Tuesday, June 29, 2010

La Hora de Cultura - La Copa Mundial

Sometimes, instead of learning grammar and endless verb conjugations by rote, you should implement some of your other god-given senses in learning a foreign language, like listening comprehension. The best part of learning Spanish is that there is a ready supply of Spanish television in your neighborhood, unless, I guess, you live in Alaska.

I recommend you watch the World Cup(la Copa Mundial) of Soccer(el fútbol) which is a decadent affair put on by FIFA every four years, and claims to be the greatest exhibition of the most popular sport in the world. If you can avoid your ethnocentric views, and admit that there is an entire world outside of the US that stays glued to the tube anytime there is un balón being kicked around in a feverish attempt to outwit an opponent, then the World Cup may be for you. Maybe not, but still it's a great way to pick up on some Spanish while throwing back ¡unas cervezas!

Here's some vocab you might hear often while listening to some World Cup matches.

el árbitro the referee

tocar bien good touch, "good play"

la pelota, el balón the ball

el jugador, los jugadores the player, the players

el juego the play

arrancar "to turn it up", to get moving, to hustle

la cancha the field

la posición the position

el portero the goalie

el delantero the forward

el centrocampista, el centro midfielder

el defensa fullback, defender

la falta foul

el penal penalty kick

una patada kick

el tiro de esquina corner kick

el saque de puerta, OR el tiro de libre meta goal kick

fuera de lugar off-sides

tarjeta amarilla yellow card

tarjeta roja red card

un embate a tie

ganar to win

perder to lose

tiempo adicional additional time

el gol goal (duh!)

A lot of times, if you hear some words you can't understand and you think you are pretty gosh darn fluent in Spanish, chances are, they're talking about someone's name!

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Wonderful World of Would...Using the Conditional.

To express "I would, you would, she would..." etc., you would use the conditional form of the verb. To form the conditional, it is necessary to know the future tense conjugation for a lot of the irregular verbs.

In all practicality, knowing the conditional conjugation is pretty easy. You just add the conditional suffix to the infinitve of the verb. For the verb beber, the conjugation is as follows:

yo bebería

tú beberías

él, ella, Ud. bebería

nosotros beberíamos

vosotros beberíais

ellos, ellas, Uds. beberían

Now, the verbs that are irregular in the future tense are irregular in the conditional tense, as well. The following verbs will have an irregular base for the conditional:

poner pondr-

salir saldr-

poder podr-

venir vendr-

querer querr-

decir dir-

tener tendr-

saber sabr-

All you have to do is take the irregular base of the verb, and attach the correct conditional suffix to associate with the correct conjugation.

I would know. Yo sabría.

You would leave. Tú saldrías.

We would come. Nosotros vendríamos.

By itself, as in the above examples, the conditional form is useless. Not USELESS, but rolling solo, it doesn't say the whole story.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When's the Party? Talking about Days and Dates

Using our favorite verb ser, we can refer to days of the week. First of all, the definite article always accompanies the days of the week, in Spanish. However, it is omitted in English, and the day is considered a Proper Noun. Check this out:

el domingo Sunday

el lunes Monday

el martes Tuesday

el miércoles Wednesday

el jueves Thursday

el viernes Friday

el sábado Saturday

As this post is being written, I can say "Hoy es domingo." I can remove the definite article without being chastised. But, if I want to explain when an event occurs, now I HAVE to use the definite article.

Cuándo es la fiesta?

Es el miércoles.

Suppose we have a recurring event, taking place week after week (I don't know, like a college course.) When does the class take place?

Los martes y los jueves. On Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Given a full date, we can proceed as follows:

Miércoles, el 19 de junio 2007 Wednesday, June 19, 2007

Try that out a couple of times, and someone might think they are in Puebla.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hey man, you got the time? Telling Time in the Spanish World

What time is it? Easily a very common question, especially if you're late meeting some of your surf buddies down in San Felipe.

