Spanish

Why you should consider learning Portuguese if you already speak Spanish

picture of brazilIf you like languages and are considering picking up a third, check out Portuguese(Brazilian)! It’s a really cool language and if you already know Spanish, it’ll seem so much easier! The pronunciation is different but the grammar and vocabulary are super similar! Here are a few reasons to consider it:

Between 80-95% of Portuguese and Spanish are similar

I couldn’t find a credible source to cite this fact but I researched it as best as I could and the numbers varied but the point is Spanish and Portuguese are VERY similar. My professor once said that 80% of the grammar is similar but then after googling around, some people said 89% of the vocabulary was similar. I’m not too sure which it is BUT there are several similarities- enough to make the process 100x easier learning it as a third language.

Portuguese is the official language in 9 countries(plus 1 “place” where it’s the official language along with Cantonese)

In the following countries, Portuguese is listed as the official language:

  • Brazil
  • Portugal
  • Mozambique(in Africa)
  • Angola(in Africa)
  • Guinea-Bissau(in Africa)
  • Equatorial Guinea(in Africa)
  • Cape Verde(island off the coast of West Africa)
  • East Timor(island near Australia)
  • Sao Tome and Principe(islands near coast of West Africa)
  • Macau(technically not a country, part of China but special)

So if you learn Portuguese, it gives you a reason to visit all these countries and islands and even Macau, the “Special Administrated Region of the People’s Republic of China!” I think it’s so cool that Portuguese is one of the official languages there. It makes me really want to go there.

Speaking three languages will increase your job opportunities

This one is pretty obvious but the fact that you speak Spanish AND Portuguese could really help you especially if you’d like to work for a company that deals with clients from around the world. Instead of having to hire a Spanish and a Portuguese speaker, they could just hire YOU! Or, if you don’t like the jobs you’re finding as a bilingual Spanish-English speaker, maybe you’ll find one you like as a bilingual Portuguese-English speaker? You never know!

Unlike Spanish, you only really need to know three verb forms when conjugating

In Portuguese, you will only really need to know these conjugations:

  • I- eu
  • you/he/she/us- você/ele/ela/a gente
  • them, you all- eles/elas/vocês

So the main difference is that instead of using a separate nós form, in Brazil, they typically use a gente which is conjugated the same way as you, he, she, and us.  That’s also really awesome especially if you’re used to learning 5 or 6 different conjugations in Spanish. Now, you only have to learn 3!

Hopefully some of this information was new to you or you enjoyed reading this post! I decided to share it because I love learning languages. I’m also learning Portuguese and wanted to share this information because maybe you’ll find it helpful or interesting! Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts below! 🙂

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Sharing Arizonian culture with SUSI exchange students from South America

joel vega y thomas de bolivia y peru

[Photo of Thomas on the left and Joel on the right from cultural presentation]

Tomorrow, Joel and Thomas, two new friends, along with 18 other exchange students from South America will head to the East Coast to and to Washington D.C. for two weeks after having spent the last three weeks learning about the culture in Arizona and attending classes here at the University of Arizona.

The 20 students are participating in a program called SUSI(Study of the U.S. Institutes) for Student Leaders. They come from Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay and range in age from 18-26. None of them knew each other before coming here and they all come from different places.  The programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with the purpose to “promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars.” The University of Arizona regular hosts these programs twice a year. The students visited Nogales, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Sedona and a few other parts of Arizona, I believe.

I happened to find the opportunity by chance during winter break when I received an email from one of the directors of the program here at the U of A who was looking for mentors. I remembered I had signed up for the Latin American Undergraduate email list and that was the reason the email landed in my inbox.

I received a spot as a mentor and was paired with Joel from Bolivia and Thomas from Peru for the three weeks that they spent here at the U of A.

We hung out together a few times in Tucson, maybe once or twice a week. I introduced them to friends here one night and brought them to my dorm one evening to show them what it’s like living on campus.

My favorite part was showing them around Phoenix last weekend. Since my car is broken, my dad let us drive his Polaris Ranger. I brought them to my high school and my elementary school and also around that neighborhood to show them where I grew up as a kid. I think they really enjoyed it because they could compare what they saw in movies to real life and see what an “American” high school and elementary school actually look like.

