Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Spanish Travel Memories 2 - David in Granada

Travel memories at ancient fortress of Alhambra, Granada, SpainThe Spanish Travel Memories add to the information that our young traveler David picks up in our GamesforLanguage travel-story courses.

In the courses, we use street names, neighborhoods, hotels, and restaurants - many of which we've explored ourselves - in each of the Spanish cities.

In Spanish Travel Memories 1, we tell you more about Barcelona. After visiting his aunt and uncle there and exploring the city, David heads south to Granada.

If you're going to visit Spain, you wouldn't want to miss Granada. It's a fascinating city with a multicultural history, and certainly a place for travel memories.

We're also listing a few basic words and phrases in Spanish that will help you to communicate locally. The word lists are a combination of words and phrases taught in the course and other useful travel terms.

Just as we did with our post about Barcelona, we'll follow David's discoveries in Granada. For those of you who have done or are doing our Spanish 1 course: David en Españathis may be of special interest.

Quick Facts about Granada

The city of Granada is the capital of the province of Granada, one of the eight provinces in the autonomous community of Andalusia. The city proper has a population of over 236,000.

Granada has a great location. It lies close to the Sierra NevadaGranada with Sierra Nevada in background mountain range, and is only about an hour by car from the Mediterranean coast.

The name "Granada" may come from either the Spanish word for "pomegranate" (granada) or from the Arabic word said to mean "hill of strangers."

In its early history, the region of what is now Granada was the site of an Iberian settlement, Elibyrge, (5th century b.c.), and of the Roman town Illiberis (150 b.c.). During the reign of the Visigoths (500 a.d.), a small community of Jews who had also settled there, named the area Garnata al-yahut.

In 711, a Moorish Caliphate invaded and conquered Granada. After internal conflicts among Arab clans, the Ziries clan created an independent kingdom, which lasted from (1013-1238). It was followed by the powerful Nazrid dynasty (1238-1492).

It was during the reign of the Nazrid kingdom, that the Alhambra fortress and the Generalife palace were built.

Granada was the last Muslim kingdom to be conquered by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

  • the mountain range - la sierra
  • snow-covered, snowy - nevado/a (adj.)
  • the coast - la costa
  • the pomegranate - la granada
  • the settlement - el asentamiento
  • the dynasty - la dinastía
  • Catholic Monarchs - Reyes Católicos

Train to Granada

Barcelona to Granada mapThe distance between Barcelona (located in the northeast of Spain) and Granada (in the south) is 425 miles. Rather than fly to Granada, David chooses the less expensive option. He takes the train, which in his case is the Arco train with a route along the eastern coast.

Side Note: Obviously, train schedules and routes change over time. The Arco train to cities in Andalusia, operated by RENFE (Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles), has been replaced by their AVE trains with somewhat different routes. The map above shows the driving options, which also mirror the train routes quite closely. The train route via Madrid may be faster. 

Once he arrives in Granada, David asks for directions to “la calle Reyes Católicos,” the street where his friend Daniel lives, in the center of town. From the train station it's about a three-mile walk. (There's also an easy bus connection.)

  • the train station - la estación de tren
  • the distance - la distancia
  • the train schedule - el horario de trenes
  • the train ticket - el billete de tren
  • the (train) track - la vía
  • to wait - esperar
  • a seat by the window - un asiento en la ventana
  • Is this seat available? - ¿Está este asiento todavía libre?

Washington Irving and the Alhambra

Washington Irving Statue in Alhambra, Granada, SpainThe Alhambra ("the red" in Arabic) is a spectacular palace and fortress built between 1238 and 1358 during the Moorish Nazrid dynasty. It stands on a plateau overlooking the city of Granada. You can read up more on its history HERE.

We were surprised to learn that the American writer Washington Irving (1783-1859) had actually lodged in a room in the Alhambra palace for three months in 1829. During that time he began his "Tales of the Alhambra," a colorful mixture of local history and legend. There's a plaque in the room where he stayed.

On the way down through the gardens, you can see a statue of Irving, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of his death. Downtown, there's also a street named after him.

  • the palace - el palacio
  • a palatial complex - un complejo palaciego
  • the writer (m/f) - el escritor, la escritora
  • the tale, story - el cuento
  • the plaque - la placa
  • the garden - el jardín
  • the statue - la estatua

Side note: The city of Alhambra in California is reportedly named after the "Tales of the Alhambra." In 1874, the daughter of Benjamin Wilson, a wealthy developer, was reading the book and encouraged him to use the name for his new suburban development in Los Angeles County.

University of Granada

Founded in 1531 by emperor Charles V, the University of Granada is one of the oldest in Spain and continues a long educational tradition that goes back to the time of the Moorish epoch.

With over 50,000 students in Granada alone (and seven campuses, five in Granada, and two in Spanish territories in Northern Africa), the University of Granada is the one of the largest in Spain.

The university is also highly popular with students of Erasmus, a program adopted by the European Commission in 1987, to encourage and support student exchanges throughout the European Union.

Side Note: The Erasmus Program was named after the Dutch philosopher and scholar, Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536). At the same time, ERASMUS also stands for: European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.

Mirador de San Cristóbal

The San Cristobal Viewpoint is in the picAlbaicin neighborhoodturesque Albaicín neighborhood of Granada. From the viewpoint you have a stunning panoramic view of the city, including a side view of the Alhambra and the snow-peaked mountains behind.

El Albaicín has maintained the narrow winding streets and the architecture of its Moorish past. It was declared a world heritage site in 1984, together with the Alhambra. 

(We recently came across this Post "Ask an Expat: Living in Granada, Spain" by Nina Bosken, who describes her experience teaching and living in Granada. And to fill out the picture of Granada, read this New York Times Travel Dispatch In Spain, Secrets and a Possible Betrayal!)

David's next Stop (and future Spanish Travel Memories 3)

From Granada, David takes the train to Seville for more travel memories. There he checks into a hotel his friends had recommended to him.

He explores the Toro del Oro and the Almohad Tower, called La Giralda. Together with Ana and some of her friends he spends an evening in Triana, the neighborhood known for flamenco dancers and singers.

Register or log in again and continue with the Spanish 1 course.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments below or with contact. 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Spanish Travel Memories 1 - David in Barcelona

W-Hotel at Barcelona Beach - Gamesforlanguage.comThe Spanish Travel Memories expand on our GamesforLanguage travel-story based courses, which use the cities' real street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc. We visited many of them ourselves and tell you a little more about each Spanish city. 

In future blog posts, we'll provide additional details for each of the cities our young travelers visit in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. (You'll already find posts on Frankfurt and Paris.)

David is our traveler to Spain. His first stop is Barcelona, often named as one of the top ten travel destinations in Europe. (And no, the photo above is not Dubai, but of the W Hotel right at the beach in Barcelona.)

Visiting Barcelona? Here's a short introduction to this lively, bilingual port city. We'll also list a few basic terms in Spanish and Catalan that will help you make your own travel memories.

We'll follow David's discoveries in Barcelona, for those of you who have done or are doing our Spanish 1 course: David en España.

In our travel-story course, you learn daily conversational Spanish. The Spanish vocabulary listed here is a combination of some words taught in the course as well as other useful terms. We've also added Catalan equivalents.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's Barcelona Novels

We wish we had read these books before or during our stay in Barcelona in 2012. Zafon's novels El Juego del Ángel (The Angel's Game),  La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind),  and El Prisionero del Cielo ( The Prisoner of Heaven), all are set in Barcelona. They are a combination of mystery and adventure tales. (Reading them in Spanish - maybe with the English translation beside it - will advance your Spanish quite a bit!)

The first published novel actually includes a “Walk in the Footsteps...” to “give a flavor of the setting for 'The Shadow of the Wind', and can be used as a starting point to explore more of the world of the novel, many of the locations and sceneries.”

Many places that we're familiar with and our traveler David visits as well, are described in the novels which span the first half of the 20th century.

The Catalan language

Because our course teaches Spanish, we don't include information about the Catalan language. However, the city is clearly bilingual. 

Catalan is a language spoken in three regions of Spain: Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, as well as just across the border in southern France and a small community on Sardinia, Italy. It's also the official language of Andorra. 

While 98% of Barcelona's population speaks Castilian Spanish, a majority, around 60%, also speaks Catalan. You'll hear Catalan spoken as you walk around town and you'll see many signs in both languages. You'll notice that many of the names of streets, parks, villa, museums, etc. on your street map will be in Catalan.

If you'd like to know more about the Catalan language and why one should not consider Catalan a “melting pot” of Spanish, French, and Italian, read this excellent post by the Spanish Linguist. 

