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Review food and drink vocabulary and phrases and practise using the printable exercises.
Learn how to make friends in French.
Downloadable and printable theory and activities to practise basic French vocabulary and phrases.
Grammar terminology can be a bit overwhelming when students first start learning a new language. Whether you are a grammar novice or just need a bit of refreshing your memory, we have put together the following short list to help you to understand some of the terms used in the language learning environment.
A word that refers to a person, thing, place, concept, event or idea.
New York is very cosmopolitan
Peter works hard
A word that can be used in place of a noun to avoid repetition.
Peter works in New York → He works in New York
A word that expresses an action or state. All sentences must contain one.
New York is very cosmopolitan
Peter works in New York
A word that describes a noun. It can describe colour, size, shape, etc.
New York is very cosmopolitan
A word that modifies or describes a verb.
The train travels quickly
The verb when it is not conjugated. In English infinitives are accompanied by ‘to’ and this is the form you will find in the dictionary, rather than the conjugated verb.
To be or not to be
A word that goes with nouns.
There are two kinds:
(a) Definite articles refer to something specific or known.
New York is the city where Peter works
(b) Indefinite articles refer to something non-specific or unknown.
New York is a city in the United States
A word used to link other words. It can mean different things like direction, location, time, etc. For example: in, on, at, for, by, between.
Peter works in New York
Refresh, learn for the first time or consolidate basic French vocabulary including numbers, colours, nationalities, professions and a lot more in this free downloadable file.
Basic French vocabulary
Spanish is spoken by around 500 million people throughout the world, and by 350 million as their first language.
It is the official language of 22 countries: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Venezuela.
In the United States there are 35 million inhabitants of Hispanic origin who speak Spanish at home. It has become the second spoken language after English, so much so that it is very possible that in the near future both English and Spanish will be considered as the two official languages.
Although this is not entirely accurate, the difference between Spanish spoken in Spain and that of Latin America, is comparable to the English spoken in Britain and the varieties spoken in the United States, New Zealand or other English speaking countries.
Since the language is spoken by so many people in different and far away countries around the world, it is only natural that it has developed in different ways. Variations can be found not only between countries, but also within regions in the same country.
The classical division is usually set between Spanish from Spain or Castilian Spanish as is sometimes called and Spanish from South America. Apart from this division, there are also variations from country to country in South America.
These variations are not so extreme that speakers from different countries or regions cannot understand among themselves. On the contrary, nowadays, due to the increased use of the internet and other media, Spanish speakers are more used than ever to the different accents and dialects from all around the Spanish speaking world.
Speakers from different Spanish speaking countries can communicate as easily as diverse English speakers can. The main differences between countries and regions are found in spoken Spanish rather than written Spanish. Accents differ and areas have developed their own slang or colloquialisms. These differences are not huge and can be learned as you need them.
The most noticeable difference between varieties of Spanish is in the pronunciation of the letters “c” and “z”. They can be pronounced in two different ways: like the “th” in English words like “thing” or like an “s”. The first variety is used in what is called Castilian Spanish and the second pronunciation tends to be used in some regions in Spain, like the south and the Canary Islands, as well as all countries in Latin America. Words like “gracias” or “zapato” can be pronounced in two different ways. Both of them are correct.
As regards of vocabulary, the big difference is in colloquialisms and slang. For example: the words for “mate” in Spain is “colega” whereas in Argentina is “pata”, in Chile “socio”, in Mexico and Uruguay “compadre” and in Panama “monchi”.
A misconception that stems from this issue, it’s the idea that there is a variety better than the rest. All varieties are correct. From a practical point of view, you might choose to learn with a tutor from the country you are going to be traveling to, visiting or moving to. This will help you get used to the accent of the area. But regarding the student’s accent, if the student is a beginner, the one you’ll have is likely to be that of your mother tongue, e.g, you’ll speak Spanish with an English accent, French accent if you are French, etc. If you are lucky enough to visit or live in a specific country you’ll gradually acquire the accent spoken there.
At The Spanish Machine, we have tutors from all around the Spanish speaking world. They are trained to teach Standard educated neutral Spanish, which is understood everywhere you go.
If your pronunciation and grammar are good, you will be understood no matter where you are.
If public speaking fills your sleep with nightmares, small talk terrifies you and presentations are your idea of hell fire, language learning probably does not make it to your bucket list of hobbies.
You probably consider yourself shy or maybe an introvert and spending time in a class trying to practise French with strangers is most likely not your idea of fun.
There seems to be some quite particular views on the link between different individual traits and language learning, especially concerning shy learners. Most of which, involve an identity overhaul nearing a complete personality transplant, including the “snap out of it” approach. My guess is that people holding these views have not taught many students, if any at all. Had they had the experience, they would know that is not the student who is in need to adapt to a certain method or teacher, but on the contrary the complete opposite is the solution.
Needless to say, there is absolutely nothing negative about anyone’s nature per se, and although collectively we might think about language learning as an activity better suited to extroverts, second language acquisition is not the exclusive realm of outgoing characters.
