10 Language Learning Gift Ideas

Christmas is near and almost here. We’re all scrambling to figure out what to buy our significant others, friends, family members, colleagues, etc. Here’s an idea: language learning gifts! If you know someone who loves to learn or travel, one of the best ways to support them is through the gift of communications. Language learning also benefits those who need/want to improve their memory and do something productive and meaningful to keep themselves busy in their free time.

Here are 10 ideas for language learning gifts:

1. A gift card for target language audiobooks: Audiobooks are an enjoyable way to hear the language in a storytelling format. They can also repeat the sounds and try out new phrases.

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2. A cookbook in the target language: A fun and helpful way to get them learning vocabulary for food and the kitchen. Practicing the language in a kinesthetic way is helpful for remembering new words too. You could also encourage them to learn another language via other hobbies they have with buying songbooks, sheet music, knitting instructions, bird watching, etc.

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3. A box calendar in the target language: Now your gift receiver will have a reason to practice the target language on a daily basis with a calendar!

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4. Flash cards in the target language: Why not learn new vocabulary by associating images with words? Using flash cards encourages the learner to practice for small amounts of time on a daily basis.

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5. Pay for a year subscription for a language exchange Meetup group: Encourage the gift receiver to start a language exchange group! Many students at universities and high schools would love to practice the target language in a fun setting.

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6. Board game in the target language: Another fun way to bring people together to practice the target language!

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7. Favorite book series in target language: Most of us have a favorite book series, and usually you can find a translation of it. It’s more helpful if we know the context and basic story to help us learn new vocabulary.

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8. Gift card for language learning Google Play or Apple apps: Gift receivers can use the gift card to buy a language learning app, music, or books on their smartphone in the target language.

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9. An online or in-person course: Here’s a big way you can support gift receivers with their language learning goals: education! Paying for tutoring lessons is another idea.

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10. International movies or TV programs in the target language: Here’s a way the language learner can learn more about the culture of another country in the comfort of their homes while learning the language.

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Now you have 10 language learning gift ideas for Christmas or other celebrations! (You could also help with raising money for a travel trip for them, but that’s another story.) Keep in mind the language level of the person when buying a gift because you want to challenge them, but you don’t want to make it impossible for them. If you have any more ideas for language learning gifts, I invite you to share some in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

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Grammar Goody: Get It Done!

In English, we have a grammar construction that doesn’t exist in Spanish. :-O

When we don’t have the time or the skills to do something, we need someone to do the job, right? For example, I can cut my hair, but not very well….or…I don’t know how to change the oil in my car. However, other people can do it. (Usually as a favor or for a price.)

Hair cut

Causation Construction: Subject + Get/Have* + Object + Past Participle
*Get is more informal, but both have and get mean the same thing. You can use get/have in different verb tenses.

– I cut my hair. (Meaning: I did the action.)
– A hairstylist cut my hair. (Meaning: I paid a hairstylist to cut my hair.)
Example of Causation Construction: 

I had my hair cut. (Meaning: Someone else cut my hair, but the emphasis is on the action and not who did it.)

– I changed my car’s oil. (Meaning: I did the action.)
– A car employee changed my car’s oil. (Meaning: I paid a car employee to change my car’s oil.)
Example of Causation Construction:

I had my car’s oil changed. (Meaning: Someone else changed my car’s oil, but the emphasis is on the action and not who did it.)

***SPANISH DOES THIS DIFFERENTLY!***
Example: Hice cambiar el aceite de mi carro. (I had my oil changed.)
Example: Hice lavar my carro. (I had my car washed.)
Example: Me hice cortar el cabello. (I got my hair cut.)
Example: Ella hizo pintar su casa. (She had her house painted.)

conjugated hacer + verb infinitive + object
Putting the subject pronoun first is optional, and you can conjugate hacer for other verb tenses. Notice that we assume the person didn’t actually do the action. Also, if you replace the object with a pronoun, put it before the verb.

Question: Okay, so what about if we need to throw in a conjugated verb in the beginning?Answer: You’ll use it with two infinitives.

