Monthly Archives: August 2013

Eres Para Mí by Julieta Venegas – Lyrics in Spanish and in English

eresparami
Here’s another song that will stick in your head and play itself over and over again until you want to scream. Or at least sing really loud.

Sorry about that.

Eres Para Mí – Julieta Venegas (with Anita Tijoux)

Eres para mí
Me lo ha dicho el viento
Eres para mí
Lo oigo todo el tiempo
Eres para mí
Me lo ha dicho el viento
Eres para mí
You’re for me
The wind told me
You’re for me
I hear it all the time
You’re for me
The wind told me
You’re for me
La sombra que pasa
La luz que me abraza
Tus ojos mirándome
La calle que canta su canto de diario
El mundo moviéndose
Y yo sé que tienes miedo
Y no es un buen momento para ti
Y para esto que nos viene sucediendo
The shadow that passes
The light that embraces me
Your eyes watching me
The street that sings its daily song
The world moving along
And I know that you’re afraid
And it’s not the right moment for you
And that’s why this is happening to us
Pero eres para mí
Me lo ha dicho el viento
Eres para mí
Lo oigo todo el tiempo
Eres para mí
Me lo ha dicho el viento
Eres para mí
But you’re for me
The wind told me
You’re for me
I hear it all the time
You’re for me
The wind told me
You’re for me
El espejo que da su reflejo en todo
Lo pinta tal como es
Mi cuerpo que no tiene peso
Si escucho tu voz llamándome
Y yo sé que tienes miedo
Y no es un buen momento para ti
Y para esto que nos viene sucediendo
The mirror that shows your reflection in everything
Paints it as it is
My body that is weightless
If I listen to your voice calling me
And I know that you’re afraid
And it’s not the right moment for you
And that’s why this is happening to us
Temes sentir más de la cuenta
El corazón es un músculo
si no late revienta
Extraño, mirarte de lejos
De hacernos los tontos
parecemos tan viejos
Tiempo, quieres más tiempo
Mírame en la piel
no ves acaso lo que siento
Tu eres para mí, yo soy para ti,
El viento me lo dijo
con un soplo suavecito
You’re afraid to feel too much
The heart is muscle
if it doesn’t beat it bursts
Strange, to see you from afar
The foolish things that we do to each other
make us seem so old
Time, you want more time
Look at me in the skin
you don’t see what I feel
You’re for me, I’m for you
The wind told me
with a gentle puff
Y yo sé que tienes miedo
Y no es un buen momento para ti
(para mí)
Y para esto que nos viene sucediendo
And I know that you’re afraid
And it’s not the right moment for you
(for me)
And that’s why this is happening to us
Pero eres para mí
Me lo ha dicho el viento
Eres para mí
Lo oigo todo el tiempo
Eres para mí
Me lo ha dicho el viento
Eres para mí
But you’re for me
The wind told me
You’re for me
I hear it all the time
You’re for me
The wind told me
You’re for me
Tu eres para mí, yo soy para ti You’re for me, I’m for you

The first few times that I listened to this song, I thought that it was pretty easy to understand. But when I started translating it, I got stuck a few times.

Y para esto que nos viene sucediendo : I read this as “that’s why this is happening to us”, but I’m not confident that that’s correct.

Temes sentir más de la cuenta : I’m really not quite sure what this means. You’re afraid to feel more…what? Actually, come to think about it, I’m not confident about that entire middle part by Anita Tijoux that starts with “Temes sentir más de la cuenta” and ends with “El viento me lo dijo
con un soplo suavecito“.

If anyone has any suggestions or corrections to make, please let me know!

* Edit: thank you so much to Nicolás for his helpful and insightful comment about those two tricky parts! Please, if you haven’t already, click on the replies to read what Nicolás has to say.

Want more Spanish music? You can follow a playlist that I update every Friday on YouTube.

La Bamba by Ritchie Valens – Lyrics in Spanish and in English

labamba

This week I chose the easiest Spanish song I could possibly choose, which also happens to be the only Spanish-language song I knew as a child.

When we were kids, we went on a lot of road trips. During one camping trip out East, my parents bought  “Solid Gold” tapes at the gas station. Each cassette featured top hits from the 50s and 60s, and we spent hours singing along to The Big Bopper and The Angels. This one was one of my favourites.