Being a timid person doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to forgo the brilliant experience of speaking a second language. In fact, there are some few vital features shy people usually share that could be invaluable when trying to grasp a second lingo.
Below find a few tips to get you started learning a new language whilst making the most out of your shy nature:
- Shy students tend to be really good listeners. There is no better way of learning a language than listening carefully before you start producing any actual sentences yourself. According to various studies, including one by Harvard School of Education, it takes 15 to 20 times of hearing one word for your brain to retain it.
Moreover, just think about the way children learn. They are listening for about a year before they utter their first sounds. Take advantage of your natural predisposition to listen and become a master of a new language in your own time. Listen to the radio, music and podcasts in the target language. There are also lots of films available in different languages. The more you listen, the more you will be able to produce when you are ready.
- Learning a language does not necessarily joining big group classes. Having one to one lessons gives you with your tutor’s full attention. Furthermore, the lessons will be tailor made, making the most out of your assets and learning style.
Choose a good, experienced tutor. Teachers should adapt to your learning style and preferences. Having a professional focused on your improvement will work wonders for your progress.
- Join or make your own small group. Learn with some friends you feel comfortable with. It will add an extra dimension to your learning and you will have some fun in the process.
- Find a learning buddy. If you are still not ready to learn in group, big or small, look for a language exchange buddy. An informal relaxed meeting in coffee shop will take the pressure of the actual learning.
- Make the most out of online resources and apps. There have never been as many free online resources as there are now. Using voice recognition, you can even speak to your computer and be corrected. Although using these apps is not enough to learn a language in depth, it will get you started and give you the confidence to give the next step.
- Travel to another country. Some bilingual speakers have revealed how they acquire different personalities when they speak their different languages. Somehow, being in another country talking another language can feel disinhibiting and a lot of fun!
- The fact that you are not as impulsive as other learners, will ensure that you reflect more on language structures, internalise them better and in turn when you start producing the language you will be less likely to make mistakes.
- Reading and writing is a great way of memorizing new words and structures. Write a diary or make your own bullet journal in your target language.
- Happy learning!
One of my favourite words in English is moreish. The word moreish does not have an exact equivalent word in Spanish. We surely have the concept but this needs a long and winding clarification in Spanish that just kills the beauty of this word’s self -explanatory nature. It might look like a plain and unpretentious adjective, yet the concept contained within is deeply relatable and somewhat humorous. Whether in our language or someone else’s, finding the right word to express a feeling we lacked a word for is not short of discovering linguistic treasure.
Over the years, my brain has adopted several very English concepts which my native language did not provide for. Moreish of course being one. There are also other adjectives such as spooky or cheesy, verbs like chilling out or more complex expressions like “running around like a headless chicken”!
Language and culture inexorably influence each other. After all, words are created in order to identify and describe objects, animals and concepts that surround us. And yet, languages have borrowed and still are borrowing words from one other. Take phrases and words we use in everyday English such as Wanderlust, or Déjà vu, or Schadenfreude. The ideas were definitely there, but English speakers were missing the actual word for them.
There is almost a magical element when you come across one of those elusive words and notions in faraway cultures and unfamiliar languages. It feels like someone was reading your mind all along, yet that someone lives in a distant continent and speaks a language so very different to your own.
As far as I can see, the fact that we can identify wholeheartedly with words that come from different languages and cultures just goes to show that we, as human beings, might be more alike than we think.
The following list contains words which correspond to familiar concepts and new notions that we should definitely adopt:
- From Yiddish
TREPVERTER: A witty comeback you think of only when it’s too late to use.
- From Greek
MERAKI: Carrying out some activity, like cooking, with all your love and attention.
- From Japanese
TSUNDOKU: Buying a book and then leaving it somewhere unread.
- From Tulu
KARELU: The marks on your skin left when you wear something tight.
- From German
DRACHENFUTTER: The present a husband gives his wife when he has done something wrong
- From German
KABEL SALAT: “Cable salad”. A mess of tangled cables.
- From Gaelic
SGRIOB: The itchiness felt on the lips before taking a sip of whiskey
- From Urdu
NAZ: The feeling of knowing that you are loved unconditionally
- From Arabic
GURFA: The amount of water that can be held in one hand
- From Norwegian
FORELSKET: The feeling you experience when you start falling in love
- From Arabic
SAMAR: Partying until the small hours with your friends
- From Spanish
SOBREMESA: Spending time at the table chatting long after you have finished your meal
Resources: Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders
- ALL WOMEN LOOK LIKE PENELOPE CRUZ. ALL MEN LOOK LIKE ANTONIO BANDERAS
MYTH: Erm, nope. We don’t. Unfortunately. Spain is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Although the combo dark eyes/dark hair prevails, we have all kinds of wonderful varieties. Check out Elsa’s and Jesús’ blue peepers!
SPANIARDS HAVE LATE DINNERS
FACT: Yes. This is true. In comparison with other countries, we tend to have supper from 10pm onwards. Our main meal is usually in the afternoon, at about 2pm, so most people do not get hungry again until 9 or 10. The weather along with different office hours plays an important role in this habit.
