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Readers Respond: Learning the Words and Phrases a Native Speaker Would Use

Responses: 13


It's possible to speak Spanish in a way that is 100 percent grammatically correct and understandable and yet not be using the words and phrases that a native speaker would use. What suggestions would you have avoiding that?

Girlfriend? Yes, but ...

I had a girlfriend that only knew about six words of English and was a complete shrew to boot! It didn't last long but it was great for my no-holds-barred Spanish. I presently have a much better deal. A happily married mother of a first-grader calls me probably every other evening with questions about her son's homework. First she tries to read and describe the homework problem over the phone in English, and then it's 20 questions in Spanglish until I understand. Great fun!

Girlfriend would help

Best bet, find a Spanish-speaking girlfriend, unless you're married. Then .. well, I'll pray you pick it up well in class or just from a book. Darn!
—Guest Don Alejandro Montez

Native teachers

It's much better if you learn Spanish with real Spanish teachers because you copy their exact pronunciation.
—Guest Cinthya

Copy native speakers

I would advise and encourage people to observe how native speakers use their own language -- especially which verbs they use in different contexts. If the Spanish speaking natives use "darse cuenta de" = meaning "to realize," emulate (copy) their style and use the same verb/s when you wish to communicate that same meaning. In this way you will -- as long as you pronounce the words with reasonable accuracy -- be able to communicate your message and be understood: which is the primary purpose of speaking any language. Just avoid the common mistake of thinking you should change the verb into a more suitable English verb before translating it. I once wanted to say "I feel embarrassed," and as you might have guessed ... I said "estoy embarazado" which means "I am pregnant" instead of using the Spanish phrase "Me siento avergonzado que ..." 'tengo venguenza que'. or 'Me da pena que' Not a good thing to say if you are a man/guy! I was born in Peru but have lived in England since I was two.
—Guest Pablo7


While I realize that written and spoken Spanish will have their differences, a more informal magazine with more of a conversational tone than, say, a news magazine or a professional publication might be helpful. Does anyone have any suggestions?
—Guest anna

Create a network of friends

I'm a Spanish speaker, and I'm still learning English, but I can tell you that the best way to keep working on your new skills is to get good Spanish speakers friends. They can give you tips about how to express your though and how to ask for help. One more, this is grammatical: Articles and suffixes in Spanish are very important. The good use of them can give sense to your speaking.

"Chocar" vis-à-vis "collide"

"Chocar" really has the connotation of "collide", which is why it would not be typically used to talk about an plane "crashing" into the sea, except as noted, where the plane "collided" with the ocean surface...
—Guest René

Use what you learn in school. ...

I say you should just use what you have already learned ... just like in English, there are many different ways to say a sentence, and every country will say it differently. Sometimes in English it is easier to understand someone from a non-English-speaking country than an English speaking one. This is due to them learning a generally accepted version of the language ... which is what you are learning in school for Spanish. If you want to learn what the natives would actually say, you first have to narrow it by country. If you aren't going to travel to any other country, then learn the one that is closest to you, Mexico/PR for US, Spain for UK, etc. ... or just don't practice what they would say, because if you ran into someone from a different Spanish-speaking country, you might not even be understood. (just like if a Spanish person who learned British English went to America and called everyone chaps and lads) So in short, it is better to use what you are learning in school.
—Guest Jeff

Speak to native speakers!

de que trata?....is one example! I didn't know it meant "what is this about?" tratar is a synonym and if we only learn one way to use it, we can get confused talking to native speakers. I always ask them if I hear something I don't understand....once it's cleared up, I seem to always hear the correct usage in normal speech, also on TV shows! : )

Idioms and sayings.

Learn idioms and sayings. Read native materials. Interact with native speakers
—Guest Margaret Nahmias

Complication and suggestion

Complication: Reading articles is one good way to increase vocab, but as a journalist who's worked in Latin America I can tell you written Spanish and spoken Spanish are often quite different in usage and word choice -- more different from each other than written and spoken English. So that's just something to watch for and ask your native Sp speaking friends about. Suggestion: Watch telenovelas! And keep a notebook by the TV chair. Single best way in U.S. to get daily rapid-fire spoken usage. And they keep repeating the important plot developments, since most people only tune in a few days a week.
—Guest Cynthia Gorney

Immerse Yourself in Authentic Content

The more you immerse yourself in authentic content on a regular basis, the more the right way of saying things will simply "feel right." LoMásTv.Com is designed to give you that exposure to real Spanish in a way that learners can digest.
—Guest jdq@yabla.com


I am not sure. The first one comes to mind is "tengo hambre" instead of "estoy hambre". However languages are fluid, just because something is not said doesn't mean it is grammatically incorrect. This is very interesting. I am a Spanish immersion teacher and yet I am not a native speaker (although I am fluent).
—Guest maysfran

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