Stuff for Beginners

How To REALLY Say Goodnight In Spanish

In English, we usually say “Goodnight” before going to bed. But in Spanish, the literal translation of goodnight, buenas noches, is used as a greeting. The English equivalent would be “Good Evening”. Buenas noches is never used to say goodbye before going to bed.

To say goodbye to somebody at night, you can use any normal parting phrase. Hasta mañana is common if you know you will see the person the next day. To wish somebody a good night’s rest, it is common to say descanses, which is short for que descanses, or que descanses bien. Here the verb descansar (to rest) is in the subjunctive tense and the first clause is practically omitted. The first clause would be Espero que or Ojalá que. So when you hear descanses, it is shortened version of “I hope you rest (sleep) well”.


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Important Tip For Beginner Spanish Learners

Important Tip For Beginner Spanish Learners

One of the aspects of learning Spanish is memorizing vocabulary words. And one of the best things you can do when learning Spanish nouns is to memorize the definite article as part of the noun.

As you probably know, nouns in Spanish are either masculine or feminine. If they are masculine, the definite article is el and if the noun is feminine it uses la as the definite article. The definite article, of course, translate to the word the.

Most masculine nouns end in the letter “o”.

el cielo = the sky
el fósforo = the match
el horno = the oven

Most feminine noun end in the letter ¨a¨.

la basura = the garbage
la silla = the chair
la cama = the bed

However, there are quite a few nouns that do not end in either an “a” or an “o”.

el reloj = the watch
la mujer = the woman
el actor = the actor
la serie = the series
el cinturón = the belt
la suciedad = the filth

As you can see, these appear to be rather random. Add to that the irregular nouns that look like they could be masculine but the are feminine.

la mano = the hand
el gorila = the gorilla
el sofá = the sofa

And then the feminine words that begin with the letter ¨a¨ but take on the masculine definite article for phonetic reasons. The feminine ¨las¨ is used if these words are plural.
el agua = the water
las aguas = the waters
el águila = the eagle
las águilas = the eagles

Some nouns look very similar but have different meanings depending on whether they end in an ¨a¨ of ¨o¨.

el caso = the case
la casa = the house

el mango = the mango fruit
la manga = the shirt sleeve

el plato = the plate
la plata = the silver, or money

So it is highly recommended that when you learn the nouns, consider the definite article as part of the word. It will save you lots of time and effort down the road. When you begin to use adjectives and noun modifiers like ¨these¨ and ¨those¨, which always have to match the gender of the noun they are modifying, you won´t have to spend as much time thinking about which version of the adjective to use.

Maybe this doesn´t make sense to you at the moment. But trust me, it is definitely worth the effort to memorize the definite articles with the nouns as best you can. In fact, that´s how the children in Latin American countries learn nouns.

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La Radio vs. El Radio – How to say Radio in Spanish.

La Radio vs. El Radio – How to say Radio in Spanish.

This little article will clear up some confusion about when to say la radio and when to say el radio.

La radio refers to a radio broadcast. To say, “I am listening to the radio”, you would say, ¨Escucho la radio¨. In fact, la radio is short for la radiodifusión which is a feminine noun and means radio broadcast, or radio transmission. A similar thing happens with the word fotografía. In Spanish the shortened version is la foto.

El radio refers to the actual apparatus known as the radio. To say “I am taking the radio to the shop” you would say, “Llevo el radio al taller.” El radio is short for the masculine word radioreceptor. However, you will often hear native speakers referring to the apparatus as la radio, which seems to add to the confusion.

El radio can also refer to an apparatus that has two-way communication, like a C.B. radio that truckers use. Or it could be the device that airplane pilots use for communication.

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How To REALLY Say Goodnight In Spanish

How To REALLY Say Goodnight In Spanish

In English, we usually say “Goodnight” before going to bed. But in Spanish, the literal translation of goodnight, buenas noches, is used as a greeting. The English equivalent would be “Good Evening”. Buenas noches is never used to say goodbye before going to bed.

