Tag Archives: verbos

Easy Spanish Reader/¡Así leemos!

A nice break in homework this week allowed me to finally finish ¡Así leemos!, which I first wrote about back in November (!). By the way, McGraw-Hill has updated the book since my copy was purchased, and it is now called Easy Spanish Reader—not really a title that inspires much passion from this dilettante, but as I said recently, publishers don’t always make the most interesting choices in life.

Whatever name you want to call it by, the book is a three-part graded Spanish reader that is pretty good for exercising your reading skills. Though I should probably say again that the first section of the book, “Enrique y María,” is rather dreadful unless you’re a preteen, a very low-level beginner, or someone with a preternatural interest in teenagers and high-school Spanish clubs. The second section, which is a short history of Mexico, and the third section, an abridged version of Lazarillo de Tormes, are much more worth your time.

One of the nice things about the book for a self-learner or someone using the text as a compliment to coursework is that it is broken up into very digestible chunks of text—usually only one page with a large font—and each chunk has a series of questions that do a decent job of testing comprehension. While the ¡Así leemos! version of the book that I have doesn’t contain any kind of answer key, McGraw-Hill promises that Easy Spanish Reader does. I also see that the edition sold on Amazon contains some kind of CD-ROM. Either way, it’s a nice addition to your language library if you fall somewhere between beginning Spanish speaker and lower intermediate learner. It gets you reading and introduces some good vocabulary into your lexicon. But if you have a decent grasp of core Spanish grammar, the book will probably bore you a bit.


It’s been a full couple of weeks in the life of this Spanish language dilettante. Our teacher has used them to pour as much grammar as possible into our little brains. A typical day has gone something like this: 90 minutes covering/practicing the pluperfect indicative tense, followed by a break, 90 minutes on the pluperfect subjunctive, another break, an hour of computer work, and then for homework…maybe ten workbook activities, an essay, and an oral recording submitted over email. Yikes! But because of that pace, we’ve finished all the major grammar points of the Spanish language as of today. Next week is just review and a series of short readings. Oh, and then we have a little old final exam to finish things off. Bring it on, profesor!

One of the sources I’ve been using to try to digest all the various verb forms that we’ve been going over in class the last six weeks is the website Conjuguemos. While it is not fancy and is by no means comprehensive, the site allows you to take timed (or untimed if you want) quizzes that are all about conjugating verb forms correctly and nothing else. You can choose to work in any tense in any of the four moods, or you can use the “comprehensive conjugator” to work in all the forms of the subjunctive and indicative moods simultaneously. You can also select to work specifically on one pronoun, or add/eliminate vosotros from the quizzes.

The site also has quiz work for vocabulary and other parts of grammar, in addition to verbs, but I’ve mostly stuck to the conjugation tests so far. Taking a five-minute quiz just before doing homework or heading off to class has been a good warm-up for me and can help anyone get into that Spanish frame of mind.

Spanish adverbial clause practice

It’s not surprising to find out that as grammar gets more difficult, it becomes harder to find free web resources on the topic. Such is the case with my new favorite point of grammar…the dreaded adverbial clause. Now if I had heard about this nasty little animal from the grammatical zoo before last week, I sure as heck didn’t remember it. I suppose one of my high school English teachers covered it while I was doodling pictures of skulls and snakes in the back row of class (I was lamentably a heavy metal kid who aspired to be a album cover artist in those days).

Boringly stated, they’re clauses with a subject and predicate that act like an adverb by modifying the verb in a sentence. Thus they answer why, when, where, and how. Examples: I cried when I saw Bambi’s mother die. We all went to the tapas bar to celebrate after we finished our Spanish test. But like seemingly everything else in Spanish (preterite vs. imperfect, conocer vs. saber, estar vs. ser, etc.), you often have a choice to make when you use adverbial clauses: subjunctive or indicative mood. As native St. Louisan Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” Here are some resources to help you with that decision.

*A quick breakdown of the subjunctive in adverbial clauses by Fred F. Jehle. But don’t forget though that some adverbial clauses (desde que, porque, ya que, ahora que) always take the indicative mood!

*Barbara Kuczun Nelson’s two-part quiz with explanations: part 1, part 2.

*Bowdoin College’s quiz designed by Enrique Yepes.

*Trinity’s two-parter: part 1, part 2.

But that’s about it for decent practice quizzes on the topic. ¡Buena suerte!

UTA’s Spanish Proficiency Exercises are my new favorite toy

I was looking for some resources to help a classmate of mine with listening skills this weekend when I came across a great site run by the University of Texas at Austin’s Spanish and Portuguese language department. The site, which is labeled “Spanish Proficiency Exercises,” is clearly meant as a resource for the students at the school, but it can help anyone learning Spanish at any level.

