Category Archives: #learnspanish

Let’s Talk About Your Feelings

Are you still sad (triste) that the Utah Jazz traded D-Will to the New Jersey Nets?

Do you feel guilty (culpable) for not practicing enough Spanish this week?

Are you confused (confundirse) and overwhelmed (abrumado) because you cannot figure out whether we are in Spring, Winter, or Summer right now?

If so, don’t be worried (preocupado) … Sólo en Español Associates can help!  We are a supportive, caring, full-service group that can help you talk about your feelings (sentimientos).

In fact, you need to be prepared to talk about your feelings Tuesday night at Mestizo using any of the following adjectives:

exhausted – agotado
confused – confundirse
ecstatic – éxtasis
guilty – culpable
suspicious – sospechoso
angry – enojado
hysterical – histérica
frustrated – frustración
sad – triste
confident – confianza
embarrassed – vergüenza
happy – feliz
mischievous – travieso
disgusted – disgustado
frightened – miedo
enraged – enfureció
ashamed – vergüenza
cautious – cautelosos
smug – petulante
depressed – deprimido
overwhelmed – abrumado
hopeful – esperansado
lonely – sola
lovestruck – enamerado
jealous – celosa
bored – aburrido
surprised – sorprendió
anxious – ansiosos
shocked – sorprendió
shy – timido

Remember! – at Sólo en Español Associates there is always hope (esperanza).

Daily Contact with Spanish

You can learn to converse in Spanish, but NOT if you keep sabotaging your hard work and progress.  Why spend weeks or months, and maybe a lot of money, only to sabotage your development by NOT doing anything with your Spanish for days or weeks at a time?  It doesn’t take much to preserve what you have learned, but it does require DAILY CONTACT with the language.  Be VERY AFRAID of going even a couple days, and especially NOT a whole week, without doing something.

From what I have read by language learning experts, even 15 minutes a day is enough to preserve your current level until you can find more time to devote to building upon what you know.  If you want to keep building on what you know, you should spend at least 1 hour a day, but if you merely want to PRESERVE your current level, 15 minutes a day will do.

If you’re strapped for time and in PRESERVE mode, I recommend listening exercises that are FUN.  If you are lacking motivation or just plain tired, studying a grammar book is not going to pump you up.  Here are some fun listening exercises you can do to stay motivated and in contact with Spanish:

Pimsleur – The best program available, and you can borrow it from the library.  It will help you listen and speak, and it is fun and easy to use.

Destinos – This is also a free program, and available at  What could be easier than watching these episodes?  This program will keep your ear tuned to hearing Spanish, and it also includes fun and simple exercises. – I haven’t done much with this program lately, but it is free for the first few levels … and since it is a community of learners, you can make friends with native Spanish speakers who are learning English.  Help each other learn … they help you with Spanish, you help them with English.

Spanish Jackpot

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you hit the jackpot by winning the lottery?  Or, what if some distant relative that you did not even know left you a bunch of money?  What would hitting the jackpot do to your life?

Though I must confess to buying a lottery ticket while we were in Washington State this past weekend, I’m one of the people that think that winning the lottery is more likely to ruin a person than help them.  Imagine how complicated your life would get once all of your friends and family found out that you suddenly acquired a bunch of money … instantly everybody and their brother would be asking you for money.  And of course, you would be tempted to gorge yourself on your winnings, and, after spending luxuriously on yourself for a few years, you’d have to spend more and more each time to get the same high.  It seems that you could easily wind up being a tired, old, lonely, cranky, selfish, unloving, poor, bastard, shell of a human being.  That’s a good thing?

My plan for attempting to avoid such a pitfall is a pledge to immediately give away half the money, perhaps by setting up a foundation dedicated to doing good “para siempre.”  But even then I’d have to fight off everybody and their brother for the half of the money I kept for myself!

Speaking of jackpots … I hit the Spanish jackpot about a week ago, and I still haven’t told anyone.  I’ve been holding out and keeping this treasure all to myself!  I stumbled upon this incredible Spanish learning resource on the internet, which is in my opinion every bit as useful as Destinos.  And what’s more, it is free and available to everyone … you just need to know where to find it.

Do you want some?

Not so fast, Buster!  Before I will show you how to find this Spanish jackpot, you must email me and explain how you will use this jackpot to benefit the world.

Aaargh!  Don’t you hate it when people put a condition on receiving a gift!  What an “atorrante” (scumbag) I am!

Sorry Charlie, that’s just the way it is going to be.  I got the goods, and if you want some of the treasure I am going to make you work for it.  If you enjoy learning the Spanish language, you will really appreciate this resource.  Once again, send me an email and explain how you will use this jackpot to benefit the world, and as soon as I receive your email I will reply and send you the link to this Spanish language learning booty.

