- Finding yourself speaking slowly even when you don’t need to. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve done this to poor Mario, who speaks impeccable English.
- Pronouncing certain words differently without realizing it. I am almost 100% sure I now pronounce certain words differently. Why can’t I stop this?!
- Constantly analyzing why we say things the way we do. Is it “at” or “in” or could it really be both? The skateboarding competition will be held at the park. The skateboarding competition will be held in the park. They both sound okay, but “at” sounds slightly better. What do you think?
- Getting sick frequently. Yep, I’m under the weather again, this time with a lovely cough and mucosidad.
- Talking a lot. Prepare yourself for those early mornings when you don’t want to say a single word, but have to take for an hour straight.
- Getting frustrated when the students still don’t add the “s” onto the end of third-person singular verbs, like when they say, “She speak” instead of “She speaks.” Come on, Spanish verb conjugation is infinitely harder and I still do it right most of the time! You only have to do one “conjugation.” You shouldn’t forget it every single time!
- Having to be constantly creative. There is usually a fun way to teach a subject, but it isn’t always fun to plan that fun activity. Capiche?
- Loving it when the students (in my case, sixth graders) try. I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart to see them struggling to explain things to me, just because they could so easily slip back into Spanish, but they don’t. I love that they want to learn!
First of all, I know: it’s been a while. I don’t have any excuses, really; life just got the better of me!
Literal translation is almost never a good idea. Plus, it can sound pretty awkward. Take one of my favorite Spanish expressions, “¡Eres la leche!” Literally, it would be, “You are the milk!” Um, thanks?! There’s gotta be a better way of going about it. Of course there is.
I bought a new book this past feel in my quest to (someday, one day) take the DELE. The DELE is an exam which tests one’s “degree of fluency in the Spanish language” and is “issued and recognised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain.” (For further information, check out my friend Cat’s informative post on the subject.)
Anywho, the book I bought is called Hablar por los codos: Frases para un español cotidiano by Gordana de Vranic. The book gathers together 175 frequently-used colloquial expressions and idioms that they say are imprescindibles for daily communication. I’m not so sure about daily, but it’s certainly nice to expand one’s knowledge.
Here are some of my favorites:
Dar gato por liebre.
- Literally: “to give a cat instead of a hare.”
- Meaning: “to deceive someone, especially in a business transaction, selling him/her something different than requested, usually of lower quality.”
- Use it: “No vayas a esa tienda. Ayer me dieron gato por liebre. Me vendieron una cosa que ya se había estropeado.”
- Origin: Many years ago, it was normal to sell cats instead of rabbits/hares because their meat was so alike that even those most knowledgeable about meat were not able to distinguish between the two.
El mundo es un pañuelo.
- Literally: “the world is a scarf.”
- Meaning: “it’s a small world (after all).”
- Use it: “Cuando estaba estudiando en Canadá, me encontré con mi antigua compañera de la universidad. Ahora vive en Madrid, pero se había ido de vacaciones a Toronto. ¡El mundo es un pañuelo!”
Hay cuatro gatos.
- Literally: “there are four cats.”
- Meaning: “there aren’t very many people in a certain place.”
- Use it: “Ayer en el bar había cuatro gatos.”
Írsele el santo al cielo.
- Literally: “the saint goes up to heaven [on someone].”
- Meaning: “get confused, forget what one was talking about or what one had to do.”
- Use it: “Estaba hablando con Teresa y se me fue el santo al cielo. No me acordaba de lo que quería decirle.”
- Origin: It’s possible that it has to do with a priest who started talking about earthly things because he forgot about what saint and for what purpose he had begun speaking.
Pasar la noche en blanco.
- Literally: “to spend the night in white.”
- Meaning: “to not sleep all night” / “to not sleep a wink.”
- Use it: “Estaba estudiando y pasé la noche en blanco. Todavía estoy cansado.”
- Origin: In some chivalric orders, new members, before being knighted, spent the night awake with their weapons, dressed in white robes to symbolize purity.
Quemarse las pestañas.
- Literally: “to burn one’s eyelashes.”
- Meaning: “to study or read a lot.”
- Use it: “Hay que quemarse las pestañas para aprobar el examen de lengua.”