The site is a collection of tons of short videos, each featuring a native speaker talking on a particular topic. They range from things as basic as counting and listing the contents of your backpack to describing a desert mirage or talking about stereotypes. The videos are grouped by topic and arranged by difficultly. For each topic, there is a scripted video in which the speaker uses clear annunciation and no slang. But then that video is followed by several off-the-cuff pieces in which the speakers use slang and show off their dialects. Each topic has about five or six speakers, and they come from all over the Spanish-speaking world: Mexico, Spain, South America, and so on.

Spanish transcription, English translation, and vocab and phrase help are available for each video as well.


*University of Texas at Austin Department of Spanish and Portuguese

*Spanish Proficiency Exercises Welcome Page

Quiero que me quieras : Spanish Present Subjunctive Help

Mis compañeros y yo started a long battle with the subjunctive mood yesterday. Luckily, the conjugation of the first form we’re using (present subjective) is pretty easy…even if its usage can boggle the mind of a native English speaker. During class, I couldn’t get Gael García Bernal’s cover of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” (“Quiero que me quieras”) from Rudo y Cursi out of my head. The chorus is filled with the present subjunctive.

Quiero que me quieras.
Quiero que me adores.
Quiero que me sientas.
Me urge que me ames.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of good resources on the internet to help the Spanish student with the present subjunctive, relative to all sites providing help with basic vocabulary and the indicative mood. But Jason Jolley does have a couple of great videos explaining its conjugation and use. The first video here is on the form; the second is on the usage.

There are also a couple of good sites that let you practice conjugating the form…

*Trinity’s test on conjugating verbs without a stem change.

*Trinity’s test on verbs with a stem change.

*Mix of both.

*This present subjunctive quiz allows you to pick which verbs and pronouns you want to use.

*Barbara Kuczun Nelson’s site has extensive resources, quizzes, and practice opportunities.

Stories from Mexico/Historias de México : Genevieve Barlow and William N. Stivers

McGraw-Hill’s three collections of Spanish-language folk readings for beginning and intermediate learners have been around for a while: Stories from Mexico, Stories from Latin America, and Stories from Spain. I’ve had my eye on all of them for a couple of months now, but I didn’t actually sit down with any of them until this week…because I received the collection of Mexican tales as a present! I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for short, interesting writings that entertain while boosting your vocabulary.

The collection has sixteen Mexican legends that span almost 1,500 years of that country’s history. Included are stories from the pre-Columbian era through Spanish colonialism and beyond. Most are written using the present, preterite, and imperfect tenses, though an occasional subjunctive mood or complex tense sneaks in here and there. But I don’t think any of them are too difficult or will trip up a beginning reader that much. And like many of this type of book, the English translation is given on the facing page.

There are two things that I particularly like about the collection, which has me excited to read the other two volumes in the series. First off, more difficult or unusual vocabulary is generally mixed in with a load of common words. So instead of reaching for the dictionary every other sentence, I’ve found that I only need to look up about four per page. That leads to a much smoother reading experience, and it helps one more easily piece together meanings from context. The other thing I like is that the stories are all short; they usually run only about two or three pages. So I’ve been able to read a piece a night in bed just before going to sleep. It’s really nice to begin and end a story in one sitting. It makes me more willing to go back and reread again and again later. And the stories are certainly interesting and fun. The first selection, for instance, is about how the moon came to acquire its pockmark-like crater formations…they’re actually rabbit tracks!

The Long and Winding Road : Spanish Imperfect Tense

We started our adventure with the imperfect indicative tense this week in class. When our instructor announced that there are two simple past tenses in Spanish, an audible groan emanated from the back of the room and one grumpy soul offered up this gem of a question: “Why would they do that?” With a wink and a grin, our Colombian professor replied, “Because we like it.” I love this guy!

What I don’t love are all the junky explanations on the net for when you use the preterite tense and when you use the imperfect. Particularly bad are many of the videos from YouTube. I suffered through one seven-minute video that suggested that the imperfect only means “used to.” Really? That’s the only way it’s used? I did find this video from Professor Jason helpful though.

*Gerald Erichsen offers up a short but helpful description of the two tenses here. You can follow that up with a practice quiz on his site.

*Choose the length of an imperfect quiz on StudySpanish.com: 10, 15, 25 questions?

*Here’s a Jeopardy-style activity on the imperfect you can play with a friend.

*A traditional fill-in-the-blank test can be found at Learn Spanish, Feel Good.

*Phil Endecott has a verb exercise that you can personalize to your heart’s content here. Mix any and all tenses in any and all persons with whatever frequency you want, and in whatever length you want. It has a couple of kinks in it, but generally it’s a good database.