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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?

So Many Ways "To Pull" In Spanish!

Languages don't always work in predictable ways. They have rules and they break their own rules. They have more than one word for the same thing and the same word for more than one thing. This makes them frustratingly complex and it is this complexity that makes them beautiful. This complexity is the very hallmark of an organic language setting them apart from the likes of Klingon and Dothraki. One such fun aspect of Spanish is its translation for the English verb "to pull." If you've just started out with the language, it's a no-brainer: halar. But there's more than meets the eye. Turns out, Mexicans and their neighbors don't even like the word!

Comprender Vs. Entender: Do You Understand?

These are words that get mixed up by even native speakers, let alone noobs like us. Going by the dictionary, both are synonymous and have the same translation in English. However, the two have quite dissimilar connotations. Now the good news here is that mixing up comprender and entender is not a exactly deal-breaker like mixing up, say, ser and estar or por and para. So depending on how far ahead you are in your Spanish learning program, this might be a non-issue. However, if you're like me and suffer from an itch for perfection, knowing where to use one instead of the other is surely the difference between a rookie and a native.

Decode Mexican Place Names Like A Native

When the Spaniards first arrived in Mexico, they asked the indigenous locals for directions and that's where this story begins. The Indians, you see, didn't speak Spanish (duh) and named their cities in ways only they could pronounce. First line of defense, maybe? Who knows. But the Spaniards did their best to learn. And in the process, wound up thoroughly messing up those names. This is what happens when you try to write a word that not only doesn't exist in your language but is also nearly impossible for you to pronounce. The mistakes, however, stuck and with time gave Mexican place names their unique tongue-twisting character.

Cool Trick For The Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive

Subjunctive, let alone imperfect subjunctive, has been terrifying rookie Spanish learners ever since the beginning of time. Why do we even need to deal with those cryptic conjugations anyway? Do they even matter in regular conversations? Well, you’ll be surprised to know that they not only do but do so way more than their English counterparts. Much has been written before on this subject and the grammar of Spanish subjunctive is as plenty easy to access. This article is not about reinventing the wheel. Instead, what we’ll do here is learn some super-cool tricks to nail the conjugation without a single minute wasted toward rote rehearsal.




Learn Spanish Reading Fairy Tales

This site is an account of my personal experiences with various Spanish acquisition resources and techniques that lie scattered all over the Internet in overwhelming numbers. In the last few posts we have discussed the effectiveness of some of the key immersion techniques that helped me with my Spanish. Today, we’ll elaborate on one of them with a twist. We already know how reading helps build our vocabulary but what to read is often the biggest dilemma someone learning Spanish often faces. This article explains where to find children’s books and fairy tales that are one’s best bets when it comes to learning any language.

Why fairy tales and fables?


Light to read, easy to absorb!
Light to read, easy to absorb!
Photo credit: Jetske19 licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
While I have often talked about how reading Spanish comics, books, novels, or newspapers help create an inexpensive immersion environment for the learners, today I will discuss one of my favorite recommendations when it comes to reading as a rookie learner. What I am referring to are children’s materials, i.e., cartoon shows, short stories, anecdotes, fables, etc. Even better if the reading material is one of the graded classroom readers meant for elementary-school students.

One big reason why these materials are so effective for the uninitiated is the extremely lightweight texture and limited range of vocabulary. These graded readers require the learner to have a very basic knowledge of grammar and a limited vocabulary in order to be understood and enjoyed. They are quick and light to read, easy to understand, and fun to relate and provide one of the most enjoyable means of absorbing the bare essentials of Spanish. The Spanish absorbed this way is more often than not what’s required in day-to-day conversations and for basic survival in a Spanish-only ecosystem. In a nutshell, these readers are the zero-calorie meals of your Spanish diet-plan – light and easy to consume and quick to absorb!

Your world is filled with wonderful free resources


Fairytales are the easiest reads for new Spanish learners
Fairytales are the easiest reads for new Spanish learners
Photo credit: GettysGirl4260 licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
So where can we find good-quality resources for children’s Spanish? Since I am a big fan of all things free, I would talk about only online resources. In case you are willing to spill some dough, you have everything you can imagine on sites like Amazon® and Flipkart® if not your local bookstore. In fact, Amazon would easily beat your neighborhood bookstore when it comes to variety and maybe even pricing. If you own a Kindle® (Amazon’s® e-book reader), things just couldn’t get any easier given the quick and effortless downloads and inexpensive titles.

