In our Spanish language learning lessons we spend some time exploring the differences between words that look alike or sound alike. In fact, these words are used in very specific, and separate, ways. When students practice their Spanish conversation skills, recognizing and understanding the differences between these words increases their comprehension level. Let’s clarify the finer points that separate these words. Here are five examples of similar, but definitely different, word pairs that may have puzzled you in the past.
abril a month of the year abrir to open (a verb)
2. cuarto fourth, or room cuatro the number four
nada nothing nada he/she swims (3rd person singular of the verb to swim – nadar)
cocina the kitchen cocina he or she cooks (3rd person singular of the verb to cook – cocinar)
5. trabajo the job trabajo I work (1st person of the verb to work – trabajar)
You probably noticed that some pairs are spelled exactly alike, or that only a single letter in a word changes its meaning. Sometimes it is the context of the sentence that tells you which word is the correct one. Understanding these often confused word usages is not the same as memorizing idiomatic expressions; by learning them you are attuning your eyes and ears to actual meaning differentiations. This is how you become truly bilingual.
If you have any troubling word pairs that you want to tell us about, send it to our comments section. Meanwhile, we’ll be back soon with more of these “Frequently Misunderstood Words.” Stay tuned! 🙂
Learn a second Language: People who don’t exercise for even a short period of time are always amazed at how quickly their muscles lose their strength. Equally amazing is how much hard work it takes to get back into shape. It’s like that with our brains, too. If you don’t challenge your thinking abilities, all the synapses, the connections between brain cells, get weak from inactivity. Think about how you feel after you spend many hours sitting and staring at the television. You may feel relaxed enough to go to bed, but you also feel dull, dim, and not exactly sparked by the experience. But when you push yourself beyond your normal routine and use your brain to learn something new, you feel energized, alert, and more positive about life in general. Even if you are not a couch potato, shaking things up by by varying your activities helps to keep you energized. Like the muscles in our bodies, our brains crave a good workout; they want to be stretched and used and stimulated. The admonishment to “use it or lose it” applies to every aspect of our lives!
The best news is that it is never too late to start using our brains. Research has shown that challenging ourselves is one of the most important things we can do to minimize any loss of our cognitive abilities as we age. Many older people recognize this need to keep the brain in shape; they might take up a musical instrument, read lots of books, or complete the daily crossword or sudoku puzzles in the newspapers. Lots of people also choose to learn a second language. All of these efforts result in a very similar consequence: when people engage their minds with challenging activities, they are sharper; they feel really good about the process, and they like the satisfaction they get from achieving their goals. But learning a new language brings an even bigger reward package to maturing individuals. A new language is about communicating; it is social, and it’s about people and culture. When you finish a puzzle, you are done with it. But when you learn a second language, worlds open up to you.
Learning a second language helps to combat the isolation that is another known negative factor in the aging process. Experts tell us we do better when we interact with others, have a social network, and get involved with group dynamics. Joining a class of like-minded individuals is a great way to be a participant and not just a spectator. If the common purpose is to speak in another language, all the better. You learn together, practice with each other, and help each other over the difficult parts. If you take your new language skills on a visit to another country, you add another layer of interactivity, communication, and involvement.
When you think about the process of becoming bilingual, you begin to see a wide range of brain-expanding attributes that will rejuvenate your faculties. Consider what happens when you attempt to learn just a single new noun. You read it, you hear it spoken, you visualize the thing it represents; you say it aloud and use it in a sentence; you memorize it. You are using your senses, and all the synapses in your brain are in action! And that’s only from taking the very first steps toward becoming bilingual. Learning a second language reinvigorates a vast number of connections in your brain; it will keep you feeling healthy, vital, involved, and alive. Consider taking your own first step toward learning a new language; it’s a great way to give your brain a workout!
Of all the fun ways to tweak your Spanish language skills, riddles are at the top of the list. When you solve riddles it is like a mini language immersion; the challenges of reading, translating, comprehending, and responding to the riddle use all your Spanish language skills.
