Lezioni spagnolo


Tiempo: It's Time to Learn

It's time to learn a little bit more about tiempo -- which is one way to express time in Spanish.


So, tiempo means "time" -- as in "a system used to place one event in relation to another (such as past vs. present, yesterday vs. today)" -- it also means, less abstractly, "period" -- as in "a span of time" (which could be minutes, hours, days, weeks...). For example, soccer fans getting online updates should note that a match consists of primer tiempo, entretiempo and segundo tiempo, often abbreviated as 1T, ET and 2T, respectively. Meanwhile, in English, we might speak of first period (or, more common in soccer, first half), half time and then the second half.

OK. Now let's spend a little time with the latest videos on Yabla Spanish. In one, we hear restaurant manager José Luis Calixto Escobar of Mexico speak of tiempos in the following sentence:


La comida sale económicamente porque contiene lo que son tres tiempos.

The food is cheap because it has what are three courses.

Caption 38, Fonda Mi Lupita - Encargado

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Outside of México, it may be more common to hear talk of una comida con tres platos (literally: "a meal with three plates") to describe "a three-course meal." Una comida en [o, de] tres tiempos describes the same idea. To illustrate, José goes on to describe a soup course, then a rice or pasta and then a meat plate. Yum. This menú -- another word used to describe a meal of many parts -- even comes with water. Completamente (That's José's oft-repeated verbal tic. Think: "totally" in English.)


Incidentally, flip comida de tres tiempos around, and you have los tres tiempos de comida -- that is, breakfast, lunch and dinner, or the three meals/mealtimes of the day. Note that comida not only means "food," but that it also can describe the time spent eating food -- i.e., a meal.

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Dicho: Better Said and Done

Just a few moments later in the Oreiro interview, Natalia Oreiro's father corrects himself with the phrase mejor dicho, which can be translated as "better said" or "rather." Note that dicho ("said") is the past participle of the irregular verb decir ("to say").


Es lo que te dije anteriormente, es ver a la gente, cómo...

It's what I told you previously, it's seeing the people, how...

Mejor dicho, ver a Natalia... cómo le llega a las personas ¿no?

Rather, seeing Natalia... how she reaches people, right?

Captions 80-83, Biografía Natalia Oreiro - Part 8

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We also hear dicho in our interview with the co-founder of Tu Rock es Votar Armando David. Armando says dicho y hecho ("said and done").


Y dicho y hecho, eso generó toda una controversia durante muchos meses en donde...

And said and done, that generated a whole controversy during many months in which...

Captions 67-68, Tu Rock es Votar - Armando

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Looking around at other dicho sayings, we found the catchy:

Del dicho al hecho hay gran trecho.
From the saying to the deed, there's a big distance.
(or "Easier said than done.")

By the way, another definition for dicho actually is "saying," as we noted previously in this space.

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Emocionar: It's So Moving!

Moving right along, with Natalia's proud papa, we come across this line:


Lo que más me emociona... es lo que te dije anteriormente.

What moves me the most... it's what I told you previously.

Captions 79-80, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 8

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You see, emocionarse is a reflexive verb meaning "to be moved [by]." Like the verbs gustar or encantar (which we wrote about in this space before), emocionar agrees with the object of the sentence -- i.e., whatever it is that is moving -- instead of the speaker.

To see emocionarse at work, we are featuring a touching interview with the Mexican musical group
Belanova this week. Here are the examples we gleaned from their interview:


...es porque les emociona nuestro proyecto.

...it's because they are moved by our project. (Or: ...it's because our project moves them.)

Caption 28, Belanova - Entrevista - Part 3

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Que nos emociona mucho hacerlo, que es lo más importante...

That really moves us when doing it, which is the most important...

Caption 39, Belanova - Entrevista - Part 3

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...que a toda la gente que ve a Belanova se emociona.

...which moves all the people who see Belanova.

