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Learn Spanish Blog

Spanish Learning Updates, Tips, and Tricks

Father’s Day in Spain: Dia de San José and Las Fallas

by CaptainCode

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March 19th, 2014

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Happy Fathers Day! What? Is it not the Fathers Day today? In Spain, it is!

Today is Saint Joseph’s Day, and in Spain the holiday is also celebrated as a Father’s Day. To remind, Saint Joseph (San José) was a spouse of the Virgin Mary, and the step-father of Jesus Christ.

The holiday has been celebrated since the 15th century, and, as it traditionally falls during Lent, it was traditionally observed as a day of abstinence. As a result, traditional meals on St. Joseph day were made up of meatless dishes.

As St Joseph’s day traditions vary from region to region, one could certainly expect the holiday to be somewhat more festive than a modest meal, after all this is the Spanish culture we are talking about, right? This is especially true if we look at Valencia, the region in the South of Spain.

To commemorate St Joseph, Valencians hold traditional celebration called the Falles, or Las Fallas. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments created during the celebration. Traditionally, each neighborhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that holds fundraising activities all year round to raise money to produce a construction known as a falla. The fallas are usually big statues of various comic characters and satirical stories.

Falles is a festival that lasts for 5 days and culminates on St Joseph’s Day, and every day and night of the Falles is a glorious party, with processions and comedic performances, in the streets, people celebrating at restaurants and terraces outside, enjoying non-stop vivid fireworks every night. Foreigners are often surprised to see everyone from small children to elderly gentlemen throwing fireworks and noisemakers in the streets (and how littered the streets become).

La Cremà (the Burning), the climax of the Falles, takes place around midnight on March 19, these falles are burnt as huge bonfires. This is why the constructions are called falles (“torches”). Traditionally, the falla in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament in Valencia is burned last.

Each falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first. The construction itself is lit either after or during the explosion of these fireworks. Many neighborhoods have a falla infantil (a children’s falla, smaller and without satirical themes), which is held a few meters away from the main one. This is burnt first, at 10:00 pm. The main neighborhood falles are burnt closer to midnight; the burning of the falles in the city centre often starts later.

So where does the tradition come from? While there are a number of speculations regarding the origin of the Falles festival, most researchers believe that the Falles developed from the celebration of the spring equinox, which is celebrated with bonfires in many traditions worldwide. Many suggest that in Spain it started in the Middle Ages, when artisans disposed of the broken artifacts and pieces of wood they saved during the winter by burning them to celebrate the spring equinox. Valencian carpenters used planks of wood called parots to hang their candles on during the winter, as these were needed to provide light for the carpenters to work by. With the coming of the spring, they were no longer necessary, so they were burned.

Over time, with the strengthening of the Catholic traditions, the date of the Falles festival was made to coincide with the celebration of the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and also became the Father’s Day in Spain.

Did you know that you can speak Spanish fluently by the time of the next Fallas festival? Imagine visiting Valencia for this exciting festival and being able to get around with no interpreter (and no English!). Whether you’re thinking this trip to Spain or just making your next Carribean vacation more fun by speaking Spanish to the locals, you can start learning Spanish FREE now! Visit Visual Link Spanish website and enjoy our FREE lessons, or choose to upgrade for a full award-winning Spanish course from Visual Link Spanish.

Here are some fallas:nou-campanar-falla-1


10 Palabras – Human Body, Part 1

by CaptainCode

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March 11th, 2014

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Hi there amigos. In today’s 10 palabras, we’re looking at the human body. As it’s going to take A LOT more than 10 words to cover, this is the first part of the 10 Palabras- Human Body series. Learn these 10 words today:

  • Head – la cabeza
  • Ear – la oreja
  • Elbow – el codo
  • Eye – el ojo
  • Eyebrow – la ceja
  • Face – la cara, el rostro
  • Finger – el dedo
  • Foot – el pie
  • Forehead – la frente
  • Hair – el pelo

Explore how you can learn Spanish easily with Visual Link Spanish! And yes, with us, you can learn Spanish FREE!

Spring Sale! Get 60% Off All Visual Link Spanish Courses!

by CaptainCode

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March 3rd, 2014

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spring big

Sale ends this Friday, so NOW is the time! Visit us today!

