Help! Preterite or Imperfect? It is not the...

Grammar Corner

Evelyn Silva

Two weeks ago, I was teaching the uses of the imperfect. My students seemed to be confused and some frustrated because they couldn’t understand why Spanish language has two different tenses to narrate events in the past. Several of them stopped by after school and asked me the same question: but is it not the same?

In Spanish, deciding when to use preterite or imperfect can be one of the biggest challenges for every student. Practicing is never enough. That’s why I decided to create a handout, an easy way to describe the use of these tenses:

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How to Teach Affirmative Commands in Spanish Class

Evelyn Silva

Formal Command

As in English, in Spanish we use commands to give someone advice or to tell people what you would like them to do. Formal affirmative commands (usted & ustedes) are used when addressing people in a formal manner or to be polite. When you do not know well a person or when you are talking to people older than you, you should use a formal command. By using the formal command, you express respect for that person. Moreover, Hispanic people use commands while talking to/with doctors, supervisor, boss, priest, professors, etc. Last but not least, use these commands to address any group of people.

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Let’s not leave Punctuation out in the cold

 Anne Silva

After last week’s Scary Grammar Pitfalls of DOOM, I thought we could talk about something a little more benign this week: punctuation. While not exactly grammar, it’s not really “vocabulary” either, and often seems to get left out in the cold, as such metalinguistic topics tend to do. (I see you out there, pronunciation! Mama hasn’t forgotten about you!)

Do you know that I was a grown-up person with some very expensive pieces of paper from various learning institutions, some study- and work-abroad experience, and a real job speaking Spanish every day before I learned that there are different rules for punctuation in English and in Spanish? I mean, besides the whole upside-down, right-side-up doodads. (Those are pretty obvious, although after seeing the horrendously punctuated billboards in Miami, apparently they are not as ubiquitous as one might hope.)

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Scary Grammar Pitfalls Of DOOM

 Anne Silva

Do you groan inwardly every time your lesson plans say that one of the grammar topics this week is “Por vs. Para”? Do you try to be peppy about the topic, like when you try to convince your kids that going to the dentist is Just That Easy!?

Native-speaking teachers and non-native-speaking teachers alike have grammar topics they Just. Hate. To. Teach. For me, one of those has always been the concept of “por vs. para.” As a non-native speaker, I was in the same position as my students, having to try to make sense of a laundry list of rules about this teeny little topic. And as a student, I remember it blowing my mind that BOTH words could be correct in one situation, but with a subtle change in the shade of meaning. High school foreign language students in general have a bit of an issue with “subtle shades of meaning” the way color-blind people have issues with “subtle shades of cerulean.” How frustrating!

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¿CONJUGAR O NO CONJUGAR? ÉSTA ES LA PREGUNTA...

Maria J. Fierro-Treviño

Camino por el pasillo dónde se encuentran los salones de clase de idiomas. En esta escuela particular, hay cuatro profesores de español. Todos enseñan de distintos modos. Entro en el primer salón y me siento para escuchar la lección. El enfoque de esta lección es la conjugación de nuevos verbos. La profesora empieza con una explicación sobre como conjugar los verbos, y para la práctica, los estudiantes comienzan a conjugar los verbos oralmente, después en la pizarra y por fin en sus propios cuadernos. No hay nada de interacción para conectar los verbos con una conversación o una lectura. Observo a los estudiantes y siento la tortura que sufren. Salgo calladamente del salón de clase.

Sigo por el pasillo y entro a otro salón de clase. Esta profesora también está introduciendo la conjugación de nuevos verbos pero veo que tiene un párrafo escrito en la pizarra. Los verbos conjugados están subrayados. La profesora les pide a los estudiantes que lean el párrafo y que observen los verbos subrayados. Observo las caras de los estudiantes. Todos están leyendo y analizando el párrafo tratando de descifrar lo que ocurre. Levantan las manos y expresan sus opiniones. La profesora guía la conversación de los estudiantes hasta el punto que determinan la observación correcta. Al terminar esta etapa de la lección, la profesora les hace preguntas a los estudiantes utilizando los verbos del párrafo. Todos pueden contestar las preguntas manipulando la conjugación del verbo dentro del contexto de la respuesta. Me da tanta satisfacción ver lo que ocurre en este salón.

¿En cuál de los dos salones van a tener más éxito los estudiantes?

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