Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Direct Object Pronouns

These are the uses of the different direct object pronouns.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

¡Feliz Navidad!

Here's a great poem I found to celebrate today...¡disfrute!

Spanish Night Before Christmas
’Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring
- ¡Caramba! ¿Qué pasa?

Los niños were tucked
away in their camas,
Some in long underwear,
some in pijamas,

While hanging the stockings
with mucho cuidado
In hopes that old Santa
would feel obligado

To bring all children,
both buenos and malos,
A nice batch of dulces
and other regalos.

Outside in the yard
there arose such a grito
That I jumped to my feet
like a fightened cabrito.

I ran to the window
and looked out afuera,
And who in the world
do you think that it era*?

Saint Nick in a sleigh
and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along
like a crazy bombero.

And pulling his sleigh
instead of venados
Were eight little burros
approaching volados.

I watched as they came
and this quaint little hombre
Was shouting and whistling
and calling by nombre:

"Ay Pancho, ay Pepe,
ay Cuco, ay Beto,
Ay Chato, ay Chopo,
Macuco, y Nieto!"

Then standing erect
with his hands on his pecho
He flew to the top
of our very own techo.

With his round little belly
like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze
down our old chiminea,

Then huffing and puffing
at last in our sala,
With soot smeared
all over his red suit de gala,

He filled all the stockings
with lovely regalos -
For none of the niños
had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud,
seeming very contento,
He turned like a flash
and was gone like the viento.

And I heard him exclaim,
and this is verdad,
Merry Christmas to all, 

y ¡Feliz Navidad! 

*from the verb ser 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Simple Stem Changes and Examples

Click to zoom.  This is from a lesson I had today on explaining simple verb conjugations.  Questions? Send me an email, or chat with me live on the right hand sidebar!

Commands in Spanish

Above is a chart that will help you distinguish between basic commands in Spanish. Click on the image to zoom in. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

¿Qué? v. ¿Cuál?

The words qué and cuál both mean "what" or "which", but aren't interchangeable. The main rule of thumb is that qué is used to ask about an object directly, and is followed by a noun almost always:

¿Qué cosa quieres hacer? What(which) thing do you want to do?

¿Qué estación es? What(which) station is it?

The word cuál is used any time that there is a selection or something from which to choose, or there is no noun following:

¿Cuál es la fecha de hoy? What(which) is today's date?

¿Cuál es su clase favorita? What(which) is your favorite class?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Form the Subjunctive

Lots of students get lost in the conjugations of the many different verb tenses in Spanish; and if that wasn't enough, Spanish also introduces the subjunctive mood which requires its own conjugation all together. Here is my basic, 3-step plan to conjugating verbs in the subjunctive:

1)take the yo form of the verb in its present tense

2)drop the suffix -o

3)add the opposite vowel endings. For an -ar verb, the opposite vowel ending is -e, so for the verb hablar you'd get yo hable, tú hables, etc. For -er/-ir verbs, the opposite vowel ending is going to be -a, so for pedir you'd get yo pida, tú pidas, etc.

Hope that helps!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

¡Ojo! Watch Out! Cansado v. Casado

One of my students brought to my attention this funny, similarly sounding participle:

"I always used to think I was saying I was old and tired.  But word choice is important; turns out, I was saying "I was old and married"(Soy viejo y casado) instead of "I was old and tired"(Soy viejo y cansado). - Nathan Bohlar, Irving TX.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Michael Vick quiere conseguir un perrito

El superstar de la NFL quiere adquirir un cachorro! El quarterback de los Philadelphia Eagles, que fue condenado y se había encarcelado a causa de los cargos federales antiluchaperros, pasó dos años en la cárcel. Ahora mismo, ha proclamado que le encantaría tener un perro. "Me encantaría tener otro perro en el futuro. Creo que sería un gran paso para mí en el proceso de rehabilitación ..

¿Qué piensas tú?

The NFL quarterback wants to get a puppy! The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, who was convicted on Federal dog fighting charges and sentenced to a couple of years in the slammer, has now proclaimed that he would love to get a dog. "I would love to get another dog in the future. I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process.."

Thanks to the SI Vault for the use of this photograph.

The Uses for Mismo

Mismo is one of those words in Spanish that is seen frequently, but seldom understood in a specific sense. We know to use it when referring to the "same":

el mismo carro the same car

la misma página the same page

los mismos teléfonos the same phones

las mismas sillas the same chairs

Sometimes, "mismo" comes after the noun when we want to validate whatever the noun is. This is seen in English when we use the reflexive terminology himself, herself, or even itself.