Caption 41, Belanova - Entrevista - Part 3

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In the examples above, note that emociona (the third personal singular, present form of emocionar) agrees with the project, action or sight that is considered moving. Meanwhile, the object pronouns les (for "them"), nos (for "us") and se (for "everyone" -- i.e., toda la gente) let us know who is being moved by the subject in each of the examples above.



A Ana y María les emocionan las películas de amor antiguas.
Ana and Maria are moved by old love films.

Estas historias nos emocionan mucho.
These stories really move us.

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De Repente: Suddenly or Maybe

Our four new video clips deliver more than fifteen minutes of spoken Spanish -- subtitled and translated -- to your computer. To learn all you can from the rapid-fire banter, check out Yabla's "slow play" feature. (To activate, simply click SLOW on the Yabla Player). By taking the pace down a notch, you might notice some nuances that could otherwise elude you.


One subtlety we noted in the eighth installment of our chat with actress Natalia Oreiro was that she and her father use the phrase "de repente" in different ways. First, let's listen to Natalia describe seeing herself on TV in her first starring role:


Y mirando Canal Nueve... el estreno y de repente aparezco yo... tah, tah...

And watching Channel Nine... the premiere and suddenly I appear... tah, tah...

Captions 64-65, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 8

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The word "repente" on its own means "fit" or "burst." But in everyday spoken Spanish, it's often heard in the idiom "de repente" which primarily means "all of a sudden" or "suddenly." That's how Natalia uses it here, when she was surprised to see her own image on the TV screen.

But just a few lines later, we hear from Natalia's dad. He's obviously not a professional actor and he
, well, hesitates on camera more than his daughter, explaining:


...pierdo la continuidad de... de... de... de repente de escucharla.

...I lose the habit of... of... of... maybe of listening to her.

Caption 77, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 8

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In the Oreiro family's native Uruguay (as well as in Venezuela), de repente can also mean "maybe," according to the Diccionario de la lengua española from the Real Academia Española. Another translation of de repente (although it doesn't fit here) is "spontaneously," i.e., without premeditation. Who would have guessed?

Cuando lo vi con esa mujer me dio un repente de furia.
When I saw him with that woman, I went into a fit of rage.

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En Sí: In and of Itself

On the Venezuelan shore, Francisco expresses his deep appreciation for the wild, natural beauty of his surroundings. In front of the camera, Francisco hesitates a few times, but it's not from lack of conviction. He's simply buying time to find the right word. For example:


Los arrecifes... la... la... el fondo marino en... en sí que es demasiado increíble.

The reefs... the... the... the ocean floor it'... itself is too incredible.

Captions 7-8, Playa Adícora - Francisco - Part 4

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One might take pause upon hearing en sí because those two words separately can mean "in" and "yes." But with an accent over the i is not just an affirmation; it's also a reflexive personal pronoun (short for sí mismo / sí misma) meaning himself, herself, itself, oneself, yourself (as in the formal usted), yourselves (ustedes) or themselves -- depending on the context.


Lo leyó para sí misma.
She read it to herself. [not out loud]

Cada uno debe hacerlo por sí mismo.
Each person has to do it himself or herself.

Solía pensar por mismo; no era influenciado por los tan llamados expertos.
He used to think for himself; he wasn't influenced by the so-called experts.

¡Venga y compruébelo por sí mismo!
Come and check it out for yourself!


Let's look back at our original example and home in on the idiom en sí, which means the same thing as en sí mismo (English translations: "in itself" or "in and of itself" or simply "itself").

El trabajo en sí no era interesante, pero le daba la posibilidad de viajar.
The job itself wasn't interesting, but it gave him the opportunity to travel.

Amor es bueno en sí naturalmente,
Love in itself is naturally good,

[from Juan Boscán's Sonnet, a sixteenth century poem]


You will also find it interesting to note that volver en sí, which we might be tempted to translate as "to come back to one's self," is an expression that means "to regain consciousness / to come to." It can also mean "to come around," as in "to realize the truth."


Si no vuelve en sí pronto, debemos llevarlo a un hospital.
If he doesn't come to soon, we must take him to a hospital.

