Free Lessons

Useful Spanish Phrase – How to say “No rush, there’s plenty of time” in Spanish

Mañana, manaña…’

The pace of life feels much slower in Spain, Central and South America, doesn’t it?

I lived in South America for 20 years and got quite used to it I must say. It was sooooo noticeable when friends and family came to visit. They walked so quickly!

A great little Spanish phrase to learn for situations just like these is “no rush, there’s plenty of time”.

Continue reading “Useful Spanish Phrase – How to say “No rush, there’s plenty of time” in Spanish”
Travel

15 Tips for a Greener Holiday – How to Travel More Sustainably

By becoming more aware of your choices when you travel you can make a huge difference on the Planet.

Here are 15 things that you can do on an individual level to ensure your trips to Spanish-speaking countries are more sustainable.  At the end of the list are links to two websites that offer more information on Sustainable Tourism.

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Latin America, Travel

Beach holidays; Venezuela

Venezuela was the first country on my list, flights were cheap and it seemed like a good “starting point” for me so I bought a one-year open ticket and off I went.  I arrived with my brand new ruck sack, walking boots, pillow case (!!!)…the lot, nervous yet excited to find out what was in store for me. I had no plan, no time limit I just knew that when my money started to run out I would need to work, but I’d been working since I was 14, I had worked in Greece, in Copenhagen so I wasn’t worried!

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Free Lessons

Difference between Bien, Bueno & Buen in Español

Understanding the difference between Bien, Bueno and Buen in Español can be tricky, especially for beginners, so I’ve put together this mini lesson to help you understand how and when to use them. At the end of this blog you’ll find the lesson in video format – if you prefer learning that way, feel free to skip to the end 🙂

BIEN

Let’s look at bien first of all. Bien is an “adverb” – one of the irregular adverbs to be precise as most adverbs end in –mente (the equivalent of -ly in English). When adverb bien modifies a verb it means ‘well’. When it modifies an adjective (a describing word) or an adverb it means ‘very’. Let’s look at some examples;

Bien + a verb

¡Bien hecho! (Well done!) – in this case the word hecho is the past participle of the verb hacer (to do)
Estoy bien (I’m well) – Estoy comes from the verb Estar (to be)
¡Hablas español muy bien! (You speak Spanish very well) – Hablas comes from the verb hablar (to speak)

Bien + an adjective

El té está bien caliente (The tea is very hot) – caliente being the adjective
Ese vestido te queda bien (That dress looks so good on you) – quedarse bien means to suit
Tomás corre bien rápido (Tomas runs really fast) – correr means to run

Bien + an adverb

La casa está bien lejos (The house is very far)
La mermelada está bien arriba en la nevera (The jam is very high inside the fridge)
El florero se cayó bien lentamente antes de romperse en mil pedazos (The vase felt very slowly before breaking into a thousand pieces)

BUENO

Bueno on the other hand is an adjective and means ‘good’ and usually goes after the noun. As nouns can either be feminine or masculine, singular or plural the adjectives must agree also. Masculine adjectives that end in -o drop the -o and add -a for the feminine forms.

Let’s take el libro (the book) as an example. El libro (the noun) is masculine and singular, therefore the adjective also changes to match it. In this case el libro rojo (the red book). If the noun is feminine, for example, la puerta (the door), then we have to say la puerta roja (the red door).

To form the plural, both masculine and feminine, add -s to the singular endings.

  • Bueno – Juan es un perro muy bueno (Juan is a very good dog)
  • Buen – eres un buen chico (you are a good kid)
  • Buena – Ana es una buena amiga (Ana is a good friend)
  • Buenos – Julián y Sara son buenos estudiantes (Julian and Sara are good students)
  • Buenaslas tortas son muy buenas (the cakes are very good)

Other uses of bueno
Unlike in Spain where people use the word diga to answer the phone, in Mexico, people say‘¿bueno?’. ‘¿Bueno?’ translates as ‘hello?’ or ‘hi?’

Bueno is also the translation of the word ‘okay’ when agreeing with someone. We also use bueno as a filler word that is when we are making a pause in our speech (the same as when using entonces; so) or when we want to buy some time to think. In this case, it would be translated as ‘well’.

  • Bueno, te veo a las 10. (Okay. I’ll see you at 10.)
  • Bueno… eso no es lo que quise decir. (Well… that’s not what I meant.)

BUEN

Just as bueno, buen is also an adjective and therefore it follows the same rules: it must agree in number and gender with the noun that is describing. Unlike bueno, buen goes before the noun and can be translated either as ‘good’ or ‘nice’.

  • Juan es un buen hombre (Juan is a nice man)
  • Eres una buena amiga (You are a good friend)
  • María y Andrea son buenos vecinos (María and Andrea are good neighbours)

Some Common Expression with BUEN
We use it specifically for greetings, salutations, good wishes, etc because we usually want to be more emphatic with our message in these particular occasions.