I also introduced them to Arizona burritos(an extremely delicious fast-food burrito from Federico’s), horchata(a sweet drink made of rice), AND Girl Scout cookies-specifically “Thin Mints” that take your tastebuds to heaven. My mouth waters just thinking about pulling one out of the freezer at home and munching on it-MMMM!

From participating in this program as a mentor, from my own experiences and from what I’ve learned at the university, I have realized that the media misrepresents the United States and other countries around the world, which is why first-hand cultural experience is so important and valuable. By learning about a culture for ourselves, we deconstruct the generalizations and presumptions that we hold within ourselves as a result of listening to the media, or one story.

I hope the U of A continues to host these types of exchange programs so I can contribute to improving the cultural experience for the students to come. I also recommend to anyone, student or non-student, to check out the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs website because there several ways to get involved with these programs or to even visit another country as the exchange student. It’s a great way to open up your mind and even learn a little bit more about your culture and yourself 🙂

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Spanish Pronunciation Tips For English Speakers

To start off, check out this video- it’s called “Things that Americans say in Spanish” and it’s actually hilarious because many of us start speaking Spanish like this.

I mentioned before that I was taking a Spanish Phonetics class and I’m really enjoying it! It’s helpful for improving my pronunciation and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned to help anyone else trying to improve their accent in Spanish.

Shorten your vowels: make them short and quick

In English, we tend to lengthen vowels while Spanish vowels are short and quick. For example, if you pronounce the name “Sue” you’ll notice that the vowel is “glided off” so to speak and extended. Now if we say the word “su” in Spanish, it’s supposed to be short and abrupt. Another example would be the English word “see” vs. the Spanish word “sí.” The English word is glided off while the Spanish is short and abrupt.

Round and tense up your lips when pronouncing the Spanish [u] and [o] vowels

In English, our lips tend to be more relaxed when pronouncing these two vowels than in Spanish. If you pucker up your lips when you pronounce a word like “su” and make them tense, you’ll notice a difference than when you pronounce the name “Sue” in English. Your lips will be more tense and you’ll sound more like a native speaker.

Stretch and tense up your lips when pronouncing the Spanish [e] and [i] vowels

When you pronounce the word “sí” you should stretch your lips as far as you can and make them tense and you’ll notice the difference. You’ll notice the same thing with the [e] vowel when you say the word “de.” You can fill your lips stretching and you produce a more native-like sound.

In my opinion, pronunciation is a key part of speaking a language fluently. Of course, there will certain sounds that you can’t pronounce(like the “rr” in Spanish for me) but I still believe that it’s important to recognize the phonetics of the language that you’re learning almost as a form of respect.

Well, hope this tips helped! Feel free to comment and any more tips that you know! 🙂

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Reflection on Study Abroad in Buenos Aires: Lessons Learned

joe previte sitting on a mountani in mendoza argentinaI am finally back in Arizona and couldn’t be happier to see my family and friends. I’ve really missed the beautiful desert and the amazing scenery that surrounds me here in Phoenix. After living in the metropolis Buenos Aires for almost six months, I appreciate the suburbs and the proximity to mountains and desert more than ever. Now that I’m back, I’ve had a chance to look over my journal and review a few of the lessons I’ve learned from studying abroad and living in Buenos Aires for the semester. I’ve highlighted the most important ones I’ve taken away from my trip below:

Focus on the now

I didn’t realize it before but I’m the type of the person who is always thinking about the future. I’m always planning what I’m going to do next weekend, next semester, next summer, etc. I like to plan because it’s fun. It’s exciting to pump myself up of the fact that I’m spending the weekend in California with my family or visiting my friends but what I didn’t realize was that thinking about the future can and does take away from the present. If I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to do next, how can I enjoy what I’m doing now? What I’ve learned to do is to plan whatever I need to plan and then push that thought away so that it can’t consume the attention I should be paying on the present. It can be difficult at times but I think it’s important and I’m trying focusing on the now, now and the later when it comes.