- Origin: This is an expression that was used in the past when referring to studying or reading at night and it meant that, as a person would read by the light of a candle, he/she might burn his/her hair, eyelashes, or eyebrows by getting too close to the flame.
What are your favorite Spanish (or English!) idioms/phrases?
Change often comes in small, incremental pieces—a new haircut, a five-pound weight loss, new decorations, the leaves falling slowly off the trees in autumn. It happens so that you barely notice it. That is until you look back and consider where you were twelve months ago and where you are now.
Twelve months ago, I was in the same place I’m at now: my parents’ house in Indiana, my childhood home. But twelve months ago I was in a completely different place, figuratively speaking.
In 2012, Mario got a job, and we decided we were moving to Madrid.
All that studying paid off
In 2012, my parents, brother, and sister(-in-law) went to Spain to visit for one very special occasion.
In 2012, it went from “I” to “we.”
In 2012, my brother got married to Colleen.
In 2012, we moved to Madrid.
In 2012, we attended several other couples’ weddings.
In 2012, I got a job teaching English to sixth graders and found it was a wonderful age.
In 2012, I met American women in Madrid, and some of them were married to Spaniards.
In 2012, Mario and I visited Sevilla and Córdoba.
In 2012, I came home for Christmas and realized that Spain may be where I live, but Indiana is my home.
2012: The Year Everything Changed. How was 2012 for you?
When I first came to Spain, I didn’t have a kitchen. I didn’t have a refrigerator. I lived in a renovated convent in the midst of Toledo’s casco antiguo.
Then, in Salamanca, I had a small kitchen. Quite adequate, actually. At least I had an oven, which isn’t always the case, I’ve learned. I have always loved baking, so I started baking for Mario, who will never say no to a galleta, chocolate-chip or otherwise. The only problem? I had no measuring cups. Measuring cups are another one of the US’s particularities. Most of the world cooks and—especially—bakes in grams. It makes sense. A cup of all-purpose flour doesn’t weigh the same as a cup of another type of flour. Using grams is more precise.
That didn’t help me, though. I had to use Google to convert all my cups of flour to grams, often dragging my laptop into the kitchen and using flour-stained fingers to type “1 cup of flour to grams” into the search bar. Annoying. There had to be a better way.
I’ve found that following Spanish-language cooking blogs is the way forward. Not only do they use grams and milliliters, they also don’t call for ingredients that are difficult, if not impossible, to find in places like Zamora. (In Madrid, it’s not impossible to find anything.) Moreover, it was a way for me to explore new dishes, ingredients, and flavors. A win-win!
Thus, I’d like to present to you all, some of whom I hope speak Spanish, my favorite cooking blogs written by Spaniards. I hope that you find them as interesting and worthwhile as I do.
El Comidista. El Comidista is written by Mikel López Iturriaga, who started his blog, Ondakín, and was later picked by up El País, one of Spain’s national newspapers. Mikel doesn’t just share delicious, in-season recipes; he also talks about all things related to gastronomy: restaurants, kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, culinary pop culture, etc. It’s always an entertaining read. Check it out:
- Crema de castañas con setas
- Revuleto de trastos: especial Navidad
- Iceberg flotante en sopa de críticos
- Carajillo en el siglo XXI
Javi Recetas. Behind Javi Recetas is José Javier Cabanas, a firefighter and student. Javi always proposes accessible recipes as well as useful information, like how to desalinate salt cod. I like his basic recipes especially.
Recetas de Mon. Recetas de Mon is run by Mónica, born in Barcelona.
- Jamones Cinco Jotas (5J)
- Pastel de carne a la irlandesa <— Made this!
- Tartaletas de queso de cabra con cebolla caramelizada y nuez <—I’ve based several other tartaletas on this recipe, including one with dulce de membrillo and cream cheese.
Cocinando entre Olivos. Erik pointed this site out to me (and to his other readers, of course). The only problem I have with it is the lack of recipe summaries, so to speak.
- Patatas con bechamel y atún <—I’ve made this twice!