Start with the question, "¿Qué hora es?" ("What time is it?"). Notice the conjugation of ser in the third person here. There are a couple of ways to answer this(obviously!). Separate the possibilities into two categories:

1)If the HOUR is 1, then the beginning of the answer should be "Es la una...."

2)All other times, start with "Son las...."

Now that you have that down, what is the hour? Let's see an example. Suppose it's one o'clock exactly. You say:

Es la una.

All other hours, just add the number, like so:

Son las cinco. It's five o'clock.

If you have to add minutes, then we use the preposition "y" followed by the number of the minutes. So,

Son las dos y veintidós. It's 2:22.

Es la una y doce. It's 1:12.

All quarter-pasts and half-hour time designations are commonly denoted as follows, respectively:

Es la una y cuarto. It's 1:15.

Son las once y media. It's 11:30.

Now, be prepared to be blown away, wholeheartedly. Once we get past the half-hour, we now revert to the NEXT higher hour, and MINUS the minutes.

Es la una menos veinte. It's 12:40.

Son las ocho menos cuarto. It's 7:45.

I remember a Cuban guy I was talking to, and I asked him what the time was. The time happened to be 12:50. He responded with the abridged response:

"Menos diez."

A word about AM/PM: instead of using these terms, Spanish-speakers use de la mañana, de la tarde, and de la noche to emphasize the time. To make it easier on you gringos, just convert the aforementioned terms to "in the morning", "in the afternoon", and "in the evening", respectively. Although, keep in mind that "la tarde" means a little more than "afternoon", especially in Jolly Olde Spain. "La tarde" actually continues until the evening meal, which can last until 8 or 9PM (darn tapas).

If you're thoroughly confused by the weird Spanish time-telling syntax, try explaining to someone learning English what the heck the term "o'clock" means!!

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Friday, June 25, 2010

Unas Frases Útiles (Some Useful Phrases)

Do you want to start a conversation with a Spanish speaker, but you don't know where to begin? Then add these lines to your repertoire and you'll be invited to Papas & Beer in no time.

¿Cómo te llamas? – What’s your name?

Me llamo….. – My name is……

¿Y tú? – And you? How about you?

¿Cómo estás? – How are you?

Estoy……- I am…..

bien…….. fine, good

mal………bad, horrible

así así…… OK, so-so


alegre, feliz…..happy



¿Donde está……? – Where is…..?

I've found a major stumbling block in learning a new language is that student's tend to shy away from conversing with a native speaker because they feel that they will be judged, and the sheer horror of that notion is enough to veer people away. My experience? Mexican folks and other native speakers will be more than GLAD to help you out because 1)they're human beings themselves, and the fact that someone is socializing with them is an opiate in and of itself, and 2)they will be happy to offer their corrections to your klutzy speech!!

Sigue estudiando,


Thursday, June 24, 2010

"To Be" - Our First Spanish Verbs Ser and Estar

The first verb in English that we probably learned and started utilizing without any realization must have been "is", simply because it could describe everything in our world at that time. For example, our first sentences were probably "Mommy is pretty" or "The teacher is nice", or "Cabbage Patch Dolls are neat". What we DIDN'T realize though was that "is", "are", and "was" were actually VERBS.

This is true in Spanish as well, except they use 2 different verbs for different instances. (They actually use three verbs to denote "is", but we're going to keep this simple!) The first verb that I think I was actually taught was ser, which means "to be". The conjugation in the present tense indicative is quite irregular, due to the fact that it is probably the most common verb in the language.

yo soy


él, ella, Ud. es

nosotros somos

vosotros sois

ellos, ellas, Uds. son

We can use the verb ser to describe things that are permanent, like a)physical characteristics, b)place of origin, and c)nationality.

Nosotros somos altos. We are tall.

Ella es de los Países Bajos. She is from the Netherlands.

Yo soy canadiense. I am Canadian.

