Last week we gave you a few suggestions about how to enrich your knowledge of the Spanish language. Here are a few more ideas that we hope will be of use. 6. Listen to Spanish radio Thanks to the internet, we can now tune in to any foreign radio channel as long as we have a connection. Even if you don’t understand the contents, words will enter into your subconcious, and as your comprehension improves, so will your awareness of current affairs, arts, music and culture in hispanic countries. This sight has links to many Latin American radio channels, whereas here you can find the Spanish national radio (RNE) and many regional radio stations. 7. Shadow podcasts A great way to improve your oral skills is to shadow a native speaker. Shadowing means listening to someone speak and almost simultaneously copying their every word. This is so easy it almost feels like cheating, but you will find that if you do this for even 15 minutes you will feel much more confident in the spoken language. Podcasts for beginner, intermediate, advanced and proficient levels can be easily found on line and are more than often about very interesting topics. 8. Friendship There is nothing like friendship for inspiring confidence with a language. Your friends will tell you jokes, listen to your semi-coherent attempts at conversation, even make fun of your mistakes, but it’s a safe place where you will also learn words and expressions that never come up in the classroom. If you have hispanic friends, keep them; if you don’t, make them! 9. Copy texts This may sound old-fashioned (and perhaps bring back painful memories to some of us) but copying out by hand correct Spanish is a brilliant way to improve your written work. It enters your brain and travels through your body, out your hand and on to paper – you process it – and so you remember! If you are looking for materials to copy, this website has links to numerous on-line newspapers from all over South America and Spain, great reading! 10. Learn about ham Jamón is sacred in Spain and there are certain things one needs to know about it if we are to feel more Spanish, and of course, not offend our Spanish friends! As an example, “Iberico” means ham from a special pig that can only be found in Spain, ham needs to be out of the fridge for a few hours before you eat it; not just anyone can cut ham, you have to really know how, you can even pay big money to sit a course on ham cutting…. in conclusion, ham is important, get to know it!
When you build a house, you start with constructing the foundations, then the walls, roof, doors and windows until it is wind and water tight. Then comes the fun bit: the interior design and furnishings that make it not just a house, but your home, a place in which you can feel comfortable and enjoy life. You could say that learning a language is a bit like building a house: we lay the foundations by attending classes where we learn the rudiments of the language – grammar, reading, writing and oral skills – and as we progress to higher levels, we start to build the walls, developing our skills so that they become sound and, “wind and water tight”, as it were. But how and when do we start to feel at home with a language? How can we add our linguistic interior fittings, furniture and pictures, clothes and belongings so that we eventually feel comfortable enough just being ourselves? We have thought up ten tips for anyone who wants to start feeling at home with the Spanish language… 1. Go to Spain. For as long as you can. This isn’t a possibility for everyone, but it had to go at the top of the list because it makes sooo much difference. The advantages are numerous and obvious, and don’t need to be gone into, but the issue is, how do we go to Spain? How can we get the most out of our time there? It’s very simple: throw yourself into Spanish culture. Get to know your hosts. This means that if you are an Erasmus student, try to make friends with your Spanish class mates (this won’t be hard as they tend to be very friendly) instead of going to the usual Erasmus events; if you go for work or spend time in Spain as a retired person, avoid expat circles like the plague and spend time instead with locals (if your feeling stuck, there is always a granny sitting on a bench with plenty to say); and if you are planning a holiday, DON’T GO TO MARBELLA!!!! Nor any of the usual “guiri” resorts, and don’t buy a package holiday. An alternative could be to stay in someone’s house through Airbnb, visit a less touristy area and travel with car pooling, where you would be forced to interact in Spanish and truly experience the warmth of the Spanish people. 2. Form a language exchange There are many Spanish people who have recently come to Edinburgh and are very keen to improve their English You could arrange to meet with them once a week, for example, to exchange your English for their Spanish. Spending time with them on a regular basis will boost your Spanish no end, and you might also make new friends. This website has been set up especially for that purpose. 