The Autonomous Community of Catalonia

Catalonia has been in the news of late because of aSpain's autonomous areas map - recent vote by the Parliament of Catalonia for its secession from Spain. (See also our previous post: Spain and Catalonia – Not Just a Language Conflict)

The territory of Spain, according to its constitution of 1978, is organized into 17 autonomous communities, and 2 autonomous cities. (see map)

In its second article, the constitution “recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.” [Wikipedia]

While the “autonomous” label and “self-government” language in the constitution would indicate a substantial degree of independence of many communities, the tax levies and its distribution by the central government in Madrid remain an area of contention for many, not only for the proponents of secession in Catalonia.

A referendum in 2006, gave Catalonia an higher degree of autonomy than stated above. But a wish for more independence has obviously remained. And language has long been part of politics, with some bitterness on both sides.

Quick Facts About Barcelona

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a cosmopolitan port city located on the Mediterranean Sea in the northeast of Spain. It is the second largest city in Spain, with over 1.6 million inhabitants. Its metropolitan area has a population of over 4.6 million.

The history of Barcelona appears to go back over two thousand years, though details of its founding and early times remain elusive.

Ruins from Roman Barcelona (then called Barcino) date back to the 1st century AD. These can be visited in what is now the gothic part of the Barcelona's medieval city. In his Blog, the travel writer Richard Varr describes the site as “The world's most Extensive Underground Roman Ruins.”

Barcelona belongs to the world's major global cities and has been called one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centers.

Catalan Art Nouveau architecture, called “Modernisme,” developed between the years of 1878 and 1910, and was an expression of Catalonia's striving for its own national identity. Barcelona claims to have the greatest collection of Art Nouveau Buildings of any city in Europe.

Barcelona hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics, which revamped the harbor area and many buildings, and created a several mile-long beach area with cafés, restaurants, promenade, etc.

David Arrives at Barcelona's El Prat Airport

David is a young student who learned some Spanish at home and later studied it in school. His father is from Spain and his mother from Mexico. This will be his first visit to Spain.

On his flight to Barcelona, Michael chats in Spanish with the flight attendant and with the woman who sits next to him.

He arrives at the busy International El Prat Airport, which is located 12 miles from the center of the city. (Visitors using certain discount airlines may also arrive at the Reus and Girona airports, which are about 60 miles from Barcelona, so watch out!)

David's aunt picks him up. Otherwise, he would have gotten into town by taxi, bus, or train.

As David goes through passport control, he continues to use his Spanish. Responding to the standard immigration/passport control questions, he has to explain why he is traveling to Spain and how long he will stay. Following the Spanish, you'll see the Catalan equivalent in parentheses.

the flight - el vuelo (el vol)
the flight attendant - el auxiliar de vuelo (el auxiliar de vol)
the airport - el aeropuerto (el aeroport)
the passport control - el control de pasaportes (el control de passaports)

Districts of Barcelona

Districts of BarcelonaDavid's aunt and uncle live on Carrer de Mallorca (Spanish: Calle de Mallorca). This large street runs through the neighborhood (Spanish: barrio) of la Dreta de l'Eixample, and is close to Plaça de Cataluña and el Passeig de Gràcia.

Barcelona is divided into 10 administrative districts, which consist of 73 “barrios.” Each of the 10 districts is referred to by number and a name. (see map)

The old town stretches mostly across districts 1 (Ciutat Vella) and 2 (Eixample). It's in the latter where the barrio “Dreta de l'Eixample” is located.

During our 1-month stay in Barcelona, we stayed in Gràcia, and liked this district very much. You can read about our travel memories in several blog posts.

Again, some relevant vocabulary, first Spanish, then Catalan in parentheses. 

the street - la calle (el carrer)
the neighborhood - el barrio (el barri)
the square - la plaza (la plaça)
the promenade - el paseo (el passeig)
the district - el distrito (el districte)
the old town - el casco antiguo (el nucli antic)
the city - la ciudad (la ciutat)

Travel Memories: La Sagrada Familia

David and his cousin María walk over fromLa Sagrada Familia 2012 - Gamesforlanguage.com Calle Mallorca to Antoni Gaudí's spectacular church “La Sagrada Familia.”

Begun in 1882, the project became Gaudí's life work. At his death in 1926, only part of the church was finished. Construction resumed after the Civil War (1936-1939) during the reign of Franco, and continued after Franco's death (1975). The building is now projected to be finished in 2026.

“La Sagrada Familia” has been called the most unconventional church in Europe and will certainly be part of your Barcelona travel memories. Gaudí used the natural world and its curves for his inspiration and avoided straight lines and angles as much as he could.

For his constructions, he developed his own architectural techniques. Some of these are on display in the museum of the church as well as in the Casa Milà Exhibits (see below).

the church - la iglesia (la església)
the Civil War - la Guerra Civil (la Guerra Civil)
the nature - la naturaleza (la naturalesa)

El Paseo de Gracia (Passeig de Gràcia)

Paseo de Gracia from Predrera RoofAs they walk through their neighborhood, his cousin María asks David if he wants to join her for some shopping on the Passeig de Gràcia.

The Passeig de Gràcia is a wide avenue with shops and businesses that leads from Plaça Cataluña to the neighborhood of Vila de Gràcia. (The photo left is taken from the roof of Gaudí's Casa Milà, see also below)

A little history: Originally, Passeig de Gràcia was called Camí de Jesus and connected the city of Barcelona to the nearby town of Gràcia. With time, small houses, cafés, restaurants, shops, theaters, and dance halls were built along the stretch.

In 1897, the town of Gràcia was formally annexed by Barcelona. It became fashionable to live on the Paseo and to have one's house build in the Modernist style, by architects such as Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and others.

Today, the Passeig de Gràcia has retained its appeal. Most of the older buildings have been restored; villas, shops, and fashion houses have multiplied. Along the avenue, which is lined with trees, there are street lamps and benches. 

Here is a link to more history and a walking tour along the Passeig.

On the Passeig de Gràcia there are also many restaurants and cafés. In Spain, a café is called “una cafetería.” David and María order “una horchata” (a tiger nut milk drink; in Catalan: orxata), “un cortado” (espresso with a dash of mik; in Catalan: tallat), and “magdalenas” (small cupcakes).

Parque Guëll 

In 1900, Count Eusebi Guëll, a wealthy and influential CatalanParque Guell - Gamesforlanguage.com owner, bought land in Gràcia. He employed his friend Antoni Gaudí to design an estate for the rich. The park was built between 1900 and 1914. Gaudì's imaginative designs and architectural solutions were inspired by natural organic shapes.

Only two houses were built, though neither was by Gaudì. Because the project was not commercially successful, the family Guëll gave the land to the city in 1923 as a public park. It officially opened in 1926.

Gaudì lived in the park between 1906 and 1926 in a house built by the architect Francesc Berenguer.

In 1984, the park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

the park - el parque (el parc)
World Heritage - Patrimonio de la Humanidad (Patrimoni de la Humanitat)
to design - diseñar (dissenyar)

Other Places to visit in Barcelona

The Olympic Stadium (Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys): Built for the 1929 International Exhibition, the stadium was renovated in 1989 for the 1992 Summer Olympics. It is located on Montuïc, a hill in Barcelona that overlooks the harbor. 

travel memories with Gaudí's Casa Milà 2012 - Gamesforlanguage.comCasa Milà  (picture left) popularly known as “La Pedrera” was Antoni Gaudì's last civil work and built from 1906 to 1912. It is an apartment building located around an inner court yard and incorporates many innovative features of its time.

The gallery in the building's attic exhibits many examples of Gaudi's design and engineering concepts. From the top you get a stunning view of the city. (see photo)

The building is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso)The museum opened in 1963 and houses an extensive permanent collection of Pablo Picasso's works presented in five medieval palaces. 

Joan Miró Foundation (Fundacío Joan Mirò): A collection of Miró's art, exhibitions of contemporary art, and Espai 10 and Espai 13, a Laboratory for Contemporary Art - “where artists have the right to fail.” 

David's next Stop: (and Spanish Travel Memories 2)

From Barcelona, David takes the train to Granada, for more travel memories. There he gets together with a friend he had met in Boston.

(Going from Barcelona to Granada by train, is a nearly 600-mile trip. Taking the train is the most inexpensive option, and the trip can take between 8 to 12 hours. You can, of course, also fly to Granada, which takes about an hour and a half.)

Register or log in again and continue with the Spanish 1 course. 

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments below or with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"SuperCoco" - Learning Spanish - A Review

Supercoco - Gamesforlanguage.comBecause I'm interested in everything language learning, I signed up to beta test "a new approach to language learning" in one of my online language groups. This was some time ago.

In the summer, I got an email that I could "test flight" the iPhone app for Spanish and started testing it through its updates. Mid-October 2016, "SuperCoco - Learn Spanish by talking" went live. It's pretty neat.

For many people, myself included, learning to converse with some fluency in a new language is highly challenging. SuperCoco seeks to addresses that issue in interesting ways.