  • ¡Buen viaje! (Have a nice trip!)
  • ¡Buen día! (Have a nice morning/good morning!)
  • ¡Buen fin de semana! (Have a nice weekend)
  • ¡Buen provecho! (Bon appetite/enjoy your meal)

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Latin America, Travel

Top 6 Dive Sites in South America

Language immersion is the best way to improve your Spanish. Combining an immersion experience with a hobby is even better!

One of the best immersion experiences I had was learning to Scuba Dive in Taganga, Colombia. I went from PADI Open Water through to Dive Master in nine months. My instructor was Colombian with limited English and I took my exams in Spanish.

Whether you are a Dive Master or a wanna be Open Water diver in this post I uncover five top dive sites in South America where you can also practise your Spanish.

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Free Lessons

Useful Spanish Phrases – How to tell someone when it’s your birthday

Being able to tell someone when it’s your birthday in Spanish is a clear sign that you are on the right track with your learning.

There are two things it’s important to know from the beginning;

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Courses, Resources for adult learners, Resources for children, Tips

Exam options for learning Spanish

I teach over 50+ students a week in a variety of courses and classes. I have a growing Facebook group and active Email list. No, don’t worry this post isn’t about how great I am, moreover just how varied learners are.

Adults language-learning goals tend to be quite different to young learners. Adults are usually focused on improving their Spanish for health or cultural reasons, they want a more enriching travel experience, or they have Spanish family they’d like to communicate with better.

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Free Lessons

Saber V’s Conocer – The difference between the two “To know” verbs in Spanish

There are two different verbs n Spanish that mean “to know”. The first is conocer and the second saber. It takes a bit of practice to get used to the differences and to know when to use each verb. Once you do though you’re well on your way to mastering the language.

Learning how to conjugate verbs in Spanish is a skill and certainly goes a long way in moving from word-to-word translations to successful manipulation of the language. So before we go any further let’s look at how these two verbs are conjugated.

How to conjugate conocer in the present tense:

SubjectSpanishEnglish
YoConozcoI know
ConocesYou know
Él/ella/UstedConoceHe/She/You know
NosotrosConocemosWe know
VosotrosConocéisYou all know
Ellos/ellas/UstedesConocenThey/You all know

How to conjugate saber in the present tense:

SubjectSpanishEnglish
YoI know
sabesYou know
Él/ella/UstedsabeHe/She/You know
NosotrossabemosWe know
VosotrossabéisYou all know
Ellos/ellas/UstedessabenThey/You all know

Great so you can conjugate the verbs but how do you know when to use them?

When to use Conocer?
As a general rule, conocer has a stronger meaning than the verb saber, it’s used when you ‘know’ something, and you know it well.

It has the sense of having acquired knowledge from somewhere, such as cultural knowledge or general information, rather than knowing things through personal experience or practice.

Eg. Yo conozco bien Patagonia. (I know Patagonia well.)

We also use the verb conocer for the name or location of a person, place or thing.

Eg. Yo conozco a Julia desde hace muchos años. (I have known Julia for many years.)

You’ll notice there’s an ‘a‘ between you knowing something and the person you are referring to. In Spanish, we call this the ‘personal a’ and you’ll come across it when you learn Spanish beyond beginner level.

Use conocer when referring to knowing places too.

Eg. No conozco Argentina. (I don’t know Argentina (refers to not having been).)

When describing places, we don’t add the ‘a’ in Spanish.

We also use the verb conocer to talk about “meeting” someone.

Eg. Nos conocimos en Venezuela en 1996 (We met in Venezuela in 1996)

When to use saber
Saber means ‘to know’ as in knowing general information. There are some discrepancies with this and certain things to remember but as a general rule, if you have heard something or have found out some fact we use saber.

Eg. Es importante saber otro idioma (It’s important to know another language)

The verb saber is also used to ask somebody how to do something, or explaining that you know how to do something.

Eg. ¿Tú sabes jugar el golf? (Do you know how to play golf?)

Saber is used when a person has a basic knowledge or knows how to perform specific tasks.

Eg. Yo sé hablar español (I know how to speak Spanish)

Recap saber vs conocer

To recap, remember these simple rules when it comes to saber vs conocer and you can’t go wrong.

Use conocer for:

  • PERSON – pronoun a, meeting for the first time.
  • PLACE – expressing you know or do not know a place.
  • THING –expressing you know a something in particular.

Use saber when talking about:

  • FACTS – meaning you know something for a fact.
  • INFORMATION– expressing you know something in particular.
  • LEARNED SKILLS – stating you know how to do something.

Latin America, Travel

To give or not to give? Giving to beggars on the streets of Latin America

Those of us that have spent time in under-developed countries – whether it be as a tourist passing through for a few days or a longer stay for work or an immersive holiday – have at some point found ourselves face-to-face with someone less fortunate who is on the street begging.

The beggar we come across may be just a child or it may be a whole family – which ever scenario we encounter we are faced with the decision…to give or not to give!

