Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Walk, don't walk. Talk, don't talk

If you're old enough to recognise the title as a quote from the 1978 BoomTown Rats hit, 'Rat Trap', that just goes to prove that there's no age limit on learning Spanish ;¬)
The title also serves to illustrate the two different uses of the Spanish Imperative (or as Michel Thomas called it - 'command' ) tense, positive and negative.

Unless you're extremely bossy (mandón) or rude (maleducado), you probably won't use the Imperative very much, but it's always useful to know and, although it's mostly regular, there are a couple of things to look out for.

Let's start with the regular parts. The conjugation is very similar to the Subjunctive, in that the final vowel changes from 'a' to 'e', or from 'i' or 'e' to 'a' (what Michel Thomas refers to as 'switching tracks')
So, to tell someone to STOP! ( verb 'parar') you'd use PARE!
The most common example, which you'll hear quite a lot is 'look'. This is either literal, as in 'look at that', or to draw someone's attention to what you are saying as in 'look here'. Take the formal 'you' (usted) conjugation of 'mirar' , which is 'mira', and change the final vowel, and you get 'mire'.

Now let's try a verb ending in 'er' - Leer - and order a group of people to read.
Take 'leen', change the final vowel (which, in this case is NOT the last letter of the word) and you get 'lean', or 'leanlo' for 'read it, all of you'.
Verbs, like 'sentir' or 'dormir' which are irregular in the present tense, still work the same. You keep the present tense irregularity e.g. 'duerme' (you sleep), and just change the final vowel, so you get 'duerma!' (sleep!)

Right, that was the easy part (honest)
As usual, in Spanish, there are always irregular verbs and, in the Imperative, most of them follow the same pattern of irregularity that they have in the Subjunctive. A great example is 'decir' (to tell)
The 'usted' version of 'tell me' is 'diga me'
I'm hoping you're familiar with what Michel Thomas referred to as the 'go-go' verbs. These are verbs where the present tense conjugation for 'yo' ends in 'go'

Tengo (of tener) - I have
Digo (of decir) -I say
Hago (of hacer) - I do
Pongo (of poner) - I put
Traigo (of traer) - I bring
Vengo (of venir) - I come
Salgo - (of salir) - I go

They're actually quite straightforward, in the Imperative, as the 'go-go's just go 'ga-ga'
So . .
'Ponga lo allí' - you (usted) put it there (change the 'o' to an 'a')
'Traiga me la cuenta' - you (usted) bring me the bill.
'Hagan lo' - all of you (ustedes) do it!  etc.
Note: these would normally be written, and said, as 'pongalo', 'traigame' and 'haganlo'. I just put a space in, so you can the verb endiing more clearly.

The more observant of you might wonder why I keep specifying 'usted'. Well, the 'tu' form introduces its own extra irregularity, but we'll come to that shortly.

Now for another easy bit. How do you tell someone NOT to do something?
Just say 'NO' (and move the pronoun 'lo' so it's before the verb)
'No lo ponga allí' - don't put it there
'No lo hagan' - don't do it (ustedes)
'No lo comas' - don't eat it (tu)

Whoa! didn't I just say 'tu' was irregular?
Well, it is, but in the positive, or affirmative, version of the Imperative.
When you're telling someone NOT to do something, 'tu' follows the same pattern as 'usted', just with the familiar 's' on the end,
'No me digas!' (tu) - 'don't tell me that!' - you will hear this SO much. It's the equivalent of  'No way!'
'No corras' (tu) - 'don't run'
'No sientes allí'  (tu) - 'don't sit there'
'No me mires' (tu) - 'don't look at me'

So where's the irregularity?
When using the positive imperative for 'tu', in most cases, you just drop the 's' from the present tense conjugation.
Example: 'comer' (to eat) - '(tu) comes' - you eat
'Come lo!' - Eat it!
Note the difference with 'Coma lo!' - Eat it! (usted)
But 'no lo coma' - don't eat it (usted)
and 'no lo comas' - don't eat it (tu)
Example: 'llamar' (to call) - 'me llames' - you call me (tu)
'llamame' - tu
'llameme' - usted
'no me llames' - tu
'no me llame' - usted