10 Palabras – Slang Expressions We Often Hear In The Movies and etc

by CaptainCode

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February 28th, 2014

Hola Amigos, since so many of you loved our previous 10 palabras that included a pinch of slang, we decided to give you some more slang expressions. These are slang yet appropriate expressions that are often heard in movies and on TV. So, let’s spice up our Spanish vocabulary together ;)

  1. good vibes; good feelings – buena honda
  2. close friend; a close relative – carnal
  3. cool- chido
  4. crazy; nutcase – chiflado
  5. a blonde – güero
  6. dude – güey
  7. group of friends –  la banda
  8. the money-  la lana
  9. What did you say? / pardon me – mande
  10. uncouth, unrefined –  naco

Learn Spanish with us! It’s fun and FREE! Visit Visual Link Spanish website now!


Valentine’s Day Traditions in Latin America

by CaptainCode

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February 14th, 2014

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dia-de-los-enamorados-02Happy Valentine’s Day! While we all know that love is all around and it’s certainly universal, did you ever wonder how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in other parts of the world? Is it the same commercialized blend of red roses, hearts and chocolate (not that we don’t enjoy it) as it is in our part of the planet? And, since we’re at it, what was the origin of the holiday before it became as mass marketed as it is today?

The Origin of  Valentine’s Day

There is a number of legends of how the holiday began. According to the most popular ones, Valentine’s Day is traced back to the Ancient Rome at the times of Emperor Claudius II.

Claudius made a bold decision to ban marriage, claiming that single men made better soldiers. However, a priest named Valentine continued to secretly marry couples, and eventually was imprisoned for disobeying the emperor. In jail, Valentine, being a hopeless romantic, fell in love with a young girl who regularly came to visit him. Right before he died, the priest wrote her a love letter, which is believed to be the first ever Valentine.

Valentine’s Day in Latin America

Over the centuries, the holiday has grown into a huge business in the United States and Europe, but seems to be a little more so in Latin America. In many countries, it seems to be more of an excuse to share love and friendship than candy and cards. It is even referred to as “Día del Amor y la Amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship) in many countries, including Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. It is common to see people perform “acts of appreciation” for their friends. In Guatemala this tradition is known as the “Día del Cariño” (Affection Day). In Brazil (yes, we know they speak Portuguese there, but still), the Dia dos Namorados (lit. “Lovers’ Day”, or “Boyfriends’/Girlfriends’ Day”) is celebrated on June 12, probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint, when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good husband or boyfriend.

More Traditions From Different Countries

In Mexico, February 14th is celebrated as the “Día de San Valentin but is more commonly referred to as El Día del Amor y la Amistad, the day of love and friendship. While people also commonly give flowers, candies and balloons to their romantic partners, it is also a day to show appreciation for your friends. It is a time for people to show appreciation to the people they care about in general.

In Peru, locals celebrate by giving out orchids, native to the country, to each other. Carnaval is going on at the same time so it is considered a public holiday, and many celebrate with mass weddings to be able to accommodate large groups of couples.

Argentina & Chile refer to the day as El Día de Los Enamorados. There is more of an emphasis on spoiling your significant other with gifts compared to other Latin American countries. Colombia and Bolivia celebrate Valentine’s Day on September 20-21, when it popular to send gifts from secret admirers.“ Dominican Republic & El Salvador have a similar tradition when a game called Angelito or Amigo Secreto is played. Girls and boys rip a piece of paper, write someone’s name, and then proceed to give their angelito a gift. That’s a very cute Secret Santa variation, isn’t it?

Happy Valentine’s Day Amigos!

10 Palabras: Useful Expressions (And A Pinch Of Slang)

by CaptainCode

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January 27th, 2014

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Today’s 10 palabras will be about useful expressions in Spanish. Yes, there words that spice up the language, make it less ‘textbooky’ and more alive – which is the goal of Visual Link Spanish. And about no.10, all we can say: please pardon our Spanish ;).

1. You’re kidding. – Estás de broma
2. Speaking of the devil – Hablando del rey de Roma
3. Were you born in a field/barn? – Cierra la puerta
4. What a rip off. – ¡Qué timo!
5. What a mess! – ¡Qué lío!
6. What a cheek! – ¡Qué cara!
7. By all means – No faltaría mas/Por supuesto
8. Chat someone up – Ligar con alguien
9. Cheer up! – ¡Anímate!
10. A pain in the arse – un coñazo (vulgar)

Have a great week everyone!

10 Palabras: It’s All About Internet

by CaptainCode

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January 23rd, 2014

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Although we spend much time online (hey, you’re even learning Spanish online!), many of us are still at a loss for Spanish words when it comes to terms related to Internet. As all ‘dot coms’ become a regular part of our life, let’s learn some of them in Spanish.

