This is the very first lesson in learning the Spanish Language!
This lesson begins with simple greetings, and covers important ideas of the Spanish Language. Throughout education, methods of teaching Spanish have changed greatly. Years ago, the Spanish Language was taught simply by memory. Today, however, the Spanish Language is taught by moving slower and covering grammar and spelling rules.
Again, this is an introduction. If this is the first time you are attempting to learn Spanish, do not become discouraged if you cannot understand, pronounce, or memorize some of the things discussed here.
In addition, learning a second language requires a basic understanding of your own language. You may find, as you study Spanish, that you learn a lot about English as well. At their core, all languages share some simple components like verbs, nouns, adjectives, and plurals. English, as your first language, comes naturally to you and you don’t think about things like subject-verb agreement, verb conjugation, or usage of the various tenses; yet, you use these concepts on a daily basis.
While English is described as a very complicated language to learn, many of the distinguishing grammar structures have been simplified over the years. This is not true for many other languages. Following the grammatical conventions of Spanish will be very important, and can actually change the meaning of phrases. You’ll see what is meant by this as you learn your first verbs ser and estar.
Do not become discouraged! You can do it.
Two good friends – Carmen and Roberto – are meeting:
Dialogo – ¡Hola!
¿Cómo estás? [How are you?(Informal)]
¿Cómo está? [ How are you? (Formal)]
(Yo) estoy bien [I’m fine.]
(muchas) gracias [Thank you very much.]
de nada [You’re Welcome.]
¿Qué pasa? [What’s going on?]
¿Qué tal? [What’s up?)]
¿Qué hay de nuevo? [What’s new?]
no mucho [Not Much]
¡Hasta mañana! [See You Tomorrow!]
¡Hasta luego! [See You Later!]
¡Nos vemos! [See You!]
Two people – Señor González and Señora Pérez – are meeting for the first time:
Dialogo – ¡Buenos días!
El Vocabulario – ¡Buenos días!
Grammar: Personal Pronouns
Spanish has six different types of pronouns.
Gramática – Person
A few things to keep in mind:
- It is normal in Spanish to omit the personal pronoun (i.e. you seldom say yo estoy bien, but estoy bien, and you ask ¿Cómo se llama? instead of ¿Cómo se llama usted?) because the specific conjugation of a verb usually indicates which person is the subject. However, usted, él and ella all use the same verb form so if you choose to drop the pronoun in this case it must be clear in the situational context which pronoun is being referenced.
- In most of Spain the vosotros form can be used to address a group of familiar people (e.g. friends), and ustedes is used with more formality (e.g. recent acquaintances). In all Latin American countries and parts of Spain ustedes is used also for a familiar group of people; in these countries the “vosotros” form is almost never used.
- In Argentina, parts of Uruguay, and some other countries, the tú form is replaced with vos.
- Usted and ustedes can be abbreviated as Ud. and Uds., respectively.
Grammar: Verbs ser and estar
Spanish has two different words that can be translated with “to be“. Ser is used more for more permanent characteristics (“Soy Luis“) whereas estar is used for more temporary or changeable conditions, such as location (“La papelera está al lado del escritorio“, “The trash can is beside the desk”) and feeling (“Estoy bien“). A good way to remember when to use “estar” is by using the rhyme, “To tell how you feel or where you are, always use the verb estar.” In future lessons we will come back to the uses of ser and estar.
Here we will look at the conjugations in the present indicative.
El Vocabulario – El verbo ser
|Saying “to be”|
El Vocabulario – El verbo estar
|Saying “to be”|
Ejemplos de los verbos ser y estar (Examples of the verbs ser and estar)
|Spanish (español)||English (inglés)|
|Yo soy una persona.||I am a person.|
|Yo estoy en casa.||I am at home|
|Tú eres un buen hombre.||You are a good man.|
|Tú estás en el sitio correcto.||You are in the correct place.|
|Él es mi amigo.||He is my friend.|
|Él está jugando muy bien.*||He is playing very well.|
Note: *This use of estar is the Spanish present progressive which is used for actions in progress. More about the present progressive in Lesson 4
Dialect Note: Spanish which uses the vos form conjugates ser with the following irregular form: sos.