Except for audio programs such as the Pimsleur Language Programs, and more than any other language apps or programs that I've tried, SuperCoco encourages you to SPEAK. The instructions are simple: "When you hear Spanish, you repeat it. When you hear English, you say the Spanish."

Phil Mitchell, who is the founder of Larkwire, the maker of the SuperCoco app, told us:

"SuperCoco was built by people who love language learning. It's the app we wanted for ourselves. Version 1.0 is incomplete, of course, there's lots more coming ... but we'd really love to hear from users about what they like and don't like in the app so far. It's an opportunity for people to get the app that they want."

WHAT YOU LEARN

To date, SuperCoco has four (4) Levels: Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Early Intermediate, Intermediate.

Five (5) more Levels are to come: Advanced Intermediate, Proficient, Advanced Proficient, Near Fluent, Fluent.

Each of the current Levels has 60 or moreSupercoco:Section Screen - Gamesforlanguage.com conversations organized into 4 Chapters. In a Level you'll learn over 1000 sentences, and around 1000 new vocabulary items. (see screen shot: Intermediate Chapter 3)

The conversations are in the form of brief stories, sometimes ending with a humorous or surprising twist. These anecdotes contain cultural information and give context to the language.

You don't learn lists, you always learn words in the context of conversational sentences. That also means you learn grammatical forms as they are used.

Only new words are practiced separately in the Spanish First + words option, which is the initial and default "learning stage." Any words you've had before, are not isolated for practice.

There's a wide variety of topics. They include: Essentials, Food, Shopping, Communications, Transportation, Housing, Health, Social, Entertainment, Sights, Language, Dating, Wayfinding, Family, Work, Culture, School, and others.

LEARNING STAGES

SuperCoco automatically moves you through Learning Stages that are increasingly challenging.

(You could, but don't need to ever touch the Practice Mode button.)

  1. Spanish first + words (Sp. audio - pause - words Sp./Engl. - Sp. audio - pause - Eng. - Sp. written)
  2. Spanish first (Sp. audio - pause - Eng. audio - Sp. audio - pause - Sp. written)
  3. English first (Engl. audio - pause - Sp. audio - Sp. written)
  4. Partner: You take the role of one of the conversation partners (tap to hear Spanish)

Phil Mitchell also explained the following:

"Tracking every word allows the program to do something really neat: if SuperCoco predicts that you can already produce a given sentence, it jumps right into English First mode the first time you see that line. This is very powerful. First, it gives you the chance to produce Spanish that you've never heard before; and second, when you're in the flow of the conversation, you often speak the Spanish without even realizing that it's brand new. You're just speaking Spanish."

HOW YOU LEARN: FIRST LISTENING and SPEAKING

With SuperCoco you learn first and foremost through sound. When you start a lesson, you can go hands free, and just listen and repeat. The lesson continues automatically.

Or if you wish, you can control SuperCoco by voice commands, such as Coco WHAT? (alias: Coco REPEAT?) - to hear a line again; Coco SLOW - to hear the line at slower speed; Coco STOP (alias: Coco PAUSE) - to pause the conversation, etc. Go to the Library (Menu icon) for other voice commands. Note that you can only give commands when SuperCoco is not speaking.

You learn and practice each of the conversations sentence by sentence. You never hear the full conversation just in Spanish. (It is always broken up by English translation.)

After the Spanish audio or the English cue, there's a pause to let you say the Spanish word or sentence.

In the early lessons, coach SuperCoco pops up to give you tips, reminders, and encouragement.

At the end of a conversation, you can rate it: Too hard, Just right, Too easy. This information will go into the algorithm of the program, and determine how soon and how often you'll review that particular conversation.

DO YOU NEED TO SEE THE WORDS?

Supercoco: conversation - Gamesforlanguage.comAs an adult who's been schooled in reading and writing, you may automatically imagine how words in a foreign language are spelled - when you hear them.

Most likely, you'll apply the sound-spelling correlation that you're familiar with, i.e. the spelling of English if that's your native language.

Learning a new language means that you have to learn a new sound-spelling system. You can only do that by seeing how a word is spelled when you hear it, or right after.

SuperCoco gives you that option. You can see the Spanish text after you hear the audio, following a short delay. The brief pause not only lets you repeat what you hear, you can also anticipate the spelling in your mind.

(By the way, that's quite similar to Gamesforlanguage's “Say It” module, which we use in all of our language story-based courses.)

GRAMMAR at YOUR FINGERTIPS (if you want)

Supercoco: Grammar Explanation screen - Gamesforlanguage.comBy tapping on a specific word in the conversation, you'll first see a brief grammar point.

Then, if you tap the capsule, it loads a full explanation. For a verb, it explains the tense or mood and shows shows the conjugation. You'll also see links to related topics.

For example (see screenshot above), you'll see the sentence "¿Por qué ne estás tirando fresas?" (Why are you throwing strawberries at me?)

When you tap on "tirando" and then "fresas" you'll see: tirando (tirar): to throw (verb: gerund); and, fresas (fresa): strawberry (noun: pl f ).

By tapping further, you'll load an explanations of the gerund form, and other related links.

Or, tapping on the imperative form "espere,"  (see screen shot) you'll load an explanation of the form, as well as the (positive and negative) conjugation of the imperative.

NO IMAGES

Very different from picture-heavy Rosetta Stone (and many other popular programs), SuperCoco uses no pictures at all. Interesting!

While pictures can certainly link to the foreign words (or labels) of objects, they can also be a distraction from learning their sounds.

With a picture-driven program you have to constantly figure out what the picture is supposed to represent. Besides, how can one show anything complicated or abstract with a still picture?

THE SKILLS TAB and PRONUNCIATION LESSONS

There are eight (8) Core Skills Lessons which give you one Key Tip in each lesson. Each is about 2-3 minutes long and includes the topics 'How to absorb Spanish faster,' 'What to do when you can't remember,' 'How to find time to practice,' and 'How and when to learn grammar.'

In the Skills Tab, you'll also find 23 excellent short Pronunciation Lessons that cover all the sounds of Spanish, with step-by-step instructions on how to produce the sounds. In each lesson, you can then Listen, Record, and Check your pronunciation. It's a fast track to getting a great accent.

COST

Without a subscription, you are limited to one chapter of conversations -- it can be any chapter.

A subscription to the SuperCoco app Spanish is $4.99 a month in the app store. With a subscription, you have access to all the chapters.

Having a monthly subscription may quite motivating: The serious learner will want to pack in as much as possible into a limited time.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • The focus on listening and speaking is very effective.
  • Seeing the spelling right after the audio is a great option.
  • The stories, which are in conversational format, are humorous and use real language.
  • Understanding the meaning is always part of how you learn.
  • The many different topics cover a wide range of vocabulary.
  • You can find a level that challenges you and you can pick and choose topics.
  • The voice recordings are high quality and easy to understand.
  • You're pushed to translate automatically when you hear an English sentence.
  • You get lots of encouragement.
  • We really like the hands-free part. You can listen while cooking, walking, commuting, etc.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • SuperCoco is currently available only for Apple devices with iOS 8.2 or later.
  • There's no setting for listening to a Spanish conversation in its entirety.
  • You cannot record and play back your own voice to check your pronunciation.
  • At this time, there's no reading and writing practice.
  • You don't get alternative translations.

CAN YOU LEARN WITH the APP FROM ZERO SPANISH?

I believe so, but since my Spanish was at an intermediate level before I started testing the app, I don't have an objective answer for that.

In my experience, the combination of hearing, repeating, and understanding the meaning of the foreign words and sentences is essential for learning a new language.

In any case, I can recommend SuperCoco as an excellent resource for learning and practicing Spanish.

In combination with other language courses and sites, including Gamesforlanguage, our affiliates, (Lingualia, LanguageZen, Lingohut, Benny Lewis, Mosalingua), Duolingo or other free or fee-based online courses and apps, you'll progress for sure.

Using more than one resource will help you stay interested and motivated. Once you have progressed beyond the basics, choose articles or books with topics that interest you for reading, podcasts for listening comprehension, language-exchange partners for conversations, etc.

In all, SuperCoco is a powerful learning tool that's fun, versatile, and easy to use. Whether using it alone, or adding it to whatever else you're learning with, you're bound to level up your Spanish.

That's true especially for your pronunciation, your listening comprehension, and fluency in speaking. To be contacted about new levels that are added, write to Larkwire: advanced@supercocoapp.com

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: GamesforLanguage has no business relationship with SuperCoco, except for having participated in some beta testing and receiving the app for free. Certain links above are to affiliates' programs with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase or subscribe.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"El Perdón" – Learning Spanish With a Song

Nicky-Jam-Enrique-Iglesias-Listening to Spanish songs, first with the lyrics, and then without, is a great way to absorb words, phrases, and even grammatical structures.