Theory of Spanish Relativity

While listening to Wayne Dyer recently, I learned that just ONE IDEA is enough to make a dramatic improvement in my life.  Just one thought, one insight, one new direction, one idea can change my life for the better.

That’s probably why I feel compelled to keep writing a weekly email to all my amigos.  I have no idea how many people actually read what I send, but I believe that if just one thing said, one time, somehow or another helps just one of us to improve our Spanish, it is all worth it.  So here (in so many words) is the one thing I would like to say today.

For most of us, fluency is the goal.  However, many language learning experts say that the later in life that you start on the second-language path, the less likely it will be that you become fluent.  The key issue is time-on-task … when we were children, we had seemingly all the time in the world to learn another language, but as adults we have many competing priorities.  It’s really not about capacity to learn as we get older, although mental functioning does change somewhat over time, but in reality the key issue is how much time and opportunity we have to learn.  And the good news is that language learning is good for the mind NO MATTER when you start the process, and here is an article that supports that fact:

And the ONE THING that I would like to share with you today is that YOU can and should define what fluent looks like for you, because you don’t have to rely on, or be bound by, what someone else defines as fluent.  If Spanish fluency is defined as having the same grasp and command of Spanish as I have of English, well I can tell you right now that it is highly unlikely (save an act of God) that I will ever achieve that type of fluency in Spanish.  I’m not an English scholar, but I feel that I understand English pretty well … and since it has taken me 50 years to get to this point with English, which includes near complete immersion in the English language for 50 years, then by reason it would take the same amount of time and immersion experience to get to the same level of Spanish mastery.  Do I need to leave everything and everyone, move to a small Spanish-speaking village in Central America, and hope to live to be 100 years old?  I think so, because that is about what it would take to get to the same level in Spanish that I now have in English … and it might take even longer since I might not find Catholic nuns in that small Spanish-speaking village to make sure (by discipline, piercing stare, ruler, etc.) that I learn my lessons.

So what does it mean to be fluent?  Here are some dictionary definitions:

  • Merriam-Webster – Capable of using a language easily and accurately
  • Cambridge Dictionary – When a person is fluent, they can speak a language easily, well and quickly

Goodness gracious!  By those definitions, I am not sure that I am even fluent in English!!

How about this one:

  • – Able to speak or write a specified foreign language with facility

I like that one … able to speak “with facility.”  What does that mean?  Who knows, so I may as well claim it and tell the world that I can speak Spanish with facility!

In one sense, I have already achieved what I set out to do with Spanish … that is, I already have the ability to help two people communicate with each other – one that speaks only Spanish, the other that speaks only English.  I may not be the best interpreter in the world, but I am already an interpreter.  So for me, everything from now on is gravy … whatever more Spanish I can learn will only make me a better interpreter, or should I say intérprete.

So define for yourself what fluent looks like, if in fact fluency is your goal.  If a few Spanish sentences roll off your tongue fluidly, then you should be heartened by the fact that you were fluent in that moment.  Fluency is only a matter of degree, and you are somewhere on that fluency scale with everyone else who is learning Spanish.  And that’s my THEORY OF SPANISH RELATIVITY.

Serendipity and Loss

Sheri left Salt Lake City late Tuesday night on a flight to Los Angeles, and after a two hour layover she took a redeye flight that arrived in Guatemala City at 4:30 AM Wednesday. I was at the airport waiting for her with the taxi cab driver who had picked me up in Antigua at 3:50 AM. Sheri was a bit travel weary, but also very happy to be on vacation with me. And of course I was very happy to be with my Sweetie again after being apart for a month, by far the longest stretch we have been apart since we first met nearly 13 years ago.

We quickly settled into our home stay with a Spanish speaking family. Ruth lives in the home with her son who just finished high school, but two older daughters frequently stop by for a meal and to speak Spanish with the Spanish language students staying here. This is a beautiful and very large home with an interior courtyard (characteristic of the homes in Central and South America), where the family lives on the first level and the Spanish language students live on the second level. Ruth has had as many as 15 guests staying here at one time, however 5-10 is the norm. Ruth has been hosting students for nearly 20 years, and she is very good at what she does – this is her primary source of income. To begin with, Ruth is warm and gracious and funny. Secondly, she is an excellent cook who prepares for us 3 delicious and healthy meals every day (except Sundays when we are on our own). Another bonus is that Ruth is an excellent Spanish teacher, who not only requires that we speak Spanish in the house, but patiently corrects our mistakes while helping us to speak Spanish better. Finally, Ruth is a dog lover, and we have enjoyed getting to know her two boxers Rocky and Ruffy. Sheri and have our own room with a private bathroom here at Casa González, and we feel very fortunate to be staying here. Latinos often welcome family, friends, and guests into their home by saying, “Nuestro casa es su casa” (Our house is your house), and that is certainly the spirit in this place because Sheri and I feel very much at home here.