Unfortunately, we're not quite done with the 'tu' irregularities, as there are a half dozen or so verbs, including the 'ga-ga's, where the positive Imperative is just totally different to anything else.
Unfortunately, you'll just have to commit them to memory. Fortunately there aren't too many.
OK - the list
(poner) - 'pon' - 'pon lo allí' - put it there (tu)
(hacer) - 'haz' - 'haz lo! - do it! (tu)
(decir) - 'di' - 'di me lo' (dimelo) - tell me it (tu) [The title of an Enrique Iglesias song, too]
(tener) - 'ten' - 'ten cuidado' - take care (tu)
(venir) - 'ven' - 'ven con migo'  come with me (tu)
(salir) - 'sal' - get out (tu)
(ir) - 've' - 've te' - go away (tu)
(ser) - 'sé' - 'sé felíz' - be happy (tu)

The last one reminds me to mention that 'ser' follows the same conjugation in the Imperative as in the Subjunctive, so 'be happy' (usted) is 'sea felíz'
'Ir' also follows the Subjunctive pattern so 'Go with God' is 'vaya con Dios'

As I said, at the top of the page, there are nicer ways of asking people to do things than a direct instruction ('puedes traerme la cuenta' is more polite than 'traigamela') but I've spent a lot of time trying to impress the irregularities, especially the difference between positive and negative 'tu' conjugations into my brain, so I thought this would be a good exercise for me and, hopefully a helping hand for you.


Monday, 11 June 2012

Specialist Spanish

Having extolled the virtues of Spanish immersion classes in my last post, here's a shameless advertisement for some new courses, recently launched by profesora XimenaModotti Carami.

Apart from her regular Spanish immersion classes in Secondlife, she is now also running specialist classes, targeted at specific professional groups.
You can now book lessons with technical vocabulary and learning packages aimed at Doctors, Nurses and medical professionals, as well as people involved or interested in Politics or Religion.

One of the Doctors, at our local medical centre, recently left, after learning to speak Spanish, and now lives, semi-retired, but certified to practice, in Spain.

I can imagine that anyone wishing to do volunteer work, with Church organisations, in South America would also benefit.

It hadn't occurred to me before, but learning another language is an effective way of expanding your employment horizons.

Ximena tells me that she is also working on the creation of a course aimed at pilots, and has launched a new package of Tourist Spanish classes, for new learners who know little or no Spanish, but wish to aquire some basic knowledge.

Here's a copy of a program she recently sent me:


Learn and Practice the Spanish language and discover the culture and expressions of Mexican people while you are learning Spanish.

I have different types of Spanish classes:


SPANISH FOR TRAVELLERS (for students with a little or no experience in the Spanish language)




SPANISH PRACTICE FOR ADVANCED LEVEL. (with oral and listening drills)



The cost per each virtual class is: $10.00 US

Avatigre watching a YouTube video, in class

Immerse yourself in Spanish

Want to see something really impressive?
How about a twenty year old, who speaks 11 languages?
I have heard it said that, once you have learnt to speak a second language, subsequent languages become easier, but I think I'll stick with Spanish. There's still a lot to learn.

On the subject of multi-lingual people, I was fortunate enough, recently, to be on a course run by a really nice guy, by the name of Ronald. Ronald's family comes from Malaysia, and some of them still live there, but his parents moved to Holland, when he was quite young, so he also learned to speak Dutch. Like all kids, growing up in Holland, he learned to speak English, and now he is married to a Madrileña (a lady from Madrid), so he speaks Spanish, too. He also speaks some German, Italian, and a little Arabic. 

Now, if all this is making you feel a little inadequate, let me tell you a little secret that Ronald shared with me. At home, he generally speaks Dutch or English, and his Spanish only tends to come out when he's talking to his wife's family (or when someone like me imposes themselves on him , for a little practice). What he admitted is that it actually takes a little while for his brain to adjust from one language to another so, if he hasn't spoken Spanish for a while, it takes a little time to get back up to speed and, once he's in a Spanish-speaking environment, it's easier to maintain the flow, than if he's constantly switching between Spanish and other languages.

Hasn't it happened to you? Someone finds out you speak Spanish and, out of the blue, throws a phrase or question at you (often with an atrocious english accent) and expects a fluent reply.
You're brain just isn't 'tuned in' to Spanish, and you freeze, making everyone wonder if you really speak Spanish at all.

It's the same in class. When I have a presentation to do for Homework, I used to prepare notes in English, then try to translate, on the fly, into Spanish. It just didn't work. Now I make my notes in Spanish, so I don't have to try think in English and talk in Spanish.
Believe it or not, it's true, after learning Spanish for a while, you DO begin to think in Spanish. Sometimes you will listen to a phrase in Spanish, and understand it perfectly but, if someone put you on the spot, and asked you to translate it into English, you'd struggle, because you're not THINKING English at that moment.