In one of our first posts on learning a foreign language with a song, we chose La Paloma, a song which originated in 1861 in Cuba.

Now listen to a much more recent song, "El Perdón," co-written and co-performed by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias, both popular singers in the Latin pop scene.

"El Perdón" became a smash hit upon its release in 2015. The official Spanish YouTube video has had over 650 million views at this time.

The Creators

Nicky Jam (Nick Rivera Caminero) was born in Boston MA, USA in 1981, but moved to Puerto Rico at the age of ten. For the Wiki-bio in Spanish click HERE.

Enrique Iglesias (Enrique Miguel Iglesias Preysler) was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1975. At age 11, he was sent to live Miami for security reasons. (His grandfather had been kidnapped by the Basque ETA.) See his English Wiki-bio HERE.

You can of course listen to a song in a foreign language and never get the lyrics. That's fine. Music can be enjoyed on its own.

But songs can also be a great language learning tool if you pay attention to the lyrics to understand their meaning. So, what makes music such a powerful way of getting language into your brain? It's because songs combine melody, rhythm, and emotion with language. What's on your side is the "earworm" effect. A good song will continue playing in your head.

Listening to songs in a language you're learning:

  • Improves your pronunciation
  • Has you mimic intonation
  • Helps you memorize vocabulary
  • Familiarizes you with idiomatic phrases
  • Lets you absorb grammar structures
  • Gets you into the rhythm of the language

The Lyrics

Listen to the song again and now follow it by reading the lyrics below. How much can you understand?

At the end of the post we have the English translation, so you can check.

El Perdón

Dime si es verdad
Me dijeron que te estas casando
Tú no sabes como estoy sufriendo
Esto te lo tengo que decir

Cuéntame
Tu despedida para mi fue dura
Será que él te llevo a la luna
Y yo no supe hacerlo así

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Eso me está matando oh no

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Como un loco tomando

Es que yo sin ti
Y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta
Esto no me gusta

Es que yo sin ti
Y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta
Esto no me gusta

Vivir si ti, no aguanto más
Por eso vengo a decirte lo que siento
Estoy sufriendo en esta soledad

Y aunque tu padre no aprobó esta relación
Yo sigo insistiendo a pedir perdón
Lo único que importa está en tu corazón

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Esto me está matando oh no

Te estaba buscando
Por las calles gritando
Como un loco tomando oh

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta
Esto no me gusta

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Eso no me gusta
Eso no me gusta

Yo te juré a ti eterno amor
Y ahora otro te da calor
Cuando en las noches tienes frío oh oh, oh

Yo sé que él te parece mejor
Pero yo estoy en tu corazón
Y por eso pido perdón

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta, oh no

Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi
Dime quién puede ser feliz
Esto no me gusta oh yeah, oh

Dicen que uno no sabe lo que tiene hasta que lo pierde pero
(Yo sin ti) Vale la pena luchar por lo que uno quiere
(No puedo vivir así) Y hacer el intento
(No quiero vivir así)

Refreshing a Few Grammar Points

1. Gerundio - the progressive form of a verb describing an ongoing action.

te estas casando - you are marrying (inf. casar)
estoy sufriendo - I am suffering (inf. sufrir)
estaba buscando - I was looking for (inf. buscar)
me está matando - it's killing me (inf. matar)
sigo insistiendo - I keep on insisting (inf. insistir)

2. Adding object pronouns to imperative and infinitive forms.

dime - tell me (imperative form of "decir")
cuéntame - tell me (imperative form of "contar")
hacerlo - to do it (infinitive)
decirte - to tell you (infinitive)

3. Preterito - simple past form of verbs.

fue - it was (inf. ser)
supe - I knew (inf. saber)
aprobó - he approved (inf. aprobar)
juré - I swore (inf. jurar)

Voices and Dialects

Another benefit of using songs is that different singers expose you to different voices, accents, or regional pronunciations. Spanish, especially, has many regional dialects. Interesting reference: 10 Spanish Dialects: How Spanish is Spoken Around the World 

Why would it be important to hear different voices, accents, and dialects in the language you're learning?

Think about it: You're probably never going to speak only with people who sound exactly like the person on in your language program.

Both Enrique Iglesias and Nicky Jam are bilingual, with Spanish first and English learned at the age of 10 or 11.

Comparing Enrique's and Nicky's Spanish, you'll notice some differences in pronunciation.

The Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico is part of "Caribbean Spanish," which also includes the Spanish of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and regions along the East coast of Mexico and Central America.

These are popular destinations both for Americans and many Europeans. Caribbean Spanish "is characterized by elided middle consonants and omitted final consonants, as well as an aspirated ‘r’ that is pronounced like the Portuguese ‘x.’." [10 Spanish Dialects: How Spanish is Spoken Around the World]

You'll definitely hear some of that in Nicky Jam's singing.

English Translation of “El Perdón” - Forgiveness

Tell me if it's true
They told me you are marrying
You don't know how I'm suffering
This I have to tell you

Tell me
Your goodbye was hard for me
Is it that he takes you to the moon
And I didn't know how to do it like that

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
This is killing me oh no

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
Like a crazy drunk

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me who can be happy
I do not like this
I do not like this

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me who can be happy
I do not like that
I do not like that

Living without you, I can't do it anymore
So I came to tell you how I feel
I'm suffering in the loneliness

And even though your dad didn't approve of this relationship
I'll have to keep asking for forgiveness
All that matters to me is in your heart

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
This is killing me oh no 

I was looking for you
Crying out in the streets
Like a crazy drunk oh 

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me, who can be happy
I don't like that
I don't like that 

I promised you eternal love
And now another man gives you warmth
when you're cold at night oh oh

I know he seems better to you
But I'm in your heart
So I'm asking for forgiveness 

It's just that me without you
And you without me
Tell me, who can be happy
I don't like this oh yeah... 

(You without me)
They say you don't know what you have until it's gone but...
(Me without you) It's worth it to fight for what you love
(I can't live like this) And make an effort
(I don't want to live like this)

If you like learning and practicing Spanish with songs, we'd suggest that you try out for FREE Language Zen, a great Spanish language learning site, which uses Spanish songs and their lyrics as part of their program.

You won't find "La Paloma" and "El Perdón," but many contemporary songs on Language Zen. Also read our post "Language Zen" - Learning Spanish - A Review.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a life-long language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagramand leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: Language Zen is a partner site with revenue sharing should you decide to subscribe.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Learning and Practicing Spanish – Language Zen Update

Language Zen home pageRecently, Ulrike reviewed Language Zen - one of our partner sites for learning Spanish. While I had also used it intermittently, I really got into practicing with it during the last several weeks.

I also discovered a few features that are really helpful, but that I had not paid much attention to before.

“Literally” vs. "Meaning”

For translating a sentence, you often have the option to select “literally” vs. “meaning.”not a single man knows it - alternative Spanish translations - Language Zen & Gamesforlanguage.com

For example, to translate “Not a single man knows it.” I was very tempted to start with something like: No un solo hombre ...

However, when I clicked on the “literally” option, it suggested I say: “Not it (male) he knows not one man,” for my translation into Spanish.

And, as ningun had been introduced previously, I remembered that it was the translation for not one. Thus I was able to translate the sentence correctly. Then, when I confirmed my response, I was given the other possible correct answers, i.e. I could also have used “señor” and a different word order.

Using the“Try Again” Option

Earlier, I'd been frustrated when I made a mistake or could not remember a word or form. I finally discovered the benefits of the “Try again” link. Not only can I correct a mistake, but by retyping it correctly (or saying it again, see below) it helps me to remember it better. It also improves my accuracy score.

That woman has something in her hands - Spanish translation - Gamesforlanguage.comA case in point would be translating the following sentence: That woman has something in her hands.”

Using the “literally” option, I see that in Spanish you would not say “her hands” but “the hands.” However, I had forgotten that the Spanish word for “hand” has a feminine gender – although it ends with an “o.”

As I check my answer I both HEAR the correct translation and am informed of my mistake: los is crossed out, and I read las is missing from your answer.

I can now rewrite (or say) the sentence with the correct female pronoun “las.” Not only has it now cemented the correct gender for “la mano” in my mind, but I am also are credited for the correct answer in the progress chart. (Love that!)

Translation Alternatives

As I pointed out above, one other translation alternatives - Language Zen and Gamesforlanguage.comfeature I find particularly helpful is getting translation alternatives for many English sentences. In many other online programs there is often only ONE possible correct answer.

Language Zen gives lots of translations alternatives both for the vocabulary as well as for the word order of a translated sentence.

The screen shot (on the right) for the translation of “Can you (formal) tell me what happened?” shows a whole series of options, including different verb options for  tell, and happened, different word order, etc. 

(You'll also note that I did not conjugate the verb pasar correctly - or, the voice recognition did not like my pronunciation and I failed to correct the shown spelling.)