The verb ser is also used when talking about the time, or stating somebody's career.

Ella es profesora de matemáticas en la Universidad. She is a University mathematics professor.

Son las 3 de la tarde. It is 3 in the afternoon.

The verb estar means the exact thing to an English speaker as ser, which is to be, but has different uses in the Spanish world. We use this verb to discuss something transitive or temporary. We use the verb estar to talk about 1)location of someone or something, 2)temporary conditions, or 3)as part of a gerund statement.

Ella está en Bolivia. She is in Bolivia.

Nosotros estamos enfermos hoy. We are sick today.

Yo estoy ayudando a Paco. I am helping Paco.

The complete cojugation of estar is as follows:

yo estoy


él, ella, Ud. está

nosotros estamos

vosotros estáis

ellos, ellas, Uds. están

This might be your first foray into the world of accent marks, and if it is, you'll need to start using them right away, as they are present for the verb estar. You will notice later on in the course of your studies that accents sometimes are the only way to distinguish between words that are spelled the same but have different meanings altogether.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tú Commands (Affirmative)

Have you ever told somebody to do something? You probably take it for granted. However, it's part of any language, including Spanish. Unlike English, though, Spanish relies on a different conjugation altogether. Here is a very elementary lesson on how to start using commands in Spanish. We're going to make this as simple as possible just to get started. We could attach pronouns to commands (like we do in English - "Eat it!"), but for the sake of simplicity, we're just going to do the basics.

The command is probably the most commonly used, since it deals with a familiar recipient, like a younger friend, your children, or your annoying nephew. You would be more likely to command someone over who you have absolute authority!

To use the command in Spanish, we're just going to take the indicative third-person singular form of the verb. If our verb is vestir(to dress), we can say


This is the third person of the verb vestir. NOTE! This is NOT the reflexive verb vestirse, which does indeed carry a reflexive pronoun, but instead of meaning "to dress", it means the more useful "to GET dressed".

Another caveat: there are several commonly-used verbs in Spanish that have an irregular form. There aren't many of them, and their commonality is the cause of their irregularity:

tener(to have): ten

venir(to come): ven

poner(to put): pon

salir(to leave): sal

decir(to say): di

hacer(to do): haz

ser(to be): sé

ir(to go): ve

¡Ojo! The command for ir is ve, which is the same command for the verb ver to see. Context will determine the meaning.

Here's a fun one: notice the title of the blog on top of your screen? It says ¿Habla español? That's an indicative 3rd person use of the verb hablar. I can take away the question marks, turn to my daughter when she speaks English in Spanish class, and demand:

¡Habla español!

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Practice Test

¿Qué tal, estudiantes?

Try this exam and see how well you can do!!

A. Conjugations of ser and estar
Conjugate the following verbs in its entirety.

Ser (to be)

Estar (to be)

B. Conjugations of –ar Verbs
Conjugate the following –ar verbs in their entirety.

jugar (u-ue) (to play)

bromear (to joke)

cazar (to hunt)

maquillar(to apply makeup to)

amar (to love)

C. Conjugations of –er Verbs
Conjugate the following –er verbs for each person in its entirety.

estremecer (c-zc)

defender (e-ie)(to defend)

tender (e-ie)(to lay out)

temer (to fear)

recoger(g-j)(to pick up) *hint: only “yo” form shows change

D. Conjugations of –ir Verbs
Conjugate the following –ir verbs for each person in its entirety.

pedir(e-i)(to ask for)

partir (to cut or break in half)

traducir (c-zc)(to translate) *hint: only “yo” form shows change

adquirir (i-ie)(to acquire)

imbuir (i-y)(to instill, to imbue)

E. Preterit Conjugations
Fill in the following sentences with the correct preterit conjugation of the verb in parentheses. The English translation will precede the Spanish sentence.

I spoke to the teacher yesterday.
Ayer yo _____________ (hablar) a la maestra.