– I need to get my car washed. = Necesito hacer lavar mi carro.
– I have to get my car washed. = Tengo que hacer lavar mi carro.

– I need to have my hair cut. = Necesito hacerme cortar el cabello.
– I have to have a hair cut. = Tengo que hacerme cortar el cabello.

– She needs to get her car washed. = Necesita hacer lavar su carro.
– She has to get her car painted. = Tiene que hacer pintar su casa.

Did you learn something new?

Thanks for reading!

Top 10 Netflix Shows to Watch in Spanish

When I first started learning Spanish, I was frustrated with my lack of vocabulary. Watching Netflix shows in Spanish (with Spanish subtitles) can help you associate words and images, and you’ll be more likely to remember them in the future. Plus, you’re more likely to want to follow along with the story, so you’ll pick up a lot along the way. You might need to pause and look up some words every now and then, but it’ll be worth it!

The vast majority of shows that are in Spanish on Netflix are about drug cartels and politics, so I wanted to show you some more variety. The majority of these take place in Spain, but some of them take place in Latin America.

Here are my top 10 Netflix shows to watch in Spanish:

  1. Gran Hotel (Grand Hotel) 

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Set in the 20th century in Spain, this show is about a young man who comes to the hotel to investigate the disappearance of his sister. He falls in love with the owner’s daughter, who is engaged, and they go down the rabbit hole of other mysteries. It’s a good mystery drama with some romance, so you’ll learn lots of investigatory vocabulary.

2. Las chicas del cable (The Cable Girls) 

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Las Chicas del Cable takes place in Spain the early 1920s, and it’s about a group of girls who work for a phone company and operate the phone lines. They are also pioneering waves of feminism with having jobs and having more independence from their families and men. It’s a lot of romance, drama, and mysteries again, so you’ll attain some of that vocabulary, but it’s just an enjoyable show to watch.

3. Velvet

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I was obsessed with this show because it involved a seamstress and the heir of a fashion empire in the 1950s Spain. It’s like a classic “rags to riches” story as she encounters lots of twists and turns along the way. The heir’s family tries to keep him away from the seamstress because they’re of different classes, but love keeps pulling them back together. And Miguel Ángel Silvestre (who plays in Sense8) is a hottie! What other reason do you need?

4. Tiempos de guerra (Morrocco: Love in Times of War)

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In the 1920s in Morocco, Spain was involved in the Rif War. Many high-class ladies sailed to Morocco to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers. The nurses fall in and out of love and deal with the fact that they may lose them in battle. If you’re looking to learn more vocabulary in the medical field and war, here’s your chance!

5. Elite

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Here’s a more modern day show that is set in Spain, but lots of drama and romance is still involved. Three middle-class students earn scholarships at a private school with rich kids, and they must overcome their differences. One of the main characters dies, and the scenes go back and forth from the investigation to the story that led to the death.

6. El Ministerio del Tiempo

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I’m still in the process of watching this show, but it takes place in Spain…in many different time periods. Three agents from different eras go through time-traveling doors to prevent people from changing Spain’s history. It’s challenging to watch because of the different time periods, accents, and contexts, but it’s an opportunity to grow your vocabulary.

7. La esclava blanca

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The show takes place in Colombia in the 1800s. Victoria’s parents were murdered when she was a baby, and a family of slaves saved her and raised her as their own. The man that murdered her family finds out that she is alive and goes after her, but a priest sends Victoria to Spain (when she is 12) just in time. Victoria goes back to Spain (when she is in her 20’s) to reunite with her family and learn more about how her parents die. You’ll learn a lot of vocabulary about ranching and farming, and it’s tough to watch at times, but there are lots of different accents you can pick up on along the way.

8. La casa de las flores

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This is a bit of a dark comedy set in modern times in Mexico. It starts off with the death of a mistress and then a lot of crazy events spiral out of control with each member of the family. It addresses issues related to drugs and LGBTQ.

9. Ingobernable

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Ingoberable takes place in Mexico in modern times, and it’s about the First Lady of Mexico leaving her husband, the President. She leaves for political and relationship reasons, and it doesn’t end well for her husband. She must do everything in her power to learn the truth and prove her innocence. It’s definitely a dramatic thriller!