Lesson Accuracy and Progress

Language Zen accuracy chart - Gamesforlanguage.comOne of the motivating factors for me is the “lesson accuracy” at the end of each lesson. See the screenshot of my last lesson: 98%. I just hate it when I can't get close to a 100%, i.e. a perfect score.

My score tends to slip when I lose concentration and get tired. That is also a good reminder that it's time to stop and do something else.

Under “View Progress,” you'll see the words that I've practiced multiple times (green) Language Zen Progress Chart - Gamesforlanguageand the new words (blue) that were recently introduced.

Clicking on the “View Progress” tab lets me see several other learning metrics and also check how I'm doing in several categories: words, phrases, facts and meanings.

The screenshot on the right shows how my recent re-engagement with Language Zen is reflected in those categories.

Courses – Watching Sports

With the Olympics recently happening, I thought I would check out the “Courses” and the “Watching Sports” topic.

screenshot: which channelIndeed I was learning much relevant vocabulary, e.g. “partido,” “canal,” “defender,” “boletos,” etc.

For the translation of “On which channel is the game?” I had neglected to use the “literally” option (On what channel they GIVE the game?) and promptly made a mistake. Let's hope that I now remember to use “dar” and translate: “¿En qué canal dan el partido?

I also learned that “One has to defend well” translates to “Hay que defender bien.” Again the “literally” translation option (“There is that to defend well”) had given me the clue to avoid a mistake and pick up this idiomatic expression.

Using the Microphone

I'm also using the microphone more often now to enter myLanguage Zen screenshot translations. This is only practical when you are by yourself without much background noise.

The voice recognition is not always perfect as this screenshot (right) shows – it understood my “tienes” as “quieres,” but that is also easy to correct.

I noticed that the system appears to be getting used to my still imperfect pronunciation. Either the system's improving with time, or I'm getting better (or maybe both ...)

In any case, having the translation transcribed speeds up the practice, even considering the necessary corrections. It also lets me do more translations within my daily time quota, currently set to 3 hours per week. (I plan to double this time once I have again completed my 2 daily Scenes of our GamesforLanguage Spanish 1 course.)

At the moment, the transcription of dictated translations does not work on my iPad. It does work in my Android phone and tablet with the Chrome browser. We understand that Language Zen is working on an app, which should fix that issue. 

Learning with Songs

Language Zen song - Julieta VenegasThe idea of learning with songs attracted us first to Language Zen. I have just started taking full advantage of this feature by playing Julieta Venegas' wonderful song Eres para mí (You are for me).

It's not only a great way to learn a Spanish song, but the repetition of phrases and sentences certainly makes you remember certain expressions. 

For example, it will be hard to forget the refrain Eres para mí and its expansion to  eres para  yo soy para ti.

The song feature lets you listen to the song, see the lyrics either in Spanish or in English. (You can switch between either as the song plays.) Then you can click on Start lesson on the lyrics.tus ojos mirandome - Language Zen

After that, you're asked to translate the English words, phrases and sentences of the song into Spanish. Again you can use the microphone and when you check your answer you'll often hear the fragments of the song again.

For example, in Your eyes watching me you'll pay attention the the gerund of mirar and in this, as in many other instances, how Spanish words are linked: mirándome.

I especially like songs with a memorable refrain and melody. Language Zen's selection is still limited, but you may well find a song that you like and that you'll want to learn. And when you do it with the Language Zen song feature, you'll not only learn the song, but also improve your Spanish skills at the same time.

In taking advantage of the various options Language Zen provides, I'm not only enjoying the lessons more, but with my increased accuracy percentage I can also see that I am getting better!

Realizing that I am making progress is definitely an important motivator to continue learning and practicing.

Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: Language Zen is a partner site with revenue sharing should you decide to subscribe.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"Language Zen" - Learning Spanish - A Review

Language Zen - Gamesforlanguage.comLanguage Zen is a language learning site that features Spanish for English speakers. Its home page promises: Language learning without frustration. Personalized to you.

Frustration is sometimes unavoidable when you're learning and are annoyed by your mistakes. However, learning a foreign language with a program that adapts to your learning style and skill level is clearly the way to go.

At the center of Language Zen's program is the algorithm that keeps track of what you've learned and has you redo the phrases and sentences where you made mistakes.

What you learn are the most frequently used words, which Language Zen gathers through data mining” - analyzing thousands of TV transcripts. 

A special feature of Language Zen is that you can learn with songs and use the song lyrics for learning vocabulary. The program promises: The system gets smarter the more you use it. If you learn something through a song or a special course, it will carry over to the rest of the system.

Let's see how it works!

ASSESSMENT TEST

Once you've registered and clicked on Start Learning, you can Select your Level - Language Zendo an Assessment Test to determine your level: Beginner, Beginner Plus, Intermediate, Intermediate Plus, Advanced, Advanced Plus, Fluent, Near Native

To find your level for the test, you're asked to Slide to the right until you don't understand one or more of the Spanish words. [see screenshot, right]

The test is based on translation, always into the target language. For my level, I slid into Advanced Plus. The test of 20 sentences that followed included various verb tenses and idiomatic ways of saying things. I did not come across any uncommon or specialized language. 

For the translations, I could speak or write the answer. An option for a literal cue provided some help. Then, for each answer I got corrections and brief explanation. So I was already learning during the test.

Language Zen start screen - Gamesforlanguage.comAfter completing the test, I was indeed assessed to be Advanced Plus. But that doesn't tell me that everything I did was perfect. It simply means that I'll do my best learning in the advanced language environment. 

Language Zen is a bright, uncluttered, inviting site, and easy to navigate. 

On the Bar on top, you see: Learn, Courses, Music, Review, Blog, Premium

LEARN (or Start Learning)

When you start, you learn at the level you've reached.

There are three types of exercises:

  • Write or speak the translation of a sentence into the target language. Once you've done that, you'll hear the right answer and get corrections. From time to time, you'll get a grammatical hint.
  • Listen to a sentence in the target language and choose the correct translation out of five. Again, you'll see and hear the correct answer so you can check.
  • Match the meanings of 5 words or phrases.

At the end of each section, you'll see your progress.

COURSES (or Special Courses)

Here you have a list of 13 specific topics: Language Zen Courses - Gamesforlanguage.comGreetings, General Education, Travel Essentials, At a Restaurant, Getting Around, Telling Time, The Family, General Shopping, Watching Sports, Dating, Flirting with Girls, Flirting with Guys, and Investing in Startups

With the 4 hours I had done in the Learn” section, I could see the percentage of words that I knew in each of these courses (without yet doing any of the courses).

The last course Investing in Startups caught my eye. The Info Tab tells you: Language Zen is starting its first raise. As a treat for our investors and potential investors, we've built a course to help you talk about investing in the next great Latin American startup.

The learning method is similar to what I've been doing in the Learn” section.

Learning from your mistakes is part of the method:

For example, I translated the sentence I like working with VCs with: Me gusta trabajar con VVCC. (Because I had previously learned that you make abbreviations plural by doubling the letter, as in EEUU (United States).

However, the correct answer is: Me gusta trabajar con VC, which is something I will now remember. Deeper into the course, I also learned the Spanish for VCs - inversores de riesgo.

I really like getting the corrections, sometimes with a brief explanation of why my answer was wrong.

Language Zen Recording - Gamesforlanguage.comRecording the answer is a really cool option.

When you speak your translation, it appears automatically as written. You can still correct the written form before you check it.

However, as with many voice recognition features, this one sometimes doesn't work that well for me.

I spoke the sentence ¿Cuánta pista tienen? (How much runway do you have?) - and the program wrote: autopista kennedy.

My husband, who was listening, commented that maybe my Austrian accent in Spanish didn't go over that well... But then, who doesn't have some kind of accent when learning a foreign language?

I've noticed, though, that the program has become more accepting of my voice, with fewer strange transcriptions. That means it's learning too!

MUSIC (Learn from Music)

I love learning with songs. Because there's lots of repetition, Language Zen Song - Gamesforlanguage.comsongs become a surprisingly effective way to learn vocabulary, idiomatic phrases, grammar structures, and the pronunciation of difficult sounds.

For many language enthusiasts learning the lyrics of a foreign song is a great way to engage both with the music and the language. (No wonder that La Paloma Lyrics - Learning Spanish With a Songis still one of our most-read blog posts!)

For Spanish, 15 songs are listed. Next to the song titles, you see the percentage of its words that you have already learned in another context on the site.

Each song has three Tabs: Learn, Play, Info

The Info Tab lists the Artist, Album, Genre, and Accent: Spanish (Peninsular), Dominican, Honduran, Colombian, Mexican, American, Andalusian (Peninsular), Chilean, Puerto Rican.