Often the answer to the riddle is not as obvious as you might think; you need to interpret the words before you can truly grasp their meanings. That’s when your Spanish language vocabulary skills kick in. And that’s when your Spanish language vocabulary skills also expand, but without the boredom of rote memorization. You are learning new words every time you translate the riddle, look up a word, and put everything into context.
Context is what seals the deal! Instead of memorizing Spanish language vocabulary lists without any connection to real sentences, you are viewing the new words as they are laid out in normal usage, as if someone were talking or writing to you. Your brain loves this! When you exercise your brain using this process, you retain the new information so much faster, and more completely.
Retaining vocabulary is often a Spanish language student’s biggest challenge. Puzzles teach you new words while you are enjoying yourself. When you meet the challenge, you expand your vocabulary, and absorb proper word placement in sentences, as well!
Grammar and word placement in Spanish language sentences is learned from your books and in your courses, but when you view a sentence in a riddle, or in any puzzle that asks questions, you become adjusted to the formation of the sentence without really thinking about it. That’s because the puzzles make you focus on the meaning of the words and on the answers you need to provide. The more puzzles you try to do, the more accustomed to the sentence formations you become. Learning correct sentence structure is actually secondary to the puzzle questions and answers, but this is no less effective than hours of study.
Here are a couple of riddles that are fun to solve while you practice your language skills. Give it a try!
Me formo en el cielo, con gran alborozo;
y de lindos colores,
hago un arco hermoso.
Soy chiquito, soy bonito;
mi casa llevo
sobre mi lomito. ¿Qué es?________
For more Spanish language learning tips visit mariaoliveira.com 🙂
Vocabulary building is one of the most effective techniques to develop for efficient language learning. Certainly there is more to language than vocabulary; the grammar puts the words together, and practice makes the sentences you create useful. But without vocabulary you have no sentences to construct, nothing to say, nothing to understand. As you strive to become bilingual, you should focus more and more on vocabulary building because the broader the range of your word choices, the more you can express yourself. That is what fluency is all about!
There are several methods for acquiring a larger vocabulary, but the most important thing is to make learning a full time experience. That is, instead of looking at your allotted study time as the only time you learn, you should incorporate vocabulary into your everyday life. One way to do this is to place sticky notes around your home. Labeling cabinets, appliances, furniture and other familiar items will make you conscious of their meanings as you go about your daily activities. Say the words aloud until they become automatic in your mind. If possible you can do this at work, in the car, and any other place you inhabit. Another method is to carry vocabulary cards to use when you have a few moments to spare. These cards have English on one side and translation on the reverse so you can memorize words at any time. These kinds of things are simple and can be handmade by you, using card stock or even plain paper.
Probably the most popular and effective technique is to use vocabulary CDs. You can play these in the car, around the house, even on your MP3 player so that you have vocabulary learning going on whether you are driving, doing dishes, or taking your daily walk. CDs can be stopped and started, repeated and replayed, and hundreds of words are available to you. They are good for self-testing and reviewing, and they are convenient for almost all situations. The most significant advantage to CDs is that you can hear the correct pronunciation; when you repeat the word you are hearing, you get to focus on the sounds as well as the meaning.
It doesn’t matter which language you decide to learn, just remember to incorporate vocabulary building into your daily routine. The other parts of language learning will fall into place faster if you have lots of words available to you.
Certainly there is more to language than vocabulary; the grammar puts the words together and clarifies meaning. But without vocabulary you have no sentences to construct, nothing to say, nothing to understand. If your goal is fluency, remember that the broader the range of your word choices, the more accurately you can express yourself. And the stronger your word options, the more confident you become when you speak. Let’s look at several Spanish Vocabulary Exercises for increasing your second language vocabulary. In order to get the right answers accents are required. Check codes here:How do I add Spanish accents when typing a document on my computer? Or copy and paste them when you need! á é í ó ú ñ
Each Spanish Vocabulary Practice Exercise offers additional practice for the vocabulary presented on the Conversational Spanish Volume 2 “Conversational Spanish Volume 2” For more practice exercises, check this blog often.
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