La Bamba – Ritchie Valens

Para bailar la bamba
Para bailar la bamba
Se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mí, para ti
Ay, arriba y arriba
Ay, arriba y arriba
Por ti seré, por ti seré, por ti seré
To dance the bamba
To dance the bamba
You need a little grace
A little grace
For me, for you
Ah, higher and higher
Ah, higher and higher
I’ll be for you, I’ll be for you, I’ll be for you
Yo no soy marinero
Yo no soy marinero
Soy capitán, soy capitán, soy capitán
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba, bam
I’m not a sailor
I’m not a sailor
I’m a captain, I’m a captain, I’m a captain
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba, bam
Para bailar la bamba
Para bailar la bamba
Se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mí, para ti
Ay, arriba y arriba
To dance the bamba
To dance the bamba
You need a little grace
A little grace
For me, for you
Ah, higher and higher
etcétera and so on

A few notes:

I meant to post this on Friday, but life got in the way. The truth is that this week I started feeling a bit tired. Irregular verbs were wearing me out, and Skype conversations – although fun – were taking almost more energy than I could muster. I needed something really easy to keep my motivation high.

Did singing La Bamba help improve my Spanish? No, probably not. But it was fun, which was what I needed. And besides, I’m still singing along to the more difficult songs that I learned in prior weeks.

Today, my energy’s renewed and I’m looking forward to tackling something more challenging for next week!

Want more Spanish music? You can follow a playlist that I update every Friday on YouTube.

Talk to Me: How to Have a Successful Language Exchange

What is a language exchange?

At its most basic level, a language exchange is just two people who agree to get together to practice each other’s languages. You find someone who speaks the language that you’re learning, and who’s learning the language that you speak – and then you talk to each other!

Pretty simple, right?

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A language exchange lets you talk to the world!
image by phanlop88 on freedigitalphotos.net

There’s really only one way to become comfortable with speaking a language: speak it.

Have you ever “studied” a language, only to find that you can’t actually talk to anyone? Language exchanges can help you overcome this barrier by practicing with living, breathing human beings. If you’re serious about learning a language, I firmly believe that the best way to progress quickly is to combine lots of comprehensible input (video, audio, music, texts) with lots of conversation practice.

What’s more, it’s fun! Talking to people is motivating, since you’re actually using the language that you’ve been working so hard to learn.

How can I find a language exchange partner?

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image by Sura Nualpradid on freedigitalphotos.net

If you live in a city, or if you live somewhere where your target language is spoken, then it should be pretty easy to find someone to meet with face-to-face. Take a look at free sites like Craigslist (in the US) or Kijiji (in Canada) to see if anyone’s posted an ad looking for a language exchange partner. You might also inquire at libraries or universities to see if they help with setting up language exchanges.

For the rest of us, there’s Skype.

Even if you live in a tiny village in the middle of a seemingly endless expanse of farmland (ahem – me), there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t practice a language with a living, breathing human being – even if that living, breathing human is across the world instead of across the table.

There are plenty of free sites out there that can help you connect with native speakers. I’ve had the most luck finding partners on italki and Conversation Exchange. My specific search criteria (Spanish-speaking females learning French or English) brought up a lot of potential language partners. If your first language is Swedish and you’re learning Swahili, then it will probably be a bit harder to connect with a native speaker – but the world is a big place, so don’t give up!

8 tips for a successful language exchange

successfullanguageexchange

OK, so you’ve connected with a potential language exchange partner. What now?

1) Be upfront about your wants and needs right from the start.

Before I even exchange Skype info with a potential partner, I want to know when she’s available. While this might seem a bit straightforward, it saves us both time and trouble in the long run. I want regular weekly exchanges, and I have a very narrow window of time each day during which I’m willing to commit to being available. If our schedules don’t match, then I’m wasting her time.

Your wants and needs might be different from mine. You might be looking for a more casual exchange – in which case you need partners who want the same. If your partner wants to meet every Wednesday at 6:00, and you want to connect if you both happen to be on Skype at the same time, then you probably won’t be compatible as partners.

2) Split the time equally between both languages.

What happens during your first session will set the stage for every session that follows. If your partner speaks well in English, and you keep lapsing into English throughout the whole session, then you might find yourself spending less and less time practicing your language – and more and more time helping your partner with his or hers. While this might still be fun if you and your partner get along well, it won’t help you meet your language goals.

I recommend committing fully to a 50/50 split, and communicating this clearly with your partner from day one. I prefer to split the time right down the middle and switch exactly at the halfway point – even if it means switching languages halfway through a sentence. If you need to, use a timer. While it might seem a bit stiff and formal to suggest doing this, it comes back to point number one: being upfront about what you want and need.