Por suerte volvió en sí y se dió cuenta que era una locura.
Luckily he came around and realized it was a crazy idea.


This lesson has valor en sí misma, if you ask us!


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A Wealth of Weather Words

If you want to engage in small talk in Spanish, you should learn to chat about the weather "el clima" or "el tiempo". In our travel video from Mexico City (a.k.a. D.F., or Distrito Federal), some local friends share many helpful nuggets for prattling on about the temperature, rain, global warming -- three common topics of conversation pretty much anywhere in the world. For example, regarding the temperature:


Yo diría, templado... Eh... un clima ni muy caliente ni muy frío.

I'd say, mild... Uh... a climate neither too warm nor too cold.

Captions 5-6, Amigos D.F. - Clima en el DF

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And just a few captions later, on what falls from the skies:


Un poco de lluvias, este... este... chispeadas... a veces, en ocasiones granizo...

Some rain, um... drizzles... Sometimes, occasionally hail...

Captions 9-10, Amigos D.F. - Clima en el DF

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Or, if you want to discuss the melting glaciers:


Con el relajo este del calentamiento global... los... los climas se disparan un poco.

With this global warming mess... the... climates get a little out of control.

Captions 11-12, Amigos D.F. - Clima en el DF

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Later in the video clip, we're let in on a little rhyme about the weather. In English you may know "April's showers bring May's flowers." Well, in Mexico, we hear:


De hecho hay un dicho que dice: "enero loco, febrero otro poco."

In fact, there's a saying that goes, "January is crazy, February, a bit too."

Captions 28-29, Amigos D.F. - Clima en el DF

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Sniffing around for some more catchy phrases, we found this website of Refranes sobre los meses del año. (Incidentally, they cite the same phrase but pushed ahead by a month, febrero loco, marzo otro poco.)

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Caer Bien: To Like It

Going to the private party where The Ramones were performing for the first time ever ended up changing the life of painter/artist Arturo Vega. Our featured video interview with Vega captures the story.


Entonces yo fui porque, pues, era una fiesta, ¿verdad? Y Dee Dee me caía bien.

So I went because, well, it was a party, right? And I liked Dee Dee.

Caption 52, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 3

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So, students following the subtitles of this interview may choose to click the Spanish words that they don't know for Yabla's handy dictionary definitions. It happens that if they clicked caía, the dictionary would reveal that it's a third-person past tense of the verb caer. And what does caer mean?:

  • caer: v.: fall; drop, tumble; plunge; decline; droop; sink; demise; catch on

All these definitions are true, but what about "liking someone" -- as the verb is used here? Turns out that in Spanish, to say you like someone, you basically say that someone, well, falls well for (or, to) you. That is to say, Me cae bien means "I like him/ her" or "He/she made a good impression on me."

Conversely, Me cae mal means "I don't like him/her."

You may be wondering if he might have used the verb gustar, which also can be used to indicate liking something or someone. However, when using gustar to refer to people, there can be romantic/sexual connotations. Using caer bien eliminates any potential misunderstanding, as it refers to a purely platonic attraction.


In your travels through the Spanish speaking world you will undoubtedly come across other interesting uses of caer.


Cualquier cosa te caigo más tarde, ¿vale?

Anyway, I might drop by later, OK?

Caption 34, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante - Capítulo 1

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No puedes caer así sin avisar. (slang)
You can't drop by like that without calling.

Siempre es igual, le cuentas un chiste y cae media hora más tarde.
It's always the same, tell him a joke and he gets it
a half hour later.


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Me Puedes: It's Irresistible

Me puedes

You can get to me / I can't resist you

[song title, La Gusana Ciega - Me Puedes]



The song title for La Gusana Ciega's new video may at first sound like an incomplete phrase. After all, it's common to see the verb poder (to be able to) conjugated with a direct object -- as in, me puedes -- followed by another verb in the infinitive, such as Me puedes ayudar, (You can help me) -- or, with question marks, ¿Me puedes ayudar? (Can you help me?).

