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Hola de nuevo, chicos y chicas:

How are you doing today? Have you been studying Spanish? Good for you!  Or should you NOT be studying in order to improve your Spanish???

If you are a beginner or lower intermediate student, yes, keep studying! But maybe you need to stop if you are an intermediate student trying to reach an advanced level, or an advanced student trying to become fluent. Why do I say this? Let’s find out in today’s blog.

The language learning journey begins…

When we start learning a language, we use many resources. We usually have books, we use apps like Duolingo, we listen to podcasts like Coffee Break Spanish, and we watch Youtube videos for language learners.

All those things are very useful. However, once you get to an upper intermediate/advanced level, it will not help you to advance.

Think about it: most of those resources and tools are aimed at beginners and intermediate students. If you are not a beginner or a low level intermediate student anymore, it’s not suited for you. At that point, you need to do something else. Otherwise, you end up being stuck in the same level for YEARS, potentially forever.

What do you have to do once you get to an upper intermediate level?

Should you NOT be studying in order to improve your Spanish???  Well, you kind of have to forget about studying Spanish. Yes, that’s right! When you get to that point, you shouldn’t learn Spanish in the traditional way. What you need to do is to incorporate the language into your life.

Incorporating Spanish in your life doesn’t mean more studying. What you need to do is to start living your life in Spanish. How do you do that?

Instead of reading books on HOW to learn Spanish, you read books IN Spanish. Don’t to Podcasts that TEACH Spanish, listen to podcasts for Spanish speakers. Instead of watching Youtube videos about grammar, follow youtubers that do their videos in Spanish for a Spanish speaking audience.

So basically you have to ditch the student mentality and make Spanish a part of your everyday life. Read the news in Spanish, watch TV in Spanish, Listen to Spanish-language radio stations…live your life in Spanish everyday like a native speaker would. You should NOT be studying in order to improve your Spanish!

Have a good week and see you soon!

Octavi

¡Hola, chicos y chicas!

Have you learnt a lot of Spanish this week? Are you perhaps thinking that you would like to give a boost to your Spanish and take it to the next level? If that’s the case, I recommend you try out a Spanish immersion program abroad. In fact, today’s blog is going to help students interested in this kind of program pick a destination that suits their needs, and explain how to make the most of the trip. Let’s get started!

Length of stay

The first thing you want to consider if you want to study in a Spanish immersion program abroad, is how long would you would like the immersion to be. Most of us have busy lives and can’t afford to study abroad for six months, let alone a year. That’s why many people take part in immersion programs abroad for one or two weeks.

In my opinion, one week is great as an experience, specially if it is the first time you go abroad alone to study Spanish. You might end up with culture shock or find out that the place you chose doesn’t cater to your needs. Nevertheless, although one week is probably not enough to make a big difference in your Spanish, it can be a good first experience. I encourage everyone to try it at least once.

Now, if you want to see some progress, the minimum you should stay in an immersion program is two weeks. For students who want to go up a level, I recommend doing one month. However, students who are in the B2 level or a higher level would need more than a month to go up a level.

Location

Once the period of time you’d be staying has been decided, the next step is choosing the right place for your Spanish immersion program. When I say “the right place” I don’t mean to say that there are right or wrong places, but places in where you’ll learn better than others.

For example, I recommend going to a medium or small city instead of going to a big city. The reason for that is that in bigger and more cosmopolitan cities people usually speak English. Another factor to take into consideration is whether there’s a second official language where you want to go. This situation is not ideal because the environment where you would be wouldn’t be a 100% Spanish. I am from Barcelona, and I love my city, but Catalan is an official language there. It’s very present in the city and everyday’s life, so I always recommend that my students go to other cities in Spain where Spanish is the only official language.

Language

There’s a third and very important thing that you need to remember before you pick a destination for your study abroad program: the kind of Spanish you want to learn. Maybe you’d like to go to Spain because it’s in Europe, or maybe you want to go to Guatemala because it’s cheaper to study there.  Keep in mind that the kind of Spanish you will learn in every country has distinct characteristics, like the vocabulary and the pronunciation. In conclusion, if you want to learn, let’s say, Mexican Spanish; Mexico is the place to go, or perhaps you prefer a more neutral Spanish and may want to go to Bogota, Colombia.

I have more tips for you on what to do once you’ve made up your mind on a language school, but I will leave that for next week :). I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

¡Hasta la próxima semana!

Octavi

PS If you have attended a Spanish study abroad program, please fill out our form, which will help others find the right program for them. Thank you! Language Immersion Program Survey.

Beating the presents out of the Shit Log. Yep. It’s a thing.