While some people do a language exchange where each person speaks in their target language (for example, you speak in French and your partner answers in English), I don’t recommend doing this. Learning to understand a language is often even more difficult than learning to speak it, and it’s important to practice listening.

3) Remember that your conversation partner isn’t your teacher.

A language exchange provides you with the opportunity to have informal conversations. While your language partner can certainly help you with pronunciation and vocabulary, don’t expect him or her to teach you the finer points of grammar.  Many native speakers can’t even verbalize grammar rules, although they can tell you if something sounds “wrong” – which can be even more valuable in the long run.

If I asked you to explain to me the difference between present progressive and present perfect in English, there’s a good chance that all I’d get in response is a blank stare. So don’t expect your language partner to be able to answer questions like that in his or her language. If you want a qualified and experienced teacher – then hire one.

But if you want good conversation, lots of laughs and genuine practice, then a language partner might be exactly what you need!

4) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

It’s absolutely impossible to learn a language without making mistakes! Your goal is to communicate, not to construct a perfect sentence. The more you speak – and, especially, the more you hear your target language spoken in context – the more structures you’ll internalize. So for now, your goal isn’t perfection. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – your goal in a language exchange should be to engage in the messy, creative work that is communication.

Let your language partner know what you want in terms of corrections. Having every mistake pointed out can be extremely demoralizing for some people, so you might ask your partner to just point out the mistakes that lead to a breakdown in communication.

5) Be a proactive learner.

The more you put into a language exchange, the more you’ll get out of it. Take notes and jot down vocabulary while you’re meeting. Build time into your schedule to review those words afterwards – and try to use them again next time you talk to your partner. I enter my Skype vocabulary into one of my existing anki decks, so that I can continually review those words. I figure that if they’re words that I wanted to use in informal conversation, then they’re exactly the words that I need to know to get along in the world!

If you notice that certain mistakes and frustrations keep coming up, then you can use those to guide your language self-study. For instance, I was beyond frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t verbalize anything that had happened in the past. What better motivation for learning past tense verbs? Everyone’s different, but it’s definitely more useful for me to learn grammar in context, rather than simply working my way step by step through a grammar book.

6) If you have time in your schedule, consider getting more than one partner.

I like talking to people from different backgrounds and with different accents, so that I can train my ear to understand a wide variety of people. If you talk exclusively with one person, you might find yourself becoming overly accustomed to his or her speech patterns. While this is great and will help you improve, you might want to widen your influences at some point.

Language exchanges also fizzle out sometimes. No big deal – life happens, people get busy, sometimes people just don’t click. But if I only have one language partner and our partnership breaks down, then I’m back at zero.

I also like knowing that if a session gets cancelled one week, I’ll still have the opportunity to speak to someone else in Spanish. I currently have four language partners that I communicate with regularly over Skype – either weekly or twice a month.

7) Keep a list of conversation starters handy.

Once you’ve clicked with a partner and had a few exchanges, you’ll probably find that the conversation flows naturally. But just in case, it’s always a good idea to be prepared with a few conversation starters! Topics like music, languages, hobbies, likes, dislikes, family, pets, jobs, weather, travel, pet peeves, social media, books and movies are great for all levels.

Questions are also great for keeping the conversation flowing, while helping you get to know each other better. One of my conversation partners prepared a list of questions (“Do you prefer the city or the country?” “Where would you like to travel?” “What job would you like to have?”) and we answer a few questions in either language whenever there’s a natural break in the conversation.

8) Be a good partner.

And here’s where we talk about general manners. Be punctual. Don’t overcommit to the point that you can’t keep up your end of the bargain. Ask questions. Be encouraging. Listen at least as much as you talk. Smile. And if something’s not working, be both honest and kind about it.

But I’m too shy to do a language exchange.

You can do it.

Really.

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image by Stuart Miles on freedigitalphotos.net

I’m not discounting that there are people out there who struggle with near-crippling shyness. But the average shy person can absolutely participate in a language exchange.

Remember: this isn’t a date. It isn’t a “friend interview”. It’s just two people helping each other learn – kind of like mutual tutoring. While you might end up becoming great friends over time, the first few sessions are just about common language goals.