So, when encountering me puedes on its own, one may struggle to find sense in "you can me." (You can what me?) But the verb poder can also mean "to be stronger than," or "to have power over," which will give us "You are stronger than me / You have power over me" or, seen from another angle, "I can't resist you."

To investigate further, we went straight to the source, Daniel Gutierrez, lyricist/vocalist/guitarist of
La Gusana Ciega. We asked him what he had in mind when he titled the song "Me puedes." Daniel, who speaks English quite well, replied and told us how the title ties into the song's refrain of me vas a ver llorar (you're going to see me cry):

It would be sort of a YOU GET TO ME referring to "you can make me cry" if you want.

¡Gracias, Daniel! If only we could always contact all our video stars directly. Alas, no podemos.

La curiosidad me pudo y fui a ver el combate de lucha.
Curiosity got to me [got the best of me] and I went to see the wrestling match.

Está bien, me puedes... vamos a ir al zoológico el domingo.
Alright, I can't say no [to you]... we'll go to the zoo on Sunday.

Estoy a régimen, pero la torta de chocolate me puede.
I'm on a diet, but I can't resist chocolate cake.

¡Ese chico me puede!
I'm crazy for that boy! [can't resist him]

Esta niña me puede... no pude decirle que no.
I can't resist this girl [her charms]... I couldn't say no to her.

Cuando llegué estaba enojada, pero esa sonrisa me puede...
When I arrived I was angry, but I can't resist that smile...



NOTE: You might be wondering if it's therefore possible to say te puedo for "you can't resist me." But our translators inform us that native speakers don't do this, and probably wouldn't understand it if you attempted to convey this sentiment like that.

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Ir Al Grano: Let's Get to the Point

If you want to say, "Let's get to the point" in Spanish, you say, "Vamos al grano." Remember the word "grano" mentioned earlier in this newsletter? It's a noun that means "grain" (e.g., a grain of cereal or sand), "bean" (as in a coffee bean) or "pimple" (a spot on the skin -- as we used it above).


Based on the individual words, you might think "vamos al grano" meant "let's go to the grain" if you didn't know the expression. But in standard Spanish from both Spain and Latin America, "vamos al grano" is commonly understood to mean "let's get to the substance of something" (pushing aside all superfluous niceties or meaningless details).

The lyrics to Risa from Babasónicos include the phrase (with the verb "ir" in its subjunctive form):


Algo en tus labios color carmín

Something in your carmine lips

Sugiere que vayamos al grano

Suggests we get to the point

Captions 16-17, Babasónicos - Risa

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Another way we might say that in English is "let's cut to the chase" or "let's not beat around the bush."

We stumbled upon some more useful phrases containing "grano" (or its diminutive "granito"):

apartar el grano de la paja
to separate the wheat from the chaff

hacer una montaña de un grano de arena
to make a mountain out of a molehill (Hint: "arena" means "sand")

poner su granito de arena
to do one's bit / add one's two cents



And that's our granito de arena for now. Enjoy the videos.

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Veintiún: Don't Stress--It's Called "Apocope"

One of the very first things a student of Spanish or any language learns is how to count. So, what comes after veinte (twenty)? Veintiuno! (Twenty-one!) Simple, right? So listen to this young man from Mexico introduce himself in front of the video camera:


Hola, ¿cómo están? Mi nombre es David del Valle. Tengo veintiún años y soy estudiante de negocios internacionales.

Hi, how are you? My name is David del Valle. I'm twenty-one years old and I'm a student of international business.

Captions 1-2, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle

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So where did the "o" at the end of veintiuno go? As it turns out, "veintiuno" is on a short list of Spanish words that lose their last, unstressed syllable when they come before certain nouns. [To get technical, we're talking about "apocope," (apócope in Spanish) defined as "the loss of one or more sounds or letters at the end of a word" (Merriam-Webster).]


Remember, when nothing follows the number 21, every syllable is pronounced:

¿Cuántos años tiene David?

How old is David?