Hola, estimados alumnos :)

This week we’re going to take a break from common mistakes. Christmas is around the corner and I want to take this chance to let you know about a Catalan tradition that’s pretty weird and many of you might not know. This tradition is called “Caga tió”.

This tradition is only celebrated in Catalonia, and the name means “Shit log”, in Catalan. Yes, you have heard correctly. Why does it have this name? You might be wondering… What is this tradition about? You might be asking… Ok, let me explain it.

On the 8th of December, which is the Feast of Immaculate Conception, Catalan families put a “Caga tió” by the fireplace, or else they put in a corner of the living room with a blanket to keep it warm at night. Kids pamper the log and they “feed” it sweets and candy for two weeks. Then, on Christmas Eve, adults send the kids outside the room where “Caga tió” is, with sticks. The kids have to prepare the sticks for what’s going to happen next. In my case, we were sent out to the staircase and we had to rub the sticks on the steps of the stair to make them warmer. Afterwards, we were sent back in and then we started singing a song while we whipped the log with the sticks. This song is called “Caga tió”. When the song ends with a final cry of “Caga tió!”, kids check under the blanket, and they find the presents that the log has “shit”.

This operation is repeated several times, until the parents in the room say that the log has shit everything and there’s nothing else. The presents are usually candy, nothing big, and only kids are supposed to beat the log while singing the song “Caga tió”, which literally means “Shit, log!”.

I’ve always cherished this tradition and it was one of my favorite Christmas activities. However, when I started explaining it for the first time to my Korean students in Seoul, and while I saw how their faces muted into expressions of pure awe, I realized how scatological and kind of crazy this tradition is. I know that many of you will probably be shocked too after you read this, but… I love “Caga tió”! Ha, ha, ha!

Kate McKinnon, from Saturday Night Live, explains this tradition very well too. I will leave the link to the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=UjzkxcHPb9g

Also, for whoever might be interested in it, here are the lyrics to the “Caga tió” song (Remember this song is in Catalan, not Spanish):

 

Caga tió,

Tió de Nadal,

No caguis arengades,

Que són massa salades

Caga torrons

Que són més bons!”

 

Shit, log,

Log of Christmas,

Don’t shit herrings,

Which are too salty,

Shit nougats (turrón)

Which are much better!

 

Do you have a special Christmas tradition? Something that only you or your family does? Let us know in the comment section :)

 

Saludos a todos!

Octavi

5 more common errors made by Spanish learners

 

Hola a todos :)

A couple of weeks ago I received some positive feedback about the blog regarding some of the common mistakes students make when they speak Spanish. By popular demand, this week we’ll look at more common mistakes that people who learn Spanish make:

1 – “Me gustaría preguntar una pregunta.” – I’d like to ask a question.

If we literally translate “to ask” and “question” in Spanish, it is “preguntar” and “pregunta”. However, we never say “preguntar una pregunta” because this expression is incorrect. We have a couple of options to express this in Spanish:

“Me gustaría hacer una pregunta.”
“Me gustaría preguntar algo.”

2 – “Mi hermana puede hablar español.” – My sister can speak Spanish.

In this example, the problem is “can”. When someone has learned something and has acquired a skill, like being able to play the piano, to speak another language or to surf, we should use the verb “saber” instead of “poder”. Thus, the sentence should be:

“Mi hermana sabe hablar español.”

3 – “Busco por mis llaves.” – I’m looking for my keys.

In this case, the mistake is attaching “por” to the verb. Many students translate “to look for” as “buscar por” (or “buscar para”), when “buscar” actually has the “for” built in. Buscar = To look for. The right way to say this is:

“Busco mis llaves.”

4 – “Mi madre es corta.” – My mother is short.

In Spanish, people are not short, people are “low” :). The correct way to express this is:

“Mi madre es baja.”

5 – “Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…Actualmente, no estoy seguro.” – I think I have bread in the house. Or maybe not…actually, I’m not sure.

The sentence above has a classic mistake. The word actually doesn’t translate as “actualmente”. It’s very misleading because it looks like a correct translation, but it’s not; it is a false cognate. “Actualmente” in Spanish means currently or nowadays. You have several options if you want to use the word actually when speaking Spanish, like “en realidad”, “en verdad” or “de hecho”:

“Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…En realidad, no estoy seguro.”

 

This is it for this week, everyone. I hope this blog entry helps you, and if you are still interested in a third installment of the mini series “common mistakes” (or another topic), let me know in the comments section for the blog on Facebook.

Besos y abrazos!

