Sunday, 18 December 2011

"You can't always get what you want . ."

"But if you try sometimes . . you might find . . You get what you need"
Well, according to the Rolling Stones song, anyway.

Asking for what you want, or need, in Spanish, isn't always as straightforward as you might think.
One of the earliest verbs you probably learnt is 'querer'.
"I want" is simply "quiero" but, as mothers have long said, to demanding children " 'I want' never gets"
It's simply not a very polite way of asking for anything.
So, what other options do we have?

Well, in English, you might say "I need", so "necesito" is a good substitute, or "I'm looking for . .", which is "busco . ."
However, you will often hear "me gustaría . .", which is the Conditional form of "me gusta" (it pleases me = I like), and means "I would like . .", or "it would please me",
or "querría" (note the double 'r'), which is the conditional form of "querer", literally meaning "I would want", but taken as "I would like",
or even "quisiera . ." which is (don't freak out!) the subjunctive mood of the imperfect tense of the verb "querer", which in the vague nature of the subjunctive sort of means "I kind of might have wanted . .", but is used to mean "I would like". It sounds very complicated, but is actually used a lot.

Sometimes, you don't even have to ask for something. Just point out that it's not there, and let logic do the rest.
For example "falta un tenedor", means "a fork is lacking". It doesn't take a degree in rocket science for the waiter to figure out that "there's a fork missing" is a polite way of saying "I need another fork".
Actually, if you wanted to specify that it was YOUR fork that was missing, you could say "ME hace falta un tenedor". Literally "to me, makes lacking, a fork". Note that in this,and the previous example, it's the fork which does the lacking and the making, so conjugate accordingly.

And the final method of getting what you want, is to just ask the person to give it to you and, as with the previous methods, there are varying levels of politeness.
You might say to a waiter "traigame una cerveza" (traer- to bring) "bring me a beer" although, if you have any manners at all, I'm sure you'll add "por favor"
More politely, you could say "¿puedes traerme una cerveza?" which equates with "can you fetch me a beer?", but you'd be better off with "¿podrías traerme una cerveza?", which is the equivalent of saying "COULD you fetch me a beer?"

The same method can be applied to "dar" (to give) or "pasar" (to pass). "¿podrías pasarme el azúcar?", "could you pass me the sugar?"

Using "poder" in this manner is a great way of asking people to do things, without making it sound like an instruction, and can be used with many verbs, such as . . .
"¿podrías decirme . . ?" - 'could you tell me?'
"¿podrías ayudarme?" - 'could you help me?'
"¿podrías parar aquí?" - 'could you stop here?'

The only exception I've come across, where a direct order appears to be acceptable, was in a video on the BBC language learning website, where students are advised to use the imperative version of "poner"(to put), when selecting fruit in a market, for example "pongame cuatro manzanas", literally "put me four apples", presumably in a bag.
Cultural note here: in Spain it is considered rude to handle produce before buying it.

Well, I hope these tips help you to express your needs and wants in a more delicate and polite manner.
It can make all the difference.

¡Nos vemos!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Viva Il Divo

Once in a while, some genius comes along, and takes two of your favourite things, and combines them to produce something which is truly magnificent, like coconut ice-cream, or tequila-flavoured beer.
Well, this week it has happened again. I am currently listening, for about the twelfth time, to the latest CD by Il Divo, which unites a breathtaking musical talent, with the language of Spain.

For those of you unfortunate enough never to have encountered Il Divo, they are a group of four singers, three opera and one pop, hailing from as far afield as Switzerland, the US, France and, of course, Spain.
They are known world-wide as the masters of classic/pop crossover, mixing popular opera with reworkings of pop songs,translated or given new lyrics in Italian or Spanish.
The new album, Wicked Game, takes its title track from the 1989 song by Chris Izaak, rewritten in Italian as 'Melancolia' .
 The real bonus, for we Spanish fans, is that, along with five tracks in Italian and one in English, there are four tracks in Spanish.

Two are Il Divo versions of classic pop songs. Roy Orbison's  1960's ballad 'Crying' returns as 'Lllorando', and Shakespeare's Sister's 'Stay (with me)' becomes 'Ven a mi'.
The other two tracks are 'Falling slowly' (Te prometo) and 'Come what may' (Te amaré), which is one of several which showcases the blistering vocals of Carlos Marin at his best.

If you don't want tobuy the whole album, just click over to Amazon (  from the UK) and you can download individual tracks for 89p each.
You can listen to an extract from each song, but they really don't do them justice, as none of them feature the Guys at full volume, during one of their big finishes. There is a short video clip to view but, if you don't know Il Divo, you're better looking on YouTube to get an idea of what they can do.
There's a bonus, if you buy the physical CD, though, as the enclosed booklet has all the lyrics. Unfortunately this extra was slightly marred (at least in the version I have) as it was obviously typeset and proof read by non-Spanish speakers. All of the accents are missing, and there are two instances where the word 'hoy' has been printed as 'hot'!

Finally, before I head off to play Wicked Game for the 13th time, just a mention of one other of Il Divo's claims to fame . . they recorded the theme music to a Mexican soap opera called 'Sortilegio'.
You can find it at and this version includes the lyrics.