Monthly Archives: July 2021

English Spanish Parallel Texts – Professions

This is the second in our course of English Spanish Parallel Texts and we are going to practice discussing Professions in Spanish. Start by reading the texts in Spanish below. The English translations are provided later but please try not to look at them until you have read the Spanish versions various times and tried your best to understand them.

There may be some words and phrases in the text that you are unfamiliar with, but you should be aiming to capture the main essence of what is happening. There will always be words and phrases popping up in real-life situations that you have never heard before, so it is important never to get too distracted by details.

If you want to investigate some of the words you don’t know with a dictionary that would be great, please do, but do this after trying your best to understand with what you already have in your head.

Check out this video lesson with information relevant to this topic:


English Spanish Parallel Texts - Professions

Image by Sony Mony Electronics from Pixabay


Spanish Texts


Text 1 in Spanish:

Sara: Hola, buenos días Juan. ¿Cómo estás? Disculpa, ¿eres un electricista?
Juan: Hola, buenas Sara. No trabajo como electricista. Soy policía. ¿Tienes un problema eléctrico?
Sara: Sí, mi nevera no funciona.
Juan: Vale, ¿dónde está tu nevera?
Sara: Aquí.
Juan: Oh, sí. Mmmhh. Un segundo. ¡No está enchufada!
Sara: Oh, lo siento mucho. Soy muy tonta.

Text 2 in Spanish:

Irene: Hola, buenas tardes. ¿Cuál es tu profesión?
Jennifer: Soy estudiante. Una estudiante de idiomas. ¿Y tú?
Irene: Yo soy escritora. Escribo libros para niños.
Jennifer: ¡Guau! Qué interesante.
Irene: Sí, está bien. Y tú, ¿donde estudias? ¿Y qué idiomas estudias?
Jennifer: Soy de Los Estados Unidos, pero vivo en Londres. Estudio italiano, español, ruso y chino.
Irene: ¡Maravilloso! ¡¡Cinco idiomas: inglés, italiano, español, ruso y chino!!
Jennifer: Francés también. Hablo seis idiomas. ¿Y tú? ¿Cuántos idiomas hablas?
Irene: Solo uno. Español. Soy española, de Madrid.



English Texts


Text 1 in English:

Sara: Hi, good morning Juan. How are you? Excuse me, are you an electrician?
Juan: I don’t work as an electrician. I am a policeman. Do you have an electrical problem?
Sara: Yes, my fridge is not working.
Juan: OK, where is your fridge?
Sara: Here.
Juan: Oh yes. Mmmhh. One moment. It is not plugged in!
Sara: Oh I am so sorry. I am very silly.

Text 2 in English:

Irene: Hello, good afternoon. What is your profession?
Jennifer: I’m a student. A student of languages. And you?
Irene: I am a writer. I write books for children.
Jennifer: Wow! How interesting.
Irene: Yes, it’s fine. Where do you study? And what languages do you study?
Jennifer: I’m from the United States, but I live in London. I study Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese.
Irene: Wonderful! Five languages: English, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Chinese!!
Jennifer: French too. I speak six languages. And you? How many languages do you speak?
Irene: Only one. Spanish. I’m Spanish from Madrid.


So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the original text before checking the translation? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, practice makes perfect! Be patient and keep reading, hearing, writing, and speaking Spanish. See you next time!

The post English Spanish Parallel Texts – Professions first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.

Why children’s literature isn’t beginner material

TL;DR – For implicit language acquisition, learner literature (graded readers written for language learners) is far more effective than “authentic” children’s literature. I compared samples from children's, adult, and learner literature as an objective, if not scientific, demonstration. It shouldn’t be a surprise that learner literature is more effective than "authentic" children's literature. They’re written with different purposes. Children’s literature is meant to expand the vocabulary of native speakers that already have huge vocabularies (thousands of word families), with the purpose of developing literacy, not general proficiency. Graded readers are written to take advantage of learners’ already-developed literacy, general knowledge, and comparatively even larger first-language lexicon.