WE WEAR MEXICAN HATS
MYTH: the clue is in the name
WE LOVE FOOTBALL
FACT: Football is by far the most popular sport in Spain. Hard core fans love, live and breath football.
WE LIVE ON PAELLA AND SANGRIA
MYTH: Paella is typical from a specific area in Spain. It’s a time consuming dish to prepare and Spaniards usually cook it from time to time at the weekend in the summer. Sangría is considered a summer drink. When people go out to the bars normally have beer, wine or cocktails.
WE ARE HOSPITABLE AND FRIENDLY
FACT: Generally Spanish people are open and friendly. As a proud nation and lovers of everything Spanish, we will dine and wine you, show you around and open our doors very happily.
WE ALL RUN THE BULLS
MYTH: Running in front of bulls is an acquired taste. It is definitely done during certain celebrations and not just in Pamplona but most Spaniards prefer a safe, classic jog in the park.
WE ARE PASSIONATE
- FACT: Maybe not everyone, but it’s undeniable that there’s a tendency to get overexcited quickly. Although from the outside it might look we are having a constant heated argument with each other, it is just our way of expressing ourselves
WE TAKE A NAP EVERY AFTERNOON
MYTH/FACT: Traditionally, siesta, an afternoon nap, is common in Mediterranean countries. In the summer, the heat in the afternoon can be unbearable. Shops and offices are closed after lunch time so this time is used to have a break and digest the main meal of the day. Nowadays, this tradition is no longer common as office hours are changing and people lead busier lives. Only a few lucky ones can still carry on the tradition. Most of us enjoy siestas only in the summer time.
Living in Britain we are never short of small talk material. Are we? I once went on a half hour train journey talking to a stranger about nothing but the weather: the unreliable, surprising, out of the blue, crazy old British weather. Much disliked, yet so handy when conversation is dwindling, especially in the summer.
Now, if you tried this small talk “technique” in Spain, your chat would be knocked dead in about 5 minutes. It’s not that we don’t speak about the weather. We do, but weather talk is limited to degrees of heat up or down rather than freakish weather fronts and the 102 different ways rain falls.
Once you and your Spanish friend, colleague or family member have settled on how many degrees hotter it is going to get according to your mobile apps, where next? What do Spaniards actually talk about when there’s time to fill?
Here are a few tips on body language, social conventions and topics which are favoured by Spaniards. By no means are these meant to be exhaustive. They draw from my own experience and those close to me who had to get used to the “Spanish way”. The topics are classic themes that are well liked and come up frequently in different contexts. These ice breakers will help you chat away confidently through your next “sobremesa”, coffee break or family do.
Spanish people and Mediterranean cultures in general are less worried and aware of personal space. If you are British, others invading your territory might feel uneasy or down right uncomfortable. The good news is that when Spaniards stand close to you, they are including you and welcoming you into their social bubble. It’s somehow a compliment and you should take it as such.
EYE CONTACT AND THE FOREARM SLAP
Beware, because the awkwardness does not end once you let others access your personal space. After the space invasion get ready for the direct eye contact. This is a sign of acceptance, interest and attention to what you are saying. It feels intimidating but again, take it for what it is, this person is actually listening to you talk Spanish!
If you were playing a video game this would be the level you are aiming at. The ultimate frontier or more like, lack of frontier: the arm slap. When you make someone laugh or the conversation gets really animated, you might be privileged enough to get the “arm slap”. This gesture is the definitive seal of approval. You also know your rite of passage is well and truly complete when you can accept the slap in a relaxed and easy way.
COUNTRIES AND CULTURES
Spaniards are generally genuinely interested in knowing about other countries and cultures. You might be asked about your country’s traditions, such as tea drinking, public institutions like the monarchy or typical food and drink.
What we, Spanish people, love more than talking about other countries, is talking about Spain. Spaniards are a proud nation who feel passionate about traditions, cuisine, architecture and culture in general. Talk about the places you have visited in Spain, the local gastronomy or national art heroes like Picasso or Gaudí. Appreciation for all things Spanish will go a long way.
Unless you are with people you know really well, and as a general rule, avoid difficult subjects such as bull fighting or politics. Although healthy debate is welcome in conversation, confrontation is a small talk killer.
England to Spanish people is a synonym of football. It will be assumed that you support a team. Just be prepared for some “expert” talk from fans. Whether some people love it or hate it, football is a crucial part of Spanish culture and entertainment. Just do not talk about cricket. No one is interested in cricket.
You might be surprised what British exports lurk in the Spanish collective subconscious. You can have endless exchanges about the ubiquitous Beatles, period dramas, Mr Benn, Benny Hill and Brit Pop. Do not make fun of Julio Iglesias. Some people actually like him.
British humour in all its forms is very popular in Spain. Make Spaniards laugh and they will remember you forever.
Once you get to know us and our quirks, you will never feel as comfortable as in the company of Spaniards. Spanish friends are loyal, hospitable, generous and worth having a slapped forearm.