Monthly Archives: October 2020

Let’s talk elections in Spanish!

Image taken from Pixabay.com

As the 2020 United States elections draw near, this is the perfect occasion to learn how Spanish speakers talk about elections and democracy in la lengua de Cervantes.

Based on the principles of la democracia “democracy”, the electoral process is an essential component of any modern country’s political system.

In the case of the election itself, it may be referred to as la elección o las elecciones, either in singular or plural. However, there is another popular term for it: los comicios, from Latin comitium, meaning “election to distribute public offices among candidates”. Be aware that comicios is always used in the plural form.

Among the many elements that are common for carrying out an election, we have nouns like el voto “vote”, la papeleta or la boleta “ballot”, and la urna “ballot box”. (Yes, in some Spanish-speaking countries, urna is also a synonym of ataúd “coffin”.)

Meanwhile, there are some words belonging to the elections’ glossary that share similarities in Spanish and English. For example, the electoral system itself and the right to vote is called el sufragio “suffrage”; the name for the group of people entitled to vote in a specific geographic area is similar in both languages: el electorado “electorate”; and the period in which a winning candidate holds public office is known as el mandato, practically the same as “mandate”.

Another Spanish noun bearing an obvious resemblance to its English equivalent is colegio electoral “electoral college”.

Generally, a geographic area being represented by one or more elected officials may receive one of two names in Spanish: la circunscripción and el distrito electoral, which are equivalent to “constituency”, “electoral district” or “riding”.

In the case of la Cámara de Representantes (House of Representatives), every constituency is represented by one seat, which may be translated as el escaño o la curul (pl. curules) in Spanish, each one to be held by diputados and diputadas (male and female representatives). Escaño or curul are the names for each seat in any given legislature or parliament, even for el Senado (Senate) and each one of los senadores and las senadoras (male and female senators).

Finally, regarding the leader of a country’s executive branch, he or she may be known as presidente “President”, jefe de Estado “Head of State”, jefe de Gobierno “Head of Government”, mandatario or gobernante.

Go ahead and use these words when explaining to your Spanish-speaking friends how elections are held in your country.

The post Let’s talk elections in Spanish! first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

Latin America Travel Bucket List (Part Two)

¿Qué lugares de América Latina están en tu lista de deseos? (Which places in Latin America are on your bucket list?). With so many to choose from, it’s tough making a Latin America travel bucket list. I’ve already given you some ideas in Part One, including Machu Picchu, the Salt Flats of Bolivia, and the amazing Galapagos Islands. Hoy voy a agregar algunos lugares más para tu lista de deseos (Today I’m going to add a few more places for your bucket list).

Las Ruinas de México

México es un país increíble para visitar (Mexico is an incredible country to visit). From the bustling capital of Mexico City, to chilled out beach towns like Puerto Escondido, to the cultural hub of San Miguel Allende, there’s enough to see and do here to keep you busy for a lifetime. Believe me – I’ve already been here over 3 years and I’ve barely scratched the surface!

Teotihuacan

Para tu lista de deseos, te recomiendo visitar las ruinas de México (For your bucket list, I recommend visiting the ruins of Mexico). You’ve got plenty of options, including the ancient city of Teotihuacán, known as la Ciudad de los Dioses (the City of the Gods). It’s an easy day trip out of CDMX to get to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can jump on a tour or just catch the local bus.

On a visit to the ruins, you can climb to the top of both la Pirámide del Sol (the Pyramid of the Sun) and la Pirámide de la Luna (the Pyramid of the Moon) to take in the view. Just be warned that it can get really hot out there and there really isn’t any shade! You can read all about visiting Teotihuacán in this post and check out the video tour below:

There are also tons of Mayan ruins, especially on the east coast. The most famous of these is definitely Chichén Itzá, which is easily reached from tourist hot spots like Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

Chichén Itzá es una de las nuevas siete maravillas del mundo (Chichen Itza is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World). Here you can see the amazing Temple of Kukulkan, which was dedicated to the Mayan feathered serpent god by the same name. This amazing temple is actually a calendar, but you’ll have to go read my post about it to learn the whole story!

Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza.

That’s not all, though – you can also visit Tulum, Cobá, Uxmal, Palenque, and so many more! Make sure at least one of these magnificent ruins in Mexico makes it onto your Latin America travel bucket list.

Senderismo en la Patagonia

La región de la Patagonia es un hermoso lugar para explorar (The region of Patagonia is a beautiful place to explore). It’s located in South America, and I mean south. It’s way down there at the bottom of the continent, split between two countries – Chile and Argentina.

Si te gusta el senderismo, te encantará la Patagonia (If you like hiking, you will love Patagonia). This place really is a hiker’s paradise, with trails of all different lengths and levels to choose from. Everywhere you go, it’s like walking in a postcard. The scenery really is that beautiful!

Torres del Paine

The Torres!

Solo visité Torres del Paine pero fue una gran experiencia (I only visited Torres del Paine but it was a great experience). We spent a week in Chilean Patagonia, including a 3-day, 2-night camping trip in Torres del Paine.

Mi amiga chilena me ayudó a hacer videos sobre el parque (My Chilean friend helped me make videos about the park). In these three videos, you can see the beauty of Torres del Paine and learn a bunch of Spanish along the way. Here’s Part One and you’ll find the others on our YouTube channel:

Unfortunately we didn’t make it over to the Argentina side, so we’ll just have to go back! There are lots of places there on my travel bucket list, such as Los Glaciares National Park. One of these days I want to rent una caravana (a camper van) to explore the whole region.

Las Cataratas del Iguazú

Speaking of Argentina, the next place on the Latin America travel bucket list is there as well. Actually, it’s located in both Argentina and Brazil. I’m talking of course about Las Cataratas del Iguazú (Iguazu Falls).

Juntos, forman las cascadas más grandes del mundo (Together, they make up the largest waterfalls in the world). While Victoria Falls in Africa is taller, Iguazu is much wider and is actually split up into some 275 distinct falls. It really is an impressive sight to behold!

Amazing Iguazu Falls.

Las cataratas del Iguazú son una de las siete maravillas naturales del mundo (The Iguazu Falls are one of the seven natural wonders of the world). To really appreciate the true marvel of Iguazu Falls, it’s best to visit both the Argentina and Brazil side. If you’re headed over there, be sure to check out the Portuguese blog for some tips!

Se pueden realizar paseos en lancha bajo los saltos y caminatas por senderos (You can take boat rides under the falls and hikes on trails). On the Argentina side, the highlight is definitely taking in the views from atop la Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat) – the narrow gorge that most of the falls spill over. Over on the Brazil side, you’ll get a better panoramic view of all the falls.

 

 

I hope these posts have given you some ideas for your travel bucket list! Even though now isn’t exactly the best time to travel, it’s always nice to have something to look forward to. I’m always adding to my travel bucket list. Let me know if you have any more ideas, especially in Latin America!

The post Latin America Travel Bucket List (Part Two) first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

Colloquial Spanish Course – Talking about parenthood in Spanish

In this Spanish lesson we are going to practice talking about parenthood in Spanish. First we will learn some relevant grammar and vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short audio conversation in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

parenthood in spanish

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Talking about parenthood in Spanish:

Criar: To raise
Cuidar: To care for
Dar el pecho: to breastfeed
El bebé prematuro: premature baby
La cesárea: cesarean section
La epidural: epidural anaesthesia
La mochila portabebés: baby rucksack, baby carrier
La lactancia artificial: bottle feeding
La dermatitis del pañal: nappy rash
La crema para irritaciones: nappy cream
El cólico: colic
El pediatra: paediatrician
El bebé: baby, baby boy
La bebé: baby, baby girl
El chupete: dummy, pacifier
El biberón: bottle
El babero: bib
La cuna: cot, crib
El juguete: toy
La muñeca: doll
El peluche: cuddly toy
El cochecito de bebé: pram, baby carriage
La sillita de paseo/carreola: pushchair, stroller
El pañal: nappy, diaper
El orinal: potty
La papilla: pureed baby food
La leche: milk
Llorar: to cry
El cambiador: changer
El embarazo: pregnancy
El osito de peluche: teddy bear
El parto: birth
El postparto: post birth
El potito: jar of baby food
Gatear: to crawl
La casa de muñecas: doll house
La niñera: nanny