10. Juana Inés

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An intelligent young woman joins the convent to pursue her studies in Mexico in the 1600s. It’s loosely based on the story of the real woman. It’s a good way to gain some political and religious vocabulary, and most of the actors have an easy accent to follow. I will warn you that the show does get a little strange at times, but it’s still entertaining.

Okay, so I’m a little biased toward romance and drama, but hey, there’s some mystery and politics thrown in here too. I highly encourage you to dive in and watch some Spanish shows! I also started watching Edha, which takes place in Argentina, but it’s quite challenging! The main goal is to get the gist of what’s happening in context, and over time (with some learning along the way), you’ll get the hang of it.

Any other shows you recommend to watch in Spanish? Thanks for reading!

Arts & Crafts Vocabulary for Spanish & ESL Learners

The holiday season is upon us, and with it, comes lots of arts & crafts. After all, who doesn’t love a homemade gift every now and then? I’ve gathered together some of the most common vocabulary related to arts & crafts to help you expand your word knowledge.

I’ve personally come to a standstill many times trying to think of the words for many of these because I enjoy crocheting, creating crafts, and decorating this time of year. Now you can talk about the joy of creating this time of year too:

  1. to sew — coser
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  2. to knit — tejer
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  3. to crochet — hacer en ganchillo
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  4. the yarn/thread — el hilo
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  5. the seam — la costura
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  6. the stitch — el punto
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  7. the hook/to hook — el gancho/engancharImage result for hook yarn 
  8. the safety pin — el imperdible Image result for safety pin 
  9. the hem — el dobladillo Image result for hem 
  10. the ribbon — la cintaImage result for ribbon 
  11. the lace — el encajeImage result for lace 
  12. the cloth — la telaImage result for cloth 
  13. the garland — la guirnaldaImage result for garland 
  14. to punch — perforarImage result for punch a hole 
  15. the sequins — la lentejuelaImage result for sequins 
  16. the glitter — la purpurinaImage result for glitter 
  17. the scrapbook — el álbum de recortesImage result for scrapbook 
  18. the confetti — el confeti Image result for confetti 
  19. wreath — la corona
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  20. stockings — la calceta Image result for christmas stockings

I hope you learned a thing or two about some crafting vocabulary, and maybe I’ve inspired you to create something for your family or friends. I encourage you to continue growing your vocabulary by looking up words in a translator whenever possible.

Thanks for reading and happy crafting!

Using other vs. another in Spanish and English

When I first learned about how Spanish uses other vs. another, it blew my mind! It’s another one of those uncommonly known differences between English and Spanish that I would like to discuss in this blog.

other versus another

See, in English, we use other, others, and another for different reasons.

However, Spanish ONLY uses:

  • otro
  • otra
  • otros
  • otras

for BOTH another and other! Isn’t that amazing?
**Do not use un/una before otro/a/os/as!**

Examples:
– Yo quiero otra cerveza, por favor.
– Prefiero tener otros zapatos.
– Vamos a otro lugar.
– Necesitamos otras cosas. 

If you’re an ESL learner, you will need to learn the difference between other vs. another.

ANOTHER = one more, extra, additional, alternative, different
Instead of writing as “an other,” we write it as another.

We use another before singular nouns**:
– I have one drink. I would like another drink, please. (additional)
– I don’t like this store. Can we go to another one? (alternative or different)

We can also use another like a pronoun:
– First, try on this shirt, and then you can try on another.

**We do not use another with plural nouns.

OTHER = additional, extra, different types of, alternative
We use other before singular uncountable nouns and plural nouns.
– What other countries do you want to visit? (additional)
– If this isn’t enough information, you can visit other websites. (additional)
– I don’t like this flavor; do you have other flavors? (alternative)
– Some people like this furniture, but other furniture makes people happy. (different types of)

  1. We can use other before singular, countable nouns, but we have some type of determiner before it:
    – I don’t like this flavor. I prefer the other flavor.
    – There’s one other place we need to see first.
    Our other dog upstairs is much nicer than this one downstairs.

