Beginners Spanish Podcast 23 – Spanish Accents / MI or MÍ

spanish-accentsSpanish Accents in Strange places.
Maybe during your Spanish language learning journey you’ve noticed that there are some words that are spelled the same yet one of them has an accent or tilde and the other doesn’t. Many times the accent barely changes the pronunciation, if at all.
The most confusing part of this, of course, is not when you have to say these words, but when you have to write them.

Is it SOLO or SÓLO?

Should I write EL or ÉL?

Is it MI or MÍ?

Understanding Why.

This is the key to getting it right, of course. If you don’t know why they have Spanish accents, then you will never be able to know when they should have them and when they shouldn’t.

The actual reason is fairly straightforward. Many words have the same spelling, yet are different in meaning and need to be identified as different. Thus, when faced with writing the word, MY, you need to know if you should write MI or MÍ.  Just by listening to the pronunciation will not necessarily give you the answer.

For example, AUN and AÚN are very difficult to identify with the ear. and so, there needs to be another way to distinguish between them.

So, What’s the Answer?

The answer is knowing what each word means so that you can always choose the correct one. For example, TU without the Spanish accent means YOUR, whilst TÚ with the accent means YOU. Subtle? Yes, it’s true, however, it’s a fundamentally important difference.

Do all Spanish Speakers Use Accents?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Spanish speakers don’t always use the Spanish accents correctly. They often miss them out, or add the odd one just for the look of it. As students of Spanish, however, we really don’t have that luxury. We should always strive to put them in their rightful place. Why? Because, as the saying goes, before you stop using something, you must first understand it.

If you don’t even bother to learn the, just because other native speakers don’t bother with them, then you will have a permanent skills gap in your Spanish which is sure to cause you issues later.

So, listen in or watch on as we explain to you the meanings of these words and how to identify them in the future. Remember, everything we cover in the podcasts is covered in much greater depth in the helpsheets.

Saludos, Gordon y Cynthia

Video for This Spanish Lesson

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Beginners Spanish Podcast 22 – Spanish Pronunciation – The Nose Rule

dog710 390Putting Emphasis on your Emphasis.

A student of ours had some Spanish pronunciation problems when he once tried to buy some sugar in a shop in Spain and spent a good while repeating the same word over and over again with no success. Finally, defeated, he left the shop without his “azúcar”. The problem he had was that he wasn’t putting the emphasis, “el golpe de voz” in the right place.

Rather than saying; azUcar, he was saying; azucAr. Now, that may seem like a minor infraction, but believe us when we tell you that just by changing where the emphasis goes on a word can completely confuse your listener.

So how do I know where to put the emphasis?

Well, this is where some little tips can help you in a big way. In this Podcast we give you three great ways of knowing just exactly where to place the stress on any Spanish word.  There is “The Nose Rule”, “The Broken Nose Rule”, and then, “Everything Else”.

Once you have these simple rules in your head, your Spanish pronunciation will be great and you will always know how a word should be pronounced, even if you don’t know the word. As anyone who has learnt English will know, being able to pronounce correctly an unknown word is a real luxury. Because Spanish is phonetic, that means that as you see the word you say it, there is never any mystery apart from which vowel to stress.

Now, with this useful Podcast, the last part of the puzzle fits into place.

A Big Tip on Spanish Pronunciation.

Did you realise that the stress in any word always falls on a vowel in Spanish pronunciation (and in English for that matter)?  Now that you know that fact and combine it with the learnings we offer you in the Podcast, then from now on, you should be able to pronounce perfectly every Spanish words and, more importantly, make yourself understood.

We hope this helps and wish you every success in your future Spanish pronunciation and sugar purchases.

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Beginners Spanish Podcast 21- Help with QUE in Spanish

For any serious student of the Spanish language, asking; “What does QUE in Spanish mean?” is probably one of the most fundamental questions that they seek answers to!

Not long after you begin your learning journey, you begin to notice the worrying frequency in which QUE, or QUÉ, or LO QUE, for that matter appear in whichever text or exercise you are working through. With this realisation comes certain trepidation as we begin to ask ourselves if we will ever really understand it properly.

The Good News.

The good news is, however, that it’s not as difficult as it might first seem. Basically, QUE in Spanish is what you might call the cement that joins the bricks of your words and sentences together. It is, literally, everywhere in both written and spoken Spanish, and yet its meanings are not as diverse as you might imagine.

Here, it is important to state clearly that having a command of this word is so fundamental to your Spanish that it would be folly not to pay special attention to this podcast. It’s not a one-time listen and probably deserves a number of listens until you have the ideas firmly implanted in your mind. In the ten minutes that we cover this subject we cover all of the main uses of QUE in Spanish and in what contexts you would use them, something which is very important to any student of Spanish.

Some of the meanings of QUE.

So, what does QUE in Spanish mean? Well, it can mean, THAT, it can also mean, WHICH, it can mean, WHAT as a statement and WHAT? as a question. Sometimes Spanish speakers use QUE in place of WHO, also.

A Curious use of QUE.

One of the more confusing uses of QUE is when a speaker begins a sentence with it!

e.g. …que mañana voy a llegar un poco más tarde.

Although the sentence starts with QUE, it would translate like this:

I’m going to arrive a little later tomorrow.

So why do they put a QUE at the beginning?

Well, it’s almost as though the front of the sentence is missing and that what they really wanted to say was:

Quería decirte que… = I wanted to tell you that…

So, instead of saying the whole sentence, for quickness they skip the beginning and start at the QUE.

