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Master Spanish Conditionals Through Pop Music

Conditionals: they can give a headache to even the most steadfast of Spanish learners. Conditional constructions describe hypothetical or impossible events, and often begin with the word, si (“if”). Here’s an example: If I had to pick the trickiest part of Spanish grammar, I would choose the conditional. Sadly, we live in a world of “ifs”, and you can’t get by very long speaking Spanish if you avoid all conditional constructions. But luckily, Spanish music is here to help you: there are plenty of songs that use conditionals, and can help you sneak in some extra practice. In this article, we’ll check out two of them from the Spanish speaking world. One of them is from Argentina!.

Can Learning Spanish Feel Like Sex, Gambling, And Chocolate?

What is the link between gambling, chocolate, sex and…learning Spanish? You might be surprised to hear that the same part of the brain’s reward centre activates in response to all four stimuli, but that’s what scientists in Barcelona recently discovered. Participants in an experiment were encouraged to decipher new words in a foreign language whilst experts measured the chemicals in their brains. The results lead scientists to claim that those who felt more rewarded from learning new words were able to learn more. In other words, participants who naturally feel good when they learn, are more likely to learn more!

6 Ways To Turn Your Vacation Into A Spanish Learning Venture

Traveling to a Spanish speaking country has always been the single biggest motivator to Spanish students; in fact, it’s perhaps the only reason most of us decided to even start learning the language. After all, what good is a language skill if you never wish to be where it’s spoken! It’s a shame how so many of us consider it a divine right, as English speakers, to be understood everywhere we go, be it Mexico, Mongolia or even Mars. Now, traveling abroad is a costly affair and not all are lucky enough to make it. But what if you are? Well, then you really are lucky since one such trip can accelerate your Spanish learning like nothing else can.

6 Alien-Sounding Spanish Verbs In An Instant

Etymology is an incredibly wonderful tool when it comes to acquiring new words. Dig deep enough into the history of any language and words that seemed utterly alien and unrelated until now suddenly start to appear familiar. This works best when the language in question shares genetics with your native tongue. Fortunately, Spanish and English share a stronger ancestral bond than many acknowledge, which makes learning new words easier than it seems. Let’s see how etymological mapping can help us learn some of the most commonly used Spanish verbs that, on face value, seem to have little semblance with their English meanings.

Easy Trick To Learn The Spanish For Your Clothes

You could be out on vacation shopping for some items of clothing in a Spanish-speaking country or perhaps you just want to flaunt your Spanish to a bunch of native speakers. No matter what your motivation, learning to name what you wear everyday in Spanish is a cool skill to have. And, if you know the right way to learn, it should take you no more than a few minutes to conquer them all and reproduce them “on the fly” without having to fiddle with mental translations. If cramming up words after words is your forte, we’d recommend saving that skill for something harder as this one calls for hardly any efforts on your part!

Tricks To Instantly Recall The Spanish Imperfect Conjugations

The Spanish language, like its other Romance cousins, is notorious for its myriad spirit-throttling conjugations. The first conjugation set any novice learner memorizes is the one for the simple present tense. While that one was relatively easier, it turns out there are many more such sets to be mugged up – for at least a dozen other tenses – and that’s where it starts to get intimidating. In this article, we’ll see how simple mnemonic cues and tricks can be exploited in committing one such set to memory – the Spanish imperfect tense. This is the tense for habitual or incomplete actions in the past and is quite important.

So what is this imperfect tense anyway?

Imperfect is the tense we invoke in Spanish whenever we are dealing with past actions that were either incomplete or repetitive; basically, anything that could otherwise be expressed into English with a “used to”. Here are some illustrations:

  • I went to Yale (what I essentially mean here is that I used to go to Yale for my studies; a repetitive action)
  • I was eating street food every day (I used to eat street food everyday; habitual action)
  • Juan was sick (he was sick for an undefined period of time; hence, this can be considered an imperfect action like any other statement on feelings or state)
  • We were returning when we saw Enrique (the act of returning is imperfect in nature because it’s incomplete)
  • My father often drove me to school (my father used to drive me to school; a repetitive action regardless of its frequency)
  • Every year, the entire family would come together on the Day of the Dead (This line, again, can be rendered using a “used to” and hence becomes a repetitive action)

Let’s now see how regular Spanish verbs conjugate in this tense. There are two sets of conjugations; one for the -ar verbs and the other for the -ir and -er verbs. The conjugations for the -ar verbs go first (using hablar for illustration):

