Some Days I Hate Speaking Spanish

Honest post ahead:

In high school and college, speaking Spanish was a ton of fun! I didn’t have “off days,” I didn’t feel bad about my accent, and I never felt self-conscious! I thought I was pretty darn good at Spanish too. (In truth, I wasn’t half bad.)

That all changed when I first set foot in Spain in 2008. Suddenly, I realized I didn’t understand a lot of things. I got nervous when people gave me directions, nodding stupidly, and hoping they wouldn’t notice when I walked off in a direction opposite to the one in which they had told me to go. Vale became my favorite, end-the-conversation-NOW word. Every so often, a Spaniard would compliment my English, but I knew they were lying. They just had to be!

Slowly, through my years in Spain, I grew more confident in my abilities. I learned so many new words, phrases, and ways of speaking. My Spanish family is sometimes delighted when I say things like, ” … que no veas,” as though what I said was, indeed, la leche. There are good days, days when the words flow, and people don’t have to wait for me to spit out the word vitrocerámica (why can’t we just call it a fogón?). These days are when I feel most competent and fluent, the days I like (sometimes even love!) speaking castellano.

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My 4 Favorite Spanish Language Study Books

Some days I’m really motivated to study Spanish. Other days, not so much. It all depends on the amount of coffee and carbs I’ve had that day. (Hint: more coffee equals better studying, while more carbs equals better napping.)

For my birthday, my friends gave me a book, which is great for language nerds like me who spend their free time reading linguists’ blogs and articles about language change. Yep, that’s me. So obviously I was quite enthused by the gift and the thought that went behind it.

Presenting Kaley’s Favorite Books for Learning Spanish

Las 500 dudas más frecuentes del español

Las 500 dudas más frecuentes del español is the book I got for my birthday a few weeks ago. Just like we do in English, Spanish-speaking people make mistakes when writing and speaking Spanish. This book is designed to help clear up any debates about the correct usage of the language. I recognize that spoken and colloquial language may not follow these guidelines, but written language needs to adhere to them in order to be fit to print.

Quick, a quiz!

  • ¿Está bien dicho Cuidado, que caes el vino? (For the answer, check out page 232.)
  • ¿Está bien dicho Me miraba de arriba a abajo? (Answer on page 300.)
  • ¿Por qué algunas palabras como azúcar o mar admiten tanto el masculino como el femenino? (Answer on page 194.)

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What’s With all the Al- Words in Spanish?

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Mario and I went to Italy on our honeymoon. (In July, no less.) It was there that Mario unlearned his very first Spanish word, the word for basil. You see, in Italy, we were eating quite a few Caprese salads (insalata caprese), a simple salad from Capri consisting of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, fresh basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. This salad? Our idea of summer perfection, so we ordered it more than a few times. Mario liked to fancy himself an Italian speaker, so he would order while I pretended I didn’t know English or Italian or Spanish. (Clueless guiri card? Yeah, I’ll play it, even in Italy.) He probably read the description of the insalata caprese a few times, all of which mentioned basilico.

Basil Albahaca

Back in Spain, Mario kept referring to basil as basilico, the Italian word for basil. I thought he was just being cute and trying to remind me of our time in Italy, but it soon became apparent: Mario actually thought the word was basílico, when it was in fact albahaca. I let this go on for a few more days before kindly telling him, “Mario, en tu idioma se dice albahaca.”

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When 1 Word in English = 3+ in Spanish

When you first start learning a language, it’s all fun and games! Hey, today I learned 20 new words! And they’re words I’ll use more than once a month! Now, though, I learn words like surco and resarcir and resquebrajar. Those words, believe it or not, don’t come out of my mouth that often.

Sometimes I find there are two words in English for one word in Spanish. For example, dove and pigeon. Are those two birds really different? (Wikipedia says not really.) But a lot of times there’s one word in English for a few in Spanish. This is what trips me up. Let’s talk examples.

Towel

Definition: a piece of thick absorbent cloth or paper used for drying oneself or wiping things dry.

But in Spanish:ToallaToalla

PañoPaño

Trapo de CocinaTrapo (de cocina)

Rag

Definition: a piece of old cloth, esp. one torn from a larger piece, used typically for cleaning things.

But in Spanish:

TrapoTrapo

BayetaBayeta

Bowl

Definition: a round, deep dish or basin used for food or liquid.

But in Spanish:

BolBol

Tazón Tazón

Cuenco

Cuenco

Plato Hondo

Plato hondo

Scarf

Definition: a length or square of fabric worn around the neck or head.

But in Spanish:

Bufanda

Bufanda

Pañuelo

Pañuelo?
Foulard/Fular?
Pashmina?

To Be

This is the biggest. To be or not to be? ¿Ser o no ser? ¿Estar o no estar? I’ve finally mastered this, but sometimes I still wonder why a person cannot ser loco, he must estar loco.

Okay, what about you? Tell me some other examples of this phenomenon, either from Spanish to English or vice versa.