Now play the audio to listen a conversation. Can you understand what is being said? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Transcript:

María: Aaaaahhhh
John: María, ¿estás bien?
María: Es mi ciática. Me duele tanto.
John: Pobrecita. ¿Hay algo que pueda hacer para ayudarte?
María: No, la verdad es que no. Se me pasará. Estoy bastante acostumbrada. Es muy normal en los últimos meses del embarazo. Lo pasé mucho peor con mi primer hijo.
John: ¿Qué edad tiene Pablo ahora?
María: Aún es pequeño. Casi dos años. Por fin camina bien y hemos dejado de usar la sillita.
John: Mi esposa y yo esperamos cinco años antes de tener a nuestro segundo hijo. Hilary no estaba segura de poder aguantar otro parto.
María: Ya. El mayor dolor que he sentido en mi vida. Pero se te olvida. Y el milagro de la vida es tan tremendo que quieres darle a tu hijo una hermanita o un hermanito.
John: ¿Sabes si vas a tener una niña o un niño?
María: No, preferimos la sorpresa. Vamos a hacer algunas cosas de manera diferente esta vez. La última vez no quise ponerme la epidural, esta vez me la pondré. La última vez no pude dar pecho pero esta vez estoy decidida a hacerlo.
John: ¿Pablo usó un chupete?
María: Por supuesto.
John: Ninguno de nuestros hijos lo usó. A veces nos preguntamos si hubiera sido más fácil. Dormimos muy mal durante los primeros tres años.
María: Lo mejor es dormir con tu hijo en la misma cama. Pablo siempre ha dormido muy bien y nunca nos da problemas a la hora de dormir.
John: ¿Y tu marido?
María: Bueno, sí. Nada es perfecto. A Alberto no le hace mucha gracia dormir en el sofá.

 

So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

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The post Colloquial Spanish Course – Talking about parenthood in Spanish first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

I understand the subjunctive now; it’s easy and I’ll tell you about it. The problem is that we have been taught to think of it almost literally backwards

For the last couple of weeks I've been studying the uses of the subjunctive intensively for a couple of weeks, wading through inane comments like "it's just something only natives know for sure; to everyone else it is invisible magic" (a very unfortunately common and reductive opinion I've seen around), scouring forums to study how people use it, reading guides and books and the whole thing. Not much seemed to be working; the whole thing still seemed arbitrary, impossible to predict, and totally random.

But last night I had a breakthrough, and damn near everything fell into place. I read a few things; I read a great write up on how in spirit English uses the "idea" of the subjunctive mood in various auxiliary verbs from "I think…" to "could", etc, and how it often parallels things in Spanish. I then read through a whole chain of spanishdict questions and answers on the topic, and someone made a comment talking to a new learner who used the indicative in the context of questioning whether or not she had popped a ball when she should have used the subjunctive. His comment was "if you're uncertain that the ball was popped…then why is your next sentence TELLING ME that the ball was popped?"

I frowned. "Why would that say that?" I asked myself. "It wasn't as if she was literally telling him that the ball was popped from her perspective, instead she was just…she was…just…"

Finally it all hit me; the subjunctive mood makes NO SENSE… on its own. The fatal flaw — one that comes down to a critical misunderstanding between how english's and Spanish's primary moods operate — isn't that I didn't understand the subjunctive per se

It was that I had no real idea what the hell the indicative mood really was, nor how well-learned Spanish people interpret it to their ears.