- Chupa chups crujientes de pavo y queso
- Tarta de espinacas y bacalao
Biscayenne: para golosos irredentos. Since I have one major goloso (person with a sweet tooth) at home, I love the name of the site. I’m not very familiar with Spanish desserts, but I’m learning. Step by step. This site is a great way to learn about the very traditional desserts like flan and, like Emeril, to take them up a notch or two.
- Plum cake corriente y moliente
- Charlota de manzana Downton Abbey <—Spaniards also watch and love Downton Abbey
- Pannacotta de limón y menta
A Freír Pimientos. There’s an expression in Spanish: “¡Vete a freír esparragos!” (Literally, “Go away and fry asparagus!” It means, basically, get the hell out of my sight. So I can’t help but think of that when I read this website’s title, which means (in my loose translation)
No Más Tuppers de Mamá. This blog is run by three guys in their 20s, and it all looks finger-lickin’ good. Their recipes are both simple and elaborate, delicious and simple. Also, they come with recommended playlists, if you’re into that sort of thing. The three guys—Carlos, Marc, and Adrià—met in Manchester during their Erasmus semester abroad. If you don’t enjoy cooking, follow their blog at your own risk—you may be tempted to start.
Rewind this soup <—Made this delicious soup with homemade chicken stock. A definite recommend!
So there you go, the Spanish-cooking blogs I follow. What about you, any recommendations?
You all already know I’m not the starry-eyed Spain enthusiast that some bloggers are. I do like Spain, of course—I just take it in moderation. Some days enough gets to be enough. So I thought I’d confess a few things that you might not have surmised from my posts. It’s okay to be honest—really, we’re better off for it!
Okay, Kaley, less “Blah, blah, blah” and more fun!
- I don’t try everything. I don’t care how good you insist it is, I don’t want to try morro (snout) or criadilla (bull testicle) or oreja (ear). I’ve tried orejas already and never again!). If this makes me unadventurous, sue me.
- I hate dubbing. I refuse to watch TV shows dubbed. In any language. Please, try to tell me that The Big Bang Theory is just as funny in Spanish. No. Just no. So yeah, this means I watch a lot of TV in English, which is bad for my Spanish learning. But I really don’t like Spanish TV or movies. Neither does Mario.
- I’m still patriotic. No, I’m not blindly patriotic. I understand the US has its flaws and is not God’s chosen country, but I still love my country and miss so many things about it—barbecues, the openness, the informality, the ease with which I navigated any and all social situations … en fin, so much!
- I don’t idealize the Spanish lifestyle. Sure, Spain is known for relaxation, sun, and siestas. But the truth is, many Spaniards work endless days and get little to no rest. Nowadays the unemployment rate is sky high. I think that Spaniards definitely get it right with regards to enjoying food/drink, eating healthily, and walking, but they’re not perfect. They’re not inherently less lazy than Americans. They’re human—just like us.
Spain + America = Success
- I have a love/hate relationship with blogging. Sometimes (most of the time), I love blogging. I love the relationships it has created, the opportunities it has given me, the wonderful feedback I get from it. At others, I feel intimidated by other bloggers, worried that no one likes me, afraid that what I say will cause someone somewhere to become angry with me. I’m often envious of other bloggers’ success because I wish that I could achieve that same level of success without compromising any of my principles.
So, what about you—anything to confess? C’mon, spill it.
I’m a sucker for Currently posts. You know, where the writer lists what he/she is doing currently. I’m also pretty nosy. Are those two related? Couldn’t be.
Here’s what I’ve been up to … currently, I’m:
- Watching: Homeland and Dexter. If you’re not watching these shows, you’re either busy, ignorant, or just plain weird. My favorite of the two is Homeland, which captivated me from the very first episode, but this season of Dexter is helping to wash away the bad memories from seasons five and six, which I found to be subpar (for Dexter, anyway). These two shows are both from Showtime, and I would like to offer them my sincere gratitude, in the form of wine, cheese, or both (my favorite things, you know). Dear Showtime, you make my lazy Friday/Saturday nights on the couch with my husband so much more fun.