Octavi

 

If you missed last week’s post: 5 common errors Spanish learners make

Common errors made by Spanish learners

Hola, estimados [email protected] :)

This week I’d like to talk about some errors that most students make. These erros are very common, because they are caused by the fact that English is the mother tongue of most of the Spanish learners that come to PBO. The problem is that students might not know that some structures that are correct in English, can’t be used exactly in the same way in Spanish. Let’s look at some of those mistakes:

,

1 – “La semana que viene estoy yendo a casa de mis padres.”

Next week I’m going to my parent’s house.

The sentence above in Spanish is not correct. In Spanish we only use the Present Continuous/Progressive (for example; I’m talking, you are sleeping, she is going) when the action is taking place in the present time. Therefore, using it for future actions is a mistake and we should avoid it. To express future actions, we have two options in Spanish:

“La semana que viene voy a ir a casa de mis padres.”

“La semana que viene iré a casa de mis padres.”

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2 – “Después de tomé café fui a trabajar.”

After I had coffee I went to work.

In the case above, the problem is the conjugation of the verb “to have” in the past tense. In Spanish, verbs are never conjugated when they come after the words before (antes de) or after (después de), or any preposition for that matter, regardless of the time in which the action takes place. Instead, we use the non conjugated form of the verb:

“Después de tomar café fui a trabajar.”

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3 – “Mañana tendré el desayuno y pasearé.”

This time, the problem is the fact that we are using the verb “to have” with a meal. In Spanish we don’t “have meals,” we have verbs that express the action of having breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Thus, we can use just one verb to express that. This is what you should say:

“Mañana desayunaré y pasearé.”

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4 – “Me levanté a las 7 en la mañana.”

The mistake we see here is a small one, but I realized it’s hard to fix the habit of using it. Try to remember that in Spanish we never say “en” after a certain hour and before a time of the day. We should always say “de”:

“Me levanté a las 7 de la mañana.”

,

5 – “Lo siento, estoy tarde.”

When students are late to class, they usually say this. However, that is not the correct way to express that we are late. In Spanish, we are not late, we “arrive” late. Besides, in most cases we shouldn’t use the present tense once we get to a place, and we say that we are sorry for being late. We already “arrived”, so we use the past tense:

“Lo siento, llegué tarde.”

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You probably know some of these mistakes, and I know it’s hard not to make them when we are talking. Try to challenge yourself to get used to not making one or two of the things we’ve looked at here today, and slowly you will not make those mistakes. In my opinion, the point is to pick only one or two and work on fixing the habit of saying those wrong. Over time, you’ll get used to saying them correctly, and then you can work on one or two other common mistakes. One step at a time, my friends! :)

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Un abrazo a todos!

Octavi

PS Join us on Twitter for sayings/expressions/idioms in Spanish!

A few weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English and French. This week, the topic is Italian!

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola una vez más a todos :)

The journey continues! Today the language is… Italian!

If you read the last blog entry, you might remember that I said I tried a language learning technique that consisted in reading books or texts in the target language. That method was supposed to only work with romance languages, and I tried it with French because I was taking French in high school. Well, I got a little ambitious and I decided I wanted to try it with Italian too. After Catalan, Spanish and French, it seemed easier to learn a fourth latin based language, and it certainly was. Some of you possibly know this already, but the more languages you learn, the easier it becomes to learn a new one, specially if the new one is related to one or more of the other languages one speaks.

I learned a lot by just reading. When I was in San Francisco in the year 2000, I bought an Italian dictionary, some books and a CD from an Italian pop duo called Paola e Chiara. I liked their album so much that I learned all of their songs by heart, which is a great way to learn too (and that’s why we sing a song in Spanish at PBO at least once a year). I was very excited about how easy it seemed to learn Italian. In fact, I thought I didn’t even need to practice it orally at all.

I never really thought about learning Italian seriously, until I got to my Senior year in college. As I said before, my major was French and my minor was German (even though the educational system in Spain is not as in the US). In my Sophomore year, I spent 6 months in Paris, and that stay helped me improve my French so much, that I wanted to repeat the experience in Germany in order to take my German to the next level. I applied for an exchange in Germany and… all the spots were taken. However, I was offered a spot in Forli near Bologna, Italy. I never planned to go to Italy to study, but I wouldn’t waste such a great opportunity! So I spent 9 months in Italy.

I loved the experience. It was better than the exchange in Paris. I lived with roommates from other parts of Italy, and we spoke only in Italian. In fact, Forli is kind of famous in Italy because there are many colleges and faculties there. The city is rather small, so there’s students in every corner, bar, café, restaurant, etc… Everyone comes from somewhere else in Italy and all of us were eager to meet new friends. That was such a perfect combination! I met lots of new friends and I spoke in Italian all the time. That’s when, again, I realized how little Italian I knew and how much room for improvement there was. As I said before: speaking is the key.