The best thing that you can do if you’re shy is to go into your first few sessions with a plan in mind. While you might not know it if you met me, I’m actually very shy when talking to someone one-on-one for the first time. It takes me a while to warm up and feel comfortable around people. So for the first few sessions, I pretty much know exactly what I’m going to talk about:

    • Session one: introduce myself, talk about why I want to learn Spanish and how I’m doing it. Ask my language partner why she’s learning English/French and how she’s doing it.
    • Session two: talk about where I live, what I like about it and what I don’t like about it. Ask my language partner about where she lives. There’s usually lots of talk about the weather during session two.
  • Session three: talk about my job, what I like about it and what I don’t like about it. Ask my language partner about her job.

Formulaic? Absolutely!

But I have all of my vocabulary ready, I’m prepared with “safe” topics of conversation, and I don’t spend the whole session scared that we’ll lapse into awful awkward silences.

By session four, I’m either comfortable enough with the person to talk more naturally – or we realize that we’re not compatible and the language exchange fizzles out.

Language is about communication.

Language is about communication – and communication is about people. Talking to native speakers in a language exchange will help you practice a language, learn about a culture, and maybe even make some new friends!

What are you waiting for? Go talk to somebody!

connect

image by Stuart Miles on freedigitalphoto.net

Qué Hiciste – Jennifer Lopez (Song of the Week)

quehicisteUntil I listened to this song, I didn’t realize that I liked Jennifer Lopez. It’s not that I disliked her before, exactly – more that I was completely indifferent to her English pop music, which I honestly feel is pretty nondescript.

But it turns out that I love her in Spanish! I love her voice, I love the words, I love the melodies – you can expect to see more JLo española in the future!

Qué Hiciste – Jennifer Lopez

Ayer los dos soñábamos con un mundo perfecto
Ayer a nuestros labios les sobraban las palabras
Porque en los ojos nos espiábamos el alma
Y la verdad no vacilaba en tu mirada
Yesterday we both dreamed of a perfect world
Yesterday there were many words on our lips
Because in each other’s eyes we saw our soul
And the truth did not waver in your gaze
Ayer nos prometimos
conquistar el mundo entero
Ayer tú me juraste que este amor sería eterno
Porque una vez equivocarse es suficiente
Para aprender lo que es amar sinceramente
Yesterday we promised each other
we would conquer the whole world
Yesterday you swore to me that this love would be eternal
Because making one mistake is enough
To learn what it means to truly love
¿Qué hiciste?
Hoy destruiste con tu orgullo la esperanza
Hoy empañaste con tu furia mi mirada
Borraste toda nuestra historia con tu rabia
Y confundiste tanto amor que te entregaba
Con un permiso para así romperme el alma
What did you do?
Today you destroyed my hope with your pride
Today you tarnished my glance with your fury
You erased all of our history with your rage
And you confused the love I gave you
With permission to break my soul
¿Qué hiciste?
Nos obligaste a destruir las madrugadas
Y nuestras noches las borraron tus palabras
Mis ilusiones se acabaron con tus falsas
Se te olvidó que era el amor lo que importaba
Y con tus manos derrumbaste nuestra casa
What did you do?
You forced us to destroy the early mornings
You erased our nights with your words
My illusions ended with your lies
You forgot that love was all that mattered
And with your hands you tore down our house
Mañana que amanezca un día nuevo en mi universo
Mañana no veré tú nombre escrito entre mis versos
No escucharé palabras de arrepentimiento
Ignoraré sin pena tu remordimiento
Tomorrow a new day will dawn in my world
Tomorrow I won’t see your name written in my verses
I won’t listen to words of repentance
I will ignore without sorrow your remorse
Mañana olvidaré que ayer yo fui tu fiel amante
Mañana ni siquiera habrá razones para odiarte
Yo borraré todos tus sueños de mis sueños
Que el viento arrastre para siempre tus recuerdos
Tomorrow I’ll forget that yesterday I was your faithful lover
Tomorrow I won’t even have a reason to hate you
I will erase all of your dreams from my dreams
May the wind tear away my memories of you forever
¿Qué hiciste?
Hoy destruiste con tu orgullo la esperanza
Hoy empañaste con tu furia mi mirada
Borraste toda nuestra historia con tu rabia
Y confundiste tanto amor que te entregaba
Con un permiso para así romperme el alma
What did you do?
Today you destroyed my hope with your pride
Today you tarnished my glance with your fury
You erased all of our history with your rage
And you confused the love I gave you
With permission to break my soul
¿Qué hiciste?
Nos obligaste a destruir las madrugadas
Y nuestras noches las borraron tus palabras
Mis ilusiones se acabaron con tus falsas
Se te olvidó que era el amor lo que importaba
Y con tus manos derrumbaste nuestra casa
What did you do?
You forced us to destroy the early mornings
You erased our nights with your words
My illusions ended with your lies
You forgot that love was all that mattered
And with your hands you tore down our house

