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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!

Fresas And Nacos: The Preppies And The White-Trash Of Mexico

No linguistic study of any human culture can ever be complete without a fair understanding of that culture’s social stereotypes. Yankees, redheads, hicks, yuppies, preppies, Valley can’t fully understand the Americans unless you understand their clichéd stereotypes. In a similar fashion, if you are learning Mexican Spanish, it won’t hurt to get acquainted with the stereotypes that define their lifestyle and culture. While stereotypes are rightly frowned upon for their prejudices, using them without being judgmental can immensely help understand some of the most colorful and interesting aspects of a culture.

When it comes to Mexican Spanish, stereotypes run deep and are often at the very heart of most prejudices and social humor. While these can come off as potentially offensive if one is not sensitive enough while bringing them up, they are too ubiquitous to be ignored. Mexico has a whole spectrum of such stereotypes and at the two extreme ends of this spectrum are the clichés that have divided the Mexican society for generations. These are the nacos and the fresas, the souls of too many social jokes and parodies in the country.

The fresas

Generalization is the salient feature of any social stereotype and those of Mexican Spanish are no exceptions. While fresa is Spanish for strawberry if the dictionaries had their way, it’s also a Mexican Spanish slang term for what the Americans would call a preppy. Mostly used by the teenagers, this is a stereotype of the superficial, high-class Mexican – snobbish, arrogant, shallow, selfish, fussy, and tasteful.

A typical fresa haunt
A typical fresa haunt
Photo credit: Michael Rael licensed CC BY 2.0
Fresas are usually either wealthy or act like they were. They tend to imitate the American culture in an attempt to sound and appear cool and elite. The hallmark of their vernacular is a generous sprinkling of English phrases on their Spanish; “¡Qué cool!,” “O sea (Like, used as a filler),” “super,” “vales mil (you are very important),” “fresh,” and so on. Other than such adulteration, the fresa accent is also typically faked to sound different from the otherwise slow-pitched Mexican accent. There’s a difference in their tone and they typically consist of a more “proper” vocabulary.

Fashion is the first tell-tale sign of a fresa as they are mostly clad in top brands like Armani, Lacoste, Banana Republic, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, Zara, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hollister Co., Furor, and Wayfarer. In a nutshell, they would be found imitating the style and dressing of the characters in Rebelde Way, a popular TV show in Mexico. Often, wannabe fresas would be seen in cheaper knock-offs of these brands in an attempt to appear rich and classy. Fresas would mostly be found shopping in expensive malls and using cards more than cash for payments.

Stereotyping continues with other non-linguistic fresa traits as well, music being one of them. A fresa would typically follow bands like Nikki Clan, Rebelde, Luis Miguel, Mecano, Pandora, Maná, RBD, Timbiriche, Kudai, Sasha, and Flans.

Though this word is now well understood across Latin America thanks to the growing dominance of Mexican television, other Latin American countries have their own terms for stereotypical parallels. One such example would be the Venezuelan sifrina which refers to a rich, spoilt girl. The regular Spanish for popcorn, cotufa, is also a Venezuelan slang term for a “dumb blonde” stereotype with no direct association whatsoever with the subject’s hair color. Coming back to Mexico, fresa kids are also, more traditionally, referred to as niños bien (fine kids) or gente bien (fine people).

The nacos

At the other far end of the socio-economic spectrum, you have the nacos. Generally, they are less educated, pretentious, classless, and uncouth – the “white-trash” of Mexico. Their language is more vulgar, laden with swear-words and double-entendres. This is in sharp contrast with the fresas, who consider it a statement of class to speak refined Spanish and use English words and phrases in their speech.

The word itself goes back to the colonial times of Mexico when the Church used to be the single most important institution in the Catholic Mexican society. A regular church attendance was one of the ways to continue being respected and considered elite in the society. So, to make life easier for themselves, the wealthier families would have their naco (servant) run to the church and reserve their seats well before the mass began.

Mercado Jamaica (Mexico City): A typical naco haunt
Mercado Jamaica (Mexico City): A typical naco haunt
Photo credit: Luigi Guarino licensed CC BY 2.0
Nacos typically follow mariachi, banda, or norteño music, such as Los Tigres del Norte, and down cheap tequila. Their favorite food is street tacos and they enjoy lucha libre (free wrestling) and soccer. They are not very brand-conscious when it comes to their clothing and style. Many dye the front of their hair blond and wear a mullet at the back. Brands like Chivas are their pick and they rarely buy anything American.

While the fresas are too particular about toting around the latest gadgets, especially American-made, nacos rarely go for anything non-Mexican or expensive. They watch only Spanish movies, especially old ranchera flicks, as Hollywood doesn’t appeal to them. They are often completely ignorant about even the most widely-known Hollywood celebrities like Nicole Kidman!

In Guadalajara terms, while a Plaza Galerias would be the typical fresa haunt, nacos would rather be found shopping at Mercado Libertad in San Juan de Dios or the working-class neighborhood of Oblatos. Cheap supermarkets are where the nacos are at. Flashy malls are only for those who are or want to “appear” rich.

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