Continue reading “To give or not to give? Giving to beggars on the streets of Latin America”
Latin America, Travel

Mendoza, ¡Te quiero!

Next March it will be 10 years since I left Mendoza behind and moved back to the UK.

The city of Mendoza is a cosmopolitan City of some 1,000,000 inhabitants (also including greater Mendoza) , wide tree-lined streets, beautiful plazas and a unique irrigation system where asequias channel water around the city.  Although the population is large, it is still very much a manageable city to get around, and walking from one end to the other is quite dooable!

Mendoza Peatonal

I arrived in in this oasis that is Mendoza, in January 2004, after making a beeline from Lima, Peru. This trip from Lima took around four months in total as I hitched most of the way, stopping for Christmas and New Year in Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lake Titicaca.

I knew straight away as the coach pulled in (I got a bus for the last leg from La Rioja!!!!) that this was the place that I was going to make my home, I had that feeling you have when you don’t just think “yes” this is it, you feel it in your gut.   Mendoza had been “jumping” out of the guide books at me for quite some time…Now I had finally made it and I was intrigued to see what was in store for me.  I have since learnt to listen closer to my inner voice – or gut feeling as I now like to call it and follow it always…it is a way of life for me today, if something doesn’t feel right, well then it just probably isn’t!

Parque San Martín (camp site is to the west of the park)

The trip from Lima had pretty much absorbed my “cash safety net” that I had earned teaching English in Quito, Ecuador, so I was conscious that I had to conserve the little bit of money that I had left and get a job asap.  By now I was used to just pitching my tent anywhere so I camped out in the City Park (located right next to the City Zoo – I could hear the Lions roaring at night!!)  What I didn’t know is that during the summer months of December, January & February Mendoza completely SHUTS down, so my hopes of scoring a job teaching English as soon as were soon crushed and my temporary camp-out in the Park soon extended to one month.

Three weeks into the “great park camp-out”, still no sign of job posibilities and I was starting to think Mendoza wasn’t for me and maybe I should move on to Chile.  I decided to give it a week and if nothing had happended then I would move on.  It was then that things started to change for me!!!  I found an appartment in the “quinta Seccion” and soon started teaching.  Mendoza at that time was a City of opportunities and one thing quickly led to another – by March I was publishing an English language tourist Magazine called The Grapevine – I had “finally” arrived !!!

Mendoza History

Founded in 1561 by Pedro del Castillo, the city of Mendoza takes it´s name from the then governor of Chile; Don García Hurtado de Mendoza.

Cerro de La Gloria (Glory Hill)

In 1788 work began on the first irrigation sistem which was to improve those already established by the INKAS and Indians but which were somewhat primative for the ever-growing City.

The improvements in the irrigation systems made way for a new industrial activity – agricultural. Wines, brandy, dry fruit, flour and oil soon took over cattle-raising and by the 18th Century Mendoza´s was becoming an important Nacional player.

In January 1817 Mendoza was liberated from the Spanish as the result of an epic liberation march by General José de San Martín who led his Liberation Army from Mendoza over the Andes Mountains into Chile.  The photo above is of a statue in honor of San Martín and is on the other side of the Park, next to the Zoo and my temporary campsite !!!

Mendoza has been re-built twice as the result of two earthquakes.   The first by on March 20 in 1861, following it being re-built Mendoza became the regional metropolis of Cuyo, with an important commercial, industrial, financial and cultural development.   More recently the earthquake of 26th January 1985 the one that is most present in the memories of the “Mendocinos”, where six people died, 238 people were injured and more than 12 thousand homes were destroyed.

Today Mendoza city has replaced it´s adobe houses for “anit-sismic” buildings and has grown into a green oasis of calm amidst a hot and sweltering desert.   Mendoza is a striving cosmoplotan capital – a garden city of tree-lined streets and sculpted parks. Every leafy town in the province is surrounded by hundreds of vineyards and farms producing everything from olives to peaches.

Industry

Mendoza Province is one of the driest places on earth. The mammoth Andes mountain range catches any cloud blowing in from the pacific, meaning there is very little rain. Yet Mendoza produces 70% of Argentine wine and Argentina is the fifth biggest producer in the world. Mendoza’s capital is a garden city of tree-lined streets and sculpted parks. Every leafy town in the province is surrounded by hundreds of vineyards and farms producing everything from olives to peaches.

Mendoza

How? Those same mountains that stop the rainfall catch the snow. The snow melts on the peaks (including Mt. Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas) and is carried through a complex system of rivers, dykes and dams. This miracle of water supports people and industry. Mendoza city has grown into a green oasis of calm amidst a hot and sweltering desert.

Arriving to Mendoza is either by plane to Santiago de Chile then drive across the Andes or fly into Ezieza Buenos Aires and transfer to Jorge Newbery for domestic flights to Mendoza or catch an overnight coach across land (12 hours) to Mendoza.

¡Hasta la próxima Mendoza – te quiero!