By the way, it's a good idea to listen to different accents and dialects in a language. Doing so, trains your ear to hear subtle differences in sound. If you do this consistently, you'll understand native speakers of your target language much better. Especially, if they aren't your standard-accent radio announcer.

The Play Tab takes you to the song. You can listen to it in Spanish and see each of the lines as they're sung either in Spanish or in English.

The Learn Tab teaches you individual phrases that occur in the song (by having you translate or pick a translation out of multiple choice). I noticed that some of the sentences from my other course lesson also showed up, scattered in between.

Language Zen Lyrics lesson - Gamesforlanguage.comYou can also just do a lesson on the lyrics, where you learn individual phrases that go to make up the lines of the song.

As you go along, you get quick grammar tips. For example: As you see the sentence (line of the song) Lo oigo todo es tiempo a small box opens and tells you: When someone or something receives the action of a verb, that someone or something is known as the direct object of a sentence.

As you progress, you'll hear snippets of the song, where the words you're learning occur.

You slowly start building the sentences of the song.

The short phrases are quite easy in themselves, but as you start putting them together into longer sentences, you learn colloquial structures that go beyond literal translation.

If you click on More ... on the bottom of the box, a page of explanation opens, giving you an extensive description of a direct object, including a list of pronoun objects, and a note about word order.

REVIEW

Learning a language effectively depends a whole lot on how you review. Language Zen has some nice features in that department.

On Review you can pull down three options: Progress, Words, Facts

Progress:

This opens a Dashboard that tells you your status: Language Zen Progress screen - Gamesforlanguage.comHow close you're to your weekly goal in hours; what you've learned in numbers and on a graph (Words, Facts, Phrases, Meanings); your streak in days; what level you're on; how many points you've earned.

Words:

This lists all the words and their meanings that you've learned so far.

You can sort by:  Words I Know / Don't Know” and Need / Don't Need to Practice that are Of Any Type or 11 other grammatical categories such as /Verbs /Nouns / Prepositions, etc.

When you see the letter P beside any of the words, it means you need to practice it; a puzzle piece beside it means there's a grammatical fact attached to it.

Facts:

Language Zen grammar explanations - gamesforlanguage.comUnder "Facts", you'll find a list of grammatical points that are explained in the lessons, such as Por vs para, Expressions with Tener,”etc.

You can sort this list the same way as in the Words section. Also, you are given the skill level for each. Clicking on any of the items gives you a brief explanation and examples.

For example, in the screenshot as on the left: they are”, the use of the  verb estar to express conditions (rather than “qualities,” for which “ser” is used) is explained.

COST

Language Zen can be used for free, with ads on the site and limited daily learning.

There are also Premium monthly subscription options, which let you try out the premium version for free for a month before being charged $14.95 for 2 months. Check the Membership Feature Comparison page for the various subscription options. (An option for companies and schools includes custom professional content and group usage metrics.)

What we Like

  • You learn most vocabulary in the context of phrases and sentences.
  • The vocabulary seems practical and useful.
  • The “Special Courses” let you learn and practice what you need or want.
  • Translations are always into Spanish.
  • When translating a English phrase you often get several Spanish options.
  • Choosing the “literally” translation option is often helpful.
  • You can select a slow voice option.
  • Recording your answer gives you an opportunity to speak.
  • The voice recorder seems to learn and adapt to your voice.
  • You choose the level to start (or rely on the assessment test).
  • The recall algorithm of words I missed, seemed to work well.
  • You get grammar points at times, but they are not overwhelming.

Other things to consider

  • The learning and practice is translation based.
  • I did not find any dialogues of conversations (beyond some of the song lyrics).
  • The “Learn” and “Course” module translations are quite demanding; interspersing a song and just reading the lyrics can be relaxing.
  • Language Zen has found a very effective way of using its teaching method for song lyrics. We find the method both engaging and demanding.
  • It really requires you to be on your toes to get the translations correctly – one sure way you are learning!
  • There are no iOS or Android apps yet but we understand that an Android app is in the works, to be followed by an iOS app.
  • Conversations and stories, using a similar method as for the song/lyrics module, are also in development and will be added shortly.

Brief Comparison with Lingualia

In April we reviewed the Spanish program (online and apps) of our partner site Lingualia. Lingualia also uses a learning algorithm and adjusts to your skill level. Here are features in which Lingualia differs from Language Zen: 

  • Lingualia's exercises are all in Spanish (without any English/Spanish translations).
  • Definitions are in Spanish and you are often given Spanish synonyms and antonyms for words you're learning.
  • Each lesson starts with a rapidly spoken dialogue. You can listen to it as many times as you want.
  • If needed, you can click to activate Google translate for dialogues and example sentences (and have to live with the often literal and incorrect Google translations).
  • Grammar points are taught in the form of exercises, with explanations in Spanish.
  • Texts in Spanish and questions for reading comprehension are mixed in.
  • Both the iOS and Android Lingualia apps work well with the online account.

Both sites are good examples for how different programs can be used for developing and practicing different skills.

Which one is more effective for you, may well depend on which method and topics engage you the most. You'll want a site to which you come back again and again to learn and practice - the only sure way to progress.

If translating, special courses and vocabulary, Spanish songs and lyrics, etc. are your thing, then Language Zen will work very well for you.

And you can read about our Update on Language Zen.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of :GamesforLanguage.com. She is a life-long language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagramand leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: The link to Lingualia is to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to subscribe. Gamesforlanguage, LLC had no business relationship with Language Zen when the review was written, other than having received a free subscription for the course. Subsequently, on 6/15/2016, we entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with Language Zen.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun Spanish Language Games Before You Travel

Plaza Major, Madrid - Gamesforlanguage.comAre you planning to travel to Spain or to one of the other Spanish-speaking countries? (Picture left: Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain)

Then practicing your Spanish with these Spanish language games may be for you!

You'll also know from our previous blogposts that learning, at the very least, basic numbers, some essential vocabulary, and common phrases has been very useful to us in travels to countries whose languages we don't speak.

We won't promise that you'll speak Spanish fluently after reading this post and playing the four games. We're convinced, however, that you'll remember some of the words and phrases and will be able to use and pronounce them.

Some Simple Tips

Always say the words and phrases aloud,speaking aloud or if you're on a bus or standing in line, mouth them to yourself, silently. Then when the coast is clear, say them OUT LOUD from memory.

A good way to learn phrases and expressions is to practice them as "chunks," not as a series of individual words.

Some phrases are idiomatic and have a meaning that's quite different from the meaning of the words in it. Learn them as a whole.

Lots of repetition is essential. We rarely learn something just by hearing and saying it once. 

Our mouth has to learn what muscles to use to make the right sounds. The particular combination of sounds that makes up a phrase has to get lodged in our brain. And, our brain has to connect sound to meaning.
No matter what your approach is to learning Spanish, speaking words and phrases out loud and writing them out by hand will help you remember them.

1. Numbers

When you travel to a foreign country, knowing the numbers Word Invaders - Gamesforlanguage.comis a good skill to have. But you need to be able to understand them as well as to say them.

Numbers come in handy for exchanging phone numbers, giving your address, arranging a time to meet someone, buying at a market, paying the bill in a restaurant, buying tickets, making reservations, etc.

In general, knowing the numbers 1-100 will suffice. Spanish numbers are not difficult, all you need is say them enough so they become automatic.

Here's a game to practice the Spanish Numbers in a fun way. ("Word Invaders" screen, above left)

2. Question Words

Spanish Question words Game - Gamesforlanguage.comYou can do a lot with question words to give and get information, either on the personal level or when asking for directions, about opening and closing times, train or bus schedules, etc.

In English, common interrogatives - with the exception of "how" - tend start with "wh-" (when, where, why, who, what, which)

With the exception of "¿dónde?" (where), common Spanish interrogatives have a "k-" sound, which is spelled either as a "q," or a "c-." That's something you have to learn extra.

Also, as question words, these all have an accent: ¿qué?, ¿por qué?, ¿quién?, ¿cuándo?, ¿cuánto?, ¿cuál?, ¿cómo?, ¿dónde?

Here is another Game to practice the most common Spanish question words. ("Snap Cloud" screen, above right)

3. Common Adverbs

Spanish adverbs Game - Gamesforlanguage.comBasic adverbs in Spanish are easy to learn, but they're also easy to confuse. So, it's worth practicing them and hearing them in context.

With adverbs you can add important and precise information to what you're saying, for example, when, why, how, or where something is happening.

To learn or refresh your knowledge of adverbs, play Spanish: 10 Handy Adverbs and/or Spanish: 8 More Adverbs. (See "Word Hero" screen, left)

Note that some of the adverbs in this game can also function as adjectives. But in the sentences that give you the context, we are just using them as adverbs.

4. Everyday Phrases

Learn and practice 8 conversational phrasesSpanish phrase game - Gamesforlanguage.com with this fun and quick game.