To say goodbye to somebody at night, you can use any normal parting phrase. Hasta mañana is common if you know you will see the person the next day. To wish somebody a good night’s rest, it is common to say descanses, which is short for que descanses, or que descanses bien. Here the verb descansar (to rest) is in the subjunctive tense and the first clause is practically omitted. The first clause would be Espero que or Ojalá que. So when you hear descanses, it is shortened version of “I hope you rest (sleep) well”.


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Direct and Indirect Objects – How to Tell Them Apart

Direct and Indirect Objects – How to Tell Them Apart

Learning the differences between direct objects (D.O.) and indirect objects (I.O.) in Spanish is rather challenging for English speakers. Not only are the words for these objects very similar, but knowing when to use one or the other is tricky. And then to top it off, the objects come before the verbs in Spanish, rather than after them like in English (except in command forms or after infinitives) So much to get used to.

But all it takes is a little practice and you will get the hang of it.

An object of a sentence is the person or thing upon which the action of the verb is acted. It is NOT the subject of the sentence, but rather that which the subject acts on. For example, “Joe hugged Rover”. Rover is the object. In this case Rover is a direct object.

If you can put the would “to” or “for” in front of the object and it makes sense, then this is an indirect object. In English, this “to” or “for” may be silent, or implied, depending on the verb. “Joe told Rover to sit.” Here the “to” is implied in English, but in Spanish it is usually always expressed by using an indirect object.

Certain verbs always trigger one or the other. And it is just a matter of becoming familiar with which verbs use a D.O., and which use an I.O. Verbs involving communication to another person, like decir, contestar, responder, preguntar, pedir, explicar, contar, always trigger the I.O.

The D.O. in Spanish are
me = me
te = you familiar
lo = him, you formal (male), it (male)
la = her, you formal (female), it (female)
nos = us
os = you familiar plural (only in Spain)
los = you or them (plural and male)
las = you or them (plural and female)

The I.O. are
me = me
te = you familiar
le = him, her, you formal, or it
nos = us
os = you familiar plural (only in Spain)
les = you or them (plural, male or female)

You can see the similarities in that me, te, nos and os are the same for either. The only thing you have to worry about when choosing which to use is differentiating the lo, la, or le, and their plural equivalents. And like I said earlier, you are more likely to remember which verb gets which object just by the frequency you encounter the verb, either in text, or by hearing it. But if you aren’t sure, if “to” or “for” makes sense before the object, use the I.O.

And finally, if you get it wrong, most speakers realize that you are not a native speaker and they will know what you are trying to express. At least though, try to get the gender correct if it’s a D.O. because that could lead to some confusion if you mix those up.

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How To Improve Your Spanish Vocabulary

How To Improve Your Spanish Vocabulary

If you are looking for ways to improve and build your Spanish vocabulary, this article offers my observations and advice from years of studying Spanish.

First off, if you are a beginner Spanish student, I highly recommend focusing on grammar rather than memorizing a ton of random words for things. The words that you learn as a beginner, in the process of learning the grammar, will be plenty to get you going. Once you have mastered Spanish grammar and syntax, you can more easily add new vocabulary. Actually, you will learn plenty of useful words and vocabulary in the process of focusing on grammar.

I offer this advise from experience. I had memorized tons of words in Spanish, but I didn’t know how to use them. And I neglected to learn basic things like how to say, “Nice to meet you”. But I knew the word for plum! So don’t waste a lot of time and energy memorizing words that you will never use. I liken the vocabulary words and phrases to train cars, and the grammar to the train tracks. Without the tracks, the cars can´t go anywhere!

After you have mastered your grammar and syntax, then it’s a good time to start building your vocabulary. Now at least you know HOW to use the new vocabulary words in sentences that make sense.

I have been observing the process of building vocabulary in my own studies, and I have learned some interesting things about memory. It is easy to memorize the meaning of a word in Spanish, but if I don’t encounter that word again after a few weeks, I will easily forget it. I also learned that coming across the same word in different contexts helps to strengthen the memory of that word. The more times we encounter a word, in varying contexts, we come closer and closer to having the word completely held in our long term memory.

I visualize it like a neuron connection in the brain. Each word has it’s own connection. The first time you learn a word, the connection is weak, or thin. We may forget that word after time, but that connection is still there. By re-learning the word, the connection becomes a little stronger. Eventually, after encountering the word enough times, the connection is unbreakable.