The texts: The first 250 or so words of El patito feo; Tigres azules, Borges; Frida Kahlo, Kristy Placido

At the beginner and intermediate levels, *if the goal is implicit acquisition of vocabulary and grammar* this comparison shows why oft-recommended traditional children’s literature isn’t the most effective choice. I always recommend graded readers (books written for learners at different proficiency levels) over children’s or YA literature for the reasons I’ll get into below, but I was curious as to just how much of a difference there was, so I compared them according to certain variables that are widely understood by second language acquisition researchers and teachers to be important in evaluating texts’ usefulness for implicit acquisition through reading. It wasn’t at all a fair fight, so I also wanted to compare a canonical (adult) literary text. I give my reasons below for choosing these particular texts.

Criteria one: Frequency, measured using Corpusdelespañol, the project of Professor Mark Davies. Screenshots of the results in the link above. The three texts score similarly in terms of the highest-frequency vocabulary, with Borges’ taking a decent lead. But this also demonstrates why the importance of highest-frequency vocabulary is often overstated. If you look at these words, you’ll notice that there’s not a lot you can do with them. Not many verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. But by my count, Frida and Borges have more than twice as many verbs as El patito.

Criteria two: Usefulness/Versatility. Medium-and even some low-frequency vocabulary is often necessary for actually using the language in real life. If we look at the lowest-frequency words themselves, there’s a huge difference between the ‘quality’ of the Frida vocabulary in terms of its versatility for an intermediate or even beginning learner: It’s mostly commonly-used verbs and adjectives, while the “authentic” texts (texts written for native speakers) include many relatively obscure nouns. If the Corpus allowed us to compare frequency within this category, and even within the medium-frequency words, I suspect we’d see a huge difference in the numbers between Frida and the other two texts.

Known words. Paul Nation and several other scholars have found that texts need to consist of 90% known words for a reader to be able to *accurately* infer the meaning of unknown words from context, though 95-98% is usually considered ideal in these studies, and some scholars suggest that 80% is enough for high-aptitude learners. This is important because stopping to look up a word drastically cuts down on the amount of comprehensible input a reader gets, and quantity is one of the most important factors in implicit acquisition (most language acquired by highly proficient learners is acquired implicitly). Additionally, this research found that learners misinterpret new words from context more than the researchers expected. The problem so far is that high-frequency words and repetition on their own make very boring texts. This problem can be alleviated with cognates. By relying on the first language, unknown words become known words. More complicated language often ironically consists of a disproportionately higher number of cognates. In the low- and medium- frequency categories there are far more cognates in Borges than El patito. This widens the comprehensibility gap even further. But the Frida text has even more, and nearly every medium- and low-frequency word is either relatively frequent, such as estudia, juegan, y cansada, or a cognate (usually both). On top of all that, unknown words in graded readers are usually defined in the footnotes or a glossary. This is faster and more reliable than a dictionary and even software that allows you to highlight a word to look it up, such as in LingQ (which I really like) and a Kindle.

Repetition: There isn’t too much of a difference in how repetitive the texts are, at least within such a small sample. The larger the sample, the more difference you would see. In 7200 total words, there are fewer than 150 ‘unique’ words in Frida. That’s a lot of repetition, but the text itself doesn’t feel too repetitive. But again, look at which words are being repeated and you’ll find that it’s more versatile vocabulary that’s repeated in Frida, while the repeated words in Borges and Patito are more useful to the story than to your average intermediate learner's communicative needs.

*Frida Kahlo* is considered a level 2 reader. Level 1 readers will have fewer unique words, while level 3 will have many more and include the subjunctive and all tenses. Graded readers can be found at, or on Amazon and the personal pages of authors such as Bryan Kandel, Andrew Snider, Adriana Ramirez, and Bill VanPatten. The FM readers have audiobook options, as well as entire courses built around each book, but some of them will feel a bit too juvenile to adults. Their most recent books come with two versions: one in present, one in past tenses. VanPatten’s books should be read when you feel you’re ready for “authentic” texts to bridge the gap. VanPatten is one of the most renowned experts in Second Language Acquisition research and the most involved in influencing actual language teaching. He retired from professorship to write fiction. Most of the other authors are teachers.