You'll be using these phrases often when talking in Spanish - with someone at a party, in a café, at a store, online, on Skype, etc. ("Deal no Deal" screen, right)

Make this your start to remembering phrases and expressions: This way you don't even have to think about grammar.

If you're having fun with our approach and these games, you'll find additional Quick Games for French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.

Or why not try our FREE Spanish 1 course: David en España. With its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn over 600 new words. But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Spain, Mexico, or one of the many other Spanish-speaking countries or regions .

And just maybe you'll also get enchanted by Spanish songs such as “La Paloma”. If “La Paloma's” history interests you, or if you want to learn it's original (Spanish) lyrics, click on La Paloma Lyrics- Learning Spanish With a Song.

You Want to Learn Spanish Fast?

Not everyone will agree with Benny Lewis', the Irish Polyglot's statement: Why Spanish is easy!

But, if you are serious about learning Spanish - and even before you buy or subscribe to any expensive courses, you may want to learn more about Benny's approach.

We can also recommend our other partner site, Lingualia. It is FREE (unless you want to learn faster with the premium version).

We are practicing with Lingualia ourselves and you can read my recent post:"Lingualia" - Learning Spanish (or English) - A Review.

You may not have the time or motivation to learn a language to fluency before traveling.

However, knowing some key vocabulary and phrases will go a long way to making your trip more enjoyable. It will also be quite helpful in many circumstances, and who knows, perhaps get you out of tricky situations.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: The links above are to a partner's program with revenue sharing, if you decide to buy or subscribe.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"Lingualia" - Learning Spanish (or English) - A Review

LingualiaLast month we reviewed “Frantastique,” our first partner site for learning French. Searching for an online language program for learning Spanish that would fit well with ours, we came across Lingualia.

Right from the start we liked some features that are similar to our Gamesforlanguage courses: the context of a dialog with each lesson, coupled with fun and effective ways for practicing words and phrases used in the dialog.

This review is based on Lingualia's Spanish course with English as the teaching/translation language.

(The program also works for teaching English. As with the Spanish course, you have a choice of a number of different teaching/translation languages).

I am learning with the Free version. As part of our partnership agreement, Lingualia provided us also with a free 6-month premium membership, which my husband Peter is using.

I've chosen to use my computer or laptop. (On my iPhone, or iPad, the audio for the dialogues is available only with Premium.)

Similar to Frantastique, an initial test places a learner into a Level ranging from A1 to B2 (according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

You can also choose your own starting level, if you want. I decided to start at the beginning of A1 to see how the course is built up. After his test, Peter was to start at level A2.

THE SETUP: The Dashboard

Clicking on Lingualia or Home gets you to the Dashboard with the choices of Home, Lingu,” Lessons, Challenge, and Activities on the top bar.

The DashboardLingualia dashboard - Gamesforlanguage.com

The dashboard sample (right) shows my current status, i.e. I've completed 35% of Spanish A1, and 41 of 82 “Concepts” - these are words, abbreviations, grammar points, phonetics, etc.

Clicking on “Statistics,” I can see that I am behind in my vocabulary learning and my reading (both of which are accelerated with “Lingu” - see below). 

The “Social” tab lets you compete and connect with other learners – a feature we have not yet taken full advantage of. There you can invite your friends from various other social sites (Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Yahoo) or you can simply send them an email. You can also connect with others on Lingualia by following them.  

LinguLingualia: Lingua - Gamesforlanguage.com

LINGU is your individualized “made-to-measure” teacher that adapts the course to your rate of progress and your level. In the free version, you are limited to learning and practicing 8-10 concepts a day with Lingu. (In the Premium version, you are not restricted.) Lingu prepares you for each of the lessons.

As you do your lessons, Lingu tracks how often you've recalled a certain word or concept. Then, in your practice session with Lingu, you'll review it in different ways until you've mastered it. 

Here are some examples from my recent practice session with Lingu. In one question type, you hear a word - such as, “microondas” - and then select an image that goes with it. If you don't know what the word is, you can get a further clue by clicking on “Theory” - which gives you a definition in Spanish.

It's fun and challenging to see if you understand the Spanish definition. Here's the one for Microondas" [mi.kro.ón.das]:Lingualia: Microondas - Gamesforlanguage.com (s., m.) Horno que funciona por generación de ondas electromagnéticas.” If you want a translation, you click on the beginning of the Spanish sentence - which activates Google Translate. (The Premium version will, in addition, give you an example sentence with audio.)

In another type of question, you are asked to click on the written word that you hear, or even type out the word that you hear. The old technique of dictation still works well. 

In a third type of question, you see a picture with a series of letters that you have to unscramble and type in. The particular picture I just saw was that of the Taj Mahal, and beside it the letters: u o e m n m t o n. The answer is “monumento.”

A fourth type of question would be selecting the definition, in Spanish, of a word, which in this particular Lingu session is “ojo” (eye). The correct definition is “(s., m) Parte del cuerpo que está situada en la cara y que se ocupa del órgano de la vista.” In this case, if you click on the icon “Theory,” you can verify your answer. Again, by clicking on the beginning of the the sentence, you activate Google Translate.Lingualia: text - Gamesforlanguage.com

In a fifth type of question, you're given a text of about 130 words to read in Spanish and are asked a (not always obvious) question about it. You answer by picking one of four responses. In my lesson, I am asked: “Según el texto, los egipcios piensan que los gatos...”

with the answer being: “vuelven a vivir después de la muerte.”

These short reading texts provide you with vocabulary that is richer and in the context of more complicated sentences. You learn to absorb a description, an explanation, a brief argument, etc. and see how language is used to connect ideas. 

LessonsLingualia: Lessons - Gamesforlanguage.com

In Level A1, there are 50 Lessons (10 Units, with 5 Lessons each). Each lesson has a Dialogue in Spanish, 13-15 items of new Vocabulary, a Grammar section, a short Phonetics section, and finally a Checkpoint, which tests you on what you learned in the lesson. 

In the screenshot on your right, you see my summary for Lesson 26. It shows the vocabulary practiced, as well as the 100 Percent score I received when doing the Checkpoint Test. It should be noted that the Dialogue typically contains more vocabulary than practiced in the vocabulary section.

Dialogue: Lesson 26 has a one-minute Dialogue (audio and written): “Esta semana he trabajado mucho.” The Dialogues in general are spoken in fast conversational speed.

You can listen to each Dialogue's sentence also individually and play it as many times as you want. This is a great way to improve your listening-comprehension skill. (Note that the audio the dialogues is not available for the Free version is you're using an app.)

I find that I often need several playbacks before I get the meaning, but it also allows me to pay attention to the language melody. (On the computer or laptop you can now get a Google Translation in the language you choose with a mouse left click.) 

Vocabulary: The individual items of vocabulary are introduced with their definition in Spanish. For example, “derecho” (right/law) is defined as: “(s., m.) Ciencia que estudia las leyes y su aplicacíon.”

Then, when I click on the beginning of the Spanish definiton, I get an English translation (via Google Translate) - “(S., M.) Science that studies the laws and their application.” (Google Translate, of course, is not perfect, but definitely helps for finding the meaning of the Spanish sentence.)

Grammar: Préterito perfecto: regulares (Regular present perfect) You get a simple version of the rule and the conjugation of regular “-ar” verbs. The rule is given in Spanish, and by clicking on the beginning of the sentence, you get the English meaning.

Phonetics: a tongue twister and description of the ñ sound in Spanish. (To play the audio, though, you need a Premium account.)

Checkpoint: You get 15 questions that put to the test what you have learned in the lesson you just completed.

Challenges

You can find people to follow and challenge them to a language duel. Peter and I challenged each other a few times and it was fun who could get the better score.

You'll notice quickly that each question has a time limit, so you don't have time to look up the correct answer, if you are really competitive!

Activities

Here you can practice your writing and have it corrected by other users. (I must confess that I have not taken advantage of this opportunity yet!)

ACCOUNT SETTINGS

You have a number of options: Create a profile (with biography, etc.); Interface language (Español, English, Deutsch); Privacy Settings; Notifications you want to receive (Newsletter, Weekly progress, Lingu challenge alerts, Follow, Accepted invitations, Activities); Subscription information

PRICING

Lingualia is free with registration, and you can sign up here for Spanish or English and try it for free. If it works for you and you want to become a Premium user (see below) look for special offers.

After registration (and until March 31st) you can activate Coupon code GAME25 for a 25% discount by visiting http://www.lingualia.com/coupons/validate/ (The regular monthly subscription rates range from $9.95/month to $24.95/month, depending on the subscription length.)

As a Premium (subscribed) user, you have the following advantages: Faster learning; Access to 15.000 audios to improve pronunciation and understanding; No restrictions when learning with Lingu; All downloads in a PDF file; All these are available on iPhone, iPad, and Android apps; No ads.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • I particularly enjoy the Dialogues (which get longer as you go along). They are conversational, spoken at normal speed. And, I see the text, and can replay the audio as often as I want, line by line.
  • The all-Spanish definitions are great, they get me into an immersion mindset. If I don't understand something, I click on the beginning of the line and get a Google translation into English. (While the Google translations are not always perfect, you will always will get the gist of the meaning.)
  • The exercises are varied, including “write what you hear”; “unscramble the letters” to match a definition or an image; “read a text” and click on the right answer to a question about it; etc.
  • At the end of each lesson you'll do a 15-question Quiz that tests what you've just learned.
  • Lingu helps you to practice words and phrases (“Concepts”) often enough until you've mastered them.
  • You can keep track of what you learned, and go back any time to review.
  • The tests provide immediate feedback and the dashboard lets you review and understand your progress.
  • You come into contact with a wide range of words and phrases, which you hear and practice all in context.
  • I also find the phonetics section with the many similar sounding Spanish words like votar/botar, tubo/tuvo, seta/zeta, rayar/rallar, etc. quite useful.
  • You learn and practice Grammar in small chunks and related to the Dialogues in each lesson. This part has been very helpful and I feel I'm clearly building my grammar knowledge of Spanish.

OTHER POINTS TO CONSIDER

  • To practice your pronunciations, you should repeat everything you hear and read, and imitate the native speakers as best as you can..
  • The standard lessons are short. (Lesson 26 took me 12 minutes.)
  • By trying out Lingualia for free, as long as you want, you can see if it works for you.
  • The subscription (Premium) does add various benefits, including unlimited learning with Lingu and being able to progress as quickly as you want.

I've enjoyed learning with Lingualia. When you use it regularly, discover how to get the Google translations when needed, use the “Theory” icon to help you, or practice some grammar points until you've “got it,” you'll also learn how to tailor each lesson to your individual needs and liking - and, most importantly: your Spanish keeps improving!

Postscript: In a later post I'm describing Reaching Language Fluency - My Experience with Spanish (so far).

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of :GamesforLanguage.com. She is a life-long language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: Links above are to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to subscribe.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Lovers' Language Around the World

Valentine's Day _ Gamesforlanguage.conWe thought our next post would be timely for Valentine's Day by describing how you would say “loving words” in the various languages of our courses, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés.

However, one of the sites we like and linked to before,TakeLessons.com, just published a post with the same topic.

It also let's you learn these love phrases in a few other languages, i.e. Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean.

You never know where and when these phrases can I love you come handy...

So instead of reinventing the wheel, you can just read on and find out How to Say “I Love You” around the World.

In the languages we know, here are a few more "love-related" terms we can think of, including terms of endearment, such as (in English), darling, honey, sweetie, sweetie pie.

German

  • "Ich bin sehr in dich verliebt." - I am madly in love with you.
  • "Ich hab dich sehr gern." - I am very fond of you. (But "gern haben" is not yet "lieben"!)
  • "Ich lieb(e) dich, Schnucki." - I love you, sweetie. [Or, other endearments those "efficient" Germans use: "Schatz, Schatzi" (treasure), or "Schnuckiputzi" (sweetie pie).

Lovers' silhouettesFrench

  • "Je suis fou/folle de toi." - I'm crazy about you.
  • "Je t'aime, mon petit chou." - I love you, sweetheart. (Literally "my little cabbage")
  • "Je t'aime bien." - I like you, I'm fond of you. (Note that here, "bien" tones down your emotion.)

Italian

  • "Ti voglio tanto bene, tesoro." - I love you so much, darling.
  • "Amore a prima vista" or "un colpo di fulmine" - Love at first sight or literally, a bolt of lightning

Spanish

  • "Ti quiero tanto, amorcito." - I love you so, little darling. (literally, little love)
  • "Ti amo, cariño." - I love you sweetheart. (Both "amorcito" and "cariño" are used for both men and women.

If you know of any others, please let us now HERE!

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage.com has no business relationship with TakeLessons.com other than having exchanged blogs. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for further details.

 

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Spanish Nochevieja: Grapes, recalentado et al in Spain, Mexico, Cuba

Feliz nuevo ano 2 - Gamesforlanguage.comSpanish (or Castilian) is the official language in Spain, Equatorial Guinea, and 19 other countries in the Americas.

It is estimated that about 400 million people speak Spanish as their native language and another 70 million as their second language. This makes Spanish the third most spoken language in the world after Mandarin and English (Wikipedia). For a Wikipedia list of countries where Spanish is an official language, click HERE.

While most of the"Nochevieja" (old night) traditions also apply to the other Spanish-speaking countries, we'll mainly focus on Spain, Mexico, and Cuba

Spain

New Year celebration in Spain starts with a family dinner, which often takes place in a restaurant that also offers live music. Towards midnight, many Spaniards go into the streets and to public squares to meet with friends and clink glasses to ring in the new year.

New Year's celebrations are lively, with mostly private fireworks and all kinds of noisemakers. In the town hall, sparkling wine and grapes for good luck are distributed.

In Madrid, people flock to Puerta del Sol for the city's big communal street party.

In Barcelona, Placa Catalunya in the heart of the city, is the place to be.

grapesGrapes

But no matter where they live, Spanish people share the custom of the twelve luck-bringing grapes: at each of the twelve strikes of the midnight clock (the Puerta del Sol clock is televised), you eat one grape and make a wish. At strike 12 all grapes must be gone or else you risk getting bad luck.

The strikes of the town hall clock are 3 seconds apart, so the official countdown starts 36 seconds before the hour. Throughout the country, everyone can watch the countdown on television.

It is said that the custom of the 12 grapes goes back to 1909. In that year grape holderthe grape harvest was overly plentiful and someone had the idea to use up the excess grapes in this way.

I just came across this post which traces the origin of the custom back to 1882 and the mayor of Madrid. (As so often happens, taxes may have had some unintended consequences to create the "grapes-at-midnight" tradition...) 

There are even special 12-grape holders as shown in the picture above.

Red Underwear

Spaniards also believe that wearing red underwear on the last day of the old and the first day of the new year brings the wearer luck, health, and love. Importantly, the undergarment should have been given to you by somebody else. 

I've read that this custom goes back to the Middle Ages when people did not wear red garments. The color of blood was associated with the devil, witchcraft, and evil forces. Women (of pleasure?) who wore red underwear on New Year's Eve, however, were said to find love the following year. They would be lucky in their relationships, attract wealthy men, get married, etc.

(Recently, I learned that the Chinese also believe in the magic powers of the red color. Red underwear is one of the most popular gifts that sweethearts exchange around the Chinese New Year. In 2016, it falls on February 8, when the Year of the Monkey begins. So, just maybe, it was Marco Polo, who brought this superstition to the west around the 1300s...)

Mexico

In Mexico, a family dinner, either at home or at a special restaurant is at the center of New Year's celebrations. Tradition has it that the meal should start with a bowl of lentils, a symbolic promise of wealth and prosperity.

Grapes and Red (& Yellow) Underwear

The preferred drink is often tequila. Shortly before midnight grapes are handed out for the traditional luck-bringing ritual. As in Spain, you should eat a grape and make a wish at each of the twelve strikes of the clock at midnight. The grape tradition seems to have migrated to most other Spanish-speaking countries as well.

Also, in Mexico there is a slight "refinement" from Spain's tradition. Mexicans have to choose what is more important to them: Wearing red underwear lets the owner be lucky in love, wearing yellow underwear makes the owner wealthy in the New Year.

Mayan & Aztec Traditions

This post by Angelica Galicia from 2013, Celebrating New Year's Eve in Mexico, also lists a number of other end-of-the-year traditions dating back to the pre-Hispanic times.

(And, if you'd like to practice your Spanish, you can click on the "Spanish" link, right on top of the text.)

And as Angelica explains:

"...Most assuredly, the custom called el 'recalentado' (the 're-heated') is a long-standing tradition rooted throughout Mexico, quite in keeping with the festive and generous character of the Mexicans and also with the abundant and delicious national gastronomy. It consists simply of sharing the next morning what was left over from the dinner with either the same or other guests. It is said that the recalentado is even more delicious than the dinner itself …"

Cuba

Cubans also continue with the Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes before midnight.

But they added others that are to give the New Year a fresh start: The Año Viejo doll - burning of a doll, is meant to help forget (burn!) the bad things that happened in the past; and throwing water on the street (watch out!), similarly, gets rid of bad memories and/or drives out bad spirits.

Many Spanish-speaking countries and communities have added other traditions. However, the grape-eating ritual before midnight seems to be quite universal.

But wherever you are, from midnight on, it's time for toasts, hugs, and well-wishing, champagne, cider (Cuba) or other libations, and often noisemakers and fireworks!

 

1 2 3 4 5   > >