Flashcards are a great way to build vocabulary. On one side you write the word in Spanish, then on the other side you write the English equivalent. Flashcards don’t have to be very big. You can buy a stack of 3×5 index cards and cut them in thirds along the long side. This is an ideal size for a flashcard.

The first step with your stack of flashcards, with new vocabulary, is to look at the Spanish side and try to guess the English side. If you are correct, the card goes to the bottom. If you were wrong, slip the card in the middle of the stack, so that it comes up again. When you get to the point, which could be a couple of days, where you get them all right, then you reverse the cards. Look at the English and try to guess the Spanish. You will find it to be a bit more challenging. Do the same with the cards that you get right or wrong.

Before creating flashcards, I recommend keeping a notebook with an ongoing list of words you would eventually like to learn and memorize. I used to use a notebook, but now I have a txt file on my laptop called “New Vocab” which I add to.

The benefits of using actual tangible flashcards is that you can carry them around with you and use them in places that you may not be able to use a laptop. The problem with them is that they can be hard to organize if you accumulate a lot of them.


There are now computerized flashcard programs which help you organize your cards and keep track of your learning. The most advanced flashcard program is called Byki. It is also programmed to help you learn new vocabulary through a series of steps. It also randomizes the cards as you learn them which is helpful.

The nice thing about a computerized flashcard program like Byki is that you can create lists to categorize your cards. Actually, Byki offers a free version of their software with pre-loaded flashcards, which include audio, of over 100 languages. These are great for beginners. You can try the FREE version but in order to create your own flashcards, you have to purchase the software. At $69.95 I have found it to be completely worth it.


I used to stress out about forgetting some vocabulary. I was upset because I had put all this time and effort to memorize these words. But I gradually realized that vocabulary building is rather an organic process. Some words will stick and others won’t. Why is this?

My “pet” theory on this, which I eluded to above, has to do with how often we encounter words in a variety of different contexts. If we only experience a word in a single context, like in our stack of flashcards, we are likely going to forget it when we stop using that stack of flashcards. But if the word comes up again in another context, it makes that neural connection that I mentioned earlier, that much stronger. Every time we encounter that word, that connection in our brain gets stronger and stronger.

This is a totally random process, we never really know what words we are going to encounter, on television, in a movie, in our studies, conversing with native Spanish speakers. Often times I hear a word in a new context, and it takes a brief moment for my brain to make the connection. But it’s a really neat feeling. After awhile, with continual exposure to Spanish in a variety of contexts, we are strengthening these connections and building our Spanish vocabulary without even realizing it!

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Spanish Pronunciation – How and When To Use Accents

Spanish Pronunciation – How and When To Use Accents

In this article on Spanish pronunciation, I will attempt to describe all the instances in which accents are used in written Spanish. The article could have also been called Where To Put Stress In Spanish Words. First off, the accent mark used in Spanish is called a tilde (in Spanish). It is used to show where the stress of the word is, or which syllable of a word has emphasis. This syllable sounds a bit louder, or stronger than the other syllables. And oftentimes, the stress will alter the definition of the word.


The 2 basic rules of Spanish pronunciation are:
1) the second to last syllable is always stressed unless it ends in a consonant other than N or S, in which case the stress is on the last syllable.
2) an accent mark is used to break rule #1, in which case the stress is then placed on the accented syllable. Let’s look at a few examples which follow the first basic pronunciation rule.

These words end in a consonant other than N or S, so the stress is on the last syllable:

These words do not end in a consonant other than N or S, so the stress is on 2nd to last syllable

Now let’s look at some examples where the accent is placed to break the first basic pronunciation rule. Without the accent, the stress would be on the 2nd to last syllable.


Now something important about Spanish pronunciation that I learned when I took my first Spanish class in college and which has really stuck with me. It helps to note the difference between strong vowels and weak vowels.

The strong vowels are AE, and O. The weak vowels are I, and U. What this means is that when two vowels appear next to each other, if they are of the same type (strong or weak), they each are their own syllable. But if they are mixed, the strong vowel combines with the weak one to create one syllable (known as a diphthong). Let’s consider some examples.

