Tips For Getting The Gender Of Spanish Nouns Always Right

Getting the gender of basic Spanish nouns wrong is not only frustrating, but also highly de-motivating. In this article I give you an insight into what causes this problem and I help you overcome it from today.

My fifteen years teaching Spanish have shown me that learning and reviewing vocabulary the wrong way is what leads to those mistakes.

You may be wondering, then, if there is a way of learning new Spanish nouns that will allow you to get the gender always right. The answer, without any doubt, is ‘yes’. Here are the two steps you need to follow:

1. Avoid learning nouns without ‘el’ or ‘la’, and the same goes for reviewing.

2. Always learn new nouns with audio material, preferably audio flashcards recorded by native speakers.

Learning Spanish vocabulary through this method is fast, efficient and a great time-saver.

It takes the same effort to learn Spanish nouns with and without their articles. Learning them with ‘el’ or ‘la’ will save you valuable time and disappointment. As an example, remember to avoid learning that:

‘flor’ means ‘flower’

Make sure you learn that:

the Spanish noun ‘la flor’ means ‘the flower’

This simple step will help you link the word ‘flor’ to ‘la’ every time, the same way that Spanish speakers link them.

Vocabulary audio flashcards are those that give you a list of Spanish words said by native speakers, and they also give you their English translation.

The task of learning new Spanish vocabulary becomes significantly easier with audio flashcards. They are an essential tool for acquiring a good Spanish accent, and a powerful resource for reviewing efficiently.

Briefly, learning new vocabulary following the two steps I’ve described in this article is not only more efficient in the short, medium and long-term, but also much more enjoyable.

How to Prepare for GCSE Spanish Exams

Many young students do not fully understand what is required of them to demonstrate their ability in Spanish examinations. This article gives tips for exam preparation at GCSE level.

The four main skills required are reading, writing, listening and speaking. Some of these skills may be more difficult to acquire than others, for instance, most students find speaking the hardest. However, the truth is that to be proficient in any of these skills, the student needs to get to grips with the following:

Verb tenses

At GCSE level, at least three different verb tenses are required: the present, the past, and, the future. While there is only one present tense, there is more than one past tense. You should attempt to use the imperfect tense (ongoing events in the past) and the preterite tense (one-off events in the past) in both the written and oral exam. To speak or write in the future, you could use not only the future tense but the construction Ir + a + verb infinitive. Students who have mastered the tenses I have just mentioned could also include the perfect (another past tense) and the conditional tense. And a present subjunctive would be good too…

Grammar

In order for your written or spoken piece to flow, you must follow basic grammar rules. This includes not only conjugating your verb according to the person doing the action but employing words such as “but”, “and”, “therefore”. Also, exam questions often ask your opinion on a given topic. Use these types of words: “opino que”, “pienso que” and “creo que” and you could also say “a mi ver” and “en mi opinión” to introduce what you want to write or say. Ensure that there is agreement! By this I mean make sure all words agree with the noun. Supposing you want to say, “the small flowers”. Flowers in Spanish is “flores” and this is a feminine noun, so your other words need to agree, like this, “las flores pequeñas”. Note how this is both in the feminine and the plural. Also, see how the word for “small” has come after “flowers”, so word positioning is important too.

Pronunciation and Intonation

British students often struggle with the correct pronunciation of Spanish. While you may never be able to speak like a true native, you can make a huge effort to pronounce letters and particularly vowels properly in order that Spanish speakers can understand you! For instance, do not say “no” as you would in English. The vowel “o” should be pronounced as though you were saying the first two letters of the word “pot”. Likewise, watch out for the vowel “e”. This is similar to the way we say the “e” in “egg”. And note that the letters “b” and “v” are both pronounced as a “b” in modern Spanish. Remember that the letter ‘h’ is mute.

Finally, as with all exams, the Golden Rule is to be clear about what the questions are asking you, or a statement telling you, and ensure that whatever you write or say you respond with that in mind. What I am saying here is stick to the point and think. But there is no need to panic, the examiner is not out to get you! Conversely, he or she wants you to do well, as I do.

¡Suerte!

Spanish Immersion Program During the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

In the southern states of Mexico where indigenous people and their cultures thrive, the Day of the Dead is a very important syncretistic festival from October 31st November 2nd and is dedicated to the family and their deceased family members. I was glad I had chosen my Spanish immersion program during these dates.

Repetitive chanting solemn alternating with joyous song excitement of children running around all night vigils. Those were some observations of our visit to the cemetery of Xoxocotlan in Oaxaca that drew us in with a sense of complete disbelief and wonderment during our Spanish Immersion Experience in Mexico. I was experiencing the Day of the Dead, a traditional celebration in Oaxaca that would make my spanish immersion experience incredible!

All of our senses were alive that night as we very cautiously edged our way through the maze of hundreds of crowded tombstones, watching each step carefully along darkened and bumpy paths lit only by candles and the occasional camera flash from visitors.

Families were seated on the ground around the gravesites waiting out their overnight vigil with food, drinks, cigarettes, music and friends to keep them company. Our entry into the cemetery was no less than amazing, lit by candles and accompanied by a blanket of somber music being played.

The best part of my trip was that it was a complete Spanish immersion experience where I got involved in the culture. A week or two in advance of the 3-day festival, the families begin preparing for the actual return of their loved ones to the gravesite and I was there. Preparations include cleaning the grave to refresh the dirt and flowers around it and planting new flowers, making loaves of beautifully decorated pan de muertos (a special sweet bread) and other foods that their loved one enjoyed while alive, molding chocolate into shapes and constructing the altar.

The making of an altar is very personal, varying from one family to the next, built to display special items of remembrance of the deceased person in an attempt at bringing them back home once a year. No matter how modest the house is, everyone makes some type of altar. It may be as plain as a table with the loved one’s photo and offerings such as chocolate, pan de muertos and flowers or it may involve a more elaborate assemblage of several step-like platforms with all of these items plus miniature “calaveras” (skeleton figures) and more. The structures themselves are covered in a cloth sheet before adding personal items and bright gold marigold-type flowers called zempasuchil are added.

During my Spanish immersion experience I visited the open-air Abastos market in Oaxaca, there was a stand dedicated to making and selling all types of chocolate. Not surprisingly, this stand was one of the more popular stops for visitors and locals alike who would take their chocolate home to mold it into shapes for the dead. I remember watching the shop employees make the chocolate fresh for purchase. After buying some chocolate, it was handed to you still hot and in liquid form in a big plastic bag.

Later during the week, through the spanish immersion experience in Oaxaca I visited the market. We bought some chocolate for our host mother who used some of it for her altar and then watched as she prepared a homemade hot chocolate that she served to us every morning along with slices of pan de muertos and other typical Oaxacan dishes. She first placed broken pieces of the chocolate into a blue-glazed clay pitcher, poured in boiling milk and then used a wooden utensil called “molinillo” (similar to a honey dipper but larger) which, when the long handle was twirled back and forth between her hands, created a frothy layer on the chocolate. As she poured some chocolate into 2 mugs, she explained to us that the way we should eat the pan de muertos is by first dunking it into the chocolate. The combination of the sweet bread and warm chocolate was enough to make us happy for the rest of the day, thinking about the following day’s breakfast that would undoubtedly include chocolate.

All in all, my Spanish immersion experience in Oaxaca was unforgettable. Experiencing the Day of the Dead during my Spanish immersion program abroad helped me realize that it is not enough to learn the language, do a Spanish immersion program, live with a local family but the combination of all
these components that make you really learn the culture.