A few notes:

As always, if you notice any mistakes or misinterpretations, please let me know. The metaphors were a bit tricky in this one. I also waffled back and forth on the chorus. “Hoy” means “today”, right? But I wasn’t sure if “Today you destroyed…” or “Now you’ve destroyed…” would be a better translation. I went with the first one, but please feel free to correct me if you think that I made the wrong choice!

Want more Spanish music? You can follow a playlist that I update every Friday on YouTube.

My Video Learning Log

So how’s the whole learning Spanish thing going, anyway?

When I first started learning Spanish, I felt like everything was just zooming along. Every day I felt like I knew twice as much as I did the day before.

Now, I feel that my rapid improvement is starting to slow down a bit. I know that this is normal – at the beginning, everything is new and the only way to go is up. I would place myself at a low intermediate level right now. And the low intermediate level often brings with it the dreaded learning plateau. I’m still improving, but it’s not as noticeable as it was.

The teacher in me knows that I’m progressing, even if if feels like I’m standing still. The student in me is a lot more impatient.

With the new school year right around the corner, I don’t want to lose my momentum. To stay motivated and accountable, I’m taking part in two challenges:

  • six week challenge: log all of the minutes spent on language learning every day for six weeks. I’m hoping to hit 75 hours for the month of August. As of yesterday, I was at 24 hours – so it’ll be tight, but I could still make it! You can visit my language log if you want to see what I’m working on every day.
  • italki fall challenge: participate in 20 tutoring sessions in 6 weeks. Successful challenge participants get 30 dollars to put towards more language lessons when they’re done.

 (I feel the need to explain my use of tutors here. While by definition, paid language classes aren’t exactly free, they aren’t costing me anything out of pocket, either. I teach a few French classes on italki every week, just enough to earn the credits that I need to pay for any language classes that I want to take. Teaching on italki won’t make you rich, but it’s a good way to take courses from professional teachers without paying for them! Even if you aren’t a qualified teacher, you can provide informal tutoring on italki in your native language.)

I made a video of myself speaking on July 26th, exactly two months after I started working on Spanish. I didn’t post it on the blog on the 26th because – well, honestly, I’m not sure. But here it is! If I were starting over, I would also take videos on day one, and at the one-month point. (note to self: remember this for my next language)

Insert personal comments here: it’s embarrassing to watch myself on video, I sound funny, etc, etc, etc. Also, I now know not to say el español when I say that I’m learning Spanish.

 

I’ll post a new video on August 26th – and I fully intend on including some more past tense verbs in that one!

I Live Only in the Present

I live only in the present.

This isn’t a philosophical choice. It has nothing to do with my emotional well-being or with a conscious decision to ”live in the moment”.

It’s just that I don’t know how to conjugate verbs in the past or the future yet.

I’m learning Spanish for one reason: because I want to be able to have conversations with native speakers. Because of this, my main form of Spanish study consists of – wait for it – having actual conversations.

When I first started learning Spanish almost three months ago, I didn’t have any need for a textbook or a grammar workbook. I couldn’t understand why people were so hung up on working their way through a step-by-step language program.  I only wanted to speak! I didn’t care about grammar, right?

Except . . .

What a Skype conversation looks like when you can’t talk about what happened yesterday.

It turns out that once you get past the general introductions and the ”all about me” stuff, conversations are really, really difficult if you only know present tense verbs!

For me – and I would venture to say for most language students whose long-term goal is to be able to speak – grammar shouldn’t be a goal in and of itself. Working your way through a grammar book will not teach you to communicate in Spanish. But that doesn’t mean that explicit grammar study doesn’t have value!

grammar

Grammar is one of many tools that I need in order to do what really matters to me: talk to people. I’m not anti-grammar, whether I’m learning languages or teaching them.

I just feel that communicating should come first and drive the need for grammar, rather than the other way around.

If you’re learning to play the guitar because you want to be able to strum some songs while sitting around a campfire, then you probably won’t start by studying sheet music and practicing scales for an hour every day. And if you’re learning a language because you want to have natural conversations with native speakers, you probably won’t gain much by conjugating verbs for an hour and a half every day.

