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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.

How To Remember The Conjugations For Ir Using Mnemonics

It’s one thing to acquire Spanish vocabulary effortlessly using mnemonic devices and flashcards and quite another to memorize the conjugations for the myriad Spanish verbs vital to everyday conversation. Most newbies have had a mighty difficult time with the Spanish verb, ir (to go) and its conjugations that seem extremely unrelated from one conjugation to another! Come to think of it, who would expect voy (I go) and fui (I went) to be forms of the same verb in different tenses? Here, we will attempt to nail this conjugation using extremely easy and handy mnemonics. Like we always stress, Spanish is easier than it appears!

I go, you go

Maybe it is plain traditional or maybe it’s the way our learning process has been institutionalized over the years, but the very first tense we hit while learning Spanish conjugations often happens to be present indicative. This is the tense that most closely corresponds to the simple present tense of English and roughly describes habitual or repetitive actions and events, e.g., “I go”, “they eat”, etc.

Here’s how the verb, ir conjugates in this tense:

voy (I go)

vas (you go; familiar)

va (he/she/it goes; also, you go in the non-familiar sense)

vamos (we go)

van (they go, you all go)

Vamos a la escuela
Vamos a la escuela
Photo credit: Ratha Grimes licensed CC BY 2.0
Question is, however, how the heck did ir morph into voy? They appear anything but related in any form! Well, honestly we don’t know. What we do know, however, is that mnemonics can be employed to remember that voy means “I go” regardless of its origins.

Since you use this form with the first person singular, which is yo (I), you have a yo in voy although it’s in reverse (“oy”). The only thing this trick won’t help you with is remembering that all forms of ir in this tense start with the letter, “v”. Another visual aid is to imagine yourself as a small boy who goes to school everyday. Note that the words, voy and “boy” sound almost exactly the same.

Now that you are capable of recalling voy, it’s not difficult to recall the rest of the table if you realize that the endings in this tense are pretty much standard and follow the regular pattern, albeit, with the “v” root.

I went, you went

Here’s another tense where the entire conjugated set seems utterly unrelated to the root verb. For instance, the first person singular in this tense is fui (I went) which bears hardly any resemblance with the original verb, ir! Could a little bit of history help us here? Let’s see.

Latin has a word, fugere (to flee) which doesn’t exactly mean the same as the ir of Spanish. But given that both “flee” and “go” have the same innate sense of movement away from one’s original place, the correlation isn’t completely uncanny. It is this Latin verb that gave Spanish its fui. Before we start exploring the mnemonics, let’s first see how the verb conjugates in this tense which, by the way, is officially known as the preterite form:

fui (I went)

fuiste (you went; familiar)

fue (he/she/it went; also, you went in the non-familiar sense)

fuimos (we went)

fueron (they went, you all went)

Now, the question is, how to retain all of this. Let’s start with fui. We have already seen how etymology hints a correlation with the English verb, “to flee” via Latin which should be good enough to explain the “f” root in the entire table. Another trick is to remember that because this form is used with the first person singular pronoun, the “I” form, fui ends in an “i”. Easy? Extend this word to form the plural conjugation as fuimos. We are, in all likelyhood, already familiar with -mos being a standard ending associated with the “we” form.

Likewise, because both “he” and “she” (the third person singular pronouns) end in “e”, the word to be used with them also ends in an “e”, i.e., fue. And it is this word that extends to form the plural in the third person, fueron. We are already familiar with -on as a standard ending in the “they” form, aren’t we?

Finally, the -te ending in fuiste should give you enough hint of its usage in the familiar second person form, the tu form.

We used to go

Grammar calls this the imperfect tense. To us, this is the way we should conjugate a Spanish verb when we are talking about repetitive, habitual, or continuous event in the past. We have also reviewed a Mexican song to help you easily grasp the past tense; it discusses the imperfect a little more at length.

Here’s how we conjugate ir in the imperfect tense:

iba (I used to go)

ibas (you used to go; familiar form)

iba (he/she/it used to go; also you used to go in the non-familiar sense)

íbamos (we used to go)

iban (they used to go)

If you look closely enough, you’d soon realize that these conjugations follow more or less a familiar pattern. the endings in ibas, íbamos, and iban are all well known to us if we have seen regular verbs conjugating in the present tense. The only two things you need to memorize here are the ib- root and the fact that the forms for the first person singular and the third person singular are exactly the same, iba.

The mnemonic I used while learning the root is a stupid visualization that I used to be a good boy who used to go to school everyday without fail. As for the third person singular form being the same as the first person singular one, it’s just one fewer thing to remember and shouldn’t call for any mnemonic innovation in order to stay in your memory.

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  1. The IR conjugation finally stuck. Thank you so much. This is like jet fuel in my tank, unlocking all of my fear of irregular verbs.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jo. I am encouraged to know my notes are helping you simplify your experiences with Spanish. Please keep your comments coming and feel free to let me know what other aspects of Spanish are particularly challenging to you and I would love to publish something that could just surprise you! :)

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jo. I am encouraged to know my notes are helping you simplify your experiences with Spanish. Please keep your comments coming and feel free to let me know what other aspects of Spanish are particularly challenging to you and I would love to publish something that could just surprise you! :)


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