Tag: Language Facts

¿Sabías que el español es una lengua viva?

Según los datos del último informe del Instituto Cervantes, ‘El español: una lengua viva’, en 2018, más de 21 millones de personas estudiaron español como lengua extranjera, cifra que también se incrementa año tras año (más de 400.000 nuevos estudiantes sobre la de 2017). 

Más datos curiosos: 

  1. Más de 480 millones de personas tienen el español como lengua materna. 
  1. El español es la segunda lengua materna del mundo por número de hablantes, únicamente por detrás del chino mandarín. 
  1. El español compite con el francés y el chino mandarín por el segundo lugar entre los idiomas más estudiados como segunda lengua. El primer lugar sigue siendo para el inglés. 
  1. En Estados Unidos, el español es el idioma más estudiado en todos los niveles de enseñanza. 
  1. En el Reino Unido, el español se percibe como la lengua más importante para el futuro.  
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Word of the Day: LA GUAGUA

Maybe you have heard of the word guagua. This word has different meanings in different countries, but there are also some Spanish speaking countries that don’t use this word at all.

In Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and some other Caribbean countries, guagua is how they call the bus. Some people say that this word comes from the English word: wagon, but there are others that state that it was because Wa Wa and Co. Inc. were the ones that provided Cuba with their first buses. So if you hear the expression: “¡Apúrate que nos deja la guagua!” It means that you need to hurry up or you’re going to miss the bus.

Also some Puerto Ricans call the airplanes “guagua aérea” Why? Well, there is a famous movie in that country with the same name that narrates the constant trip that the people from San Juan took to New York looking for a better life and the so-called American Dream.

In other countries like Chile, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia and Argentina, guagua is how they call babies or little kids. So if you hear someone saying “¡Cómo llora esa guagua! That means that there is a baby crying a lot, maybe nearby and not a big bus making a lot noise.

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Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

Hablar dos idiomas es útil, práctico y a veces puede ser un reto, pero ¿sabías que también hace que seas más inteligente? Lee este interesante artículo del New York Times para saber cómo es posible.

Here are some key excerpts:

But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.


“Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

And the benefits are not only for young people, since recent studies have shown that bilinguals “were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.”

Lee el artículo completo aquí: Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

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Say NO to translation

Removing the translation component from your language studies and habits is crucial to gaining proficiently in any language. Word-to-word translations from one language to another prohibit a truly stream-of-consciousness thought process that allows for seamless communication between individuals and groups. Switching back and forth between two languages isn’t necessarily the most productive thing to do when you’re learning a new language, as you are simply translating and at the core still utilizing your native language. Some students develop this translation habit and have a very hard time kicking it. Here are some basic reasons why you should stop translating from English to Spanish or vice versa.

  • Translating consumes almost all your brain power and there is very little energy left for actual language learning.
  • The translated word is put in temporary memory not in long term memory. Next time you want to use it, it’s gone or misplaced somewhere in your gringo brain. Word retrieval becomes a painful experience!
  • Translation makes listening comprehension almost impossible. Please, put down your Duolingo program and try to infer the meaning of words from the context.
  • Translating word-to-word hinders the natural communication process. You sound robotic, disengaged and repetitive.
  • Translating turns you into an “ask-hole”! You’ll be constantly interrupting the person you’re speaking with for the meaning of the word in your native language.

That said, here are some practices we suggest you incorporate into your routine immediately!

Start acquiring new vocabulary without the interference of your native tongue. Make your first language a tool, not a means to learn new words. A simple way to do this is by creating flashcards using Spanish text on one side and images that illustrate the text on the other. There’re many applications that allow you to do this. This method is so effective because you’re essentially cutting out the middle man. After your brain learns a new word it recalls it as an image, not a group of letters needing to be processed. Studying this way feels effortless compared to the old-fashioned way, as you’re able to recall words much faster in much less time. This recall process will help your listening skills and eventually will have an impact on your speaking skills.

Another problem to tackle is that of translation and grammar, an exercise akin to sticking a square peg into a round hole.  Some students get very hung up in this area, twisting and turning word order and sentence structure as they stutter and hesitate through conversations. A great way to move away from this practice is to study and absorb intuitively the basic constructions of grammar and then move directly to applying it to the language itself. Make the target language (Spanish in this case) a more essential part of your life! If you’re studying Spanish, you might want to try getting your news from Spanish outlets, reading newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. all in Spanish, or simply listening to Spanish music just for fun. Repeated exposure to real-world applications of these concepts will allow you to let go of the word ordering, after all, the idea that you’re trying to express is much more important than the order of the words. And by the way, Spanish-native speakers have a huge tolerance for grammar mistakes but not so much for phonetic mistakes. So concentrate on how you pronounce words, not on the grammar structure.