But when 21 is followed by a masculine noun or feminine noun that begins with a stressed "a" or a stressed "ha" sound -- it loses that final "o" and an accent mark is added to keep the stress on the "ú." For example:

David tiene veintiún años.
David is twenty-one years old.

El pobrecito tiene veintiún granos.
The poor kid has twenty-one pimples.

La caja tiene veintiún hachas.
The box has twenty-one axes.

When 21 is followed by a feminine noun that does not begin with a stressed "a" or "ha" sound, the final "o" in veintiuno becomes an "a," giving us veintiuna, for example veintiuna chicas (twenty-one girls) or veintiuna sillas (twenty-one chairs).

El libro tiene veintiuna páginas.
The book has twenty-one pages.

[Note: It is not at all uncommon to hear this rule as it pertains to feminine nouns being "broken" by native Spanish speakers. For example, the Spanish pop group "21 Japonesas" (21 Japanese Girls) is often called "Veintiún Japonesas" by broadcasters, much to the dismay of language watchdogs.]


The number "one" ("uno") and any other number that ends with "one" follows the same pattern, so it's "ochenta y unowithout a noun following the number, but ochenta y un años or ochenta y una reglas ("eighty-one rules"). [Note that no accent mark is needed for the u in un since there could be no confusion regarding which syllable to stress in the one syllable word.]

Other common words that drop endings before certain nouns include "ciento -> cien" ("100"), "bueno -> buen" ("good"), and "santo -> san" ("saint"). There is a more extensive list of apocopes in Spanish

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Perdón: Forgiveness

So, how does La Secta's refrain go? (¿Cómo dice el estribillo de La Secta?) Here it is:


Llora mi corazón

My heart cries

Rogando tu perdón

Begging for your forgiveness

Captions 7-8, La Secta - Llora mi corazón

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In this lyric's translation, we noted that perdón means -- and sounds like -- "pardon" in English. But it also means "forgiveness." Because "begging your pardon" sounds too stilted and too close to the question "Beg your pardon?," we chose "forgiveness" here.


Aquí estoy, ya me ves, suplicándote perdón.

Here I am, as you can see, imploring your forgiveness.

Caption 67, Biografía - Enrique Iglesias

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(Incidently, "Beg your pardon?" -- as in, "What did you just say?" -- is usually ¿Cómo? in Spanish.)

Coming soon on Yabla Spanish, we'll provide consejos para la calle ("advice for the street") to teach you when to use perdón (pardon), permiso and disculpe (excuse me). Tune in then to learn the best way to clear a path and beg forgiveness when you knock someone down.


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¿Cómo Dice?: How Does It Go?

In our latest live concert footage of Belanova, lead singer Denisse Guererro turns to the audience and asks:


Este mundo gira y algún día ha de morir

This world spins and someday it shall die

pero contigo -¿Cómo dice, Guadalajara?

but with you -How does it go, Guadalajara?

Captions 28-29, Belanova - Tus ojos

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The crowd responds by singing along to the well known song. North of the border, concertgoers might hear the words "How does it go?" to provoke a similar sing-along.

But wait. Most of you know the verb decir most often means "to say" or "to tell." It's ir that typically means "to go." A literal-minded translation of
¿Cómo dice? might be something more like "What does [it / the song / the tune] say?"

When we asked around, we gathered some more examples of English phrases in which "go"
is best expressed in Spanish with decir. Here they are:

As the song goes
Como dice la canción

As the saying goes
Como dice el refrán

So the story goes
Se dice

So the argument goes (reputedly)
Según se dice

Hearing "decir" used in this context, it becomes much easier to understand another new music video. In "Llora mi corazón," La Secta Allstar leads into their own refrain with:


Y dice...

And it [i.e., the song's refain] goes [like this:]...

Caption 6, La Secta - Llora mi corazón

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So, how does La Secta's refrain go?

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Lo: The Neuter Gender

Did you wonder why it's "lo mismo" and not "el mismo" or "la misma" in our examples above? The answer is that "lo" is the neuter article in Spanish and it is used to stand in for an abstract idea, concept, category or quality--in other words, something that's not a concrete object or person. One way to translate it is as "thing" -- but sometimes there's no easy translation.