I chose Borges because his writing has the reputation of being difficult, though possibly more for his ideas than the language itself. The specific story, *Tigres azules* was a random choice. I compared it with the first page of *El aleph* and the results were similar. I chose *El patito feo* because it’s often the example people use when advocating for children’s literature to be used. More modern children’s literature would fare better, but it’s more difficult to find for free or for a low cost. New children’s books in Spanish also get to be expensive unless you can find them in the library, where the choice is usually limited.

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Venezuela’s Natural Beauty: Región Zuliana

Maracaibo. Picture courtesy of

Dominating the northwestern part of Venezuela, la Región Zuliana comprises exclusively Zulia state, the most populated one in the country. Known for its cultural tradition, tropical climate and cultural diversity, the Zulian region and its capital city, Maracaibo, represent an essential piece of Venezuela’s natural and cultural landscape.

The diversity of natural landscapes present in Zulia, in addition to the presence of Lake Maracaibo, defines a wide range of climates present in the state, featuring highly irregular rain patterns.

There are two geographical features that have defined this region: the Maracaibo Lake basin, a depression covered with sediments coming from the Andes Mountain Range; and the Sierra de Perijá—also called Sierra de los Motilones—, a local, sparsely populated mountain range in the western part of the region, right on the border with Colombia.

Zulia comprises many habitats that provide interesting wildlife reservoirs, such as the Sierra de Perijá and the humid coastal environments, which have a great variety of species, even if some of them are still endangered as a result of the economic activities in this state, like deforestation, poaching or water pollution.

However, this region keeps attracting both national and foreign tourists for the many possibilities the state offers. Just by traveling around Castilletes—right in front of the Gulf of Venezuela—, one could find hundreds of appealing places to explore, like the haciendas (ranches), museums for local handicrafts and folkloric treasures, and historical monuments.

Zulia is home to four main Indigenous peoples (Guajiros, Wayuú, Yukpas, and Barí), which still maintain many of their traditions and lifestyles. For tourists, this is a genuine cultural experience.

Also, the shores of Maracaibo Lake and the sea shores overlooking the Gulf of Venezuela offer wonderful beaches to travelers, as well as true architectural jewels from Venezuela’s colonial past, such as the San Carlos Castle, Castillete de Zapara and Paijana’s fortified outpost.

Monument to La Chinita. Picture courtesy of

When compared with other Venezuelan regions, Zulia state doesn’t have a great array of national parks. Nonetheless, the two of them are very well-known as tourist magnets, especially for those looking for new, wild adventures.

The most well-know of those parks is the Sierra de Perijá National Park, officially created on December 12, 1978 in order to preserve the local biodiversity in an area of 295,288 hectares. With two hills standing out (Cerro Pintado and Cerro Tutari), the park extends through the municipalities of Perijá and Colón. Its height is enough to allow for the development of various climatic and vegetation levels, including páramos (high plateaus) and most of the protected area is covered by dense, humid forests and scrubs.

The other park, Ciénagas de Juan Manuel National Park, was established on June 5, 1991. Also known as Aguas Blancas and Aguas Negras, it is a wide swamp famous for el relámpago de Catatumbo (Catatumbo Lightning), an unique atmospheric phenomenon that happens over the mouth of the Catatumbo River originating from a mass of storm clouds at an altitude of more than 1 km, which appears at least 140 nights per year, nine hours per day, and from 16 to 40 times per minute—a lightning so famous it appears on the state’s official flag.

In brief, la Región Zuliana is one of the best regions to visit if you want to start exploring a really fascinating side of Venezuela’s landscape.

The post Venezuela’s Natural Beauty: Región Zuliana first appeared on Spanish Language Blog.