This isn’t something that we would suggest you use right away, however, now that you are aware you can listen out for it. Only, this time, you won’t be confused about why a Spanish speaker is starting their sentence with QUE.

Extra Help.
As well as the video and the podcast that comes with this lesson, we offer our helpsheets that assist you in gaining a deeper understanding of how to understand and use this important word.
You can be sure to have the question, “What does QUE in Spanish mean?” answered fully and completely. All Helpsheets come with full explanations and exercises to check that you have understood the information we offer you.
For those who have more questions than answers, feel free to ask for a one-to-one session on Skype in which we can clear up any doubts or misunderstandings you have.

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Bullfighting in Spain. Is it Art?

bull-155411_640Bullfighting in Spain, also known as tauromachia or tauromachy (la tauromaquia) has been recently accepted as Cultural Heritage in an attempt to promote it and preserve it as our national cultural heritage.  This blog will be my honest opinion, as a Spaniard, about this subject.

Firstly let’s talk about bullfighting:  bullfighting is a “sport/art” practiced in Spain, some countries in Spanish America, Portugal, South of France and the Philippines. People who support bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form like any other.  However, more and more people across the globe are pushing fiercely against it, making promoters and supporters think of new ways to maintain bullfighting as a tradition. Their latest idea is to have bullfighting in Spain declared as a cultural heritage.

Before I move on, I must state that I do not support bullfighting. From my perspective bullfighting is not art, nor is it a sport… It is just a gruesome show in which thousands of bulls are murdered every year in front of multitudes of passive onlookers who applaud the matador’s skills as he slaughters those poor animals.

From my childhood onwards I have heard people excusing the existence of bullfighting in Spain by telling me how much the bulls have been pampered by their ganadero from birth; it’s good for the economy, or: el toro de lidia (the breed used) wouldn’t exist without this tradition; or: a bull fight’s a fair fight against a bullfighter; or even: that’s a bull’s destiny!

Let’s not kid ourselves, bullfighting is one of the cruellest means of entertainment that exists today, along with many others such as the Toro de la Vega. People who see animal cruelty as artful or as a fun sport are, in my honest opinion, very low in their emotional intelligence and empathy ladder and have a long way to go.

Excuse me in advance for my bluntness and rude words, but what makes it art I ask? Is it the colourful outfits, the copious amounts of blood swilling around the ring, the rousing music?  Or is it the tremendously entertaining scene as each terrified bull fights “una lucha  injusta” against a barrage of men armed with a range of weapons that no bull could ever compete with? Perhaps it’s the flamboyance of watching as a macho man in eye-wateringly tight trousers attempts, often quite badly, to plunge his sword into the heart of a bull whose lungs are in that moment already filling with blood from the profound wounds inflicted on it by the “picadores”?

Or do those people that consider it art do so only because that’s what they’ve been told since they were children?

Surprisingly, much of the support for bullfighting in Spain comes from tourists who flock to see the “show” and get a taste of real “culture”. Please, before you consider supporting what has become nothing more than a multi-million euro business, ask yourself the following questions:

What part of murder is art?

Shouldn’t we have evolved mentally since the Roman Circus?

Should animal suffering and death be a source of entertainment for us?

Cynthia Smith-Durán.

Catalonia Independence and Spain. The Reasons Why.


Catalonia Independence. As you may be aware there is an on-going debate in Cataluña (and the rest of Spain) in which around 57% of the population of Catalonia want independence from Spain.

Cataluña isn’t the only region to want their independence, el País Vasco, too, wishes to be separate from Spain whilst in other parts of Europe there are several countries that are fighting for their own independence. (Scotland, Wales, Flanders, Madeira, etc.)

This desire for independence started with the Régimen franquista (1936-1975), in which the Catalonian language (catalán) (along with the rest of the languages in Spain apart from Castilian) was banned in public, resulting in the suppression of their autonomy and culture.

In 1979 Catalonia was recognised as a “nationality”, giving them a statute of autonomy once again. El catalán was then accepted as Catalonia’s official language, along with Castilian Spanish.

Other reasons for the desire to become independent are that some Catalonians believe they do not share cultural ties with the rest of Spain: there is no flamenco, bullfighting has been banned and they have their own customs. Of course, in addition to the cultural considerations, the independence of Catalonia would potentially create for them many financial benefits.

The issue is, however, that the other 43% of the population in Cataluña  do not wish to be separate from Spain as they actually consider themselves to be Spanish. This could be because of the situation in which Cataluña enjoys a wide variety of immigrants, particularly those from Andalucía, Extremadura and Murcia who arrived there in search of work some generations ago and who feel as much catalanes as they do españoles.

On Spain’s National Day around 30,000 people attended a platform in Cataluña to launch the message: ‘We feel proud to be Spanish.  We claim our roots, history, memories, the richness of our language, our reality and our life’.

Their wish for Catalonia independence is understandable from the standpoint of their many cultural differences. However, the question is whether their reasoning is coming mostly from what could be called a “moving away” perspective or one of “moving towards”.

What that means is that perhaps it’s true and they really feel no sincere connection with the rest of Spain, nor its culture or its people and simply want to move toward a situation in which they can be themselves. Or, is it actually the case that they want independence because of a feeling of hatred towards the rest of Spain, the Spanish language and everything Spain stands for (for better or worse) and are moving away from what they don’t want?

And so, we might ask, if Catalonia finally was granted their independence, how would that affect other countries like Scotland and Wales who find themselves in the same position? Would this be the inspiration for other countries to begin to fight more aggressively for their independence?

Cynthia Smith-Durán.