The following examples have two consecutive vowels of the same type (both strong or both weak):
maestro = The A and E are both strong vowels, so they form 2 syllables. Ma-es-tro. Since the word ends in O, the stress is on the ES, or 2nd to last syllable. So there is no need to put an accent on the E.

boxeador = Here the A and E are reversed. Since it ends in R, the stress is on the last syllable. Box-e-a-dor.

empleo = The E and O are both strong vowels so they each are a syllable in the word.
Em-ple-o, with the stress on the 2nd to last syllable. No need to accent the E.

ciudad = the stress is on the last syllable because it ends in D, but the word has 3 syllables. Ci-u-dad. The I and U are both weak so they each create a syllable.

The following examples have consecutive vowels that are different, one strong and one weak. In these diphthongs the strong vowel takes precedence over the weaker vowel.

escuela = the stress is on the 2nd to last syllable, which is created by U and E, a strong and weak syllable combined. Es-cue-la

viernes = the stress is on the 2nd to last syllable with another strong and weak vowel combination. Vier-nes.

A few other words with strong / weak vowel syllables:
cuatro = cua-tro
nueve = nue-ve
demasiado = de-ma-sia-do
fuego = fue-go
continuo = con-ti-nuo
habitación = ha-bi-ta-ción (here the O is accented not to separate it from the I, but because it takes the stress away from the 2nd to last syllable)

In regards to accents, it is important to know the strong/weak vowel rule. Let’s consider a few words to see why.
sabía = Without the accent, the stress would fall on the first A and would have 2 syllables: sa-bia. But with the accent, a 3rd syllable is created because it is placed on the weak vowel next to a strong vowel. sa-bi-a

río = Without the accent, the stress would fall on the O, since the O is strong and the I is weak. Similar words: oída grúa vía


ONE SYLLABLE WORDS If a word has one syllable, and ends in a vowel, N or S, there isn’t a 2nd to last syllable to put the stress. So these words could have had an accent or not. The Gods of Spanish decided not to create an accent on single syllable words. So why are there single syllable words with accents? These are to differentiate between words with the same sound but a different meaning. Remember, these SOUND the same. The accent is for the benefit of those reading written Spanish. Here are some examples.

si vs. sí (if vs. yes)
mi vs. mí (my vs. me)
el vs. él (the vs. he)
se vs sé (multi-use se in reflective verbs vs. yo sé)
tu vs. tú (your vs. you)
de vs. dé (multi-use preposition vs. command or subjunctive form of the verb dar)
aun vs. aún (even vs. still, yet)
mas vs. más (but, yet vs. more)

Similarly, the following words would normally have the stress on the 2nd to last syllable. So why is there an accent on the 2nd to last syllable? It is the written version which helps define the word to Spanish readers.

solo vs. sólo (alone vs. only)
como vs. cómo (as, like vs. how)
este vs. éste (this vs. this one)
ese vs. ése (that vs. that one)
The last two examples above can be male/female or singular/plural and are demonstrative ADJECTIVES (without accent) vs. demonstrative PRONOUNS (with accent). In traditional written Spanish, the accents in the demonstrative pronouns are written, but this practice is not used as much in modern written Spanish.

Words from other languages that have come into everyday Spanish use, names of people or places, or famous brand names of multinational corporations, usually do not follow the rules of pronunciation. Rather, they put stress on the word as it happens in the original language, and don’t add accents.
sandwich hot-dog Hollywood

The suffix RE often has to do with repeating something.
releer = re-read
reenviar = to resend, or forward
This RE tends to have its own syllable, even when the E is next to the weak vowel. For example in the words
reunión (re-u-ión)
reunir (re-u-nir)
reiterar (re-i-ter-ar)
the weak vowel after RE has its own syllable, which is an exception to the strong/weak vowel rule above. This usually only occurs with certain words that begin with RE, especially vowels, but doesn’t apply to all nouns that have this.