There is no need to rush

I learned that I sometimes put myself in situations where I rush myself to complete 500 tasks in one sitting. This kind of has to do with “having too much on my plate,” which I’ll explain more later but the idea is to slow down sometimes. I think I’ve taken the idea of relaxing a little and not rushing from being immersed in the Argentine culture while abroad. I mentioned this in a blog post but I’ll say it again- from my experience, Argentinians don’t rush. They don’t know when the bus is coming or the subway, it’s okay if someone isn’t right on time, and lunch/dinner/dates/meeting up with friends may last three hours. I realized this last semester when I completed a course assignment where I tracked how I spent my time during the week and learned that I rushed myself every time I ate breakfast, lunch or dinner.  There is no need to rush though. I don’t need to be watching a movie for homework, or reading an article or doing SOMETHING every time I’m eating. Instead, I’ve learned to hit the brakes and take my time when eating a meal, having a conversation with a friend or simply getting ready in the morning.  There’s a Chinese proverb I read in a book I’m reading called The Three Pillers of Zen that says, “Eat when you eat. Walk when you walk.” I try to always remind myself of it when I feel the desire to multitask or speed up things. It’s true. No one ever said you had to rush yourself. However, I try to do too many things at once or put much on my plate, I’m going to find myself scrambling and stressing out, which simply isn’t necessary nor healthy for me.

It’s not always good to have a “full plate”

I mentioned this idea earlier but I wanted to touch back on it because it’s an important lesson I’ve learned. It’s not always the best idea to have several commitments in your life. This didn’t hit me until I realized that I simply didn’t have time to work, study, volunteer and invest in the culture and language in Argentina. Yes, I needed to work because I needed money. Yes, my main priority was to study but I didn’t have a balance at first. I wanted to practice my Spanish all day, every day but also work and have money to spend while abroad but I felt overwhelmed. I’ve realized that if I do all of these things, then I have to sacrifice other areas- like spending time with friends and investing in friendships. If I’m spending 90% of my time studying and working and only 10% with my friends, then I’m not going to be able to become close with my friends. I now know that I shouldn’t try and cover my plate without first thinking about how it will affect the rest of the time I have and how else I’d like to spend my time. Overall, I’ve learned to not commit to more activities than I can handle while still being able to maintain and invest in friendships.

It’s better to have 1 close friend than 10 acquaintances

I had never really considered this until this trip. I’ve always had acquaintances and friends who I’ve hung out with a few times but I never thought about the level of friendship I have with people. I met really amazing people in Argentina but didn’t spend as much time with them as I wish I would have. Yes, I was busy but of course I could have made time- I just didn’t. I realized at the end of the trip that I can meet people once or hangout with them a few times but if I don’t invest into the friendship and make sacrifices to see them and get to know them that they won’t last. For me, I’d rather have a close group of friends that I know well who I enjoy spending time with and who enjoy spending time with me rather than acquaintances who I only know on a shallow level.

Life is beautiful outside

One of the best wake-up calls I received during this trip was the idea that life is beautiful outside. I remember as a kid, watching commercials or PSAs where a kid sits on a couch and watches another kid playing outside and then it pans out and the exact same tree is outside his house yet he decides to watch it on TV instead of going outside to play. Being the type of person that loves playing sports, I never considered the idea that maybe I spend too much time on the computer or inside. However, after becoming friends with a girl named Allie through my girlfriend, I realized I do spend most of my time on the computer and that I’m missing out on the world outside. As much as I love technology and learning on the internet, I don’t want to spend the majority of my day sitting in front of a screen when I should be outside enjoying life and nature and all the wonderful things and people.

The future doesn’t need to be set in stone

Last lesson that I learned is that the future doesn’t need to be set in stone just yet. By that mean, I don’t have to have my life figured out or know exactly what I want to do for a living after I graduate. I remember hearing that when you go abroad for an extended period of time, you figure out what you really are passionate about in life and how you should spend the rest of your life but I still feel ambivalent about the path I want to take. With this trip though, I’ve learned that I don’t need to know yet and there is absolutely no reason to stress right now. All I want to do is focus on dabbling in various fields to figure out where I’ll be the happiest.

Well, that’s it for this post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that you’re convinced to study abroad or at least live abroad. I believe that it’s something everyone should do. Not just for themselves, but to learn, explore, and grow.

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13 Weeks: Language Differences

Just passed the 13 week mark for time spent living in Buenos Aires. I have about 60 days left before I come home. It sounds like a lot but it feels like it’ll be here tomorrow. In this post, I want to share a few differences I’ve noticed about the Spanish language from being immersed in it and the culture these past three months.

