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The Witchcraft Of Spanish Vocabulary

The very first step to conquering a language is to tame its vocabulary. And sadly, that's the part that puts off most novice learners because memorizing strange-sounding words is too darn boring! A never-ending chant of rote rehearsal and a nervous prayer can see you through an upcoming test, but the process just won't cut it if your goal is to actually use the language in the street. It's a mystery how this incredibly inefficient method has survived this long and still continues to be perpetuated by schools and educators around the world. So is there any nirvana around this assault of monotony in our miserable lives? Anything that could make learning foreign words less painful?

The Essential Black Friday Spanish Vocabulary

Thanksgiving is over and so is the charade of thanking the almighty for all you have. With that bit out of the way, now's the time to ammo-up for the big loot, better known as the Black Friday. I mean when does one have just enough? That's ridiculous. When the discounts are this big, enough is never enough. So if you're planning to survive the soul-churning stampede, here's a quick lesson on words that could come in handy should you find yourself plundering a store in one of those Latin quarters in town. You never know the store management might just be impressed with your vocabulary enough to offer you a welcome freebie, right?

Show Off Your Spanish Skills This Thanksgiving

This post is for our American friends learning Spanish. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we just can't wait for the big turkey dinner with friends and family. Now, although the occasion isn't exactly observed by the Spanish-speaking world, a fiesta is a fiesta. Let's face it, Thanksgiving is all about food and so are the Latinos! So, now would be as awesome a time as any to brag about your Spanish before an audience of clueless folks. The millions of Spanish-speakers who call America home enjoy the day as much as you do if not more. And why not! A day off is a day off, after all. And the turkey dinner. So let's dive in and get it over with.

Este, Ese, Aquel – One Trick To Nail'em All

It might sound extremely simplistic at first glance but the demonstratives in Spanish often stump learners well into their programs. The problem is they sound too similar and there's usually no memory hook offered for one to remember them by. Oh and in case you're wondering, demonstratives are words like this, that, those, these, etc. Spanish has three of them – Ese, este, and aquel. English has just two – This and that. That's another problem with Spanish demonstratives – Why three when you can make do with just two? It's like teaching a fourth dimension to non-physicists who can only comprehend three. So what's going on here?

Life After Destinos: Sol Y Viento

Through with Destinos and Extr@ Spanish and raring to step up your Spanish comprehension game? Here's something crafted just for you. It's called Sol y Viento. Sol y Viento is a Spanish learning program seamlessly guised as a feature-length movie. If you liked Destinos for its simplicity and focus on Spanish comprehension, you'll love this one all the more because of how smoothly it challenges you to upgrade your comprehension skills while at the same time doing away with the often redundant recaps and summarization, the only aspects of Destinos that made it a tad too slow to chug along with. Sol y Viento is Destinos on steroids.

7 Bands No Spanish Learner Must Ignore

There’s no better way to consolidate your knowledge of the Spanish language than Spanish music. It draws emotions into learning thereby serving as an important linguistic anchor in your subconscious. Deep cultural insights notwithstanding, contemporary music exposes you to the limits and flexibilities of Spanish as well as the poetry of its vocabulary, puns, and metaphors. Native speakers love to play with their Spanish and this is not manifested in any other medium as beautifully as in the sheer range and fervor of música Latina. Today this language boasts of a rich array of musical choices for fans of every genre.

Music not only offers you the option to choose your favorite band and make Spanish acquisition more entertaining and less of a rigor, but also gives you the “bragging rights” of being able to sing to your friends in an exotic, alien lingo. So essentially, there seems to be little to lose in giving music a chance to teach you some Spanish. While you are free and urged to build your own list of favorites drawing upon your personal tastes, I am listing down my list of favorites here which you can use as a starting point in case you are as alien to Latino music as I was ten years ago.

Los Enanitos Verdes (Rock; Argentina)

If the Spanish you wish to acquire is that of Argentina, you would do yourself a great favor listening to this band. Not only do they have some of the best acoustics, but also heart-warming lyrics with deep meanings. They are an absolute pleasure to the ears and the lyrics tend to stick to your subconscious for eternity. Though almost everything they have done is a veritable masterpiece, I strongly recommend El Guerrero, Amores Lejanos, Guitarras Blancas, and Lamento Boliviano for the most discerning ears.

Malacates Trebol Shop (Ska/Rock/Pop; Guatemala)

The most dance-inspiring result of fusing Ska with Latino-Rock, Malacates Trebol Shop have probably the shortest of all discographies (only four albums) yet pack a whole world of punch and culture. Their hit single, also my top favorite, Tómame officially represented the 2005 summer campaign for Cerveza Gallo, the most popular beer in all of Central America.

