Sunday, 18 August 2013

I see what you're saying . . .

When you come to think about it, it's a ridiculous question.
But, how would it be, if you could see what people were saying.
I bet you've all entertained the thought 'Spanish doesn't look so scary when it's written down, but I just can't pick out the words, when it's spoken'
Well, help is at hand,
Ever heard of subtitles?
I'm not talking about watching a film in Spanish, with English subtitles.
I don't know about you, but my mind rebels, at trying to read in one language, and listen in another, so I either end up reading and not really listening, which defeats the object, or ignoring the subtitles, and struggling to keep up with the dialogue.
Then I had a breakthrough.
I was watching a Chilean film called 'Santos' last week, via a rent-online service called Netflix.
The English subtitles were bugging me, so I brought up the subtitle menu, to turn them off.
At that point I noticed an option to switch subtitle languages.
Guess what?
One of the available languages was Spanish.
That's right, I watched a film in Spanish, with Spanish subtitles.
Not all of the Spanish language films on Netflix have Spanish subtitles, and I haven't found any English films with Spanish subtitles, but I've got to wonder what subtitle languages would be available on, say DVDs or BluRays purchased in Spanish speaking countries?
Sadly, when I picked a few DVDs from my (UK) collection at random, most only had English subs for the hearing impaired, although some did go as far as Dutch, Danish, Czech, Italian or Polish. No Spanish :¬(
If you come across any, let me know.
This week wasn't without its successes, though.
Profesora Ximena introduced me to the music of a Mexican group, called Maná, and we studied one of their songs in class.
Called 'El muelle de San Blas', it's based on the true story of Rebeca Mendez, whose death was reported in the following News article
I was so taken with the music, that I sought out a couple of albums on
I bought 'Sueños liquidos' and 'Revolución de Amor', both second-hand, for under a fiver for the pair! And they were from UK sellers!
Finally, I came across this little diversion, to help practise the difference between the Preterite and Imperfect past tenses.
It's a simple game of Battleships but, each time you get a hit, you have to correctly answer a question, or your shell is a dud.
Nothing too hard, but you will require Flash to play it, so that may exclude some Tablet users, sorry.
Well, that's all for now.
¡Hasta Pronto!

Thursday, 1 August 2013


One, or several, of the stumbling blocks which trip up Spanish learners is the fact that Spanish frequently offers a choice of two words, where only one exists in English.

The commonest of these, in no particular order, are:-
'Ser' and 'Estar', both represented in English by the verb 'to be'
'Por' and 'Para' -'For' in English
'Saber' and 'Conocer' - 'To know'

There are multitudes of references on the Internet, dealing with these common choices, along with whether to use the Imperfect or Preterite Tense, when talking about the past, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel ,or pass off someone else's work as my own. I'll just refer you to Google.

No, the subject of this post is a choice which I personally have had difficulty with, in the past, but is actually quite straightforward, once you look at what you're really trying to say.

Look at these examples.

'I arrived the next day'
'I will arrive next week'

In English, it's quite simple. If one thing comes after another, it's 'next'
In Spanish, you have a choice 'Siguiente' or 'próximo/a'

So how do you remember which to use?
Simple. Change the way you use English.
Let's rewrite the examples a little.

'I arrived the following day'
'I will arrive in the coming week'

It might sound a little odd, but it underlines the difference between 'siguiente' and 'próximo'
'Siguiente' is from the verb 'seguir' which means 'to follow'
If you accept that 'Próximo' means 'forthcoming', then it stands to reason the 'próximo' can only be used to refer to things which have not happened yet so, for anything which happened 'next'  in the past, you must use 'siguiente'.

'Llegue el día siguiente'
'Llegaré la próxima semana'

Of course, there's always the odd exception to the rule.

'I caught the next bus'
It's in the past, so it must be 'siguiente'
'Cogí el siguiente autobus'


'I'll catch the next bus'
Not in the past, so you can use 'próximo'
'Cogeré el próximo autobus'
but, in this case ,the 'next' bus also happens to be the 'following' bus, so you could also use 'Cogeré el siguiente autobus'
In fact if you type the phrase into Google translate, using either option, it will just come back with 'I'll take the NEXT bus'

So, if anyone else has the same 'blind spot' as me, when it comes to the 'next' choice (surely it's not just me?) just remember not to use 'próximo' in the past, and you're halfway to solving the problem.

¡Hasta la próxima!