3. Spanish Cinema Relax and enjoy a Spanish film! Or watch a film in English with Spanish subtitles. Either way, this is something enjoyable and effortless, and you will find that you pick up vocabulary and accents while learning more about Hispanic culture. Here at SALT we have a library of DVDs for all our students, the catalogue of which can be downloaded from our student area. 4. Read in Spanish It doesn’t matter what level your Spanish is at, you can always find a book that suits you. Reading is also a way to relax and enjoy the language. If you find a good book, it will capture your interest and make you want to read on. It doesn’t have to be a painful process of looking up each new word in the dictionary, but rather a case of guessing the meaning of words by the context. Amazon have more than 8000 books in Spanish, both in paperback and kindle editions, so there is plenty to choose from! 5. Get hooked on a Spanish series. This means endless hours of entertainment without feeling guilty – your’e not waisting time, your learning Spanish! Also, some series can teach you a lot about the history and culture, for example RTVE’s “Cuéntame como pasó” or “Amar en tiempos revueltos“, which portray life in Spain before, during and after the Civil war. By drawing you into the lives of their intriguing characters, these series also teach you about 20th century Spain. For the next five suggestions, keep a look out for our next blog, Ten ways to make your Spanish come alive: Part 2 coming soon!
TOLEDO, Castilla-La Mancha Toledo is a small fortified city, whose beautiful surrounding walls still stand today and whose streets are steeped in medieval history. At only 45 miles from Madrid, it can make a very worthwhile day trip, especially because once you are there, everything is at walking distance. Since the city is so steeped in history, it might be a good idea to visit the sights in chronological order. The Roman Period The Romans did not found Toledo, but rather began a process of gradual incorporation of the city (previously occupied by the Carpetani tribe) into the Roman empire in 197 BC. They built the surrounding walls, public baths, a water supply and the Roman Circus. You can visit the aqueduct or the Roman Circus (pictured below), where chariot races took place. Gothic Period. The Castle of San Servando stands today as a symbol of the splendour that the Gothic kings brought to the city when they arrived in the middle of the sixth century with their gold-smiths and decorators. They raised Toledo to the status of Capital City and it became the artistic centre of Spain Moorish Period The Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz was completed in the year 999 when the Muslims occupied Toledo and it’s original name was Mezquita Bab-al-Mardum. Towards the end of the eleventh century, King Alfonso VI reconquered Toledo and later turned the mosque into a church. It’s current name, The Mosque of Christ of Light, sounds strange to the ear and indeed the building is a beautiful mixture of Islamic and Christian architecture. The Period of the Reconquest There are many churches that date back to this period, some of which were originally built as synagogues or mosques and have a very interesting architectural style, known as el mudéjar. However, the Cathedral is particularly interesting because it was home to the Toledo School of Translators, a group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars who worked together in the 12th and 13th centuries to translate religious, philosophical and scientific works from Arabic, Greek and Hebrew into Latin and later Castilian. It was here that the foundations of modern Spanish were established and it was also a place of peace between Christians, Jews and Muslims. From the XV century onwards. The Alcázar of Toledo, a strategically placed fortification, dominates the city. Although it was originally built as a Roman palace, it was restored in the fifteen hundreds and each ruler added different elements to its design. During the Spanish Civil War, the Siege of Alcazar made it a symbol of Spanish nationalism and today the building is home to a military museum. If the sights of Toledo are inspirational, so is eating out! Toledo is proud of its many traditional dishes, one of the specialities being las Carcamusas. Click on the photo below to find out what it’s made of! And if your not much interested in taking a historical tour, you will probably just enjoy meandering around the narrow streets, taking in the sights without knowing all about them, discovering the river Tajo and its beautiful bridges, getting lost without minding…. and enjoying that rare thing called sun!