Here are some more phrases that take "lo" before an adjective:

lo bueno = "the good part, what's good"
lo fácil = "the easy part, what's easy"
lo important es que... = "the important thing is that..."

lo mío = "(that which is) mine"
lo nuestro = "(that which is) ours"
lo más = "the most"
-- as in LoMásTv, of course!

Let's look at the refrain once more (with "lo" as our focus):


No es lo mismo una sospecha que saberlo de verdad

A suspicion isn't the same [thing] as knowing it for sure

No es saberlo de verdad lo mismo que una sospecha

Knowing it for sure isn't the same [thing] as a suspicion

Captions 7-8, Circo - La sospecha

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Now, you've noted that "lo" is standing in for something unknown in this song -- something that's neither masculine nor feminine per se. When "lo" appears before an adjective or adverb, it's easy to recognize as neuter. But, to complicate matters, "lo" can also be a masculine direct object -- as in, "Lo vi" ("I saw him"). The only way to straighten out whether "lo" is a masculine or neuter object in a sentence is via the context.

In our Circo song lyrics, the second "lo" (-- "saberlo") also stands in for something undefined. As the direct object of a verb, lo works in a similar way in these common phrases:

Lo siento = "Sorry" (or, literally, "I feel it")
No lo sabía = "I didn't know [it]"
No quiero saberlo = "I don't want to know [it]"

For more on the neuter, see

 > Spanish language > The neuter gender in Spanish


When we premiered the spacy music video Bienvenido by Sizu Yantra several months ago, we received this letter:

If someone had asked me to translate "if you find the world sickly" I might have come up with "si el mundo tú encuentras enfermizo"... could someone explain why the "lo" is in there? --DonJorge, San Mateo, CA


Si al mundo lo encuentras enfermizo, delirante y brutal...

If you find the world sickly, delirious and brutal...

Caption 2, SiZu Yantra - Bienvenido

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When lo is not busy working as a neuter article (e.g. lo importante, "the important thing/what's important"), or as an "undefined" neuter direct object (e.g. No puedo creerlo, "I can't believe it"), lo can also be found serving duty as the masculine singular direct object pronoun, just as la does as the feminine singular direct object pronoun.

¿Dónde encontraste el perro?
Lo encontré en la calle.

Where did you find the dog?
I found it on the street.

¿Desde cuándo has querido a María?
Siempre la he querido.

Since when have you loved Maria?
I have always loved her.

¿Quien rompió la mesa?
Juan la rompío.

Who broke the table?
Juan broke it.

As you can see, when we mention the direct object by name (e.g., el perro), it comes after the verb. When we replace it, the direct object pronoun (such as lo, or la) comes before the verb.

However, it is permissible in Spanish to mention your direct object by name AND put it before the verb, but if you do this you must include both the object and its pronoun. When we do this we provide more emphasis to the direct object, as Sizu Yantra emphasizes "el mundo" in the example above.



Al perro lo encontré en la calle.
I found the dog in the street.

La mesa la rompió Juan.
Juan broke the table.

Now's a good time to go back and take another listen to Bienvenido by Sizu Yantra! (it's in the "Music Videos" section).


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No es lo mismo: It's not the same, but it is "un chiste"

Puerto Rican band Circo remind us that a suspicion is, by definition, not the same as a confirmed fact. Here's the refrain:


No es lo mismo una sospecha que saberlo de verdad

A suspicion isn't the same as knowing it for sure

No es saberlo de verdad lo mismo que una sospecha

Knowing it for sure isn't the same as a suspicion

Captions 7-8, Circo - La sospecha

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The repeated refrain is reminiscent of a series of jokes in Spanish that start "No es lo mismo [decir]..." ("It's not the same [to say]..."). For example:

No es lo mismo decir: "me río en el baño" que "me baño en el río."

And the English translation?

It's not the same to say: "I laugh in the bathroom" as "I bathe in the river."