Spanish uses a different verb (haber) to express “there is ” and “there are“. The form of haber used for this purpose is hay, for both singular (“there is“) and plural (“there are“).
|English (inglés)||Spanish (español)|
Here is the normal Spanish alphabet. However words aren’t alphabetized by it. Please read the notes and sections below. (Blue letters are a part of the normal English alphabet.)
|Notes about Ñ and RR|
|N and Ñ are considered two different letters, as are RR and R (though no words begin with RR). They are alphabetized as separate letters, so Ñ always comes after N, regardless of where it appears in the word. Ex: muñeca comes after municipal, and carro comes after carta.|
|Notes about CH and LL|
|CH and LL used to be considered as distinct letters of the alphabet, but in 1994, the Real Academia Española (Spanish Royal Academy) declared that CH and LL were not letters but digraphs. Accordingly, words beginning with CH and LL are now alphabetized under C and L, respectively.|
|Notes about K and W|
|K and W are part of the alphabet but are mostly seen in foreign derived words and names, such as karate and whisky. For instances, kilo is commonly used in Latin America to refer to a kilogram.|
Although the above will help you understand, proper pronunciation of Spanish consonants is a bit more complicated:
Most of the consonants are pronounced as they are in American English with these exceptions:
- b like the English b at the start of a word and after m or n; otherwise is pronounced like a cross between a v and a b (in Spanish there’s no distinction for b and v)
- c before a, o, u and other consonants, like English k
- c before i and e like English th in “think” (in Latin America is like English s)
- ch like ch in “cheese”
- d between vowels (even if it starts a word following a word ending in a vowel) or at the end of a word, like English d in dental
- g before e or i like the Scottish pronunciation of ch in “loch”, except that it is voiced
- g before a or o like g in “get”
- h is always silent (except in the digraph ch)
- j like the Scottish pronunciation of ch in “loch”, except that it is voiced
- ll traditionally pronounced like lli in “million”, it is now pronounced like English y in “yes”, except that it is more voiced
- ñ like ni in “onion” (or gn in French cognac)
- q like the English k
- r slighty trilled; like a soft d except at the beginning of a word or after l, n or s where it is trilled
- rr should be trilled longer than a single r
- v like the English b at the start of a word and after m or n; otherwise is pronounced like a cross between a v and a b (in Spanish there’s no distinction for b and v)
- z like the English th (in Latin America, like English s)
The pronunciation of vowels is as follows:
- a [a] “La Mano” as in “Kahn” (ah)
- e [e] “Mente” as the ay in “day” (e)
- i [i] “Sin” as the ea in “lean” (i)
- o [o] “Como” as in “no”. (short o)
- u [u] “Lunes” as in “toon” or “loom” (oo)
The “u” is always silent after “q” (as in “qué” pronounced kā).
Spanish also uses the ¨ (diaeresis) diacritic mark over the vowel u to indicate that it is pronounced separately in places where it would normally be silent. For example, in words such as vergüenza (“shame”) or pingüino (“penguin”), the u is pronounced as in the English “w” and so forms a diphthong with the following vowel: [we] and [wi] respectively. It is also used to preserve sound in stem changes and in commands.
- y [ʝ] “Reyes” similar to the y of “yet”, but more voiced (in some parts of Latin America it is pronounced as s in “vision” [ʒ] or sh in “flash” [ʃ])
Spanish uses the ´ (Acute) diacritic mark over vowels to indicate a vocal stress on a word that would normally be stressed on another syllable; Stress is contrastive. For example, the word ánimo is normally stressed on a, meaning “mood, spirit.” While animo is stressed on ni meaning “I cheer.” And animó is stressed on mó meaning “he cheered.”
Additionally the acute mark is used to disambiguate certain words which would otherwise be homographs. It’s used in various question word or relative pronoun pairs such as cómo (how?)& como (as), dónde(where?) & donde (where), and some other words such as tú (you) & tu (your), él (he/him) & el (the).
The rules of stress in Spanish are:
1. When the word ends in a vowel or in “n” or “s” the emphasis falls on the second to last syllable.
Eg: Mañana, Como, Dedos, Hablan.
2. When the word ends in a consonant other than “n” or “s”, the emphasis falls on the last syllable.
Eg: Ciudad, Comer, Reptil.
3. If the above two rules don’t apply, there will be an accent to show the stress.
Eg: Fíjate, Inglés, Teléfono.
4. SPECIAL CASE: Adverbs ending in -mente, which are derived from adjectives, have two stresses. The first stress occurs in the adjective part of the adverb, on the syllable where the adjective would normally be stressed. The second stress occurs on the -men- syllable.
Eg: Solamente, Felizmente, Cortésmente.