How I’m learning Spanish grammar:

The most important approach that I use to learn Spanish grammar is the most important approach that I use to learn Spanish in general: Skype conversations with native speakers. My conversation partners and tutors correct me and gently guide me to use the correct verb tense when the one that I’m using leads to a breakdown in communication.

Another way that I’m learning Spanish grammar is through reading. I read a children’s novel for about 20 minutes every night. I finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a few weeks ago, and am now halfway through A Tale of Despereaux. After reading ”fue” a dozen times, I’m starting to use it in spoken Spanish without even noticing.

When I taught children, the effect of reading on grammar was both obvious and enormous: children who read a lot had better grammar than children who didn’t. Now that I’m an adult reading in a second language, I’m seeing how that works from a learner’s perspective. I don’t have to ”study” the common verbs that I read in novels – I just see them again and again until they become second nature.

I’m also doing some explicit grammar study. I purchased two books: Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Verb Tenses and Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions. I spend about 20 minutes every day or two on grammar study, alternating between the two books. This is by no means the most important part of my Spanish study – but it is an important tool.

Once I finish a few pages – and this part is really important – I take a few minutes to create study notes. Regardless of the method that you use to study grammar, you have to keep reviewing what you’ve learned. The Practice Makes Perfect books don’t include a lot of review, and one-time exposure won’t do much to help you internalize grammar rules.

I make my study notes in Anki, a free flashcard app with spaced repetition that lets me practice difficult concepts more often than easy ones. Depending on what I’m working on, I might put full sentences to translate, or else I may just put the conjugated verb.

anki

An anki flashcard with a full sentence to practice multiple concepts: negation, verbs, pronouns.

anki flashcard

A simpler anki flashcard aimed at practicing just one concept: irregular verbs.

Learning an irregular verb just once isn’t of much help to me. Anki helps me to internalize verbs, pronouns and sentence structures through repeated exposure and practice.

But that’s cheating. Those books weren’t free.

OK, you’ve got me there. They weren’t free. But I’m giving myself a pass on this one since I bought them with a gift card. And even if I hadn’t, at least they’re affordable at a little over 10 dollars each.

I don’t think that buying a grammar book is necessary to learn a language. I think that you can find anything that you need for free online. In fact, if you can stomach the ads plastered everywhere, spanish.about.com probably includes just about everything that you need to know. It’s just that I was spending so much time sitting in front of my computer that I needed something that didn’t involve a screen.

If this is how you feel about grammar study – good for you! But for many language learners, it’s best if communication drives the need for grammar.

How do you approach grammar study when learning a language?

Song of the Week: Son Mis Amigos – Amaral

sonmisamigosThis song has a cheerful melody and easy lyrics. Eva Amaral sings really clearly – it’s easy to understand what she’s saying, and you’ll be singing along in no time!

Bonus: Son Mis Amigos helped me practice some of my verb tenses.

Son Mis Amigos – Amaral

Marta me llamó
a las seis hora española
Sólo para hablar,
sólo sentía sola
Porque Seba se marchó
de vuelta a Buenos Aires
El dinero se acabó
Ya no hay sitio para nadie
Marta called me
at six o’clock Spanish time
Just to talk,
Just because she felt alone
Because Seba went
back to Buenos Aires
The money ran out
Now there’s no room for anyone
Dónde empieza y dónde acabará
el destino que nos une
y que nos separará
Where did it begin and where will it end
This destiny that holds us together
and breaks us apart
Yo estoy sola en el hotel,
Estoy viendo amanecer
Santiago de Chile se depierta
entre montañas
Aguirre toca la guitarra en la 304
Un gato rebelde que anda medio enamorado
de la señorita Rock’n’Roll
Aunque no lo ha confesado
eso lo sé yo
I’m alone in the hotel
Watching the sunrise
Santiago de Child wakes up
between the mountains
Aguirre plays the guitar in room 304
A rebel cat who walks half in love
with Miss Rock’n’Roll
Even though he hasn’t admitted it,
that I know
Son mis amigos
en la calle pasábamos las horas
Son mis amigos
por encima de todas las cosas
They are my friends
We used to spend hours in the streets
They are my friends
Above all else
Carlos me contó que
a su hermana Isabel
La echaron del trabajo
sin saber por qué
No la dieron ni las gracias
porque estaba sin contracto
Aquella misma tarde
fuimos a celebrarlo
Ya no tendrás que soportar
Al imbécil de tu jefe
Un minuto más
Carlos told me that
his sister Isabel
was fired from her job
without being told why
They didn’t even thank her
since she didn’t have a contract
And that very afternoon
we all went out to celebrate
Now you won’t have to put up
with that imbecile of a boss
for one more minute
Son mis amigos
en la calle pasábamos las horas
Son mis amigos
por encima de todas las cosas
Son mis amigos
They are my friends
We used to spend hours in the streets
They are my friends
Above all else
They are my friends
Lidia fue a vivir a Barcelona
y hoy a venido a mi memoria
Claudia tuvo un hijo
y de Guille y los demás
ya no sé nada
Lidia went to live in Barcelona
And today she popped into my mind
Claudia had a son
And about Guille and the others
I don’t know anything
Son mis amigos
en la calle pasábamos las horas
Son mis amigos
por encima de todas las cosas
Son mis amigos
en la calle pasábamos las horas
Son mis amigos
por encima de todas las cosas
Son mis amigos
They are my friends
We used to spend hours in the streets
They are my friends
Above all else
They are my friends
We used to spend hours in the streets
They are my friends
Above all else
They are my friends