Obviously, living in a place where the language you learn is spoken everywhere is ideal, but most of us can’t do that. What is the closest thing to being in that kind of situation? Living your life here in that language. Use it everyday; read books, watch TV, listen to the radio, speak to people… everyday. When you make a language a big part of your daily routine, you learn so much faster. Now, don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to be immersed in it 24/7, but I’m sure you can commit to 5 or 10 minutes a day. That really helps. It’s way better to practice a language 5 minutes a day that 2 hours every 2 weeks.

I keep speaking Italian thanks to Caro. She introduced her Italian teacher to me and now we have a one hour class every Monday morning. Thank you so much, Caro! Gerardo is fantastic, isn’t he?

Anyways, I hoped you are ready for the next story because it is going to be about a very different language: Japanese :).

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English & French. check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in French

Two weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. Two weeks ago he wrote about how he became fluent in Spanish & Catalan, last week he wrote about how he learned English, and this week he will delve into how he learned French.

In case you missed either of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola queridos alumnos!

After a brief text last time about how I learned English over the years (and still learning!), it is time to continue with the language learned next: French.

I was 15 or 16 years old and in High School when I decided to take French as an optional language. I think the biggest reason was the fact that I had been in Paris when I was 13, and I met my uncle and his family there. It is a long story, but my uncle was born and raised in France. He knows some Spanish, but my parents talked to him and the rest of his family in French. That experience was probably the reason why I chose French.

I remember the first day of class: the first thing the teacher taught us was how to count to 10. Afterwards, we were supposed to count to 10 on our own, but we all started counting in English! Obviously, our brains were used to switching to English and only English as our foreign language, but with some practice we had no problem getting used to French.

That was my first time learning that language. A few months later, I read an article about a guy who had a theory on how to learn Romance languages (which are Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, plus some other smaller languages). He said that he learned by reading texts in those languages and by inferring the meaning of most of the words. I really liked his approach, because you didn’t have to go to class or find a teacher, so I started to read texts and books in French. I used the dictionary sometimes, but just when I thought I needed to know what a certain word meant. Otherwise, I would’ve been using the dictionary all the time, and that was not the point of his method.

I would say it worked for me, but maybe because I was attending French classes in High School, who knows. In any case, I recommend it to any student who has reached an A2 or B1 level. Be careful when you pick a text or a book, though; it should never be too hard for you. My advice is to choose something that you can understand at least 70% of what is written.

Anyways, when I decided to study Translation and Interpretation at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona in the year 2007, I had to choose two foreign languages. I picked French as the first language and German as the second one. Everyone else choose a combination of English and another language, but I wanted to take advantage of being able to learn new languages to learn something that was not English. Among all the freshmen, only another girl and I choose a combination without English (I think she chose German and French, in this order). I really enjoyed the 4 years in College, but the best part was the Erasmus Exchange Program.

For people who have never heard of this: the Erasmus Program is a very popular exchange program that allows European university students to complete a whole year of their studies in another European country. Students love it because during that year abroad, professors are usually very lenient with them. It is practically a year away from home to discover another culture, make friends and have a lot of fun. I enrolled in the program, and in my second year in college I went to Paris (however, I only stayed there for a semester).

During my stay, my uncle and my aunt were very kind and they let me stay in their apartment. I learned a lot during those 4 months. I was speaking French with my family in Paris, every day. I also had a part-time job in a restaurant, and I met some friends there.

After I came back to Barcelona, I visited my friends and family in Paris several times. However, in 2010 I left for South Korea and haven’t been back to France since then. What I do now to keep my French is to speak with my Swiss friend Tania. I met her through and ad when I was looking for private French classes in San Diego. We kicked it off and became friends very fast. We practice French and Spanish on Wednesdays. We chat in French for an hour and then in Spanish for another hour. As I always say: you need to speak it in order to keep it :)

Now, that was a long text! Feel free to comment or ask questions and stay tuned for my next blog :)

Besos y saludos,

Octavi

In case you missed Octavi’s previous blogs on becoming a polyglot:

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in Spanish & Catalan

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in English

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in English

Last week our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. Last week he wrote about how he became fluent in Spanish & Catalan, and this week he wrote about how he learned English. In case you missed last week’s post: https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

Now on to today’s topic:

¡Hola a todo el mundo!