Spanish syllables are sometimes more than one syllable

I realized this when I tried to pronounce the name of one of the largest oil companies in Argentine, YPF. At first I pronounced it like I would pronunce an English acronym- by the letters(in Spanish, of course), which sounds like igriega-pe-efe. Then I thought to myself, “Why is it that in English we can pronounce acronyms so much faster?” I said the alphabet in my head and realized, “Oh! In English, all the letters in the alphabet are more syllable, except for w.” I had never considered before but I found it fascinating afterwards.

Matafuego, paraguas, and parabrisas are constructed similarly

These words mean “fire extinguisher,” “umbrella,” and “windshield.” What amuses me is these words are put together in Spanish.

  • matafuego can be thought of as mata, which means “kill,” plus fuego, which means “fire” So it’s like you’re saying, ” the thing that kills the fire.”
  • paraguas and parabrisas can be thought of the same way- para means “stop” plus agua, which means “water” gives you, “the thing that stops water” and brisa means “wind” or altogether, “the thing that stops wind.”

Even though in English, you could say the same thing about “fire extinguisher” and “windshield,” the words in Spanish stuck out more because the verbs matar and parar seem to be more commonly used in Spanish than the words “extinguish” and “shield” in English.  Also, I might add that I’m more attentive  when it comes to learning words in Spanish than in English because I learned Spanish from scratch.

That’s it for this post! Feel free to add any thoughts or comments below! 🙂

Thoughts on language skills after two months in Buenos Aires

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So this week marks two months right on the dot(60 days or so) and I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s post to what has helped my Spanish language skills and what I need to work on.

What has helped

Meeting people before coming here and meeting more people through the internet

Before I came here, I knew more or less 10 people. Those are the people who I’ve been able to practice my Spanish with and who I’ve learned the most from. It’s seems easier to meet people on the internet or at an event than at the university(opposite of what I expected).

Watching movies, TV shows, and listening to the radio in Spanish

Even after practicing with an Argentinian for eight months before arriving here, I still have had trouble in these first two months with listening and understanding everyone that speaks to me. However, I’ve watched a few Argentine movies and a few episodes of a TV show called Solamente Vos, which have both helped A LOT. I also try and listen to the radio every day and either listen to music or talk shows. Both also have helped a lot.

Dedicating one day a week to English

I think before I came here I was expecting everything to immediately translate/change into Spanish. Obviously, that’s not the case! My parents and friends still speak to me in English, my Facebook feed is still mostly English, etc. etc. But, I’ve empirically learned that if I dedicate one day to English-phone calls to friends and family, writing on my blog, reading in English-it’s easier for me to focus on and think in Spanish.

Living with a host family as oppose to by myself

I hadn’t thought much about this before hand but I’m really glad I found a family to rent a room from off Craigslist. I am forced to speak Spanish whenever I’m at home which has had positive effects on my speaking skills.

Trying to only speak in Spanish with my American friends

This has been a challenge since I’ve been here. It’s hard because when I’m with a group of Americans, the majority of the time I’m speaking English. What has helped though is speaking to any Americans I meet in Spanish and giving off the vibe that, “Hey, I only want to speak in Spanish.” Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t but at least trying to do it has helped me improve my language skills.

What I need to work on

A system for learning new words and phrases

I’m still trying to find a system that will serve me best to learn new words and phrases. Everyday, there is a word that I don’t know in Spanish but need during a conversation. The one idea I came up with just recently is to write down the words that I want to know in Spanish in my journal before  I go to bed and then look them up the next night and study them before I write my next journal entry. I don’t know if it will work but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Speaking more with locals

Like I mentioned above, it’s easiest to meet Argentinians on the internet for me. I’ve been searching for more events such as concerts or festivals and meetups to meet more people but I have yet to actually go. I need more practice with natives because it’s the best way to improve my speaking skills.

Reading and pronunciation

I should be reading a little bit everyday because it’s a great exercise for learning new vocabulary and phrases and recognizing grammar structures. I also need to work on my pronunciation because I still have difficulty with some sounds in particular.

Of course there are other aspects I need to work on regarding my Spanish but these are the ones I believe I should focus on to achieve fluency the fastest. If you have any tips or thoughts, feel free to share them! 🙂

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P.S.- For fun and to see my progress with the language, I’ve recorded videos of me speaking in Spanish and plan to record more throughout the remainder of my study abroad.

20 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/9WXYFaCdgHc

8 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/uGHpFKGajVk

5 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/CVHvfydx5CA