Amparanoia (Latin/Reggae/Rock; Spain)

A delight for Spanish learners for her clarity, Amparo Sánchez (the lead singer and founder) has the rich bluesy voice that rings in your head for years even if you listen to her just once. While the band’s debut album, El Poder de Machín was bright and exuberant with a heavy Latin influence, their 2002 album, Somos Viento was a more acoustic blend of Cuban and Reggae forms. Amparo’s lyrics offer social critiques drawn from daily life and this is what makes this band ideal for anyone aspiring to acquire Spanish organically and rapidly.

Chavela Vargas (Ranchera; Mexico)

Chavela Vargas: La voz áspera de la ternura
Chavela Vargas: La voz áspera de la ternura
photo credit: Raúl Serrano licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
Isabel Vargas Liza (popular as Chavela Vargas), died on August 5, 2012 but left behind her haunting voice that won her the title, La voz áspera de la ternura (The rough voice of tenderness). She came to Mexico from Costa Rica at the age of 14, dressed as a man toting a gun in her tequilla-drenched youth, and enjoyed a short, steamy romance with Frida Kahlo; Chavela Vargas lived the romance of her signature red jorongo-clad songs. Her music is way more than a Spanish-learning resource; it is a cultural cornerstone for those who wish to live Latino and not just speak Spanish.

Cultura Profética (Reggae; Puerto Rico)

One of the best representation of the legendary Carribean sound, complete with touches of Ska, Jazz, and the quintessential Afro beats, and Funk, Cultura Profética have the fresh and chilled sound that’s just perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon study. Their lyrics used to draw heavily on socio-political issues (until La Dulzura, where the emphasis is on romance) which is great for those whose dream Spanish is Puerto Rican Spanish.

Lucha Reyes (Música Criolla; Peru)

Luchila J Sarsines Reyes is La Morena de Oro del Perú (Peru’s Black Woman of Gold) and is perhaps the most definitive voice of Peru one can ever afford to hear. She was symbol of Peruvian nationalism and this nationalist pride and heartbreaking love can clearly be heard in her legendary lyrics. The genre, Música Criolla draws heavy influences from indigenous and African roots and has a lush and romantic character. A brilliant starting point for Spanish enthusiasts is her self-titled album.

When most of North America celebrates Halloween, Peru observes the Día de la Canción Criolla (Day of the Creole Song) marking Lucha’s death anniversary. Today, Lucha is to Peru what Pelé is to Brazil.

Manu Chao is a close friend of Amparo Sánchez
Manu Chao is a close friend of Amparo Sánchez
Photo credit: Luis Tamayo licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

Manu Chao (Reggae/Son/Salsa/Pop; France)

With Basque and Galician roots, Manu Chao is a French singer who sings in many languages including Spanish. His Spanish numbers are excellent for Spanish learners due to their complex grammatical constructs, rich Latin American colloquial jargon, and the transparent rendition of the Hispanosphere’s socio-political landscape. Other than being one of the most accessible window to the Latino culture, Manu Chao’s songs are too ubiquitous to be ignored; his is a familiar voice in any bar or club anyplace in the Spanish-speaking world. A close friend and some-time collaborator of Spain’s Amparo Sánchez, Manu Chao is an absolute must-have on any Hispanophile’s iPod.

Already keen on starting with your own collection of Latin music? Check out our section on learning Spanish through music – the possibilities are endless!

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  1. I was curious if you ever considered changing the page layout of your blog?

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    1. Thanks for your feedback, Anonymous. Honestly, no, I never considered this thus far but now that you have pointed it out, I sure will. You should see more multimedia in my future posts that should make the reading more engaging. Feel free to check out the last couple of posts to see some embedded videos!

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  3. Thanks for your feedback, Anonymous. Honestly, no, I never considered this thus far but now that you have pointed it out, I sure will. You should see more images in my future posts that should make the reading more engaging.

  4. El articulo titulado “siete bandas aprende de español debe ignorar” es muy
    interesante porque yo aprecio y toco música. La primera banda Enanitos Verdes es muy interesante. Me gusta
    su canción titulado “Lamento Boliviano.” Ellos sonido similar a las bandas de Estados
    Unidos. Mi banda favorita de la lista es Malacates Trébol Shop. Ellos son
    buenos músicos. Me gusta el canción
    titulado “Nunca Me Faltes Tu.” Me gusta el uso de los cuernos.

  5. Gracias por tu comentario, Owen. Su español es impecable. Es compañero estudiante o hablante nativo? Malacates son una de mis principales favoritos también! Nos puede recomendar sus canciones preferidas por ellos?


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