El rey mismo apareció en el umbral. The king himself appeared on the threshold.

La revista misma se le quedó en casa. The magazine itself was left at home.

You'll notice in all cases that being an adjective, mismo agrees in number and gender with the noun modified.

However, mismo doesn't have to be an adjective; we also use mismo to say phrases like así mismo(like this, exactly like this) and ahora mismo(right now, exactly right now). Both express a more urgent overtone in the sentence.

Can you think of any other instances of mismo used in the Spanish language? Let me know! Respond to this post.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

CA Hospital Sued over Recent English-Only Flap

Apparently, in August 2006 several Filipino hospital workers at the Delano Regional Medical Center in Los Angeles were told in a special meeting not to speak Tagalog (their native language)in official business, and were also told surveillance cameras were going to be installed in order to monitor them.

Since the installment of the surveillance cameras, according to the plaintiffs, their co-workers have been increasingly insisting that they speak only English, even during their breaks.

"I felt like people were always watching us," said tearful 56-year-old Elnora Cayme, who worked for the hospital from 1980 to 2008. "Even when we spoke English ... people would come and approach us and tell us, 'English only.'"

This is the latest incident that the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has seen due to an increase in complaints alleging discrimination based on national origin amid a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, said Anna Park, a regional attorney for the EEOC. That's especially the case in California's central valley, where a greater share of the complaints the agency receives relate to such issues than in the nation as a whole.

In this case, the current and former hospital workers filed a separate complaint under state law in part because monetary damages are capped by federal law, said Julie Su, litigation director for the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which represents the plaintiffs. They want the English-only policy to be changed and for hospital staff to be aware of the regulations.

However, California law dictates that English may be required by private employers who require a need for spoken and written English.

Thanks to Yahoo! News and the AP.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vocabulario - Las Cosas en la Recámara (Things in the Bedroom)

la lámpara
the lamp
la cama
the bed
la almohada
the pillow
el espejo
the mirror
la pared
the wall
el espejo
the mirror
la silla
the chair
el armario
the closet
las ventanas
the windows
las cortinas
the curtains
el ventilador
the fan
el estante
the bookcase
el cuadro
the painting

Monday, December 6, 2010

An Interview with Salvador

Here's an interview with Salvador, a friend of mine from Mexico who graciously agreed to talk with me to show how easy it is to practice your Spanish-speaking skills:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Is Speaking Spanish Anti-American?

Barack Obama's famous howler

During his campaign for the Presidency, Obama said this, in response to the English-only ballot measures circulating:

“I don’t understand when people are going around worrying about, we need to have English only. They want to pass a law, we just, we want English only. Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English, I agree with that. But understand this, instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, they’ll learn English, you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”
Si Ud. quiere escuchar esta información en español, marque el 2.

Has that question ever been posed to you while placing a customer service-related call to your Cable Company, or God forbid, the Bank? What was your reaction? Were you indifferent? Did your blood boil? Were you tempted to send another soon-to-be-unanswered letter to your Congressperson reflecting your displeasure? Or did you have a little fun and press 2?

Americans are increasingly choosing sides on the official-language-of-this-country debate. Should English be considered the only language with which to do business in this country, or is there room for other tongues in our society? I mean, besides Spanish, people in this country also speak French, Portuguese, German, Arab, Swahili, Urdu, Farsi, various Indian dialects, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, and Thai. However, these never seem to be included on the chopping block of languages an increasing number of Americans wish to banish.
Why do you suppose this is? Is it because these cable companies, banks, cell phone stores, and customer service centers are trying to stick-it to English-only Americans? Or are these companies leading the charge as good Capitalist Americans and reaching out to serve another segment of their market?

I bank on the latter, and so do these companies with a Spanish-speaking presence in their customer service departments. After all, as of 1998, the United States has the fifth largest Hispanic population in the world, which amounts to about 30 million people (the exact number depending on how Hispanics are counted). Of them, two-thirds trace their roots to Mexico, and 86 percent say Spanish is their first language.

