El español es uno de los idiomas más aprendidos del mundo. Sin embargo, tiene sus dificultades, especialmente9 para los hablantes nativos de inglés. (Spanish is one of the most widely learned languages in the world. However, it has its difficulties, especially for native English speakers.)
Let’s take a look at four of the biggest challenges, what you can do to overcome them, and learn Spanish with ease.
Soy Maura de Spring Spanish, y este es el reto número uno: (I’m Maura from Spring Spanish, and this is challenge number 1:)
1. Tiempos verbales (Verb tenses)
Vale, vamos a empezar con lo más famoso. La ridícula cantidad de tiempos verbales que existen en español. (Okay, let’s start with the most famous. The ridiculous amount of verb tenses that exist in Spanish.)
To give you an idea of the complexity, the verb tenses and moods in Spanish exist as:
- Pretérito imperfecto
- Futuro simple
- Condicional simple
- Pretérito perfecto compuesto
- Pretérito pluscuamperfecto
- Pretérito anterior
Confused yet? The important thing to remember is that not even we use all of them all the time. In fact, there are several that we rarely use! Learning Spanish can be easy or hard, depending on what you focus on. You can check out Mariana’s video if you want to know how easy it can be, and Maria Fernanda’s if you want to understand why it is so hard sometimes.
Sure, learning all the conjugation tables is a headache, but that’s not what we do at Spring Spanish. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mi idea es ayudarte a navegar estos tiempos sabiendo qué priorizar y que no. (My idea is to help you navigate these tenses by knowing what to prioritize and what not to.)
Here are the ones I recommend you focus on, with some examples:
- Present: Yo soy artista. (I am an artist.)
- Past: Yo fuí rebelde. (I was rebellious.)
- Future, which is actually a present tense: Yo voy a ser feliz para siempre. (I’ll be happy forever.)
- Conditional: Yo sería más fuerte, si me ejercitara más. (I’d be stronger, if I exercised more.)
We have separate Spring Spanish lessons for these tenses, so I recommend you check them out here.
Tips for learning the tenses
Ahora, unos consejos para seguir navegando los tiempos: (Now, a few tips to keep navigating the times:)
1. The future is a good tense to make emphasis on. Note how to talk about the future in Spanish, we almost always use the expression voy a (I’m going to), which is actually a present tense, instead of iré (I will), which is the official future tense.
Voy a (I’m going to) is extremely useful because you don’t even have to conjugate the verb after. It is always followed by a verb ending in “R”. Voy a comer (I’m going to eat), voy a salir (I’m going to go out), voy a llamar (I’m going to call). Y, como te comenté antes, es nuestro futuro más común. Como este chunk, tenemos muchos más. (And, as I told you before, it is our most common future. Like this chunk, we have many more.) I know you already know, so remember to check the link in the description to access them with our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit.
2. It is a better idea to focus on expressions that start with yo (I) rather than trying to cover all the pronouns at the same time: Yo voy a salir (I’m going to go out), yo iba a salir (I was going to go out), etcetera. Then you can get used to removing the yo (I) which is more natural in Spanish.
3. Don’t learn lists of verbs. I mean, you can if you want to, but, you know what I mean. My advice is that you focus on noticing the patterns in which verbs usually end. For example, English -ing verbs correspond to -ando, -endo in Spanish.
- Te estaba llamando. (I was calling you.)
- Me estoy muriendo de hambre. (I’m starving.)
Por último, practica repetir lo que escuchas, tal cual como aprendiste inglés. (Finally, practice repeating what you hear, just as you learned English.) Sabrás que algo es correcto porque lo has escuchado muchas veces de esa forma. (You’ll know something is right because you’ve heard it that way many times.) Sin necesidad de que sepas qué es un pretérito pluscuamperfecto. O sea, nadie que yo conozca sabe lo que eso es, y aun así lo usan. Mantén eso en mente. (Without needing to know that a past perfect tense is. I mean, no one I know knows what that is, and yet they still use it. Keep that in mind.)
2. Género y adjetivos (Gender and adjectives)
Ok, entiendo perfectamente que te parezca absurdo que los objetos tengan género. (Ok, I totally understand that you find it absurd that objects have gender.) Therefore, do not try to find logic in it. It is absolutely arbitrary.
Rather, get used to recognizing the names of things always with their article. In this way, the association will be created from the moment you learn the name of the object. For example, instead of remembering the word zapato (shoe) remember:
- El zapato (The shoe.)
Not taza (cup) but:
- La taza (The cup.)
- El, for masculine.
- La, for feminine.
For more tricks, you can check Maria Fernanda’s video on the subject. Eventually it’ll be possible for you to notice patterns like:
Most objects ending in “A” are feminine, and most objects ending in “O” are masculine.
- El carro (The car)
- La casa (The house)
- El perro (The dog)
- La puerta (The door)
La mano y el día son de las excepciones más comunes. (“The hand” and “the day” are among the most common exceptions.)
On the other hand, some endings like -ción, -tud, -sión and -dad are always feminine:
La comunicación es importante.
(Communication is important.)
