Category Archives: Special Articles

Spanish articles, like the or a, change depending on the context. Learn how to speak authentically by saying spanish articles properly

Duolingo language-learning site appears to be a great start for Spanish

Being a former Spanish language instructor at all levels and holding a Masters degree in Spanish Linguistics, I am in a position to evaluate different Spanish language programs. Duolingo is an excellent tool for those wanting to learn the Spanish language. However, it must supplemented by practice with native speakers, Spanish immersion and above all the desire and motivation to learn the language. Remember, any method is only as good as the effort you put into it. “To learn another language, is to know another world” — Cervantes.

The free, online training site is 5 years old now, and 27 languages are being offered with nearly that many in development. Not all courses are for English speakers, and the English course for foreigners is the most popular.

Of particular interest for expats in Costa Rica is the Spanish for English course, which quickly propels a learner into a basic vocabulary. No one claims that a Duolingo course can make a learner fluent, but the grammatical groundwork is comprehensive.

After 60 or so quick lessons, a learner can construct basic sentences, knows a little about telling time, as well as basic occupations and sizes: small, big, short, tall.

The program originated at Carnegie Mellon University. So, despite being free, the coursework is impressive. Each course is developed by bilingual speakers, and many are academics with vast knowledge of linguistics.

The Spanish for English speakers course has about 79,000 learners now, but many, of course, do not finish the lessons.

That is not the fault of Duolingo. The program sends out daily messages encouraging learners to sign on and complete a lesson. Its motto is that language learning requires daily practice.

The website is available on handheld devices, too. https://en.duolingo.com/

Some may want to use the oral capacities. Those with microphones on computers can use this optional feature.

Parts of this article courtesy of AM Costa Rica

Bilinguals found to have more grey mater

By the Georgetown University Medical Center news staff. A new study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex suggests people who speak two languages have more gray matter in the brain.

bilingual-brain-scan

In past decades, much has changed about the understanding of bilingualism. Early on, bilingualism was thought to be a disadvantage because the presence of two vocabularies would lead to delayed language development in children. However, it has since been demonstrated that bilingual individuals perform better, compared with monolinguals, on tasks that require attention, inhibition and short-term memory, collectively termed executive control.

This bilingual advantage is believed to come about because of bilinguals’ long-term use and management of two spoken languages. But skepticism still remains about whether these advantages are present, as they are not observed in all studies. Even if the advantage is robust, the mechanism is still being debated.

“Inconsistencies in the reports about the bilingual advantage stem primarily from the variety of tasks that are used in attempts to elicit the advantage,” says senior author Guinevere Eden, director for the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University Medical Center.

“Given this concern, we took a different approach and instead compared gray matter volume between adult bilinguals and monolinguals,” she said. “We reasoned that the experience with two languages and the increased need for cognitive control to use them appropriately would result in brain changes in Spanish-English bilinguals when compared with English-speaking monolinguals. And in fact greater gray matter for bilinguals was observed in frontal and parietal brain regions that are involved in executive control.”

Gray matter of the brain has been shown to differ in volume as a function of people’s experiences. A prominent finding of this type was a report that London taxi drivers have more gray matter in brain areas involved in spatial navigation.

What about being bilingual leads to these advantages? To address this question the team went one step further. “Our aim was to address whether the constant management of two spoken languages leads to cognitive advantages and the larger gray matter we observed in Spanish-English bilinguals, or whether other aspects of being bilingual, such as the large vocabulary associated with having two languages, could account for this,” explains Olumide Olulade, the study’s lead author and post-doctoral fellow.

The researchers compared gray matter in bilinguals of American Sign Language and spoken English with monolingual users of English. Both ASL-English and Spanish-English bilinguals share qualities associated with bilingualism, such as vocabulary size. But unlike bilinguals of two spoken languages, ASL-English bilinguals can sign and speak simultaneously, allowing the researchers to test whether the need to inhibit the other language might explain the bilingual advantage.

“Unlike the findings for the Spanish-English bilinguals, we found no evidence for greater gray matter in the ASL-English bilinguals,” Olulade said. “Thus we conclude that the management of two spoken languages in the same modality, rather than simply a larger vocabulary, leads to the differences we observed in the Spanish-English bilinguals.”

The research team says their findings adds to the growing understanding of how long-term experience with a particular skill — in this case management of two languages — changes the brain.