VALENCIA This summer I spent a week in Valencia. As I was preparing my trip, I noticed on the map what seemed to be a huge river flowing through the city. However, when I stepped out of the bus station, I found myself dragging my suitcase not through a wide torrent as expected, but across a beautiful park, full of trees, flowers, paths and ponds; people walking, running, cycling, or just enjoying the beautiful summer evening. And so I began to wander. I soon discovered that up until the late 1950s this park was indeed a river, the Turia. However the clay-like earth that made up its banks meant that it had little capacity for absorption, and over the centuries Valencia suffered regular serious floods. Great Flood of Valencia, 1957. Source: Federación Valenciana de Municipios y Provincias 1957 was the last straw: the city was so badly flooded that the regional government decided to divert the river to flow round the south end of the city. It was eventually decided that the empty bed should be converted into a public park for the enjoyment of all and this is why today we can visit the Turia Gardens, which is indeed an endless adventure. I took a week’s bike hire with Valensbis, (a really fun and cheap way to get to know the city, providing you can find the docks in time) and cycled through the Turia Gardens from the city centre right down to the seaside… Here are some of the things to do and see along the way. Bioparc Valencia: this is at the beginning of the Park and is a huge re-creation of African wilderness, where the animals have plenty space to live and move and visitors can enjoy the sensation of walking amidst it all. Truly breathtaking! Parque de Cabecera: The next stop has to be this park, with it’s green lawns, trees and wildlife and a beautiful lake where you can hire a boat and bond with the swans! A bit further down, it’s worth stopping at the Torres de Serranos, an important landmark for Valencia. These towers date back to the 14th Century and are one of the twelve gates that formed part of the ancient city wall that was pulled down in 1845. Situated next to the Royal Gardens you cannot miss the Museum of Fine Arts. Apart from being an amazingly beautiful building, Museo de Bellas Artes is the second most important art collection in Spain. This huge museum is filled with works from 14th century to the 19th and the entry is free. Keep on cycling through enchanting gardens and under beautiful bridges, you will pass by the Palacio de la Música, a venue used for concerts, exhibitions, performances, outdoor cinema screenings and much more. Then there is Gulliver’s Park, a gigantic adventure playground in the shape of Captain Gulliver tied to the ground! The City of Arts and Science is Valencia’s pride and joy, an interesting feat of modern architecture and, if you can afford it, an exciting family day out. It is made up of five different themed spaces, perhaps the most spectacular being the Oceanográfico, the largest aquarium in Europe which holds over 500 marine species. If you have actually cycled all the way to the beach, you will be very hot and hungry! I suggest you start by buying a roasted corn on the cob from a very charming man on the walkway, throw yourself into the sea and then make your way to La Pepica for the best Paella en Valencia. Founded over 100 years ago, this restaurant started out as a little wooden hut by the beach and has fed everyone from Ernest Hemingway to the kings of Spain. Nothing beats Paella on the beach, a glass or two of white wine and a beautiful sunset!
CIUDADES DE ESPAÑA: ¡GRANADA! I don’t believe there is a city in the world that is as enchanting as Granada. It doesn’t matter which direction you look in, you’ll be stunned: as you walk along its pavements you can’t help marvel at the mosaics beneath your feet or the graffiti art that decorates many of its walls. Narrow streets open out onto beautiful squares, each with its own church, each decorated with the charming sight of people sitting in outdoor cafés, children playing, old men and women gossiping or watching the world go by. Look up, and you will stand in awe of the immense and majestic Alhambra, with royal gardens that open onto breathtaking views of the city and beyond. This fortress dates back to the ninth century and it’s combination of eastern and western architecture tells the story of the political turmoil that tormented and yet shaped Granada over the centuries. Accross the river on the opposing hills, sit the Sacramonte and Albaicín, home to flamenco, passed down from generation to generation through “los gitanos” (gypsy people). These neighbourhoods are almost entirely made up of cave dwellings, dug out by the Moors when they were banished to live on the outskirts of society, and still inhabited today, some with all the mod cons, some without. We don’t often associate Spain with snowsports, but Granada is only an hour away from one of the most stunning ski resorts in Europe. The Sierra Nevada (snowy mountain range) boasts over a hundred km of wide slopes and stunning views -from the top you can actually see Morroco on a clear day – and slopes are open right up until May. For those who crave the sea, you won’t be disappointed. Just over an hour’s journey takes you to a number of beautiful seaside villages, which, probably because of the stony beaches, have not yet been invaded by British tourists… you can eat freshly caught squid cooked on the beach and enjoy sangría while you wait and – oh, I almost forgot – tapas are FREE in Granada!!!! But if you have studied Spanish and perhaps feel you can get by pretty well in Spain, you may find yourself questioning your comprehension abilities – I certainly did! When “grana’inos” speak, they miss out the s, the d, a few rs and any other consonant which threatens to make a word last too long. If you’d like to hear a little sample, click here. I hope you have the opportunity to visit this beautiful place – it will take your breath away!
