22 ene. 2009

The Pequeño Larousse Ilustrado: using a monolingual dictionary

Students that have reached a medium to advanced level of study may be interested in a Spanish monolingual dictionary such as the Pequeño Larousse Ilustrado reviewed on this site. In the review, we look at the virtues and pitfalls of a monolingual dictionary for language learning, and one or two subtle language features to look out for in the dictionary definitions.

Do you use a monolingual dictionary in your Spanish studies? Do you use the Pequeño Larousse or did you opt for a different dictionary? How useful do you find it? As ever, we'd be interested to hear your comments and experiences.

20 ene. 2009

Using the on-line Spanish exercises


Various of the pages in the Spanish grammar section of the web site contain on-line grammar exercises that are designed to help you make sure that the information you are learning is "sinking in", or simply as a refresher if you're already familiar with the material. Particularly if the grammar point in question is new, it is worth spending a few minutes doing the corresponding exercise, as this will help the point in question to become part of your "active knowledge".

Note that to learn grammar and vocabulary effectively, most learners will have more success if they have a variety of experiences with that grammar or vocabulary: so your strategy for learning Spanish needs to encompass a variety of activities such as on-line exercises, "active" reading (where you're needing to look a small percentage of words up in a dictionary), creating a video diary or blog in Spanish etc. So the on-line exercises in the grammar section should be seen as part of this strategy, but you should also be actively looking for the examples of the grammar points you've learnt while reading, for example.

Now back to the exercises. There are essentially two ways in which you do most of the grammar exercises on the site:
  • for working privately or in small groups, you can fill in the exercise directly on the page
  • for larger groups, or when working with a whiteboard, you can use the exercise in full screen mode
In full screen mode, the question and answer are shown in a large font, and an on-screen keyboard appears below the exercise which will function as a touch-screen keyboard when using an interactive whiteboard. (Note that if you are looking for other Spanish activities to use on a interactive whiteboard, you may like to check out the Spanish wordsearch games and Spanish crossword games also available on the site.)

Private/small group use: filling in on the page

In this mode, you see ten questions at a time (1). To the right of each question, you fill in the answer (2). When you press ENTER (or TAB) inside one of the question boxes, that question will be "marked", and you'll start the next question. If you get the question wrong, you can go back. To type accents, you can either use one of the standard ways of typing accents, or you can use the accent buttons at the bottom of the exercise (3).

Vocabulary used in exercises

Note that the exercises will generally expect particular vocabulary to be used. If a word list isn't explicitly given on the page, then which word to use should be obvious from the type of exercise. (In the example -ar verb exercise pictured, if we're asked for a form of the verb meaning "to drink", this obviously would not be beber, as the latter is not an -ar verb!) However, if you're not sure which word to use, then most exercises have a vocabulary button (4), which will give you the list of vocabulary used by the exercise in question.

Full-screen/whiteboard mode

To use the exercises on a whiteboard (or with a large group), access the full screen mode (5). In this mode, questions are displayed one at a time, in large font, and the on-screen keyboard can is used to type the answer. In this mode, an overall numeric score is kept as follows:

  • 3 points for an answer correct on the first attempt
  • 2 points for an answer correct on the second attempt
  • 1 point for an answer correct on the third attempt
Comments about the exercises are always welcome and can be left on this blog entry. Please contact the author if you wish to use these or similar exercises in your own web page.

15 ene. 2009

Recordings in Spanish Pronunciation section

Various recordings have been added to the section Spanish Pronunciation. If you haven't seen this section, you may wish to check it out: it presents a basic overview of the typical pronunciation of the various sounds/letters of Spanish, with some tips on how native speakers tend to pronounce the various sounds, and how they often differ from English.

13 ene. 2009

Difficult Spanish words and 'falsos amigos'

The site's section on difficult Spanish words looks at various items of Spanish vocabulary that can cause trouble for English-speaking learners (and sometimes foreign learners in general) because either they look similar to another Spanish word with different meaning, or because they wrongly lull the reader into thinking that they have a particular meaning.

For example, the Spanish word actual, generally carrying the meaning of current, presentday, would virtually never be translated by the English word actual. A carpeta in Spanish is a folder: nothing to do with carpets! Various books for Spanish learners give lists of similar words, sometimes referred to as falsos amigos or "false friends".

However, a problem with the typical list of falsos amigos is that many of these words sometimes can actually carry the meaning of their English counterpart. Many textbooks that give a simple list actually present a misleadingly pessimistic view! So in our treatment of tricky Spanish words on the Español-Inglés site, instead of a simple list of words, we try to give an explanation of how the word in question is used, comparing and contrasting it with the use of its apparent English counterpart.

Comments and suggestions for new falsos amigos or otherwise additions to the section are always welcome and can be left on this blog entry.

1 ene. 2009

Spanish wordsearches/crosswords in PDF format

Firstly, let me offer all users of the Español-Inglés site most hearty Felicidades for 2009!

The first new content of the year is some freely-downloadable Spanish crosswords and wordsearches, available in the new Spanish worksheets section of the web site. The activities are downloadable as PDF files, so you should be able to print them out from any machine that has a PDF reader installed.

The wordsearches and crosswords are organised into various themes, chosen from the basic Spanish section of the web site. Each PDF file includes several activities on the chosen theme, of varying levels of difficulty (small/medium/large grid size). Watch this space for further topics.