A few notes:

Finally, a song that isn’t about cheating lovers. Son Mis Amigos grew on me throughout the week. At first it seemed a bit cute, but then the nostalgia crept in, and I decided that I really liked it. This is a song for people years out of school, thinking back on those people who used to be central to their lives, and who are now scattered in the wind.

This song was much easier to translate than the other two, and I’m a bit more confident that I’m not way off with my translation – except for the bit about the rebel cat. That part was tricky. As always, if you notice any mistakes or misinterpretations, please let me know!

I listen to the song of the week twice every day, so that I have a pretty good grasp of it and can sing along by the end of the week. At least once during the week, I go through my playlist of previous songs so that I can keep practicing all of them on a regular basis. You can access a playlist that I update weekly on YouTube.

What are your favourite Spanish-language songs? I’m always looking for good music to add to my list! In particular, I’d love to find some good Spanish-language blues.

final note: I’m still looking for an easier way to make tables in wordpress that are both more readable and quicker to insert. Any suggestions?

 

Learn Spanish With Free Podcasts: Coffee Break Spanish and Notes in Spanish Review

podcastsWill I get kicked off the internet if I admit that I’d never listened to a podcast before I started learning Spanish?

I’m not an early adopter. In fact, most of the time I’m not an adopter at all.

But I am a recent convert to the world of podcasts. In fact, I’ve listened to two – which pretty much makes me a podcast expert, right?

OK, maybe “expert” is a bit of an exaggeration. But I’m at least qualified enough to share my thoughts on the two podcasts that I’ve listened to so far: Coffee Break Spanish and Notes in Spanish.

Both of these podcasts offer extra material like transcripts and worksheets for sale, but the podcasts themselves are free to stream online or download to your computer in MP3 form.

Podcast for Beginners: Coffee Break Spanish

coffeebreakspanish

Coffee Break Spanish is a free podcast by Radio Lingua. There are 80 episodes in the series, each lasting somewhere around 15 minutes.

The first episode of Coffee Break Spanish assumes that you’re starting from zero, so it’s perfect for beginners. In the first episode, you’ll learn to greet people and introduce yourself. From there, each podcast builds on the ones before, constantly reviewing what you’ve already learned.

I really enjoyed listening to Marc (the teacher) and Kara (the student). They’re likeable, engaging and very easy to listen to. They’re both Scottish and speak with beautiful accents in English. The teacher’s accent in Spanish is – as far as I can tell – perfect. Of course, not being Spanish, I might be wrong!

Coffee Break Spanish was the very first resource that I started using when I decided that I wanted to learn Spanish a few months ago. I repeated words and sentences out loud until I felt comfortable with them. I really enjoyed the pace at first – the podcasts are short and engaging, and progress nicely for beginners.

That said, after about 15 episodes, I started feeling that I’d “outgrown” the podcast. Because I was using a variety of other resources in addition to this one, I quickly progressed to the point where I didn’t feel that I was getting as much out of it. Coffee Break Spanish includes an awful lot of English explanations, and I was ready for a more immersive approach, completely in Spanish. I do think that if someone were just using this podcast to casually pick up some Spanish before travelling, it would be well worth continuing through to episode 80.

Is it worth listening to Coffee Break Spanish?