How could I? Nobody had explained it well to me. EVERYONE only talks about the subjunctive but never the indicative. Because it's obvious, right? It's the same in English as it is in Spanish, right? Let's barely even touch on it when discussing the subjunctive, how could they be related? It's like English, the subjunctive is just a weird thing dangling from under it.

No it's not. Guys, the indicative mood is far stronger than english's. It isn't about an implication of rules, it isn't about an implication of concrete reality. It is ABOUT reality, truths, and our perceptions of that truth, directly. There is no implication, it's the outright direct meaning. ANY time we use the indicative, we communicate that what we are saying is a FACT to our perception, and everyone else will hear us like that's what we're saying even if the sentence would imply otherwise; it doesn't act subordinate to the sentence context, so if you use it in the wrong context they crash into each other.

This is the key. The subjunctive isn't about being emotional, it isn't about possibilities, it isn't about hypotheticals per se.

It is about NOT being the indicative, and literally the only real "rule" to the subjunctive is "do I want to give my sentences a strong meaning of truth, factual declaration, and concrete reality here? Or would that focus hurt my sentence?" The subjunctive is a mood of avoidance. It's used to AVOID the implications of the indicative. It can only properly be understood by contrast to spanish's usage of the indicative mood, and once you properly grasp that it's the easiest thing in the world to see.

I was up till 5 am checking all the examples I could find, reading Spanish forums online and all their usages. I couldn't find one that didn't make sense to me anymore, not a single damn one. All those weird irregularities? Sensible. The reasons for why it seems to spread over so many theoretical topics? Sensible. I had done it, I'd cracked the meaning behind things. And regardless of what some people on forums had claimed, it's absolutely not magic or something you can only get by speaking for 10+ years. What it is is simply misexplained by means of being talked about in a vacuum.

And with it came a LOT of sudden, cascading realizations about Spanish and how it truly differs from English. I will explain all of this below to help my fellow English-to-spanish people.

First off: "Nice catch", you probably think, "but it's so abstract. How does realizing the implications of the indicative mood help me?"

Allow me to demonstrate. First off, it must be said that the indicative is way simpler than the subjunctive in terms of its scope. In fact the entire reason why the subjunctive seems to cover so many things in theory is just that it is nothing more and nothing less than a reflection of everything the indicative is not, so covers more topics on paper (even if it's used far less frequently in reality) Like I said, literally all of it makes sense when you just flip things around and denote subjunctive as "that thing that gets called when the STRONG indicative mood would ruin things with its overwhelming presence." We can interrogate sentences in Spanish, piece by piece, and I'll show you exactly how it lines up.

Let's take the classical example. "Estoy feliz que estés aqui!" Let's NOT ask ourselves why the subjunctive is here…instead, let's ask ourselves why the indicative ISN'T here.

Indicative comes off as — again, not merely implies like equivalent statements in English but outright states a purpose of — declaring facts, discussing concrete reality of the here and now, our declarative plans, etc.

Can you see why this would be "wrong"? It is in fact not wrong, at all — it's just incongruous in context. If you said "estas aqui" with the mood that declares facts…well, at best you just announced to them that they are here, carrying the meaning of you wanting to let them know this fact. Rather bizarre under most circumstances, seeing as how they damn well know that they are already here and don't need us to declare this for them! So, normally we won't do it unless in context we really do want to declare this to them for some reason.

"Es posible que él es aqui"Let's apply the same process! "Why wouldn't the indicative be good here?" Well let's look at the first half. "Es posible que…" alright so what we say next is possible! And next we say "es aquí". As in, we used the declarative, factual, concrete reality mood. In other words if we used "es" here, we would be outright saying that we firmly believe — that it is a fact to us — that this man is here

Well if we firmly believed that already, then why the hell did we lead with "it's possible?" This is just an incongruous statement! Therefore, we don't use it like this (unless we really do want to make such an incongruous statement).

Talking about an object that doesn't or may exist? Well when you refer to it with the indicative, you DIRECTLY STATE that to you that object might as well be reality. Poetic, but also rather delusional. Therefore, we don't use the indicative.