THE SILENT U When a U comes immediately after a Q, it is silent, and it doesn’t take on the action of a weak vowel. Think of the U as non-existent.
aquí (a-quí)
quiero (qui-e-ro)
Let’s examine this word in closer detail. cualquier (cual-quier) Here the stress is on the final syllable because it ends in R. The E is the strong vowel against the I so that forms one syllable. The U after the Q is silent so it is not acting like a syllable. The first syllable has the strong A next to the weak U creating one syllable. If the U were not silent after the Q, it would create a 3rd syllable and sound something like (cual-kwooi-er)

The following words carry a written accent when they are used to form a question OR an exclamation.
qué dónde adónde cuándo cuál cuánto quién
When there is no accent on these words they are serving as a relative pronoun.

I hope this article covers everything you need to know about using the accent in Spanish, as well as where to put stress. If you can think of anything I forgot to mention, please post a comment below and I will update the article.

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Listing of Online Spanish Lessons With Skype

Listing of Online Spanish Lessons With Skype

Online Spanish lessons via Skype or other similar services are becoming increasingly popular. This method allows the student to have one-on-one Spanish lessons with a native Spanish speaker from the comfort of home. Because they are 1-on-1, these Spanish lessons are personalized and catered to the students needs.

Here are some basics things to know when looking for an online Spanish teacher.

  • Most online Spanish schools offer discounts for the more lessons you buy. So the price for a package of 20 lessons will cost less per lesson than a package of 10 lessons.
  • Online Spanish lessons are an hour long.
  • Most online Spanish programs offer you a free trial class. Sometimes it is for 15-20 minutes, but most offer a full hour.
  • Many online Spanish classes have been set up by outside parties which are often small companies in the United States or other Western countries. So the prices are a little more expensive per hour than visiting the country and taking a class at the school. (The company takes a percentage.)
  • Most of the online Spanish schools are set up to take payment with PayPal.

Although in general, it is cheaper to pay for the class in person, Spanish lessons online via Skype are usually cheaper than taking Spanish classes in the United States. And for those who don’t live in a large city, it is hard to find a Spanish school anyway, so Skype Spanish lessons is a great option.

The general price range for online Spanish lessons that I have found is between $9 and $15 per hour. Some sites charge over $20 for a 45 minute lesson.

Some people will assume that the slicker the web site looks, the better will be the teacher or Spanish lessons. This may not necessarily always be the case. When looking for an online Spanish teacher, I recommend trying a few of the free offers until you find a Spanish teacher you click with.

You may also want to consider supporting the companies below that are either non-profits, and use the income from their schools as a means to help the local community. Those schools have this symbol next to them. ***

I haven’t had the opportunity to try any of these yet, but will be doing so soon. I put together the list of sites that offer online Spanish lessons, not based on personal experience, but rather to offer a complete and exhaustive list. If you happen to know of any schools, or resources that could be added to this list, or if you come across any dead links, I invite you to leave a comment.

If you have tried any of these schools, also please feel free to submit a comment.

Also, this list is organized according to the country from were the Spanish teachers come. I thought this would be helpful if you are planning to travel to any of these countries. That way you can start practicing the dialect of that country and picking up some of the local slang.


121 Spanish

Independent Spanish Instructor, Verónica Leone


Epifanía Spanish School

Personalized Spanish



Bipo and Louís Academia de Español

Cristóbal Colón Spanish School

Latitud Cero

Simon Bolivar Spanish School

Vida Verde

Yanapuma Spanish School



Academia Colonial

Antigüeña Spanish Academy

***Casa Xelaju***

Celas Maya

Cima del mundo

Independent Spanish Tutor, Marco

Ixchel Spanish School

Jabel Tinamit

Let’s Go Spanish


Online Spanish School

Spanish Ninja
Specifically catered to kids, but probably fine for adults too.

Spanish Teacher Online
(private teacher with great reviews)

***Speak Shop ***
In conjuction with a non-profit call Probigua, which helps to improve literacy among children.



Instituto Cultural Oaxaca

Spanish Center Mérida

Spanish Lessons Online

Spanish With Skype



Habla Ya



Skype Spanish

Web Spanish










Spanish Uruguay




This site not only matches you with language learning partners, but they allow language teachers to offer their services. So you can find an online Spanish tutor here. There is also a good forum with lots of resources for language learners. If you join by clicking the above link, it will send you a personal invite from yours truly.

