Spanishing in Valladolid – Week 1

habla-espanol

 

Pronouncing Spanish is easy. Just have to pronounce every syllable as you read it. Easy .. so say the Spaniards

What they don’t tell you at first is their alphabets are pronounced very differently from English – small detail huh?

Starting with the vowels – a, e, i, o, u
In Spanish – ah, eh(a), ee, oh, oo

On top of that, “ J ” is pronounced as “ H ” while “ H ” is silent; double “ LL ” is pronounced as “ Y ”; and there is an extra alphabet “ ñ ” (nya) as in “nyonya”

Hola” is “Ola”; “jaja” is “haha”; “paella” is “par-a-ya”; “mañana” is “ma-nya-na”

The way it works for Spanish will never work for English. For example, “Once upon a time” will sound totally incomprehensible as “On-say Oo-pond Ah Tee-Meh”. Fun but not funny.

Moving on … Spanish is a more efficient language which also makes it more difficult for English speakers to conceptualize and adapt to its grammar.

To be or not to be … I had a serious problem dealing with the Spanish conjugation during my first lessons in Madrid. Look up Wiki and you’ll understand. Apparently Spanish is a pro-drop language. It’s never explained properly and I guess it is because such basic rules of the language are so natural for the native speakers that they don’t see why they have to explain, especially if they don’t know English and what English speakers are struggling with.

Example of Spanish pronoun dropping
English : I am happy. We are going for dinner.
Spanish : Soy (I am) feliz. Vamos (We are) a la cena.

This brings to the  first time I skied with 3 Singaporeans and some Swiss friends who patiently taught us folks from the tropics all about snow and going downhill. I had a really good teacher who gave me the most important tip about skiing – “just switch off your brain and go with your body”. And he was right! By the end of the first day, I was brought up the chair to the green slope and by the end of the week, I was skiing with the rest on red leaving my analytical friends below.

Sorry I digress but only to explain that sometimes when you have to pick up a new skill, it is best to just do it first and think later. So I do with Spanish what I did when I first learned skiing. Not going to figure why and how the wicked conjugations come about. Just use them as the natives do and life is easier.

The rest of the week was a revision for me – simple question/answer conversations, common verbs/places/things, masculine/femenine numbers, professions, nationalities.

Talk about nationalities – the young ladies from California had to accept with surprise and a little reluctance that they are known as estadounidense (people of United States) and not americanos.

And there isn’t a confirmed word for Singaporean so we made one up – Singapureanse but it doesn’t sound right, don’t you think? Wonder if I should check with the Spanish embassy.

That wraps up the first week in school. Time to relax for the weekend.

Had a nice dinner in a 16th century bodega in a village with a castle. This is definitely off the tourist trail. Dining with locals in a manually dug cavern serving traditional food is quite an experience. A nice way to end a student week.

Joan Yap

Fuensaldana Castle (Photo credit : Javier Nista)
Fuensaldana Castle (Photo credit : Javier Nista)

 

Bodega la Nieta (Photo credit : Yololo)
Bodega la Nieta (Photo credit : Yololo)

 

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