-aba (hablaba I spoke/used to speak/was speaking)

-abas (hablabas you spoke/used to speak/were speaking)

-aba (hablaba he/she/it spoke/used to speak/was speaking)

-abamos (hablabamos we spoke/used to speak/were speaking)

-aban (hablaban they spoke/used to speak/were speaking)

Here are the conjugations for the -er and -ir verbs (using comer for illustration):

-ía (comía I ate/used to eat/was eating)

-ías (comías you ate/used to eat/were eating)

-ía (comía he/she/it ate/used to eat/was eating)

-íamos (comíamos we ate/used to eat/were eating)

-ían (comían they ate/used to eat/were eating)

Now, while we are sure you have quite understood when this tense is exactly to be used, it’s remembering this usage and the associated conjugations that hurts the butt.

The prerequisites for the trick

There is no need to memorize the names of the many tenses you are going to use in Spanish just as there’s no need to remember which tense you are in when you say, “I wish I had eaten that hot dog.” Memorizing grammar terms and labels is the most unrewarding of all language learning activities and serve you absolutely no purpose unless you want to teach a grammar class or write a grammar test. What you should aim at, instead, is to learn to recall what word and conjugation to use depending on the scenario you are in regardless of what the conjugated form is labelled as.

Is it possible to trick your brain into recalling not only the conjugation tables listed above but also the fact that they are to be used only with habitual, repetitive, and continuous actions without cramming up anything? The answer is, yes, provided you already know your simple present tense like the back of your hand. Let’s review the simple present tense conjugations for a while before we get to the mnemonic. Here’s the table for -ar verbs using hablar:

-o (hablo I speak)

-as (hablas you speak)

-a (habla he/she/it speaks)

-amos (hablamos we speak)

-an (hablan they speak)

The trick!

If you remember and can recall the simple present tense table in a blink, you can use the following mnemonic to cement the imperfect to your brain with absolute ease:

When my dad was young, he lived in India and used to listen to ABBA all day

Not that hard to visualize, is it? If you are familiar with ABBA, chances are you know how big they were back in the 80’s. Now, the first thing to note in this sentence is its tense; without any clue about what it’s called officially, you can instantly recognize that we are talking about habitual and repetitive actions in the past. My dad “used to” live in India and he “used to” listen to ABBA all day. So you know whenever we are dealing with such actions, this is the mnemonic to be invoked. No need to memorize that it’s called “imperfect tense” in grammar.

Who knew ABBA could help you with Spanish grammar!
Who knew ABBA could help you with Spanish grammar!
Photo credit: Spensatron 5000 licensed CC BY 2.0
Next thing to notice is the name of the band itself, ABBA. This should give you a cue to the -aba ending for the singular first person conjugation of -ar verbs in this tense, e.g., hablaba. If you can recall hablaba (I spoke/used to speak/was speaking) for hablar (to speak), the rest of the table easily falls in place as everything else follows the pattern of the simple present tense conjugation based on the -aba ending. Take a minute, try it out. Play with a handful of -ar examples, such as cantar, cocinar, viajar, tomar, etc.

If you are now comfortable with the -ar verbs, take a look at the -ia ending in “India” which is in bold. This is a cue to the -ía ending in the singular first person conjugation of the -er and -ir verbs, e.g., vivía (I lived/used to live/was living) for vivir (to live) or ponía (I put/used to put/was putting) for poner (to put. Again, the rest of the table just follows the simple present tense conjugation pattern based on the -ía ending. Try playing with some verbs, like comer, beber, correr, conducir, crecer, subir, etc. If you still need some further reinforcement to this mnemonic, there is a popular Spanish song by the Latin pop group, Camila, just for that!

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  1. This is so true!
    When we speak (in any language), we simply don't have time to work out which tense to use. The best way to learn, as you say, is to let it come naturally by learning how things are said in context.

    1. Emma, I am glad you second my opinion. Are you learning Spanish?

  2. Emma, I am glad you second my opinion. Are you learning Spanish?

  3. This is extremely helpful! I'm a Spanish major and though I usually know the imperfect tense and when to use it, it's easy to confuse myself and mess it up. I've bookmarked this page to look at when I get confused again! Thank you for writing these, I've read many of these helpful articles and it's only making my Spanish stronger.

  4. Trust me, Erin, it's a whole lot easier to come up with your own mnemonics like these than it seems. Just gotta be a little creative. It's fun, try it. ;)


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