Making conditional plans, like "we will go to the mall once grandma arrives?" If you use the indicative on the latter half, you directly state that her arriving is your reality…even if she hasn't arrived yet. See what I said above about being delusional.

And so on and so on. Whenever you are confused about why a subjunctive is used, the proper question is not "why is it here". The proper question is "why is the indicative not here?" It's a subtle difference — but an important one.

What we have to understand is that Spanish is not a neutral-statement language. It is binary. You ARE asserting reality. Or you are not; those are the only options, and to speak in the indicative is to presume to be asserting your interpretation of facts for others to hear. It is not a subtle effect or theory, this is how the spanish-trained brain will unconsciously view your sentences and why it will tell them that 'something' is off about what you said. You indicated to them that you wish to discuss something factual that is in fact not, and their / our-future-brains aren't really sure how to interpret that. In fact, if you aren't already thinking of the indicative in this manner or interpreting sentences with that subtext, it's time to start; that's how the spanish speaking mind will interpret its usage, and if we want to learn this language well we need to interpret it as that as well.

Those are the examples off the top of my head. I will now explain why, in terms of the structure of english and spanish, this idea is so hard to get across to native english speakers.

This entire effect is a direct contrast to English, which is why it's alien to use until properly explain, and why to native Spanish speakers our confusion is foreign. To both of you — english-to-spanish students and people who speak spanish first, i will note the following lingual truth that most people don't realize by virtue of not thinking about it: english is a flexible, and often neutral language. Let me repeat that; english is NEUTRAL by default. We DON'T communicate this kind of meaning with our basic sentences, ever. English is like a buffet rather than a binary. Its base forms are almost always implicationless by design specifically so that we can choose to insert auxiliary words to enchant it with such meanings as English speakers please. This is likely also why most of its true subjunctive mood has faded into niche forms; English genuinely has no real need of it with so many ways of putting a sentence together. Spanish, by and large, has 2, and you will not escape from them nor their implications. (Well and imperative, but I'm not talking about it because both of our languages share that one nearly identically in concept). A statement is a statement, indicative is your reality and your attempts to declare facts for others to hear and discuss, and subjunctive is the only way to indicate that what you speak of isn't that. That's it. That's all there is to it.

Also, I'll tell all spanish-first readers who happen to read this the same thing i told my Spanish friends irl: you have no idea how confusing the subjunctive is when you are coming from a place where the "primary" prose can imply anything due to a) that being what we think of thanks to English b) most people not going out of their way to firmly correct this misconception. It would be damn near useless and indeed extremely random to perceive in usage if not for its reflections on the indicative, which is different from what we think at first. THIS is why your English speaking friends who are trying to learn Spanish struggle so hard with the concept, while you just know it. (And on the flip, why none of my Spanish-first friends realized the neutrality underlining English until i directly pointed it out to them. A lot of us aren't aware of the underlying mechanics; this is fine going from Spanish to English since English is flexible as hell, but not so much the other way around, unfortunately for us.)

Now, after all of this, can I make a request to the general community: can we PLEASE not presume that the subjunctive is magic and that the indicative is so obvious? That kind of common notion is at least in part why a lot of English-to-spanish students wrestle with the concept. For some reason we're often taught (I sure was) that the indicative in Spanish is synonymous with English and to not think more on it in comparison to its bizarre cousin, when in reality the differences between English normal prose and Spanish's indicative are both easy enough to explain and also EXACTLY why the subjunctive exists. Trying to explain how and where to use the subjunctive is like trying to put a car together with a wrench and a few bolts; good luck figuring it out easily with so much essential context missing. Maybe my teachers just didn't think about it? Do people in general not just realize this crucial difference between English's loose neutral structure and Spanish's much stricter and meaning-laden structure? Who knows.