And that's funny? Well, the little joke is hinged on the fact that the verbs "reirse" ("to laugh") and "
bañarse" ("to bathe") have conjugations that sound just like the nouns "el río" ("the river") and "el baño" ("the bathroom"). And that's why flipping the words around is un chiste (a joke) only in Spanish. Just try translating a groan-worthy English "knock-knock" joke into another language...

You can find dozens
more "no-es-lo-mismo" chistes online with a simple search.


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Cuestión: It's a Matter. Any Questions?

One final note on our chat with Arturo Vega. While he's talking about his realizations, he says:


Pero a mí... yo me di cuenta que no era nada más... cuestión de que yo estaba absorbiendo o que me gustaba...

But for me... I realized that it was not just... [a] question of me capturing or of me liking...

Captions 19-20, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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Here is an additional example from some mushroom hunters in Aracena, Spain:


Yo afición. Yo soy profesor de cocina, y... y no es sólo cuestión de cocinar alimentos, sino ver origen.

Me, [as a] hobby. I am a cooking teacher, and... and it's not only a question of cooking food, but to see the origin.

Captions 77-78, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 11

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Early in your Spanish careers, you probably learned that a question to your Spanish teacher was "una pregunta." Meanwhile, the related, sound-alike word, "una cuestión," is better defined as "a matter, issue or question to be debated or resolved." So, "a question" or "matter" -- as in "a question/matter of taste" -- is translated as una cuestión when it's referring to an issue at stake. Meanwhile, "a question" that takes a question mark (?) is "una pregunta."


Any other questions? ¿Hay más preguntas?

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Darse Cuenta: Realizing Through Repetition

Asked about his influences in the arts, Arturo Vega gives a long, thoughtful answer that includes one particular verb phrase over and over. Here are the excerpts:


Después de la actuación... me di cuenta que... mi talento o mi vocación... era mejor... lo visual.

After acting... I realized that... my gift or my vocation... was really good at... the visual.

Captions 10-13, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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Me he dado cuenta que mi manera de percibir y de valorizar...

I have found that my way of perceiving and appreciating...

Captions 14-15, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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Pero a mí... yo me di cuenta que no era nada más... cuestión de que yo estaba absorbiendo o que me gustaba...

But for me... I realized that it was not just... [a] question of me capturing or of me liking...

Captions 19-20, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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...sino que me di cuenta que podía hacer algo con la información visual.

...but that I realized that I could do something with visual information.

Caption 22, Arturo Vega -Entrevista - Part 2

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Y... y me da... me di cuenta del gusto...

And... and it gives me... I became aware of the pleasure...

Caption 24, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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Me di cuenta que no tienes que por qué [sic] saber dibujar ni pintar para...

I realized that you don't need to know how to draw or paint in order to...

Caption 31, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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Through repetition, you learn. Here our lesson is clear: Darse cuenta = "to realize". Yes, it's used often, you must realize.

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Estudiastes: A Heated Debate

In Part 2 of our chat with Arturo Vega, artistic director of The Ramones, the interviewer asks:


¿Entonces tú estudiastes [sic] esto? ¿Estudiastes este arte o eso ya fue algo que tú...?

Then did you study this? Did you study this art or was it something that you...?

Captions 45-47, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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If you've studied basic Spanish grammar, you've probably learned that the correct second-person preterite of estudiar (a regular, -ar verb) is () estudiaste without a final 's.' So what was the interviewer saying -- not once but twice? Was she so tongue-tied in the presence of Vega that she couldn't speak her own language without adding stray s's? Or was it simply a manner of speaking that you don't come across in textbooks?

Elsewhere in the interview, we
heard the same -astes ending on another -ar verb:


Que otros artistas que... quizás nos están viendo hoy pueden a... aprender algo más de cómo tú desarrollastes tu... tu... tu trabajo.

That other artists who... may be watching us today can be... can learn something more about how you developed your... your... your work.

Captions 6-8, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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(Use the "slow" button on the Yabla player and you'll hear that there's no mistaking that there is a final 's' there.)