LOI Spanish

¡Sí Spanish!
A variety of teachers from different countries.

Verbal Planet
A vast network of individual tutors for tons of different languages.

Your Spanish Consultant
based out of New York


Rivera Spanish School

Skype Spanish School
Based out of London



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How Much Spanish Do You Really Need To Know In Order To Travel In Latin America?

How Much Spanish Do You Really Need To Know In Order To Travel In Latin America?

If you are considering traveling or living in any part of the Spanish speaking world, but you speak very little Spanish, you may feel some resistance to going to Latin America, especially by yourself. Maybe you had a little bit of Spanish in high school but you only know a few words and phrases. Is that enough to get by? How much Spanish do you really need to know? Or rather, how little Spanish can you get by with?

The answers to these questions really depend on you and what your short term and long term goals are. If you are planning to visit a tourist area for a couple of weeks, you are very likely to find plenty of Spanish speakers who know basic English. They need to learn basic English in order to work in the tourist and hospitality industries. In this case, you will probably be able to get by with zero Spanish ability.

Many people visit Latin America with groups, where you have an experienced tour guide who leads you around. These guides are either native English speakers themselves, or native Spanish speakers who speak English very well. In this case, you really don’t have to worry about knowing any Spanish.

If you goal is to explore more remote areas on your own, or with a non Spanish speaking friend, and travel around a lot, this can actually be done with very little Spanish knowledge. The most useful thing you will want to learn are the numbers since you will need to pay for things. Most people though will also simply communicate with their fingers. If you go to a country like Colombia, where 2,000 Colombian pesos equal about a dollar, you will want to learn how to express these larger numbers in Spanish. You will be surprised how much communication can be done effectively with simple hand gestures or pointing.

I recently met a retired American, 65 years old, and a Vietnam vet, who was traveling by himself throughout Latin America. When I met him in Ecuador, he had already spent several months in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Pánama, Perú and Colombia. Despite all this time in Latin American countries, his Spanish was quite dreadful. His pronunciation was horrible, spoken with a think gringo (rural) accent, and he could only speak words, not complete sentences. However he was able to travel around by himself, going months without speaking any English, and having an occasional Latin girlfriend.

Now if you intend to stay in one place for a long time, or be part of the community or work force, you will definitely want to learn as much Spanish as possible. This of course takes time and is a gradual process. But living in a Latin American country will only accelerate your learning.

In my case, my goals were to be able to have more meaningful relationships which can only really come from delving deeply into the language and the culture. Learning Spanish for me is a passion which is turning into a lifelong hobby. So in my case, I have learned WAY more Spanish than I would need if I was just going to visit for a while. But the great thing about really mastering Spanish is being able to express your personality. It is amazing to be able to say things in Spanish, as a foreigner, and make others laugh.

Whether or not you enjoy yourself with little Spanish knowledge also depends on your personality type. If you get nervous around others or unfamiliar situations, if you are not accustomed to going with the flow and accepting things as they are without feeling the need to change them, then you probably will struggle with your experience in Latin America. I have encountered a few people in my travels who expressed that they were miserable because they didn’t know Spanish very well.

On the other hand, you could be a gregarious, fun, outgoing type who is used to making do with whatever the situation is. If that is the case, you will probably meet lots of people in your travels and as a result, you will get to practice and keep improving your Spanish.

If you plan on traveling in Latin America, I highly recommend setting aside a few weeks somewhere and taking Spanish classes. Spanish Immersion is a great way to learn Spanish, and it will make your trip more rewarding. I have compiled a list of Spanish immersion schools throughout Latin America. Click here to visit my SPANISH IMMERSION DIRECTORY.

Obviously, your experience in Latin America will be more rewarding the more Spanish you know. The natives will open up to you more, things will be less of a struggle and you will have more confidence getting around and exploring. You’ll be able to meet lots of people, and your relationships will be way more meaningful and exciting. But if you know very little Spanish, or none at all, it is possible to visit Latin America and have a good time.


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