Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Fiestas of Mexico - part 2 uploaded.

The second part of Ximena's presentation on the fiestas and celebrations of Mexico, with English translation (of a sort ;¬) is now available on You Tube.

Lo, La, or Le?

I've referred before to the excellent podcasts, created by Mercedes Leon, from Barcelona, at, and how I habitually listen to them, while driving to work.

Recently, I was listening to one which dealt with what can be a fundamental issue for novice Spanish learners, and it occurred to me that someone might benefit from a translation of some of Mercedes' words of wisdom , well before they reach the level of fluency required to enjoy her podcasts.

The original transcript of the podcast, mainly in Spanish, is at .
I'm sure Mercedes wouldn't mind me converting at least some of the concepts from it into English.

Firstly, lets get some scary grammatical terms out of the way.
1)Pronoun: a word which replaces a noun. If the 'ball' is the noun, 'it' is the pronoun. If 'Roger' is the noun, 'him' is the pronoun.
2) Direct Object: This is the thing or person that the verb acts upon. So, in the sentence 'I throw the ball', the ball is the Direct Object of the verb. Which means that, in the sentence 'I throw it' (meaning the ball) 'it' is the Direct Object Pronoun, the pronoun which takes the place of the Direct Object.
3)Indirect Object: something that 'receives' or 'suffers' the RESULT of the verb acting on the Direct Object. I realise that sounds really obscure, so let's clarify with an example. 'I throw the ball to Sam'. Sam is the Indirect Object of me throwing the ball (the ball is the Direct Object of my throwing)

Put it all together and we get 'I threw it to him', where 'it' is the Direct Object Pronoun, standing for the ball, and 'him' is the Indirect Object Pronoun, standing for Sam.
If you're still not sure, try this test.
Ask WHAT is thrown?
Answer:it/the ball (Direct Obj)
To (or at) WHO (or what) is it thrown?
Answer:him/Sam (Indirect Obj)

But what's all this really about?
Three simple words 'lo', 'la', and 'le'.
In their simplest forms,in order, they mean 'him or it', 'her or it' , and 'to him, to her or to it' (can also mean 'of', or 'from' him,her or it, as well as some other meanings)

In English, things are really simple, because you don't have any choice but to use 'him', 'her', or 'it' for both direct and indirect pronoun.
Give him the book (= give the book TO him). . him = Indirect Object Pronoun - 'the book' was the thing being given (Direct Obj Pronoun)
I took him to school . . him = Direct Object Pronoun - 'HE' was the person or thing taken
but both examples use 'him' as the Object Pronoun, Indirect or Direct

In Spanish
Di le el libro = to HIM (le) give the book
Lo llevo a la escuela = HIM (lo) I take to school
differentiating between HIM and TO Him

So trying to make it as strightforward as possible (and I didn't realise how difficult that would be :¬) If the verb acts DIRECTLY on the thing or person, use the Direct Obj Pronoun 'Lo' or ''La'
I pushed it - Lo empujé
I threw it - Lo eché
I hit him - Lo golpeé
I found her - La encontré

If the verb has an INDIRECT action on the thing or person, use the Indirect Obj Pronoun 'Le' Examples:
I threw the toy to her - Le eché el jugete a ella (here 'a ella' is added, to clarify the gender of the recipient, as 'le' can be regarded as a neutral pronoun)
I read the book to him - Le leí el libro
I gave him lunch - Le dí el almuerzo

Unfortunately Spanish has one more 'gotcha', which I really need to include.
As you probably know, when you carry out an action on a person, rather than an object, Spanish insists that you include an 'a' after the verb.
Golpeé a Sam - I hit Sam.
Recogí a los niños - I collected the kids.
Now the usual translation of the word 'a' is 'to'.
This can cause confusion, when identifying your pronoun.
I said that 'le' means 'to him' so, surely, 'a Sam' means 'to Sam', so wouldn't you say 'Le golpeé'?
Unfortunately not.
The 'a' in these cases doesn't mean 'to'. It's just a way of personalising the verb, to identify that it is acting on a person, rather than an object, so the correct version is 'Lo golpeé'

I'd like to be able to give you a formula for avoiding this error, but the only method I can think of is to construct the sentence in English, realise that the word 'to' is not included in the English version, then translate it, but that rather contradicts my preference for trying to think in Spanish, so your brain isn't trying to handle two languages at once!

Otherwise you could try asking yourself what the construction would be, if you substituted an inanimate object, or an animal, for the person.
Apart from that, I just want to be sure that you're aware of the trap, and leave it to you to find a way of not falling in to it.