She set the table already.
Ella ya _____________ (poner) la mesa. *Hint: Remember, it’s irregular!

The Beatles sang great songs.
Los Beatles ____________ (cantar) buenas canciones.

Did you understand the lesson?
¿Tú ______________ (comprender) la lección?

Yes, I understood it.
Sí, yo la ______________ (entender).

We made an appointment with the lawyer.
Nosotros ______________ (hacer) una cita con el abogado. *Hint: Remember, it’s irregular!

The technician fixed my computer.
El técnico _____________ (arreglar) mi computadora.

It didn’t work before that.
No _______________ (funcionar) antes de eso.

My brothers called on the telephone.
Mis hermanos ______________ (llamar) por el teléfono.

I asked for a ceviche at the restaurant in Perú.
Yo ________________ (pedir) una ceviche al restaurante peruano.

F. La Escritura - Writing (5 Points)
Write me a simple paragraph containing 5 unique verbs, with 5 unique conjugations, present or past tense. Be as creative as you can. Underline each of your conjugated verbs.

The Subjunctive Mood!

Now, in the course of my Spanish teachings, I don't think there is any other grammar topic that is more mind-boggling for an English speaker to pick up than that of the subjunctive mood. Sure we use it in English, but it is not readily as visible since we don't have a Latin-based language where a verb's conjugation or tense can always be metamorphosed by changing the suffix. Instead, we rely on voice inflection, context, and other subtleties. An English-speaker says:

I want you to teach me Spanish.

There are two verbs in this sentence: "to want" and "to teach". Notice that in English, this sentence can be broken down into two clauses: an indicative clause, and a subjunctive clause.

Indicative Clause: I want you....

Subjunctive Clause: ....to teach me Spanish.

We say indicative because this is the part of the sentence where the speaker is relaying some information that is known or understood. The subjunctive part is completely DEPENDENT on the indicative part, so it can't exist on its own. If it wasn't for the speaker wanting anything, then there is no reason for the subjunctive clause to even exist.

In English, as the above sentence shows, the subjunctive is usually manifested with the infinitive form of the verb ("to teach").

Now, let's change this sentence into a Spanish one:

Yo quiero que tú me enseñes español.

Here, we have two verbs: querer(to want) and enseñar(to teach). The verb querer is conjugated in the present tense indicative, and the verb enseñar in the subjunctive. Notice the slight vowel tweaking of the subjunctive verb enseñar, which doesn't carry its "a" suffix anymore (because the indicative conjugation would be "tú enseñas", but rather an "e" suffix. This is known as an "opposite" vowel. For regular -ar verbs, you can simply change the "a" in the suffix and turn it into an "e", and for -er/-ir verbs you can change the "e" into an "a".

So, as you can see in Spanish, subjunctive sentences are formed by a change in the suffix, rather than context or voice, like in English.

If it is hard for you to absorb this material, join the club, I'm sure! I will keep updating this blog with more lessons on the subjunctive, so keep a lookout.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vocabulario - Los Partes del Cuerpo

One of my students who is 9 loves to do these vocabulary lessons! If you have a young child, the best way to get them learning a lesson efficiently is to do word recognition, and to teach them certain phrases that can be associated with the vocabulary that they're learning. Too many parents rush into teaching grammar to young students, so much so that they are merely discouraging the child from learning at their own pace, because the child feels overwhelmed.

Think about it: when you started learning English, you probably didn't dive right into contractions and the wonderful world of diphthongs, silent letters, sentence structures, or compound words. You start by observing the world around you, and equating written words with objects in your realm.