Today I’m going to share my experience learning and reaching fluency in English. It all started when I was 8 years old; yes, 8 years old only. English was not taught in schools in Spain, and only a very few people knew how to speak it. Both my parents are a rarity in Spain because they both speak English. They knew they wanted me to learn the language as soon as possible, so they found an Irish young guy who lived in the neighborhood and who offered private lessons. Since the first moment, he only spoke English to me. I was terrified in the beginning; a guy who I couldn’t understand was saying things to me that made no sense. Why would my parents do that to me? :)

Anyway, that was my first contact with English, and since that day I never stopped learning. A year later, the Catalan govern introduced English as an optional subject in schools, and 2 years later it became mandatory.

Although the language was being taught in schools, it really didn’t help me learn it. The approach was terrible: they only taught how to pass tests, not how to speak English. Besides, the teachers were not natives; I spoke better than my first teacher in school! That was the reason why my parents put me in a private language school the following year. I learned a lot more there and I’m very thankful for that.

After some years in the language school, I stopped taking classes. I thought I had learned enough and, in my mind, I was already a fluent speaker. How foolish I was! When I turned 20, I went to San Francisco alone. I remember very well how embarrassed I felt when I couldn’t understand the immigration officer at the airport. Later, during the whole stay in San Francisco, I realized how rusty I had gotten and how much I still had to learn. It gave me the motivation to push myself to read books, watch films and talk to people in English after I went back to Barcelona.

What really has helped me, however, has been meeting Ron, my husband. Since I’m with him, I have learned so much! I talk to him everyday, since 8 years ago, in English, and even though he doesn’t usually correct me, I’ve gotten immersed in the language. So, again, the more you use a language, the better you get at speaking it. If you can’t marry a Spanish speaker, at least you can come to our classes and… speak! :)

Stay around, because my next blog is going to be about another of my languages and my journey with it.

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

Our in-house polyglot on reaching fluency in Spanish & Catalan

Hola a todos de nuevo :)

Last week I wrote about what fluency meant to me, and I mentioned that it is different for everyone and, in my case, for every language too.

In the following weeks, I’ll write about my experience with languages with more detail. I’ll start with Spanish and Catalan, since those two are both my mother tongues.

I guess that for some people, speaking two languages as mother tongues is quite a mystery. For bilingual speakers, though, it just comes naturally.

I learned them differently, though. At home and with my family, we only speak Catalan. At school 90% of the subjects are taught in Catalan, and 50% of them, at least, are taught in Catalan in High School (In Catalonia).

I learned Spanish at school and speaking with other kids and other people. Both languages are spoken everywhere in urban areas, so you end up learning both if your first language is Catalan. It’s not necessarily the same if your first language is Spanish. A lot of people have the habit of switching from Catalan to Spanish the moment someone says something in Spanish. It is a habit that has its roots in the years of Franco’s dictatorship, because Catalan was banned from public life and spaces from 1939 to 1975. Due to this, a lot of Spanish speakers feel comfortable only speaking Spanish in Catalonia, because most Catalan speakers will switch to Spanish with them. The younger generation has studied Catalan in school, but a good amount of them don’t speak it very well, or even at all, because of the reason I mentioned before (people switching from Catalan to Spanish). This happens too to a lesser extent with some Catalans who live in areas where Spanish is not largely spoken.

Are those speakers bilingual? It really depends. Some people struggle if they have to speak Catalan, and some do better; and vice versa. Usually, in the case of Spanish speakers with Spanish as their main language, the ones that speak Catalan frequently do better in Catalan. Again, this proves that speaking a language is crucial to really mastering it, and just learning it passively doesn’t assure fluency.

Stay tuned for future blog posts where I write about my experiences learning English, Italian, French, Korean & Japanese!

Hasta la próxima semana :)

Octavi

Take advantage of us!

Today we’re on to the 8th of 10 tips for new language learners!

With today’s tip I would like to encourage you to take advantage of us.

What do I mean by that?
Well, Pura Buena Onda continually makes an effort to create a community where you can practice Spanish, not just a class that you go to once a week.
So take advantage of everything we have to offer, such as:
– Our daily interactive conversations on Facebook
– Our daily saying on Twitter
– Our monthly social club events BOSC events
– This blog with the weekly tip
– Our weekly newsletter that among other things features informative stories by our students who have advanced a level
– Our Instagram page with pics of our students, teachers, outings, etc.
– Our Pinterest page with resources, grammar lessons, jokes, etc.
– Of course there’s our annual 90-Day Spanish Bootcamp, the weekly optional homework, the trips abroad, etc. The point is that PBO is so much more than a once a week language class, and we want you to enjoy and take advantage of all of it!

Besitos,
Caro