Here’s today’s 10 Palabras (of a few more- who’s counting, right?):

  • @ (at)  – arroba
  • Bold (font) – negrita
  • dot com- punto com
  • drop down list/ drop down menu/pop-up menu –  menu desplegable
  • Forward (the name of the forward button)- adelante
  • hyperlink- hiperenlace
  • lurking- fisgoneo, mironeo (lurker – mirón)
  • surf- navegar
  • word wrap –  retorno automático de la palabra
  • to attach (to emails) – adjuntar
  • template – plantilla

Friday’s Easy Spanish

by CaptainCode

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January 17th, 2014

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Happy Friday Amigos! If you are, like many today, not in the mood for a serious Spanish class (or any class, for that matter), there is no shame in that! We can just relax and have a great Friday night – and still squeeze some Spanish into it. And by Spanish we mean the language (not just the food and wine ;)).

As we talked about learning Spanish through music and songs that are easy to listen, today, we give you another great example.

Love her or hate her, Madonna has certainly left a footprint in music. And, as many of you know, she also sings in Spanish, and trust us, her Spanish pronunciation is good. Especially in this song, a Spanish version of her timeless classic, You’ll See. The future tense is Spanish makes the title Verás:

Do note how clear the words sound, and, as it’s pretty much the translation, we’re sure you’ll get them. And here’s the better known English version of the song – just in case.

Happy Friday! And remember that you can Learn Spanish Free wish Visual Link Spanish! Have a great weekend everyone!

10 Palabras: Useful Words To Describe A Personality

by CaptainCode

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January 9th, 2014

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How would you describe yourself in Spanish? What about your best friend? And what about that colleague you can barely stand? How often do you feel out of words needing to describe a personality?

Today, we give you 10 palabras that can be used to describe a personality. And, while we encourage you to learn all words here, we sure hope you find yourself drawn to using the positive ones more often. Have a great day everyone!

  1. brave: valiente
  2. annoying: pesado
  3. friendly: amigable, simpático, agradable
  4. mean: tacaño
  5. open-minded: de actitud abierta, sin prejuicios
  6. narrow-minded: de mentalidad cerrada, intolerant
  7. sensible: sensato, prudente;
  8. sensitive: sensible
  9. charming: encantador
  10. conceited, full of oneself: presumido

And don’t forget that you can learn Spanish for free in the comfort of your home with Visual Link Spanish! Explore our FREE Level 1 lessons here. And when you find it’s time to step up your Spanish level, we’ve got a selection of great courses available. Start learning Spanish today!

Three Kings’ Day, or Christmas Traditions in the Spanish Culture

by CaptainCode

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January 8th, 2014

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Rosca de Reyes

Rosca de Reyes

Think the Holiday Season is over? For many of us, it may be. Yet, in the Spanish culture, January is also filled with holidays and traditions – festive gatherings and food included, with the Christmas season being officially over on February 2!

The main holiday in January is El Dia De Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day, or the Epiphany), celebrated on January 6. Spain, as well as most Latin American countries, don’t celebrate December 25 as the day children receive their Christmas gifts. Instead, children get their presents on January 6, El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day). This day commemorates the wise men coming to see baby Jesus, bringing the gifts of gold.

On this day, children put shoe boxes stuffed with grass for the king’s camels, under their beds. The next morning, the grass is gone, replaced by a gift left by the three kings. And like Christmas, charcoal is left for children who have been naughty.

For this holiday, a traditional feast is prepared. In Mexico, all bakeries offer the Rosca de Reyes, an oval wreath-shaped sweetbread, decorated with candied fruit. This tradition was brought by the Spaniards centuries ago.A plastic figurine of the Baby Jesus is hidden inside the Rosca. Hiding the baby symbolizes the need to find a secure place where Jesus could be born, a place where King Herod would not find Him.

During the family gathering, everyone cuts a slice of the Rosca. The knife symbolizes the danger in which the Baby Jesus was in. The guest who gets the baby figurine becomes the hostof the next celebration, Candelaria or Candle mass day on February 2. That day marks the end of the Christmas season in Latin America. This is when the nativity scene is put away. The holiday would not be complete without the traditional family gathering and dinner of tamales and hot chocolate.

Although not so widely, Feast of San Antonio Abad to honor animals and Feast of San Sebastian are also celebrated in January. Now, what’s your favorite Spanish or Latin American holiday? Don’t forget to visit Elefloor for Asian real estate offers, including stunning properties for sale and rent in Thailand.


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