Sunday, 29 September 2013

It's been a while ;-(

Those of you who caught my Tweet on the 26th will know that the European Day of Languages was celebrated on that day.
While looking around the Council of Europe page, I came across a competition, organised by an online learning, company, promoting their product, and offering a subscription as a prize.
Note: if you're reading this after midnight EST on Sept 30th, then you've missed the deadline.
However, you can still take a look at their site at and try out a couple of practice levels (In Spanish, French, Italian or German)
Their approach is quite different to traditional learning, and reminds me more of the Pimsleur learning system, where you are given blocks of words, which you put together to build sentences.
There's no verb conjugation as such and, right from the start, you will be hearing both present and past tense, in different persons.
What makes the product different is that the learning exercises are presented as games, featuring Memory Cards (I believe the technical name is Pelmanism ;¬), Shooting Gallery, Word Invaders, Snap Clouds, and one based on the Fairground game, where you have to inflate a balloon above a Clown Head, among others.
It's a novel approach, perhaps aimed at younger learners, but the sound samples are clearly recorded, and the game controls are easy to operate.
It's certainly worth having a free look, and subscriptions are available from 1 month, so you're not immediately committing to a full year's payment. You can even get a free month by simply clicking the link on the site, to recommend it to a friend.

A quick note here, for UK readers, who have access to the Sky Arts TV channel. There's a new series called Isabel, based on the life of Queen Isabel I of Spain. Not surprisingly it's in Spanish, but does have English subtitles. I've just watched the first episode, which was an hour and a half long.
It looks very promising but, be warned, it contains adult scenes and some nudity. However, if you're missing your weekly fix of the, now sadly finished, 'Borgias', this could be right up your street.

And finally, I read recently that Spanish has only half the active vocabulary, in terms of the number of words used, as English. This might sound like a great plus for learners but, don't forget, using different verbs and even use of different word order, can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
A few examples:

Estoy listo - I'm ready
Soy listo - I'm clever

Estoy aburrido - I'm bored
Soy aburrido - I'm boring

Es un hombre grande - He's a big man
Es un gran hombre - He's a great man.

Oops! one more thing.
As part of my homework I've been watching a Colombian TV show called 'Correo de inocentes' which is about how people unwittingly become caught up in the Drug-trafficking business.
In it, one of the characters refers to the drug 'mules' as 'Golondrinas', which is the name of a migratory bird, known in English as the swallow.
How coincidental, then, that the 'Golondrinas' preferred method of concealing drugs is to 'swallow' them (wrapped up in a protective coating).
So 'las Golondrinas tragan las drogas' - 'the swallows swallow the drugs' - it just struck me as an amusing coincidence :-)

If you want to have a go at watching the series, you can find it at
Most of the actors speak quite clearly, but one or two, especially the character of Cosme, the drug baron, mumble a little or, as my Profesora says, 'hablan entre dientes'.

Just a tip here, if you watch the videos in Firefox, and you have FVD (Fast Video Download) plugin installed, you can just select to download the 'ustream' file, and avoid the adverts, which otherwise interrupt the viewing periodically.

Well, that's me caught up, and I'll try not to leave it quite so long before the next post.
Hope you're still enjoying your Spanish learning.