When it comes to learning grammar people often panic and are put off from learning languages. They often think that learning grammar is boring and you don’t need to learn silly grammar rules to be able to speak a foreign language. You couldn’t be further from the truth! Everything we say is made up of some sort of a grammar rule.
In this blog post we will give you some tips to help you get to grips with learning Spanish grammar.
If you start simply with the basic rules it will be easier to move on to more tricky rules.
For example start with learning about definite articles, which is just saying “the” which changes depending on whether the word is masculine, feminine, singular or plural: el / la / los / las.
Also learn the indefinite articles which mean “a” or “some”. These are un/ una / unos / unas.
Study adjectives rules and how the endings change depending on whether they are agreeing with something masculine, feminine, singular or plural and where they should be placed.
The present tense is the one used most in everyday speaking so it is worth spend a good couple of months perfecting it.
It is a very important tense as in Spanish it is also used to talk about the near future.
Knowing the present tense well will stand you in good stead to learn the more complex tenses and constructions such as the subjunctive mood.
Don’t move on to any more tenses until you are confident using the present tense.
Study the key irregular verbs, such as, “to be” – ser / estar, “to have” – tener, “to go” – ir, “to do/make” – hacer, “to want” – querer, “to be able to” – poder.
Every object in Spanish is classed as either masculine or feminine so you need to know whether to say “the …” needs “el” or “la” or “un” or “una”. Also, adjectives need to have the correct ending to agree with the noun it is describing. This is why it is important to know whether a word is masculine or feminine.
Have a notebook to list masculine nouns in one colour or at the beginning of the book and feminine nouns in another colour or at the back of the book.
You will notice patterns, like words ending in –o are masculine and words ending in –a are feminine. Words ending in –sión and –ción are feminine, words ending in –aje are masculine and so on.
Learn exceptions to the general rule. It isn’t as simple as knowing that words ending in –o are masculine and words ending in –a are feminine, because there are exceptions to this rule, when words ending in –o are actually feminine such as la foto (photo) or el programa (programme) is masculine.
It is much easier to learn grammar when you can see how it’s used in everyday writing or speech.
For example, if you are studying question words, find some dialogues of people asking for things in shops or at the market. If you are learning past tense verbs use materials where people are describing their holiday last year. If you are learning clothes vocabulary look at a fashion website in Spanish or a clothes shop like Zara or Mango. Authentic material is a great way of learning the most up-to-date vocabulary.
Reading Spanish books, magazines or websites is a great way to see how Spanish grammar actually works and how sentences are structured.
Compare writing to how you write in Spanish. You will find it easier to spot your mistakes.
Make sure your reading material is from reliable sources. For example a good source of Spanish reading material is online national newspapers and magazines – as you know the Spanish will be correct.
As well as filling in gaps in exercises and doing translation exercises it is a good idea for you to write in Spanish every day. This way you are putting into practice what you are learning rather than just memorising verb conjugations. For example:
– you could write a diary every day.
– Write to your exchange partner either by email or text.
– Write a review of a book or a film.
This way you will come across things you don’t know how to say or that you have forgotten and need to refresh, so you know what to study to work out how to say what you wanted to.
Finding grammar patterns helps you translate correctly. If you rely too much on literal translations this creates poor translations when you try to put sentences in English into Spanish.
There are certain patterns to watch out for which you can then memorise – for example, after any preposition – that means a word like “para, por, con, de, sin, hacia, hasta, a” you must use the infinitive form of the verb, (that is the simplest form of a verb such as comer or hablar).
Also, when you have two verbs together, the second one must also be the infinitive form.
After saying “I like” using the verb “gustar” and other similar verbs like this, you must use the definite article. For example “I like sports” – Me gustan los deportes.
Start as you mean to go on so that you don’t make simple mistakes later on. It is so easy to miss off accents when you are writing but these are important especially when learning as you need to know where to stress a word so that you pronounce it correctly otherwise you may not be understood.
Even when texting a Spanish friend, try to get into the habit of using correct Spanish. Write the words out in full and putting on the accents.
If you don’t put the accent on the correct letter it can mean something totally different. For example:
él = he or him // el = the
sí = yes // si = if
Many people are turned off from learning Spanish grammar and find it boring but if you find ways to enjoy it, you are much more likely to stick at it.
For example, you could find a catchy song on Youtube to help you memorise verb conjugations.
Try to appreciate the easier parts of grammar.
With the future tense, there is only one set of verb endings to learn for all 3 groups of verbs (-ar, -er and –ir verbs).
Also in the imperfect tense there are only 3 irregular verbs to learn.