Los Partes del Cuerpo (The Parts of the Body)

    la cabeza – the head
    el pelo – the hair
    las orejas – the ears
    las mejillas – the cheeks
    los ojos – the eyes
    las cejas – the eyebrows
    la nariz – the nose
    la boca – the mouth
    la lengua – the tongue
    los dientes – the teeth
    el cuello – the neck
    los hombros – the shoulders
    los brazos – the arms
    el codo – the elbow
    la muñeca – the wrist
    la mano – the hand
    los dedos – the fingers
    las piernas – the legs
    el muslo – the thigh
    la rodilla – the knee
    el tobillo – the ankle
    el pie – the foot
    los dedos (de pie) - the toes
    ¿Te duele(n)________ - Does your _______ hurt?
    ¿Te duelen las piernas? - Do your legs hurt?
    ¿Te duele la cabeza? - Does your head hurt?

¡Sigue practicando!

Professor Joel

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Future Tense

The future tense is used in Spanish when referring to events that will occur in the future (obviously!). Most elementary Spanish students usually delve into the use of future tenses by learning the following format:

ir + a + infinitve verb

So, using this formula, we could say "Fernando va a bailar con Miranda."

Now, this means "Fernando is going to dance with Miranda." That's great, and a subtle difference in meaning can occur when we replace that basic "ir + a" formula. Instead, we could express this statement as "Fernando will dance with Miranda." Not much of a difference in meaning, surely, but nevertheless utilized in the Spanish language.

A lot of times, Spanish speakers will simply conjugate the verb in the present tense if there is a unit of time associated:

"Roberto me ayuda el sábado."

"Robert will help me on Saturday."

Spanish speakers also love to use the future tense to describe surprise, wonder, or conjecture. Suppose there is a knock on the door? One might wonder, "Who is that?" or "Who could that be?" Well, using the Spanish verb estar (to be), we can express this in a nice, concise sentence utilizing the future tense:

"¿Quién estará a la puerta?"

To form the future tense, you don't really have to have a Master's degree. Just take the infinitive of the verb you want, and add the correct suffix that associates to the corresponding conjugation. For the verb hablar to talk, it is conjugated to the future tense as follows:

Yo hablaré. I will talk.

Tú hablarás. You will talk.

El, ella, Ud. hablará. He, she, You(formal) will talk.

Nosotros hablaremos. We will talk.

Vosotros hablaráis. You all will talk.

Ellos, ellas, Uds. hablarán. They will talk.

Now, the following verbs have irregular bases when forming the future tense, most likely because they are common verbs and frequently used:

poner (to put) pondr-

salir (to leave) saldr-

poder (to be able to) podr-

venir (to come) vendr-

querer (to want) querr-

decir (to say, to tell) dir-

tener (to have) tendr-

saber (to know) sabr-

Here are some examples:

Yo podré verte este fin de semana. I will be able to see you this weekend.

Tú tendrás que revisar la computadora. You will have to check the computer.

Nosotros vendremos a la fiesta a las 3. We will come to the party at 3.

Practice these conjugations, but don't panic if you don't get the hang of it right away. It'll take a little getting used to.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Saturday, June 19, 2010

¡BIENVENIDOS! Welcome to my new Blog!

¡Muchísimas gracias por visitarme! Thanks for stopping by Professor Joel's new blog. I am delighted that you have decided to visit. This blog spot is intended for all of my students, including those who aren't students of mine, yet who are interested in learning Spanish and are interested in an Online resource.

To all of my current students: due to the overwhelming demand for classes, I've been handling many, many new students. Along with new students comes a huge demand for homework, coursework, and study material, so I've decided to consolidate on this blog that which I have been accumulating during the course of my lessons. Therefore, lectures, study material, topics, homework, quizzes and exams will all be located here. I'm still trying to decide on a format, so I apologize if everything is discombobulated. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know, either through this blog or through an email.

Basically, this blog will serve as an archive of all class material that I have taught, or will teach. Current students, please use this resource as a place to review material covered in class, as well as a place for a "community forum" of sorts, in which you can follow the blog and perhaps upload some ideas, tips, or personal stories of your own personal journey through the Spanish-speaking world!

¡Buena suerte!

Professor Joel

Search my Blog: