Learning the Spanish Language — Project Day 38

I've done next to no Spanish work for 4 days. My first significant slump since beginning the project in mid-late December. The usual evaluation applies — could have done better, but could also have been much worse.

It's worth remembering the characteristics of this particular slump:

  • No motivation, lethargy, exhaustion
  • Cold-flu symptoms, torso pain
  • Cold, dark, grey weather — cycled in the only 1hr sunny break
  • Half spent teaching — other half thinking about teaching
  • Slump unexpected — no preparation to manage it
  • Poor sleep and nutrition — but neither terrible

I spent hours trying to turn these observations into a proper diagnosis and progrnosis. But after 250-300 words, I noticed that the light was falling and I'd still not ridden or studied any Spanish. So I've 'cut the crap', moved it to a separate draft article, and decide to get on with 'action not yap'.

Prepositions — Position in the Sentence

English often puts a preposition at the end of sentences, e.g. "where are you from?". This won't happen in Spanish.

Spanish is more likely to put prepositions at the beginning, e.g. "de donde eres?" — although, obviously not when the verb requires a specific preposition as a suffix.

Deriving the Infinitive from Adjectives

Recent LT recordings have focused on using the past participle as an adjective with 'estar'. Today, that prompted Mahalis into an aside, reminding me that we can also work backwards from an adjective to a previously unknown verb infintive.

In this case, he asked the student to derive 'unir' from 'Estados Unidos'. The trick being, to make an educated guess to leap from an '-ido' participle end to an infinitive which could end in '-er or '-ido'. And the 'educated' bit being based on the Spanish you've heard before, without necessarily paying it much attention.

Obviously, I was already familiar with 'unir' in Spanish, 'unir' in French, 'unire' in Italian and 'to unite' in English. So there really wasn't much guessing for me, in this case. And I've applied this 'working backwards from the article' technique in other languages — intuitively, without ever being explictly taught to use it.

Nevertheless, today's LT session provided yet another useful reminder of a tool to keep at hand — and a reminder to do more non-instrumental reading, to increase my opportunities for deploying it.

An Imperfect Ir

I struggle to remember the imperfect tense of 'ir' — despite the fact that it's trivially easy to conjugate, once you have the stem.

I'm pretty sure that this is a case of negative language transfer. Where the Italian and French versions 'andavo' and 'allais' steer me away from the 'i' sound.

LT provides useful way to recover the correct path. By starting from the idea that you are usually going to attach -aba or -ía to the stem to create the 'yo' form. It's not a great leap from that to 'iba', 'ibas', 'ibamos', etc. — since you need to retain something of the 'ir' infinitive (the 'i') and you semi-automatically remember encountering 'iba*' previously.

Another way to remember is by thinking of the sound similarity between 'va' and 'iba' or 'vas' and 'ibas'.

Translation Exercise on Demonstrative Pronouns

A powerful illustration of why you need to keep working at languages every day. In this case, four days passed between reading the lead-up to the exercise and actually doing the exercise — so I'd forgotten its purpose.

I got most of the points being tested correct. But, in addition to the usual incidental errors, I made three errors of substance. I omitted 'esto' twice, because it wasn't really necessary to communicate the meaning of the sentence ― but practising use of the neuter demonstrative was one of the key purposes of the translation.

My incidental errors are worth noting, because they are habitual and need correcting:

  • Wrote Italian 'che' instead of Spanish 'qué' — twice!
  • Missed accent off 'e' in almost every case of 'éso', 'ésa', 'ése', etc.
  • Forgot to match gender and number on one participle adjective following 'estar'
  • Used 'desafortunadamente' after exercise vocab had signalled 'desgraciadamente'

That said, the omission of 'esto' is actually a good sign. Ommiting unnecessary context is exactly what you should do in speech and most writing — saves time and keeps the narrative flowing, without losing any of the meaning.

Weather—hacer, estar

Today I discovered why I never know when to use hacer vs. estar to describe weather. It turns out, that there's no rule for that — you literally have to memorize which of the two verbs goes with the weather characteristic you want to describe.

That said, there is a rule about how they combine:

  • Hacer + noun
  • Estar + adjective or gerund

I scored 100%, with no errors of any kind, on the relevant exercises. But that's because they were very poor questions, that only invited hace-based answers.

Realistically, learnt nothing from doing the exercises, but the preamble did alert me to another discrete item to think about, and the combination 'rule'.


I did a set of exercises on this verb, purely because I felt that the weather exercises were too trivial to merit a tick on the task checklist.

As it turns out, they were just as trivial — only more annoying, because most referred to sports that only 'mercans play. I did, at least, get the one slightly tricksy question right. And it did tempt me to check up on whether the preterite stem was as I'd guessed — it was, 'jugué'.

Verbs that Take the Preposition 'en'

The 'en' usually translates to 'in' or 'on' — e.g. "confiar en", "insistir en". But one of the most frequently used cases is "pensar en" ― where it translates to 'about'. And a few cases are idiomatic.

One interesting case is 'quedar en' — to agree to something, or to agree to do something. Yet another use of 'quedar', which reminds me that I need to identify a bunch of such generic, all-purpose, verbs and work on them. 'Llevar/llevarse looks like another one — although not one that requires 'en'.

My performance in exercises on this topic followed the usual pattern of success on the substance, accompanied by a few incidental errors. Errors worth noting:

  • Forgot 'tocar' = 'play' for musical instruments
  • Used 'mojarse en' instead of 'meterse en' — other people's problems
  • Said 'se vee' — should have been 'se ve'
  • Said 'consultar' — should have been 'consultar a'
  • Said 'donar' — should have been 'donar dinero'
  • A couple of gender agreement errors — 'el mes', 'la Sociedad'
  • One subject number error — 'chismea' should have been 'chismean'

Learning Tasks Checklist

Task M T W T F S S
Word/phrase aural+oral
Sentence aural+oral
Socratic aural+oral
Verb exercises
Pronoun exercises
Preposition exercises
Physical exercise
Non-subbed video
Subbed video
Research lang. learning
List 'issues'
Prepare materials

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