After asking around (and browsing online), we found that some Spanish speakers in many countries (Spain included) do indeed say () estudiastes, even though it's considered improper. People also say things like "() comistes" and "() dijistes," equally frowned upon by grammarians.

Among professional translators and other highly educated multi-lingual folks, we found
heated debates on message boards about -astes/ -istes. Some say the endings came from the Spanish vosotros (-asteis/ -isteis) form. Some note that all other endings for "" verbs end with an "s," so it comes as a natural extension of Spanish grammatical rules ("pattern pressure"). Some argue it is acceptably "casual" in some settings while others insist it is dead wrong and painful to hear.


As you yourself navigate la habla hispana (the Spanish-speaking world), there is a good chance you will continue to encounter this usage. You may have even already danced salsa to such tunes as Cuando Llegastes Tú (Louie Ramirez) or Llegastes Tú (Ray Sepúlveda). Unless your spoken Spanish is of such an extremely high level that you can easily slip in and out of "dialect" depending on what community you are socializing in (and you really feel compelled to "fit in"), you probably don't want to adopt this style yourself. And when writing, it's definitely best to refrain altogether.

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Aun Así: Even So, It's Still Tricky

Even native speakers have no end of trouble with the distinction between aun and aún. In fact, this newsletter was instigated when our chief proofreader removed the accents she found on the u's in Belanova's title refrain Y aun así te vas. The band's own CD shows an accent on the u, so we were dubious. Ultimately, she convinced us that there should be no accent on the u in the phrase aun así. Hopefully the following will convince you too!


Revolvimos los planetas

We stirred the planets

Y aun así te vas

And even so you leave

Captions 16-17, Belanova - Y aun así te vas

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Aun así is a Spanish idiom, or usage expression, meaning "even so", "still" or "yet." We could have equally well translated the line as "And still you leave," or "And yet you leave."


Hace frío afuera, aun así ella no se pone un abrigo.
It's cold outside, yet she won't wear a coat.

No tengo mucho dinero, pero aun así voy a comprar la computadora.
I don't have much money, but still I'm going to buy the computer.

Habíamos pagado por la habitación y aun así tuvimos que buscar otro hotel.
We had paid for the room and yet we had to look for another hotel.

Aun así, creo que deberías disculparte.
Even so, I think you should apologize.

The word aun, by itself, and with no accent over the u, and not followed by así, can often be translated as "even."

No como torta, aun en mi cumpleaños.
I don't eat cake, even for my birthday.

Aun cuando lo leyera, no lo entendería.
I wouldn't understand it, even if I read it.

Ni aun sabiendo la dirección llegarías a su casa.
Not even knowing the address would you find his house.

Can you see how when we put aun together with así ("like this" / "this way"), we get something along the lines of "even like this" / "even this way"? Or, more concisely, "even so"? Diccionario de Uso del Español, by María Moliner, a favorite of professional translators, goes deeper:

"AUN ASÍ" Expresión adverbial de significado adversativo, ya que expresa oposición entre el resultado real de la circunstancia expresada por "así" y el que podría esperarse de ella. "Aun así no llegaís a tiempo"

"AUN ASÍ" Adverbial phrase with adversative meaning since there is a contrast between the actual outcome of that circumstance expressed by "así" and the expected result. "And still / yet you are not on time"

If that's a bit too deep, ¡no importa! (don't worry), just remember the basic meaning and you'll be fine!


Aún, with the accent on the ú, means "up until the present moment" and is basically synonymous with todavía. Confusingly enough, aún is also defined as "yet," "still," but in the temporal sense (as opposed to when they mean "even so" / aun así).

¿Aún estás aquí?
¿Todavía estás aquí?
Are you still here?

Aún no ha llamado.
Todavía no ha llamado.

She hasn’t called yet.

Ya son las once y aún no ha llamado.
Ya son las once y todavía no ha llamado.
It’s already eleven o’clock and she still hasn’t called.

¿Has tenido noticias? —Aún no
¿Has tenido noticias? —Todavía no
Have you had any news? — Not yet.


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