We’ve enjoyed several serendipitous moments since being here, and those moments always make me feel like I am just where I need to be. However, being where I need to be does not necessarily mean that everything is going my way, as I will explain a little later in this blog. Here are some of the fun chance encounters, coincidences, and moments of serendipity that have come our way: First, I kept running into the same fellow student from Xela during my first few days here, I bumped into Stella 4 times over 2 days and each time in a different part of the city. And the other day Sheri and I were wandering through the grocery store looking for granola when we bumped into another fellow student from Xela. Second, I went to a concert here before Sheri arrived and sat next to a couple who just happened to be studying Spanish at the same school where I had planned to start the next day (and there are dozens of Spanish schools in this city). But what’s more, Elena and Mark live in Canada not far from my home town of Toledo … and Elena’s birthday is in November (as is Sheri’s) and Mark’s birthday is in December (as is mine). Speaking of birthdays, a Third coincidence is that I share a birthday (December 20th) with the cleaning lady at our home Casa Gonzalez. (Oh, and Oscar my Spanish teacher in Xela was born the same day that Sheri and I were married, January 8th). Fourth, and back to the subject of my home town Toledo, the name Toledo has been popping up around here regularly … there is a meat distributor here in Antigua named Toledo … one day we met a man from Michigan with his young son, and we learned that the Toledo Zoo is one of their most favorite places to visit in the whole world. Fifth, a few seconds after saying goodbye to the man and boy from Michigan, we looked across the street and saw a residence named Casa Toledo … residences are often given a name here, and often the name is painted on a large square piece of tile that is affixed to the outside wall. Sixth, speaking of tile work, my first day at school I was explaining to my teacher that I dropped my given middle name Anthony when I got married, and that the name Anthony came both from my Grandfather and from the Catholic Saint Anthony of Padua … well, no sooner had I said the name Anthony of Padua when I looked up and saw a multiple-tile piece of artwork on the wall of the ancient convent that is now a Spanish school, the artwork was a painting of – you guessed it – Saint Anthony of Padua. Booga booga. These are all of the coincidences, chance encounters, and serendipitous moments that I can remember right now, but it seems that we have been saying, “Oh my gosh!” and “Can you believe it?” ever since we arrived here.

But sometimes I think that God has to bring us back to earth so that we don’t get too full of ourselves. We get to experience the excitement of serendipity and the feeling that everything is going our way … but we also get to slog along on occasion, to feel that we are swimming upstream, and to think that nothing seems to be going our way. The reality is that all of life is blessed, and we would all do well to accept whatever comes our way knowing that nothing in this world happens that God does not either cause or allow. Even so, we don’t have to wallow in pity feeling that the world is against us and that there is nothing that we can do to change our circumstances … rather, it is far better to do whatever we can to redeem the tough circumstances, to turn lemons into lemonade, to make the most of every circumstance we encounter. So I said all that to say this: Just when it looked like everything was going our way on this trip, that everything would go our way for the entire month we are here, that we had found the eternal spring … we had a tough day yesterday. It actually started out pretty well, we went on a fabulous tour of the city, the tour guide was knowledgeable and funny, and the tour was well worth the money we spent to participate. But then we went to the local sports bar to root for our beloved Utah Utes in their big game against TCU, a game that had national title implications. We got a prime seat right in front of a big screen TV, and proceeded to watch the Utes get slaughtered at home by TCU 47-7. What a bummer. But worse than that, one time when I could not bear to watch the game any longer and was looking for things to do, I went to the bathroom … and promptly dropped our digital camera in the toilet. Big time bummer. The camera is dead, and it does not appear to be coming back to life again. Not a huge loss, I purchased it used for only $80 specifically for this trip, we left our better camera in Salt Lake City. Nonetheless, I had big plans for the camera we brought with us, such as high resolution pictures of the nearby volcanoes (one volcano is active), pictures of this historic city, pictures of the people and markets bustling with activity, pictures of my lovely wife and I having big fun here, pictures posted to the web and shared with family and friends all over the world, etc., etc., etc. But now that there will be no more digital pictures of our trip here, you’ll just have to believe everything we tell you about this place and about what we are doing here. And true to my philosophy on life, I believe that dropping that camera in the toilet is the best thing that could have happened to me at that moment.

One last thing for this week … today we celebrated my lovely wife’s 50th birthday. We’ve had lots of fun today, we started the day at a fabulous breakfast buffet, went to church, had a nice lunch at a local restaurant, and after I finish blogging we are on a way to a have thali at an Indian restaurant, and afterward we are going to play Spanish bingo. So if you get this message, be sure to wish my Sweetie a happy birthday!