Well this has turned out to be a much more complicated explanation than I expected (honestly Mercede's Spanish version seems a lot simpler) but I hope it has given you a few pointers on how to sort out Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Fiestas of Mexico - part one online

Apologies to any of you who turned up an hour early to yesterday's presentation in Opera Joven, Secondlife. I got the time wrong!
If it's any consolation, I was there an hour early, too.
If you didn't make it, you missed a very interesting presentation on the types of fiestas and celebrations which take place each year, in Mexico, by my teacher Ximena, in Spanish.
The level of Spanish wasn't too advanced. Well it can't have been too bad, because I was there translating it live, for the audience.
Anyhow, if you'd like a quick look at the presentation, I'm just, as I type, uploading the first 15 minutes to YouTube.
It will give you an idea of the level of Spanish I've managed to reach in two years under Ximena's instruction, and also allow you to listen to her speaking. She has a wonderfully clear voice, which makes her easy to understand.
It will be a good listening practice and, of course, there's the English translation.
Please excuse any mistakes or omissions, but I soon found out that listening to someone speak, and understanding is a long way from listening, understanding, retaining, translating and repeating.
Honestly, by the end I was exhausted.

Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Introducing , , , Me

Here's a date for your diaries - Saturday 21st of July, at 12 noon, Second Life Time, El Tigre makes his first public appearance as a translator.

My teacher Ximena is going to be giving a presentation, in Spanish, in virtual Jalisco
( )
and I will be translating for the non Spanish speaking members of the audience.

Sorry, you won't get to hear me speaking Spanish, but I expect it to be quite a challenge, anyway.

The show will take place in the two-storey builing adjoining the cathedral (see picture) and will feature a presentation and slideshow about the various fiestas which take place every year in Mexico, the traditions, the origins, the music and the costumes.
I've already had a run-through, and I certainly found it fascinating.

That's 12 noon SLT ,which is 8pm (20:00) British Summer Time (if we ever get a Summer, this year).
Consult the clocks on the right of this page, to see the current time in SL, which will help you to calculate what time you'll need to arrive.

If you don't have a Second Life account, clicking on the link above will take you to a page where you can set one up - It takes less than five minutes, and its FREE!

If you do have an account, follow the link and teleport in from the Map page.

I look forward to seeing you there.
Just hope I don't freeze ;¬P

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Welcome to the 3D Classroom

Finally, after upgrading my PC, I'm able to run a fantastic piece of software called Fraps.
Much loved by Gamers, it allows you to record action on screen, and the accompanying sound, so they can show off their finest moments in Call of Duty.

What it means for me is that I can now record my lessons in Second Life, and I can review them as often as I like.

Admitted, an hour of full-screen recording uses 6Gb of space initially (this comes down to around 500mb after compression) but I'm really going to enjoy using it.

It allows me to show off, to non-Second Life users, exactly what they're missing.
So, with that in mind, here's a (very) brief snippet from my last lesson, which I've uploaded to YouTube, just to give you an impression of what a virtual Spanish lesson is like.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

I love it when a plan comes together

During your time learning Spanish (aprendizaje - also means 'apprenticeship') you may, or may not have come across the term 'cognate'.
Put simply, a cognate is a word which sounds and means the same in both languages, like 'revolución' or 'bar'.

Whether or not you've heard the term, I'll bet you've come across the phrase 'falsos amigos'
These are words which sound the same, but mean something quite different.

embarasada = NOT embarrased, but Pregnant! (embarrasing if you got it wrong)
introducir = NOT introduce, but Insert! (allow me to introduce myself?!?!?)

So I've rounded up a few cognates and falsos amigos, dealing with the subject of making Plans.

Planear - nice and simple - to plan. Planear hacer algo - to plan to do something.
Planificar - also to plan.
Plañir - to mourn or grieve over someone/thing
Plantar - to plant - e.g. a tree
Plantear - to bring up or raise e.g. a subject
Plantificar - to plonk something down. Drop unceremoniously.
Proponer - to suggest or propose
Proponerse algo - to put one's mind to something
Proponerse hacer algo - to intend to do something
Pensar en hacer algo - to intend to do something BUT
Intentar = to Attempt e.g to do something, NOT intend AND
Atentar = assault e.g. attempt on someone's life NOT attempt to do something
and finally 'Pretender' - NOT pretend, as in mislead, but aspire to or intend to do something.

Hopefully that will help more of your Spanish plans come together but remember
'del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho'
(it's easier said than done ;¬)