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Archive for the ‘Culture Tips’ Category

by CaptainCode

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December 23rd, 2014

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santaclausHo-ho-ho! It’s the Festive Season, and Christmas is just a day away! How about getting a quick Spanish practice while you’re waiting for Santa? Below, we give you a simple excerpt about Christmas and New Year in Spain. Of course, it’s written in Spanish, but the level of difficulty is perfect for intermediate language learners. The vocabulary is easy, and, again, it’s Christmas! Why don’t you try reading it and let us know how much you understand :).


La Navidad y el Año Nuevo en España.

Desde el 8 de diciembre empieza a advertirse en España el ambiente navideño, las calles empiezan a adornarse de luces (aún apagadas) y de guirnaldas. En esa fecha se celebra la festividad de la Inmaculada Concepción. El día 22 de diciembre es el comienzo oficial de la navidad española con la celebración del sorteo extraordinario de Navidad de la Lotería Nacional. Es un día muy especial para todos, las calles se llenan de ilusión y la vida, aunque continúa, durante cinco horas gira en torno a la radio, a la tele o a internet, ya que cualquier ciudadano puede convertirse en el afortunado ganador del gordo. Los niños han terminado las clases y empiezan las vacaciones de navidad delante del sorteo.

El siguiente día destacado de la navidad española es el 24 de diciembre, Nochebuena, día en que se celebra (según la religión católica) las vísperas del nacimiento de Jesús.En esa noche se celebra la tradicional Misa del Gallo. Según la tradición, este animal fue el primero en presenciar el nacimiento de Jesús y anunciarlo al mundo.

Era habitual que los miembros de la familia asistieran juntos a esta misa de medianoche. Durante la Nochebuena se cena con la familia, una cena que termina en fiesta, ya que es costumbre, después de cenar, visitar a los amigos o familiares, comer dulces típicos navideños y cantar villancicos.En el sur de España también son típicas las fiestas flamencas, celebrando la Nochebuena cantando flamenco.

El día 25 es un día más tranquilo, aunque también de reunión familiar.Lo más importantedel día es el almuerzo u se suele hacer con la familia más cercana.

El día 28 es el día de los Santos Inocentes, día muy divertido y en que todo el mundo gasta bromas y pegan muñecos en las espaldasde sus conocidos.

El fín de año llega a España con la Nochevieja. Tradicionalmente se celebra tomando las uvas en la Puerta del Sol de Madrid o viéndolo por la televisión.

Tras estos días de fiestas nos queda el día infantil por excelencia : El día 5 de enero : el Día de los Reyes Magos . En la noche dl día 5 al 6 de enero, los niños españoles reciben los regalos de los Reyes Magos de Oriente.Es una noche mágica, tanto para los niños que no pegan ojo por la ilusión como para los adultos, por la ilusión que los niños transmiten esa noche.Es tradicional la Cabalgata de Reyes, en la cual, los Reyes Magos lanzan caramelos a los niños.

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!

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.


by Jake Beus

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October 31st, 2011

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In honor of Halloween and the Day of the Dead, I want you to be able to be able to express your fear in the Spanish language. Here is some helpful Halloween Spanish vocabulary you can use tonight and for the next few days:

to scare, frighten | asustar, achantar

A mí las brujas no me asustan.
(The witches don’t scare me.)

to be scared | estar asustado

A pesar de todos los ladrones, no estoy asustado.
(In spite of all the robbers, I’m not scared.)

to be scared stiff | estar muerto de miedo

José estaba muerto de miedo cuando oyó las noticias.
(José was scared stiff when he heard the news.)

scaredy-cat, easily frightened | asustón/asustona
Claudia tiene miedo de todo. ¡Que asustona!

I hope that you have a fun and safe Halloween or Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) tonight and over the next few days. Be sure to practice this Halloween vocabulary. Don’t get too scared!

by Jake Beus

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October 28th, 2011

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Day of the Dead

For those of you who do not know this, Halloween is on Monday. This means that the beginning of Día de los Muertos starts at midnight on Monday, October 31. If you want an explanation of how the Day of the Dead is observed, please visit this article on about.com entitled Mexico’s Day of the Dead Celebration. It’s a very well done explanation of  Día de los Muertos.

Did you see the Halloween Spanish video with Dave and me? Check it out:

You’ll have to compliment Dave on superb acting and voices, especially for the hippie voice. Somebody commented on Facebook that Dave must have seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure a few times. Hopefully you learned a little bit in the video and will be able to greet any Spanish-speaking trick-or-treaters.

Whether you will be celebrating the Día de los Muertos or Halloween, I hope you will be safe but have as much fun as you possibly can. Treat yourself. Eat and give away as much candy as you can. Here are a few Spanish phrases I hope you won’t have to use this weekend:

I am out of candy. | Me he quedado sin dulce.
I am tired. | Estoy cansado/a.
I don’t want more chocolate. | No quiero más chocolate.
I have gained weight. | He aumentado de peso.

That’s it! Have fun! Feliz Halloween!

by E

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July 5th, 2011

Who hasn’t known a sarcastic friend or co-worker at some point in your life? 

Enjoy friends!

Signed E

by E

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June 27th, 2011

Adding the letter -o to the end of a word does not instantly change the word from English to Spanish.  This is a common mistake made by many.  We’ve heard people do it, and probably get a laugh or two out of it.  Just be careful as it can be both disrespectful and offensive.

Here are some instances where it actually does work.  

English                               Spanish

Active                                 Activo

Passive                               Pasivo

Massive                              Masivo

Notice how -ive ending changes to -ivo ending in Spanish.  Isn’t learning Spanish fun?



by E

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June 6th, 2011

How many times has someone asked you to tell someone ‘Hi’ for them?  Did you actually do it?  I have to admit, there are many occasions where even I have not followed through.  I tend to get wrapped up in other projects or commitments, and it slips my mind. 

I admire this about the Latin culture.  They obviously care about each other and look out for one another. 

If you are going to learn Spanish and travel to Latin America, I’d make sure to remember to say ‘Hi’ to someone if you say you are going to do it. 


by E

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May 17th, 2011

I’ve never really been one to keep current on fútbol (soccer).  However, this year was a little different for me.  Not sure if there was just nothing else on the tube, but I was keeping  a closer look on my favoite teams.  I’ve always rooted for  Brazil and Spain. 

Here in the US, we aren’t quite as extreme as other countries.  I remember hearing of many riots in other countries after their teams were sent packing.  It amazed me that people would be so upset that they would cause public damage and harm to those in their way. 

However, those who win, play hard afterwards.  This year, when Spain won the World Cup in South Africa, it seemed like the country partied for weeks.  It was so great to see a country gather and celebrate together. 

Have you had any experiences with this sort of thing?  I love to hear from you!


by E

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May 10th, 2011

This week Dave talked about land in Mexico.  There are many American  companies that have plants in Mexico.  This increases the need to learn Spanish for those who travel to Mexico for work.

My husband recently joined the Air Force and we may have the opportunity in the future to travel abroad.  What experiencing have you had that required you to move abroad for work, or pleasure?  How long till you were able to adjust with the language barrier?

I’d love to hear stories of your experiences.





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