 'Nos vemos'
It translates literally as, 'we see ourselves', or 'we see each other', but is commonly used to mean 'we WILL see each other' or, put another way 'See you!'
Although that may sound 'foreign' to you, mixing tenses is not uncommon in English.

What if I told you that you may often use the Future tense to describe something that happened in the past?
No? look at this.
'Why didn't Pete come to my party?'
'He will have been working'
Now, unless I'm mistaken, 'He WILL' is the Future tense.
Funnily enough, this is actually one occasion where the exact same construction exists in Spanish.
'¿Porque no vino Pete a mi fiesta?'
'Habrá estado trabajando'

This isn't always the case. For example, there's a tense in English (even English teaching websites disagree on its name, so it may, or may not be called the Present or Future continuous) where we also use the Present tense to describe the future, but in a different way to the Spanish.
The construction 'what are we doing at the weekend?' is common enough in English, but does not exist in Spanish. In Spanish you would have to say 'what WILL WE DO at the weekend?' or 'what WILL WE BE DOING at the weekend?'
'¿que haremos el fin de semana?' or '¿que estaremos haciendo, el fin de semana?'
A little confusing, I know, but the point is to make you aware of some of the habits we practise in English, without thinking, and how some of them just don't translate into Spanish.
¡Hasta la proxima!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Is it a flying bird, or a bird, flying?

Remember how I previously mentioned going back over your early notes and tests, just to prove to yourself how far you've come?
Well, there's another reason to do it. You may just see, or hear, things you missed the first time around.
I've been listening to some of the 'advanced' lessons in the Pimsleur course and, just today, came across something which set me thinking (apart from recognising at least one use of the Subjunctive - which is not dealt with anywhere in the Pimsleur system)

The lesson uses the phrase 'él está parado, allí' (he's standing, over there) and 'su esposa, tambien, está parada, alli' (his wife is also standing over there) and, later in the lesson, a male characters says 'estoy hablando el libro' (I'm reading the book), which is repeated 'estoy hablando el libro', by a female character.

Spot the difference?

The man 'está paradO' and his wife 'está paradA', whereas both the male and female characters 'está leyendO' the book. Hmm. Something's not right.

Actually it's all correct. The difference is that 'parado/a' is an adjective, describing the state of the people, whereas, 'leyendo' is a 'Gerund', or 'present participle' describing what someone is doing, at that moment.

I've mentioned Gerunds in passing, when talking about verb conjugation apps for mobile phones, but didn't explain what they are.
Short version =  infinitive +ing.
Explanation for humans = it's the conjugation of a verb, ending in -ando, or -iendo, used in the formation of the progressive present tense, e.g. I am typ-ING = estoy tecl-ANDO.

The most difficult task, for a student of Spanish, is to decide which -ing they are using  in English, adjective or gerund.
I don't pretend to be an expert (in fact, instead of posting this, I should be doing my tarea [homework] for my next lesson, on Saturday) but I just thought it worth pointing out this interesting anomaly, and adding a link to a page which might just offer a little more guidance

Finally, the bird.
This is where translation sites disagree, but I reckon a bird flying is 'un ave volando' and a flying bird is 'un ave volador'

¡Nos vemos!

Are we having fun yet?

The simplest way to express enjoyment in Spanish might be to use the verb 'divertirse', but there are other options available, many of which employ the verb/noun combination 'pasarlo', with an adjective.
Sure, you can say 'me divertí', but won't it sound so much better to say 'lo pasé fenomenal!'
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that the 'lo' refers to the time (el tiempo) I passed (yo pasé), and that it was phenomenal!

Other expressions using the same construction include . .
pasarlo bomba
pasarlo genial
pasarlo en grande
pasarlo de película (just like the movies ;¬)
pasarlo de miedo (honest!)
pasarlo de maravilla

Just to cover the technical side of things, while we're enjoying ourselves (lo pasamos genial), the verb 'pasar' should be conjugated to suit the person who is having the good time, and can be in various tenses.
Lo pasaré bomba - I will have a great time
Espero que lo pases genial - I hope (that) you have a good time.

For anyone wondering why that's 'pases', instead of 'pasas', welcome to the Subjunctive!
I've been working on it now for a couple of months. Don't let anyone ever tell you that it's easy. It's not, and an awful lot of mastering it involves learning things by heart (e.g. which verbs force you to use it)
Having said that, it's not impossible but I wasn't expecting, after 3 years of learning Spanish, to hit such a stumbling block.
Don't worry about it. By the time you get around to having to deal with it, you'll be far enough along with your Spanish that you won't be easily put off. Just get your head down and charge right in.
I'll probably write a posting on the Subjunctive, some time soon, once I'm a little more comfortable with it myself.
It helps to have a good teacher (Quick plug for mi profesora XimenaModotti Carami, in Secondlife - visit the schoolhouse at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Sede%20di%20Marte/214/71/39)

Finally, just a note that 'pasarlo' can also be used in a negative sense, so you can use 'pasarlo mal' if you didn't have such a good time. But hopefully not here.
¡Hasta pronto!