- Reading: I just finished reading Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. If you haven’t heard about it—well, where have you been? I had heard a lot of hype—that I’d read it in two days, that I’d love it, that it was “amazing” … So of course I was prepared not to like it, as is my wont when someone promises that I will. The premise is this: it’s Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary; she disappears. It looks bad for Nick. But there’s something else behind all the seemingly obvious signs of a struggle. I won’t spoil it for you. Read it, but I won’t lie: it wasn’t my favorite. I’m a fan of relatable protagonists, and neither main character was anywhere near likable. (Come on, I relate to Dexter! I’m not that hard of a sell.) By the end of the book, I just wanted both of them, Amy and Nick, to go away and be miserable together.
- Thinking about: A trip to Munich in December. Mario once lived in Munich (if only for a year!), and Germany has been somewhere I’ve seen in pictures but never visited. I would love to visit a traditional German Christmas market, even if it means bundling up in six or seven layers to withstand the cold.
- Loving: Our apartment! Mario picked it out while I was back in the States this August, and he did an amazing job. We’re not centrally located, but we’re still within the M-30, and we live right next to two great places for running: a park and Madrid Río. It’s very cozy, has lots of light, and we just got a new rug from IKEA, which, for some odd reason, just makes the room.
- Listening to: Joshua Radin’s Vegetable Car (and all the rest of his album Simple Times), Mumford & Sons’ The Cave, and This Side by Nickel Creek, just to name a few.
- Making me happy: Seeing all the Halloween decorations in the stores! I know it’s an Americanization and all, but I love Halloween. I love fall and crisp weather and autumn leaves and pumpkins and the smell of cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice and everything to do with the month of October.
What have you been up to currently?
What? Mario makes mistakes?
We all make mistakes from time to time. For example, do you know how to properly use lay and lie? It’s confusing because lay is the past tense of lay and laid is the past tense of laid. Confused yet? Most people do it “wrong,” and I put wrong in quotation marks because I don’t believe in labeling a person’s way of speaking as wrong or right. Dialects and pidgins aren’t wrong, and grammar snobs are just that: snobs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love speaking well and even learning about grammar, but since I got a bit more educated, I’ve tried to stop being annoying about “correct” and “incorrect” grammar. (Related: hypercorrection and prescriptive poppycock.)
In Spanish, I am always on the hunt for unknown-to-me phrases/words as well as mistakes. Sometimes I find what I think is a mistake in the newspaper, but I’m not sure whether it actually is. So I ask—who else?—Mario. He almost always knows, but sometimes I mistake a find stumps him. This usually means it’s an error that’s become ingrained in people’s daily speech. I find these linguistics quirks fascinating. So if you do too, please read on to see if you’ve heard these “mistakes” when speaking to Spaniards or reading in Spanish.
Mario would like to note that he helped me with this, and so if you’re a Spaniard reading this, I’m not saying you speak “wrong” in any way, just that I find linguistic curiosities fascinating.
- “Dile a mis padres” / “Le dije [a Sergio y Víctor] que …”—I love this one. Mario does it all the time. But so does everyone else I know: Mario’s family and friends, teachers I work with, and people on the street. It’s technically wrong; it should be “Diles a mis padres” and “Les dije [a Sergio y Víctor] que …” but it’s usually said like I wrote above. Listen for this one!
- “Nada de esto hubiera sucedido si él no hubiera hecho lo que hizo.”—This one too is quite common. Of course, the correct way to say it is “Nada de esto habría sucedido si él no hubiera hecho lo que hizo.” It’s said both ways. I’m not sure if there’s a difference in connotation or if it’s simply a way of expressing oneself in a different way.
- “Fijaros bien” / “Estaros quietos”—I hear the vosotros form a lot, as I work in classrooms where the teachers are always addressing groups of children, so I get the chance to listen and see if they say “fijaros” instead of the correct form “fijaos” or “estaros” instead of the correct form “estaos.” I suppose this comes about because “fijaos” and “estaos” sound a bit odd and are a bit more difficult to pronounce, but I’m no expert.
- “Hablastes con ella?”—This definitely isn’t as widespread as the above-mentioned examples, but it does happen, although I think people are more aware of the fact that it’s an error. It should, of course, be “¿Hablaste con ella?” The Cervantes Virtual Center speaks of this, citing as a grave error that has even begun to invade the written word. (Oh the horror!) I do love that they call it a “vulgarismo,” a vulgarism.