And no, realizing this doesn't mean we don't have to practice. I'll forget use cases, not be able to realize when I needed to switch moods until hindsight, etc. I recommend "demystifying the subjunctive" for a book, it helped me out immensely. But at least now we understand it. Learning, as Spanishdude on YouTube says, is just an act of giving context to things we already know, and now we can do that without being lost. It IS a simple and easy to grasp concept at its heart, it's just not usually explained well and requires explaining what precisely is the difference between how english approaches delivering information and how Spanish does. Former is neutral, latter always communicates a meaning. The indicative in particular always imparts a sense of speaking of concrete reality no matter what sentence it happened to be in, and the subjunctive is nothing more than its replacement for when the indicative's strong statements on reality simply don't work with the matters being discussed. Of the two, the indicative is both more strict and also more narrow, and thus the clause of 'use indicative until its determinate attitude of only being used to address factual reality shits the sentence up' reigns best for the quickest and easiest way to conceptually grasp the subjunctive.

It is all about the indicative; always has been.

Anyway that's all I got. I'm finally going to bed, work will suck tomorrow but oh well, I'm too happy to care. After that I'll…maybe finally learn some decent vocabulary. I'm a heavily grammar based learner, so this was actually one of the first stops on my way through my new language, so I've still got a lot of learning to do. Still, now that i get this, I am much more confident of the rest of the way onward.

———-

Couple of more fun tidbits, if anyone is still reading. I also realized the English conditional is WAY wider than Spanish's, and that this is in part because in English it has come close to replacing separated subjunctive grammar in a lot of cases. If you ever notice how often we through "can" and "could" around, it is in part because of this.

I also realized that in a theoretical sense, the "true" purpose of future tense in Spanish is to discuss plans for the future, not to indicate that it will happen. Technically a small detail and probably obvious to most, but for some reason I needed this realization to realize why the subjunctive isn't triggered by its speculation; merely declaring plans is a concrete thing, after all. For some reason in English I get the subtle sense of trying to will over the future when I use it. Might be a slight language difference in intent, or maybe I'm just presumptuous about the future in English.

Finally, just a piece of trivia I liked; I realized "to think" and "creer / pensar" aren't really good translations for each other in implication. You ever wondered why it doesn't trigger the subjunctive in a positive usage? This helps to reinforce one last bit; for such things when it comes to certainty vs uncertainty, it's likely just a concept being used slightly differently in Spanish. While they mean literally the same thing, their connotations are nearly inverted. Spanish uses it to affirm that you believe something to be true (hence why it's also translated as to believe), while English uses it to instead imply subjectivity and impart doubt to a clause. It would absolutely be a subjunctive trigger in Spanish if it were transplanted directly since our usage of it in spirit is completely synonymous with Spanish's own usual triggers, but well it isn't. My Spanish speaking colleagues thought that one was interesting in particular for some reason, maybe they didn't really know how i had meant it this whole time?

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Translation Help

Hello, I have been assigned a very short translation and I am really struggling with the last sentence, I cannot put a finger on its exact meaning. The sentence is " Nuestros políticos jugando a pactos y estos grandes debates de futuro esperando turno."

Help would be greatly appreciated!

For context here is the entire passage:

Lamentablemente, nuestros baluartes económicos atentan contra el medio ambiente. Turismo: millones de personas visitando nuestro país, incentivadas por vuelos low cost. Textil: colecciones nuevas sin parar, producción contaminando a buen ritmo. Somos exitosos, un mérito innegable si ignoramos las consecuencias medioambientales. Para compensar, podíamos tomar la decisión de ser una gran potencia en energías renovables. Y quizás hacer más verde nuestra rentable agricultura. Nuestros políticos jugando a pactos y estos grandes debates de futuro esperando turno.

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Parenting w/ Spanglish

I’m a future mom hoping to teach my future child spanish. My dad stopped speaking it to me because he was from the generation of people who tried too hard to assimilate to American culture by not teaching spanish to their kids so i speak at a toddler level. I’ve been relearning and slowly growing my vocabulary but I’m wondering what else i can do to help teach my child spanish when i myself am still learning…any ideas? I’m open to using technology as they get older

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