Go to jail for uttering obscenities to women in Costa Rica

Piropos are flirtatious remarks or comments men often say to women as they walk down the street in Latin American countries. For example. ¿Qué hace una estrella como tú volando tan bajo? What is a beautiful star like you doing by flying so close to earth? Unfortunately, there are many piropos which are directed towards women that are extremely vulgar and degrading.

Now there is a law in Costa Rica that can punish men with a fine and or jail time if they insult women with indecorous remarks. According to Article 392 of the Contravenciones Contra Las Buenas Costumbres, “Anyone can be put in jail from 5 to 30 days for expressing obscene words or gestures in public. If judge decides that the words expressed insult one’s honor, fines can range from a little over $100 to almost $800 dollars depending on the offense. Furthermore, if the guilty party can’t pay the fine, he will have to spend time in jail to work it off.”

Here is a list of the some of the vulgarities for which a man will be fined or thrown in jail in Costa Rica:

  • ¡Caripicha! – Penis face
  • ¡Chúpeme el culo! – Kiss my butt
  • ¡Deje de ventilarse el hocico con tanta mierda!– Stop ventilating your mouth with so much BS
  • ¡Hijueputa! – Son of a bitch
  • ¡Huelepedos! – A kiss ass
  • ¡Malparido! – Bastard
  • ¡Mamapichas! – A person who performs falacio
  • ¡Me cago en tu madre! – I will defecate on your mother (very insulting)
  • ¡Qué ricas nalgas! What a nice butt you have!
  • ¡Rica! – Rica or delicious woman
  • ¡Vaya ver quién se la coge! – Get screwed or go to hell

There are a lot more of these obscene remarks which I have chosen not to include. God forbid if a foreigner utter one of these vulgarities!

piropo

To play it cool

“Como si” nada (as if nothing happened) is an idiom that is somewhat confusing for English speakers who trying to learn Spanish. There is an alternative and longer way of expressing the same idea: “Como si no hubiera pasado nada.” (as if nothing happened).

To play it cool

Here are a few examples of how how this idiom is used.

  • El hizo como si nada. He acted like nothing happened or to play it cool.
  • El siguió hablando como si nada. He just went on talking like nothing happened.
  • El autor saca dos artículos por semana como si nada . The author put out two articles per week like it was nothing.
  • Ellos cargaron unas cajas muy pesadas como si nada. They lifted some heavy boxes like it was nothing.
  • José siguió hablando como si nada. Jose continued to talk like it was nothing.
  • María hizo como si nada. Mary assumed a casual air
  • Ella se quedó como si nada ante las circunstancias. She was competely unfazed in the face of the circumstances.
  • Costa Rican saying: Todo el mundo jala para su saco. Everyone thinks of himself.

Here is another reason to learn Spanish if you retire in Costa Rica

New research reveals that bilingualism has a positive effect on cognition later in life. Findings published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, show that individuals who speak two or more languages, even those who acquired the second language in adulthood, may slow down cognitive decline from aging.

Bilingualism is thought to improve cognition and delay dementia in older adults. While prior research has investigated the impact of learning more than one language, ruling out reverse causality has proven difficult. The crucial question is whether people improve their cognitive functions through learning new languages or whether those with better baseline cognitive functions are more likely to become bilingual.

“Our study is the first to examine whether learning a second language impacts cognitive performance later in life while controlling for childhood intelligence,” says lead author Thomas Bak from the Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

For the current study, researchers relied on data from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, comprised of 835 native speakers of English who were born and living in the area of Edinburgh, Scotland. The participants were given an intelligence test in 1947 at age 11 years and retested in their early 70s, between 2008 and 2010. Two hundred and sixty two participants reported to be able to communicate in at least one language other than English. Of those, 195 learned the second language before age 18, 65 thereafter.

Findings indicate that those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities compared to what would be expected from their baseline. The strongest effects were seen in general intelligence and reading. The effects were present in those who acquired their second language early as well as late.

“The Lothian Birth Cohort offers a unique opportunity to study the interaction between bilingualism and cognitive aging, taking into account the cognitive abilities predating the acquisition of a second language” concludes Bak. “These findings are of considerable practical relevance. Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life. Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain.”

After reviewing the study, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, an associate editor for Annals of Neurology and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. said, “The epidemiological study by Dr. Bak and colleagues provides an important first step in understanding the impact of learning a second language and the aging brain. This research paves the way for future causal studies of bilingualism and cognitive decline prevention.”

By the John Wiley & Sons, Inc., news service