Don’t expect to be perfect! Vocabulary, grammar, exceptions to the rules and cultural idiosyncrasies are so vast that you’re going to make a ton of mistakes. Embrace them and stop feeling embarrassed! Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and become a better language learner. Don’t be that person in your Spanish class making the same mistakes over and over again, the last thing you want is to be labeled a “perpetual beginner” in the minds of your teachers and peers!

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Las 20 palabras más bonitas del idioma español

El sitio www.upsocl.com recopiló algunas de las palabras más bonitas y menos utilizadas del español. How many do you know?


1) Melifluo: an excessively delicate, gentle, or soft sound.

2) Inefable: something so incredible that it cannot be expressed through words.

3) Sonánbulo: a sleepwalker.e?poca

4) Época: a certain time period in history or in someone’s life. 

5) Serendipia: a fortunate or unexpected finding that occurs when looking for something else.

6) Limerencia: involuntary mental state, typical of one’s romantic attraction to another person.

7) Etéreo: extremely delicate and light, out of this world.

8) Arrebol: reddish hue on clouds caused by the sun.

9) Iridiscencia: optical phenomenon in which the variation of the light creates small rainbows.

10) Epifanía: a sudden revelation.

11) Luminiscencia: the ability of irradiating a faint light, yet visible in the dark.

12) Soledad: a state of isolation or withdrawal, oftentimes ideal.

13) Aurora: faint light with pink hues that appears right before the sunrise.iridiscencia

14) Olvido: the voluntary or involuntary act of not remembering.

15) Efímero: something that lasts only for a short period of time.

16) Incandescencia: light created at high temperatures.

17) Elocuencia: the art of speaking in such a manner that delights or moves.

18) Efervescencia: bubbles created in any kind of liquid.

19) Inmarcesible: that cannot wither.

20) Desenlace: the outcome of a story.


Click aquí para leer el artículo completo: UPSOCL


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Arizona news anchor defends her pronunciation of Spanish words during English broadcasts

According to this interesting article from The New York Times, Arizona anchor Vanessa Ruiz took some time on air to respond to viewers’ comments about the way she pronounces certain words and why she rolls her Rs. Here are some excerpts from her statement and the article:

In the broadcast, Ms. Ruiz said, “Some of you have noticed that I pronounce a couple of things maybe a little bit differently than what you are used to, and I get that, and maybe even tonight you saw a little bit of it.

“I was lucky enough to grow up speaking two languages, and I have lived in other cities, in the U.S., South America, and Europe,” she continued. “So yes, I do like to pronounce certain things the way they are meant to be pronounced. And I know that change can be difficult, but it’s normal and over time I know that everything falls into place.”

The use of Spanish in the United States has been contested in a range of ways over the years, from objections to its use in the Pledge of Allegiance; to casual conversation on school buses, such as in Nevada; and in a New Mexico supermarket accused of having singled out Spanish-speaking employees with an“English-only” policy, according to some of the cases pursued by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The United States has more than 55 million Hispanics and, according to the 2011 American Community Survey, 38 million residents age 5 and older who speak Spanish at home. But questions about the use of Spanish persist.

According to Ms. Kotzambasis, the station’s news director, some viewers objected to the way Ms. Ruiz pronounces Mesa, the third largest city in Arizona. “Locals pronounce it ‘May-suh,’ but many Spanish speakers and natives say ‘Mess-uh,’ ” Ms. Kotzambasis said. In addition, she said, viewers noticed that Ms. Ruiz “rolls her Rs when pronouncing Spanish words.”

“That Spanish sound, that’s not what we’re used to listening to in English-language TV,” said Ms. Gonzalez, 35, whose mother is from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and whose father is from Arizona. “I think I kind of pumped my fist and celebrated. Hey, look, she’s not afraid of her heritage.”


Click here to read the full article: The New York Times.

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Want to Be Smart? Learn a Foreign Language

Need any more motivation to improve your Spanish? Este interesante artículo de BrainBlogger describe algunos de los beneficios de  saber varios idiomas. Here are some key excerpts:

The scientists found that the Spanish-English bilinguals had greater volumes of gray matter than the other two groups. According to the researchers, managing two spoken languages—switching from one to another seamlessly—gives the brain a workout and increases neural flexibility. Bilinguals who are fluent in two tongues have to constantly process two languages and instantly choose which language to speak in to best express their thoughts.

In fact, this is the reason why bilinguals are also better at filtering out irrelevant information and processing greater volumes of data than monolinguals.

The positive changes in the structure and functionality of adult brains indicate that there are anti-aging benefits of learning a new language. Learning a foreign language imparts a protective effect on memory. One study have shown that, after taking into account factors like education, occupation, gender, and where the subjects resided (urban vs. rural), bilingual subjects with dementia manifested symptoms about 4.5 years later than monolinguals with dementia.