La actitud correcta es igual de importante.
(The right attitude is just as important.)
La igualdad es un derecho.
(Equality is a right.)
La decisión es necesaria.
(The decision is necessary.)
There are other short words like lo that are not articles, even if they look like it. Stay untill the end if you want to find out what this little word actually does.
Okay, now, what about adjectives? Those little words that tell if something is pretty, long, hot, or yellow. In English, they don’t change, no matter the object. In Spanish, they do.
So, if an object is masculine like el vaso (the glass), its adjective, which comes right after, must also be masculine. For example:
- El vaso lleno. La taza llena. (The full glass. The full cup.)
- La silla amarilla. El cojín amarillo. (The yellow chair. The yellow cushion.)
- La chaqueta negra. El bolígrafo negro. (The black jacket. The black pen.)
Todo esto tiene excepciones, pero mientras más chunks como estos uses, más podrás toparte con las excepciones de forma natural y registrarlas como nuevos chunks. (All of these have exceptions, but the more chunks like these you use, the more you will be able to come across the exceptions naturally and register them as new chunks. )
3. Ser y estar (To be)
Turning the verb “to be” into two verbs in Spanish doesn’t have to be unpleasant. I promise you. Let’s go through several chunks together so you can split these two concepts in your head.
The biggest division starts with the idea of location. Ask yourself, am I talking about location? As in:
- Estoy en casa. (I am at home.)
- El gato está en su cama. (The cat is in his bed.)
- Margarita está en Venezuela. (Margarita is in Venezuela.)
If the answer is yes, then use estar.
The next question is: Am I talking about a permanent or temporary condition?
Está lloviendo mucho.
(It is raining a lot.)
Y por eso estoy molesta.
(And that’s why I’m upset.)
Pero estamos bien, afortunadamente.
(But, fortunately, we are fine.)
These are examples of temporal conditions and are also expressed with estar.
Now, all of the following are considered permanent conditions and are expressed with ser.
- La Muralla China es súper lejos. (The Chinese Wall is super far.)
- Ana de Armas es de Cuba. (Ana de Armas is from Cuba.)
- El mueble es de madera. (The furniture is made of wood.)
- Él es mi primo. (He is my cousin.)
Therefore, everything that falls into the same category as these chunks, will answer to the same rule. Nationalities go with ser, emotions with estar, and so on. Note that estar has fewer uses than ser. For deeper insights, you can check Mariana’s video on ser y estar here.
4. Pronombres preposicionales (Prepositional Pronouns)
Admito que el título de esta sección da miedo. Me da miedo hasta a mi, pero lo vamos a desmitificar ya. (I admit that the title of this section is scary. It scares even me, but let’s demystify it now.)
This topic is about those little words that are used in Spanish to replace objects and/or people to avoid repeating them. The key is that they are only used when it is clear who or what you are talking about.
Here are some examples of prepositional pronouns:
- Llamalo más tarde. (Call him later.)
- Te llamo más tarde. (I’ll call you later.)
You can see how lo is used to avoid having to say “him” and te to avoid having to say “you”.
Thanks to the same patterns we have learned so far, you will know that: lo and los substitute masculine objects or people. And la and las, feminine objects or people.
So we have:
Salí a comprar manzanas. Las compré en oferta.
(I went out to buy apples. I bought them on sale.)
Tu padre llamó. ¡Llámalo de vuelta!
(Your father called. Call him back!)
Sometimes you can think of la as “her” or “it”:
- Se perdió la pelota. Hay que buscarla. (The ball got lost. We have to look for it.)
In lo as “him” or “it”:
- Él es mentiroso. No le creo. (He is a liar. I don’t believe him.)
And in las, los as “them”:
- Tengo tus zapatos. ¿Los llevo? (I have your shoes. Should I bring them?)
Then you have me for yo (I):
- Llámame en un rato, estoy ocupada. (Call me in a while, I’m busy.)
Te for tú (you):
- ¡Vístete rápido, que nos tenemos que ir! (Get dressed quickly, we have to go!)
And nos for nosotros/nosotras (we):
- Salgamos esta tarde a pasear. (Let’s go for a walk this afternoon.)
Con chunks como estos, podrás deducir que su posición suele ser justo delante del verbo, por separado: ¿Los llevo? (With chunks like these, you’ll be able to deduce that its position is usually in front of the verb, separately: Shall I take you?)
O justo después, pegado al verbo: (Or right after, attached to the verb:) Salgamos esta tarde a pasear. (Let’s go for a walk this afternoon.)
For other uses of these little words, you can check Paulisima’s video on indirect objects here.
Felicitaciones en llegar al ejercicio de este video. (Congratulations on reaching the exercise in this video.) This was difficult, I know.
So, if you made it this far, show it by leaving three-star emojis like this ⭐️⭐️⭐️ as a comment to show me (and the others) how committed you are.
As for the exercise, let me know in the comments what’s the difference between the following sentences:
- Esto está salado Vs Esto es salado. (This is salty.)
- Ella está perezosa Vs Ella es perezosa. (She is lazy.)