Now coming back to free resources, there are quite a few hidden gems online that could satisfy the most discerning of readers. No matter how rapidly you devour, you can never run out of titles with such websites offering you countless options in portable document format (PDF). Depending on your preference, you could either print them off your computer and enjoy the feeling of reading off a real book, or you could just read them right off your tablet or computer screen if you are not too fussy about the screen’s glare. Personally, I prefer the idea of printing them because learning Spanish should be as stress-free as it gets and not having to expose my eyes to the computer screen’s radiation for extended periods of time is one less thing to worry about.

Best free online resources


ChildrensLibrary.org – I strongly urge all Spanish enthusiasts to check out this one and bookmark it without fail. With hundreds of digitized children’s books in Spanish available for you to devour for free, there couldn’t be a better treat for those who wish to just drown themselves in Spanish.

BookBox.com – This site is a visual delight for Spanish learners. Dozens of videos, animated versions of common children’s stories in several languages including Spanish can be found here. All videos come with subtitles to make viewing less stressful.

GrimmStories.com – This is where one can find plenty of fairy tales and fables written by brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, in English, Dutch, Danish, Italian, German, French, and Spanish. Needless to say, you need to select the first option in the list of languages if you are a Spanish learner.

No matter what you read, read often
No matter what you read, read often!
Photo credit: Harald Groven licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
AndersenStories.com – This one shares an uncanny resemblance to GrimmStories.com in format and presentation with the only difference being that the writer on this site is Hans Christian Andersen. This site too has stories in half a dozen languages including, of course, Spanish. Both GrimmStories and AndersenStories offer the incredibly useful option to print your favorite stories as PDF. Most traditional readers who are not terribly fond of reading off the glare of their screens should find this option quite handy.

There are many more sources tucked away in the riches of the Internet still wanting to be discovered. While the sites listed above will more than quench your thirst for reading, you can surely scavenge the Web for richer or better resources and share your findings with our community here. No matter what you read, the trick is to read often and read regularly. Even if you find opening the dictionary way too often annoying, don’t give up. Given you stay consistent, you will soon notice a significant drop in the number of times you have to look up something in the dictionary for every story. It has worked for me and for many more all over the world who are learning Spanish on their own.

The BIG RED BOOK of super quick Spanish vocabulary using mnemonics and other unconventional memory shortcuts is out and ready to make Spanish accessible and fun once again. 1,442 pages packed to the brim to help you nail difficult Spanish words @ THE SPEED OF THOUGHT.
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Master Spanish, one post at a time
Join thousands of language wizards who receive several game-changing tips to ace Spanish in their inbox each week. You‘ll get no less than two exhaustive articles every week that will teach you how to learn, memorize, and get ahead of your Spanish game without so much as lifting a finger. Mnemonics, motivational ideas, immersion tricks, free resources – we have it all covered!


HOUSE RULES: We love comments that add value to our discussions and help build a healthy community of Spanish-lovers around them. Please keep’em coming; feel free to speak your mind. Everything’s welcome unless you’re spamming or trolling (refer to our Comment Policy). You’re also welcome to share links to relevant resources but no annoying; sales pitches please! So, let’s get talking, shall we?

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9 comments

  1. It's really a cool and helpful piece of info. I'm
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    with us. Please stay us informed liκe this. Thanks for shаring.


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  2. Hi, i found a great site to learn Spanish online: Easy Spanish Lessons
    Cheers!
    www.LearnSpanishInSingapore.com/online

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would like to mention my great experience with Busuu. It's language learning program for children. Everyone interested should try it out!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I tried codys cuentos; yup they're great. That is where I learned ¡Que travioso! jejeje

    ReplyDelete
  5. Another great site: http://bestwaytolearnspanish.co/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cody's Cuentos link goes to a hame security site.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for pointing out the link-break, Tere! Looks like the site owner has decided to let go of their domain to someone else for whatever reasons which is unfortunate. I did try Googling to see if they have moved to some new domain but it seems they have shut down completely with even their iTunes page (they used to have a podcast series out there) gone. This is truly unfortunate as Cody's Cuentos was a mighty rich resource for us learners.

    Anyways, thanks for pointing it out again; I have removed the reference to the defunct site now.

    ReplyDelete

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