In a study carried out on 24-month-old children, it was found that those toddlers who were exposed to a second language during infancy had greater cognitive abilities along with bigger vocabularies in both languages than their monolingual peers. These findings turn on its head the traditional belief that exposing infants to two languages confuses them.


Click here to read the full article: BrainBlogger.

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Don Quijote de la Mancha… ¿en Spanglish?

“Don Quijote de la Mancha” ya ha sido traducida a casi 100 idiomas, pero ¿sabes que ahora hay una versión en Spanglish?

De acuerdo a El Comercio, esta tarea la comenzó en 2002 el filólogo mexicano residente en Estados Unidos, Illan Stavans, quién ya publicó el primer capìtulo como muestra.

Este proyecto ha sido muy controversial dividiendo la opinión del público entre “los puristas” que opinan que es un crimen lingüístico traducir esta obra a una jerga y “los asimilacionistas o realistas” que apoyan esta nueva versión.

La propuesta tildada de incoherente de Stavans surgió durante una participación del académico en un debate radiofónico. Fue precisamente en el verano del 2002. Como parte del debate se conectó vía satélite con un miembro de la Real Academia Española, quien sugirió que el ‘spanglish’ solo podía ser tomado en serio cuando se escribiese una obra a la altura de ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha’ utilizando dicha jerga.

Stavans respondió con una versión improvisada de las primeras líneas de la obra. Después Sergio Vila-Sanjuán, editor de La Vanguardia, le pidió la traducción completa del primer capítulo de la primera parte del icónico libro. Lo hizo y una vez publicado llovieron las críticas negativas.

Fragmento del primer capítulo:

In un placete de La Mancha of which nombre no quiero remembrearme, vivía, not so long ago, uno de esos gentlemen who always tienen una lanza in the rack, una buckler antigua, a skinny caballo y un grayhound para el chase. A cazuela with más beef than mutón, carne choppeada para la dinner, un omelet pa’ los Sábados, lentil pa’ los Viernes, y algún pigeon como delicacy especial pa’ los Domingos, consumían tres cuarers de su income. El resto lo employaba en una coat de broadcloth y en soketes de velvetín pa’ los holidays, with sus slippers pa’ combinar, while los otros días de la semana él cut a figura de los más finos cloths. Livin with él eran una housekeeper en sus forties, una sobrina not yet twenty y un ladino del field y la marketa que le saddleaba el caballo al gentleman y wieldeaba un hookete pa’ podear. El gentleman andaba por allí por los fifty. Era de complexión robusta pero un poco fresco en los bones y una cara leaneada y gaunteada. La gente sabía that él era un early riser y que gustaba mucho huntear. La gente say que su apellido was Quijada or Quesada-hay diferencia de opinión entre aquellos que han escrito sobre el sujeto-but acordando with las muchas conjecturas se entiende que era really Quejada. But all this no tiene mucha importancia pa’ nuestro cuento, providiendo que al cuentarlo no nos separemos pa’ nada de las verdá. (Source: 20minutos.es)

Haz click aquí para leer más sobre este interesante y polémico proyecto: elcomercio.com

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Siele: Un único examen de español para todo el planeta

A pesar de que el español es uno de los idiomas más estudiados alreadedor del mundo, no existía un examen internacional que evaluara las habilidades de los estudiantes de español como segunda lengua. Sin embargo, esto cambió con la creación del Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española (Siele): una prueba con un concepto panhispánico que reune las distintas variedades del español.

El Siele ha sido creado en conjunto por el Instituto Cervantes, la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México y la Universidad de Salamanca, y comenzará a implementarse a partir del próximo curso académico. Estará disponible en los cinco continentes y se cree que habrá aproximadamente 300.000 candidatos anuales, que aumentarán a 750.000 en cinco años.

El certificado se podrá obtener en cualquiera de los cinco continentes, pero el mayor esfuerzo se concentrará hasta 2018 en tres gigantes: Brasil, que tendrá 120 centros de examen; Estados Unidos, con 100, y China, con 60. Más de 15 millones de personas estudian ahora mismo español en esos tres países.

El Siele constará de cuatro pruebas: Comprensión lectora y Comprensión auditiva, cuya calificación será inmediata, así como Expresión e Interacción escrita y oral, que serán evaluados mediante escalas por expertos acreditados. Los candidatos podrán elegir si se enfrentan a la prueba de una sola vez o por partes. Los resultados se conocerán en tres semanas, y en caso de reclamaciones, un segundo calificador llevará a cabo la revisión de los textos y los audios. Superado el examen se obtendrá un certificado con una validez de dos años.


Haz click aquí para seguir leyendo este interesante artículo de El País. (English version here.)

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