2. Also, other can be used as a pronoun:
– We have a lot of problems, and we need to solve this one more than any other.

3. Other has a plural form as a pronoun to refer to more than one person or thing:
– I have showed you some movies today. I’ll show you others tomorrow.

4. We can use “the other” as a determiner:
*As a determiner, we can use it before a singular noun to mean the second of two things/people or opposite of a set of two:
– This dog is brown. The other dog is yellow.
– My bathroom is to the right. The bedroom is on the other side of the hallway.

*We can also use “the other” before plural nouns to mean the remaining people or things in a group or set:
– My two bags are here, but where are the other bags? (the remaining bags)
– Where are the other actors in the Friends cast?

5. Lastly, we can use “the other” as a pronoun to refer back to something that has already been mentioned, especially in a sentence:
– I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other is holding a cigarette.
– I have two books. One is a drama and the other is a tragedy.

You can find more information out there about these differences and exceptions, but I just wanted to cover the basics. Most of all, I wanted to introduce you to something that you might not have known about before.

Thanks for reading!

Language Exchange Topic Ideas

If you’re thinking of regularly attending a language exchange club or practicing one-on-one with someone, then that’s awesome! It’s a difficult first step, but it’s worth going out of your comfort zone to make mistakes, improve your language skills, and meet people. Language exchange topic ideas will help you get started and keep the ball rolling.

Perhaps you’ve already gone to a few language exchange clubs or practiced your target language with someone, but you’re not sure what else to talk about. I’m going to suggest a few language exchange topic ideas, so you can keep the conversation going.

language exchange topic ideas

Conversation starters:
– What do you like to do in your free time?
– What kinds of shows and movies do you watch?
– Do you like to read? What kinds of books?
– What kind of music do you listen to? Do you play any instruments?
– Do you have any animals? What kinds of animals do you like?
– Where have you traveled? Where do you want to travel to in the future?
– What are interests/passions? What is your profession and ideal profession?
– What was your favorite subject in school?
– Where did you grow up? Do you have a small or big family?
– Why do you want to learn [target language]?
– What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?
– If you could have superpowers, what would they be?

Language learning topics:
– What languages do you know? Which ones would you like to learn?
– What do you love and hate about language learning?
– How does your native language and target language differ?
– How would you improve your language learning?
– What apps help you learn a new language?
– What are some nonverbal gestures that tourists should know about?

Food topics:
– What are your favorite foods to eat?
– Do you like to cook or bake? Why?
– What’s a type of food you would never eat?
– What’s a food you’ve always wanted to eat?

Science topics:
– Do you believe in aliens? Why or why not?
– Do you think humans will live on the moon or a different planet one day? Why or why not?
– What do you think technology will be like in the future?
– What diseases will be cured in the future?
– Do you think time traveling will exist one day? Would you go into the past or the future? What would you change? Do you have any regrets you would fix?
– What kinds of inventions would you make?
– How do you feel about the environment? Are we doing enough for it?
– Would you rather SCUBA dive in the depths of the oceans or take a rocket to space?

Political topics:
– What does your ideal government look like?
– What top issues would you focus on? Education, healthcare, employment, environment, etc.?
– What do you think of drug issues?
– How do you feel about immigration?
– How do you feel about gun issues?
– What does an ideal president look like?
– How would you change the education system?

Fun hypothetical questions:
– Would you rather have 0 kids or 100 kids?
– Would you rather eat spiders or smell feet?
– Would you rather be stuck in an elevator or on a roller coaster?
– Would you rather give up cell phones or music forever?
– Would you rather walk 10 hours straight or drive 20 hours straight?

You’re definitely going to want to start with general questions and then move into deeper topics as time goes on and as you get to know the other person. Some cultures are more open to discussing political and religious topics while others are not. You’ll need to investigate that about the country before going too deep. Discussing questions of various topics will help you learn near vocabulary and have more engaging exchanges.

I hope these language exchange topic ideas help you have a robust conversation. If you have any more you would like to share, please comment below. Happy language learning!

Thank you for reading!