Of course, the telephone option to speak Spanish is to serve the Spanish-speaking clientele, not promote a political Philosophy. And last I checked, Apple iPhones and Hewlett-Packard laptops aren’t only sold in the United States; some schlemiel in Buenos Aires might be getting his hands on an iPad right this very second; or, he might be calling his broker to enroll in a mutual fund issued by Bank of America or Wells Fargo; he might even be trying to find out the status of his mail-in rebate from that MP3 player he bought at the local Wal-Mart in Buenos Aires.
Even though we aren’t in Argentina, we still live in the U.S. where a large contingent of the population is Spanish-speaking; and let’s face it; sooner or later you might need to call Apple’s customer service because of a functionality problem in your iPhone. The need for product satisfaction seems to transcend international borders; this country just seems to be a large trade zone serving as an end-point for these disgruntled customers/immigrants. If anybody should be to blame for pressing #2, it should be HP or Samsung, not the Spanish-speakers themselves. God Bless Multi-National Corporations.

Where does that leave us when it comes to DMV publications, or other government-issued documents? It doesn’t leave us anywhere; US Government publications are actually printed in nearly a hundred different languages. This isn’t just for homeland purposes, though; we have embassies and territories all over the world. Thus, there is a real need for us to have documents transcribed in other languages in order to assist allies, ambassadors, government employees abroad as well as expatriated Americans all around the globe.

As for my state of California, it simply makes sense to include Spanish-language documents, publications, and televised gubernatorial debates. California alone has 5.5 million people who speak Spanish at home. Other states with high Spanish-speaking populations include Texas (3.4 million), New York (1.8 million), and Florida (1.5 million).

Things that make no sense in the English-Only movement

People are under the impression that the United States' official language is English; and as such, English should be the only language spoken in official government communique. Voting instructions, street signs, and toll-free customer service support centers should all be English-only. However, if you took the time to research the demographics and factoids about our nation, you will soon discover that there is no official language. Because the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and the little tablet that the Statue of Liberty is holding is written in English doesn't propel this language into the realm of default language mandate.

Why the sudden push for English-only, anyway? Could it be an environment of fear promoted by the Age of Terror? Where anything not red, white and blue and smelling like apple pie and Chevy is equated to being foreign and dangerous, simply because of cultural misunderstandings? Who sets the standard for what is our “culture”, anyway? I know several folks of Mexican ancestry who can trace their family back to before the Bear Flag days; before California became annexed by the Manifest Destiny of James Monroe in 1848 they can trace actual family members who were living here under land-grant status from Spain. And, to all of you out there who are studying International law, you know that when area is ceded through annexation to another sovereign nation, than that sovereign nation has the duty to judicially enforce all land grants and contracts in existence in the annexed nation. Hence, California TO THIS DAY is still enforcing Mexican land-grants.
I can’t trace my own family back to Poland before 1924.

So, what’s everyone’s problem, anyway?

According to the mindset of a certain segment of Americans, learning Spanish is akin to siding with illegal immigration and/or south-of-the-border drug cartels. However, I am here to tell you that enriching your life and mind by learning the second-most spoken language in the US, and the 4th most spoken worldwide, is in no way related to political issues and anti-American sentiments. Whether or not Spanish is the language spoken by the Juárez or Sinaloa Cartels is another topic; what we have there is an interstate commerce issue with the Federal government once again injecting its meaty paws into business transactions in order to “protect” us.

“I don’t understand when people are going around worrying about, we need to have English only. They want to pass a law, we just, we want English only. Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English, I agree with that. But understand this, instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, they’ll learn English, you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”
I couldn’t believe how much flak the guy took. Radio shows, talking heads, and alphabet channels alike chorused a show of disdain for his speech. But what, exactly, was the outrage?

Does your partisan belief interfere with your opinion? Lamentably, the truth is many of us have certain ideological allegiances which are manifested in our present-day Republican/Democrat political landscape. But whether or not we are Republican, Democrat, Tea-Bagger, or Independent exhibits little or no weight to this discussion about whether or not you can speak Spanish.

The only real problem in this English-only movement is not the fact that it is a discussion of talking points and partisan bickering and wrought with endless political boredom. It is the fact that millions of Americans are actively trying to curtail the use of another language. Political philosophy notwithstanding, why limit yourself to enrichment and profit? Millions of people are here, in this country, and they are not going anywhere. Do business with them! About 5.8 percent of the people who use the Internet speak Spanish, making it the 4th most-spoken language in the Internet community, following English (51.3 percent), Japanese (8.1 percent), and German (5.9 percent). Close behind is Chinese, with 5.4 percent, followed by French with 3.9 percent.

See the real value here? Take politics out of the equation, and bon voyage.


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