- “Sal para fuera” “Sube arriba” / “Baja abajo—These are not errors in such, but rather redundancies. Of course, in English there are many examples of this phenomenon: “free gift,” “end result,” “future plans,” and “safe haven,” just to name a few. We’re taught in composition classes to eliminate redundancies in order to smarten up our writing.
I tried my best not to include obvious ones that most educated people know are incorrect, like the confusion of “b” and “v,” “laísmo” (even though “leísmo” is accepted), saying “habían” when it should be “había,” etc.
Have you noticed any other “mistakes” that native speakers make?
Starting a new life in another country requires time and money. (But having a wedding means people give you presents, so that helps.) We have to acquire—in one way or another—all the necessities: appliances, kitchen equipment, linens, and on and on. Things can add up. And quickly.
A lot of things seem to be more expensive in Spain: makeup, toiletries, electronics, cell phone rates, books, cars. It can seem overwhelming when you’re trying to furnish a new apartment!
Luckily, not everything is expensive in Spain, especially if you can find some cheap flights! Here’s what I’ve found to be cheaper
- Fruits and vegetables, but you have to know where to buy them. (Hint: It’s not Carrefour.)
- Alcohol, but wine in particular. I can find one of my favorites, Elias Mora, for around €6.
- Olive oil. I don’t get it, because we make olive oil here (in California, for example), but it’s not cheap. I’ll be honest and admit that my favorite olive oil is Carrefour-brand Arbequina.
- Traveling to other countries, which—duh!—is due to shorter distances, but still. It’s cheaper!
- Climate control. Okay, this is a cop out, because the reason it’s cheaper is because of a lack of a) heating in the south, or b) air conditioning in the northern regions. I have heard there are apartments in Madrid with some air conditioning, though. My environmentalist friend Kristin would remind me of all the good this is doing for the environment, however, and thus I try not to complain.
- Eating out, but only if we’re talking about tapas-style eating out. There aren’t nearly as many chain restaurants or fast-food restaurants in Spain. (Thank goodness!) Thus, you can’t go grab Chipotle for $8 any time you want. But going out for tapas is cheap, fun, and filling. The idea of tapas is getting big in the US, but I honestly don’t think it’ll ever work out. There’s no culture of tapas, and the idea of going from place to place for dinner, which we eat way too early anyway, won’t likely catch on here anytime soon.
- University tuition, but keep in mind it’s actually paid for by your taxes (85% of it, according to Público.es). So, you may only spend between 535 and 1,280 per academic year, according to Master’s Portal. (Mario came up with this one, and he wants to clarify that the trade-off may have to do with Spanish universities not exactly being world renowned.)
In the end, I realized the one thing that’s chaper in Spain is food. Good food, that is. Thank goodness. I love food!
What do you find cheaper (and/or better quality) in Spain? What do you find more expensive?
Have you ever met someone who’s profoundly affected you and then lost contact? Of course you have; we all have. But there are probably dozens more people that—after all’s said and done—ended up as not-that-important. You know, the person you meet on the train or the airplane and have a fun conversation with, but soon forget about, except for every once in a while when you think, Hmm, I wonder what happened to her.
In Spain, I’ve had loads of those sorts of encounters:
- The Korean lady who ran an alimentación shop in Toledo. Study abroad isn’t really about studying, in case you haven’t heard. Inside the walls of Toledo, there wasn’t even a Carrefour or Eroski, so we did all our late-night shopping there, buying liters of Mahou or boxes of Don Simón sangría.
- Pablo, a Spaniard, who studied in Cologne. Pablo chose la Fundación José Ortega y Gasset (which we affectionately referred to as “The Fund,” pronounced with the long Spanish “u”) to stay during a vacation. I can’t even remember why anymore. We lived in a renovated convent, and, while it was located in a rather idyllic place, it was still a dorm. We talked about politics (why we had reelected George Bush and whether Obama would be elected), Spanish food, and studying. I don’t remember much else.
A view from my room.
My first intercambio, Carlos. We were a true intercambio—we spoke one hour in English and one in Spanish. Always. He gave me my first insights into the true Spain, not just the idealized version I had read about in books.