This, I think is the main reason why immersion courses work, because Students are surrounded by Spanish all day, and their brain can filter out extraneous English influences.
I, personally, can't afford to take two weeks to travel to Spain, or South America, and live in a school or learning environment (although I'd love to try), but at least I can spend a whole hour at a time, in class speaking and hearing ONLY Spanish, which really works for me.

If you'd like to try the immersion method, my profesora, Ximena, has openings for new Students, and can be contacted via the following links

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/eunice-ruiz/4a/452/798 (Ximena is Eunice Ruiz outside of SL)
Perhaps I'll see you class :)

Football - Spanish style.

I'm told, by football-loving friends, that Euro 2012 is about to start, and I seem to remember that Spain did rather well in the last World Cup so, even though I'm not a fan, I thought you might find some football-related vocabulary useful.

All of these terms can be found in a series of podcasts produced a couple of years ago by Mercedes Leon at Spanishpodcast.org.
Like all of Mercedes' podcasts, they are well worth a listen
There is also, now, an option to make a donation to keep her site going. A couple of quid via Paypal is a small amount to support such a fantastic resource.

Football vocabulary

Un partido de fútbol - a football match
Un equipo - a team
Los jugadores - the players
La alineación - the lineup
La plantilla - the Team, including reserves, trainers, support staff
La reserva - the reserve
El banquillo -  the bench
El terreno de juego - the pitch
Las graderías del campo de fútbol - the seating area/terraces
Los “hinchas”. Los “aficionados”. Los “seguidores”. La afición - the Fans
El portero - the goalkeeper
La porteria - the goal
Los defensas -  the defenders
Los centrocampistas - midfielders
Los delanteros - forwards
El árbitro - the referee
Un silbato - a whistle
El árbitro pita una falta -  the referee blows his whistle for a foul

FoulsGolpear - to hit
Empuja - to push
Pone una zancadilla a otro jugador - to trip another player
Tocar el balón con la mano - touch the ball with a hand

Penalti - penaltyUn tiro libre - a free kick
Enseñar una tarjeta amarilla/roja - show a yellow/red card

Tirar/disparar/chutar - shoot
Regatear - dribble
Esquivar - dodge
Marcar un gol - to score a goal
La pelota se estrella contra el larguero - the ball hits the crossbar
Comentarista deportivo - commentator
Hacer la ola -  to make a (Mexican) wave
Empate - a draw

So, if you're heading across to Spain, during the football season, at least you'll be able to understand some of the commentary on the TVs in the bars, or on the Taxi-driver's radio.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Tampoco es importante También

I'd say it's a safe bet that you're all familiar with the word 'tambien' (also, too) but how many of you, like me, sometimes experience a little confusion, when confronted with its opposite, 'tampoco' ?
Dictionary definitions include 'neither', 'not . . either' and 'nor'.

To be honest, the definition of the word is not what catches me out, it's the way that it's used.
If you heard 'Ni Pedro ni Alejandro tampoco' you'd undestand that we were referring to NEITHER Pedro NOR Alejandro EITHER although, in this case I'd argue that the 'tampoco' is almost redundant, as 'ni . . ni' means 'neither . . nor' anyway.

If I told you that I don't have a car, 'No tengo coche', you might reply 'yo tampoco tengo coche'. These are the cases where I sometimes slip up, because I hear the 'Yo xxxxx tengo coche' but, if I'm not paying attention, I hear the exact opposite of what the speaker is saying. In this case 'tampoco' is vital to the sentence because it means 'nor do I' or 'I don't either'

While I was making the point about the importance of 'tampoco', I mentioned 'ni ..ni', or 'neither...nor'. What I hadn't realised is that there's no direct Spanish equivalent of 'either..or', except in the negative. For instance 'I have never been to either Madrid or Seville' would use 'ni..ni' (nunca he estado ni en Madrid ni en Sevilla',  and 'I don't like them either' would use tampoco, 'ellos me gustan tampoco'

So what about 'I can buy either of them'?
Well, it seems we have no option but to default to 'puedo comprar ó eso ó el otro'. 'I can buy EITHER that one OR the other' or 'cualquier' (any one of them), which applies equally to three, four or five objects as well as it does to two - 'puedo comprar cualquier de los dos (tres etc)'

It's just another of those occasions where a word in one language simply does not have an exact translation in another.

Don't believe me?
 Dictionaries ready?
What's Spanish for 'anywhere' or 'everywhere'?

Have fun.