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Culture–How to Instantly Learn Hundreds of Spanish Words!

by Brandi

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September 14th, 2009

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Before we get started with this week’s subject, I want to discuss some observations I received from a few of you on last week’s newsletter. I talked about a few words like “parabrisas” and “parachoques” which start with the word “para”. The word “para” has more than one meaning in English. It can mean “for”, as I mentioned last week, but it can also mean “stop” or “stops”. For example, the word “windshield” (“parabrisas”) can be translated as “for breezes” and/or “stops breezes”. Several native speakers e-mailed me last week to let me know that the later is preferred. This concept is the same for the word “parachoques” and also for the word “paraguas” (new word that was not covered last week) which translates to “umbrella”. The English translation of the word “paraguas” is “stops water”.

This week I want to mention a myth about speaking Spanish as well as some techniques to instantly learn hundreds of Spanish words.

Many Americans mistakenly think you can add the letter “o” to English words and those words instantly become Spanish. Even though this does work once in a blue moon, more often than not it doesn’t work at all and just causes confusion. I have heard several Americans in Latin America use this flawed technique and suffer from a huge communication gap.

Here are a few techniques that work a lot of the time, but there are exceptions. Each of these techniques involves suffixes (word endings):

1. “-ction” = “-cción”: action (acción), attraction (attracción), fiction (ficción), reaction (reacción)

2. “-ty” = “-dad”: university (universidad), activity (actividad), intensity (intensidad), ability (abilidad)

3. “-tion” = “-ción”: activation (activación), penetration (penetración), station (estación), vacation (vacación)

4. “-ssion” = “-sión”: session (sesión), passion (pasión), depression (depresión), aggression (agresión)

5. “-ive” = “-ivo”: active (activo), passive (pasivo), relative (relativo), intensive (intensivo), massive (masivo). Partly because of this “ivo/ive” technique, people try to ineffectively put an “o” on the end of any English word to turn it into Spanish.

6. “-ly” = “-mente”: recently (recientemente), actively (activamente), relatively (relativamente), effectively (efectivamente). This technique (“ly/mente”) isn’t as reliable in taking words from English into Spanish but can help you better decipher the meaning of written Spanish words.

Moral of the Story: When you really need to guess a Spanish word, the techniques mentioned above can be helpful. They can also be very useful in helping you decipher written messages. But, you need to remember that that are many exceptions to these techniques. Unfortunately they aren’t fool-proof.

Sneak peek at next week: “El sarcasmo”

¡Hasta luego! (Until later!)
David S. Clark — President / Director

Click here to learn Spanish!

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