Spanish Language Immersion Days. Last year, almost 300 pupils from ten different secondary schools took part in the Spanish language immersion days organized by the Spanish Embassy Education Office in collaboration with the British Council, SALT Edinburgh and three participating councils: North Lanarkshire Council, West Dunbartonshire Council and Aberdeen City Council. It was the first time that the programme was coordinated by SALT Edinburgh. Our director Jorge joined with a group of 16 native Spanish language assistants to give Scottish teenagers an authentic Spanish experience. “This was an amazing experience which enabled me to enhance my Spanish.” The team travelled out to schools across the country to bring the warmth of Spain into our classrooms. The purpose of these immersion days was to motivate pupils to learn Spanish by giving them contact with native speakers and to help them prepare for their exams. “The teachers mainly spoke in Spanish so it meant you had to think a lot about what you were saying and it has improved my vocabulary.” “I liked learning to dance a typical Spanish dance because it was fun and unusual.” In a series of fun, themed workshops, the youngsters were able to improve their speaking skills, learn new vocabulary and develop intercultural awareness through a variety of activities, including inventing stories, giving directions, learning songs and traditional dances. “I think we should do things like this more often because it was very helpful and enjoyable and it improved my Spanish listening.” These workshops got the pupils smiling as if the Spanish sun was shining down on Scotland – the feedback speaks for itself. Given that the response was so positive, we are looking forward to running even more immersion days this year. For those of you who would like to read more about the programme in Spanish, click here (page 9).
I Lived in A Spanish Village for 8 Months, and it Changed Me Forever. Have you ever thought about spending a year in Spain? Casie Tennin, a graduate from New York City, writes about her experience as an English speaking assistant at a school in a tiny Spanish village. What was a major culture shock for a New York City slicker might not be so different for most of us, because life in Spain is in a league of its own…. Casie begins her stay in utter confusion: the shop keeper who keeps her waiting at the till because she is having a long chat with a friend, the waiter who refuses to serve her a sandwich at 7.30pm (dinner is at 9.30pm!), an apartment without a clothes dryer, heating, air conditioning, or oven, not to mention the strange habit people have of poking their forks (or fingers) into her plate of tapas. Fregenal de la Sierra is a farming village in the province of Extremadura and personifies life in the slow lane: everybody has time to greet you, there is no hurry to get things done by yesterday, quite simply because today is to be enjoyed. Casie falls in love with the friendly community, learns that fun doesn’t stop at 30, that socialising doesn’t mean you have to get drunk fast (better to do it slowly and wait up for the sunrise), that jamon is extremely important, that life is for sharing and much much more…..follow the links to read her blog in both English and Spanish.
Write down Trading Stories in capital letters in your diary. The forthcoming edition of the Edinburgh International Book Festival will focuss on translation, and there are authors coming from a wide variety of countries and cultures to present talks, workshops and performances, with something for all ages and audiences.
Like here in the UK, every Spanish newspaper has a culture section and every culture section publishes annually a list with the best books of the year. Out in the Open (Intemperie in Spanish) was included in each one of them. You can see its author at the forthcoming edition of the EIBF.