Sure! I think that it’s a great introduction for absolute beginners. For intermediate or advanced learners, it might progress a little bit slowly, but it’s great as a springboard to get you started. It helps build your confidence by introducing new concepts slowly and in a logical order. Radio Lingua also offers a free podcast for intermediate learners – Show Time Spanish – but I haven’t listened to enough episodes to really give it a fair review. I really enjoyed the ones that I listened to, though!

Podcast for Intermediate Learners: Notes in Spanish

notesinspanish

Notes in Spanish offers three levels of free podcasts: beginner, intermediate and advanced. After “graduating” from Coffee Break Spanish, I was looking for something a bit more complicated – and with a lot more Spanish. I chose to start with the intermediate version of Notes in Spanish.

This podcast by husband-and-wife team Ben and Marina is based on a very simple premise: two people talking about whatever it is that they feel like talking about. Family, travel, fears, jobs, current events, the weather, traditions – basically Ben and Marina just chat with each other.

Ben is originally British, and it’s obvious that Spanish is his second language. This isn’t a bad thing! The fact that he’s still learning and sometimes makes mistakes is encouraging. It’s nice to be reminded that a second language doesn’t have to be perfect to be fully functional!

I enjoy the energy between Marina and Ben. They speak clearly, using a very natural vocabulary. Listening to the podcast has improved my understanding of the rhythm and cadence of conversational Spanish. In fact, I’ve started using “pues” during conversations with my Spanish language partners! I also find that my active vocabulary is increasing. While the intermediate podcasts don’t set out to explicitly teach vocabulary, it just happens organically and in context.

Is it worth listening to Notes in Spanish?

Absolutely! I enjoy the pace and the conversational tone of each 10-minute episode. I feel that listening to this podcast has already helped me hone my comprehension skills, making Spanish conversations easier to follow. Unlike Coffee Break Spanish, I don’t think that I’ll outgrow this podcast before I finish the set of 46 episodes.

What about advanced learners?

Well, I’m not an advanced learner yet. When I am, I’m not sure that I’ll seek out podcasts aimed at “advanced learners”. Instead, I’ll probably look for a podcast aimed at actual Spanish speakers.

Podcasts can help improve listening comprehension

Listening comprehension is, in many ways, the hardest skill to develop when learning a second language. Accents, speed of speech, slang, pitch and tone – there are so many variables that can make listening to a second language much more difficult than reading it, or even speaking it. Podcasts provide the perfect opportunity to work on listening comprehension without being able to use visuals as a crutch.

While I absolutely feel that Skype conversations and TV shows like Destinos are great at improving my comprehension, podcasts work my brain in a completely different way. I have to focus more deeply on the words, since there’s no body language to help me pick out the meaning.

And so – being the podcast expert that I so obviously am – I cheerfully and enthusiastically recommend including podcasts into any learning plan!

Do you listen to podcasts?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with listening to podcasts in a second language. Do you find them helpful? How do you use them? Any in particular that you’d like to recommend?

Learning Spanish: Six Week Challenge

I’ve signed up for a six-week Spanish challenge!

My goal: to spend a total of 75 hours in August focused on learning Spanish.

learn

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles on FreeDigitalPhotos

That’s an average of a little less than two and a half hours every day. I’ll include everything in my total: talking to my Skype partners, listening to podcasts, reading, practicing vocabulary, singing along to Spanish songs, and so on.

My hope is that 75 hours of focused study will have a considerable effect on my speaking skills.

This week, my numbers will probably be a bit lower than 2.5 hours per day, because my parents and my 10-year-old niece are visiting. They drove 1186 km and took a 3-hour ferry to get here, so needless to say they don’t visit every weekend. I’ve cancelled all but one of my Skype language exchanges and both of my tutoring sessions this week, but I will try to spend at least an hour each day on Spanish, broken into small chunks of time.

When this post goes live, I’ll be at a campsite – maybe swimming in the lake or paddling a canoe. Nah, who am I kidding. This post is scheduled for 8AM. I’ll probably be drinking coffee from a tin cup.

But I’ll bring a Spanish novel with me, and maybe one of my grammar workbooks.

Fact: learning a language takes time. No matter what anyone says, no matter what any language program promises – it takes time. I’m curious to see whether actually tracking my Spanish minutes has an effect on how much time I put in.

If you want to follow along with my Spanish challenge and see exactly what I’m doing every day, visit my language log on the forum at How To Learn Any Language. You can also take a look at the leader board. Better yet – join in with a language challenge of your own!