My Spanish teacher in Salamanca. I can’t remember her name anymore. She at first thought I was horrific at Spanish, but soon realized I am just shy. She finally coaxed it out of me. When she heard I was dating a Spaniard, she told me, “¡Qué bien! Es la mejor manera de aprender un idioma.” Or something like that. I finished my classes with her and never saw her again, except once—through a window. She smiled knowingly, the kind of smile where you realize you don’t have much to say to the other person, but you had indeed shared something.
The waiters at this certain bar in Zamora. It was close to my house, comfortable, and free wifi. (Remember, in Spain it’s pronounced wee-fee.) I would usually head there in the late evening, grab una copa de Elías Mora for the ridiculously good price of 2€, and settle down for a nice Skype date (but maybe not as often as my mother would have liked).
People come and go; I’ve come and gone from several different places. We all change, and in some ways we all stay the same. I’m still me, after all. It’s jarring to think of these people, people I laughed with, ate with, talked with … existing somewhere out there without me. They live and go on. So do I.
Do you have these sorts of people in—well, out of—your life?
I tweet, do you?
Now, in my everyday life, I come up against a lot of resistance to Twitter, which I just do not understand. People tell me, “What do I care about if you just went to the grocery store or ate something delicious?” I just want to stomp my feet and yell, “You do not understand Twitter! The purpose is not to tell others what you ate for lunch or about your latest trip to the bathroom!” But then I struggle to explain to them what, exactly, it is about.
I admit it—I love Twitter. Much more than Facebook, actually, although Facebook does have its uses. Why Twitter? Well, because Twitter makes me aware of things. Twitter has been the way I’ve learned breaking news stories. (Thanks, Trending Topics.)
- Twitter is a democracy. Celebs often interact with us plebes. You can talk to anyone (though they may not talk back). People who don’t know you can follow you, just because they’re interested in what you have to say, even if you’d never be “friends” on Facebook.
- You can get instantaneous feedback. You can ask your followers a question and get tons of responses, like when I asked for opinions on where I should go in Italy.
- Hashtags. I love using hashtags, which are just words or phrases preceded by #. If you add # before something, it’s instantly searchable. My favorite hashtags? #IUBB, #Spain, #ESL, and #learnSpanish. Apparently, some people really like #TTOT, or Travel Talk on Tuesday, where you can ask/answer questions about travel every Tuesday at certain times.
- Education. I love linguistics. This is no secret. I follow a lot of linguistics blogs on Twitter, and I’m always to find something interesting to read.
- Pure entertainment. Sometimes I get bored. Luckily, I have a smartphone and Twitter! This is a winning combination for curing boredom. I just hop on Twitter, laugh at my friend’s tweets, and write something inane, hoping someone will gratify me by replying.
Those are my reasons for using Twitter. What are yours? I’ll leave you with some of my favorite Tweeters (I’ll spare you my #IUBB tweeters, as that’s not this blog’s audience, but rest assured I’m wholly obsessed with the Hoosiers):
- @CyLesVida: Castilla y León es Vida tweets all about one of my favorite comunidades, Castilla y León. I love keeping up with the news. Plus, they retweeted me!
- @LongReads: Long Reads tweets out “the best long-form stories on the web.” I save these on my Kindle and read them when I have a free moment.
- @WinesfromSpain: Wines from Spain tries to raise awareness about the deliciousness of Spanish wine in the US. Although I need no convincing, I love reading about Spanish wine nonetheless!
- @Fundeu: Español Urgente is where I learn matices of the Spanish language. Sometimes I disagree with their prescriptivist perspective, but that’s just how Spain approaches the Spanish language nowadays.
- @GeoffNunberg: Geoff Nunberg is the resident linguist for NPR’s Fresh Air, and I always love his segments. I am hopelessly addicted to linguistic blogs, so this just feeds my addiction.
- @GuiriBullshit: Guiri Bullshit is hilarious if you’ve ever worked as an auxiliar de conversación. As they say in their self-description, “Over 2,000 Americans go to Spain every year to teach English in public schools. Far less of them have a clue.” Truth. But they don’t tweet enough!
Of course, there are always my friends. I want to include you all … but I can’t!