An English grammar lesson in La Paz

6 Aug

I’m currently in La Paz trying hard to learn Spanish.  You might ask why I would also need to learn English grammar?

Well, I’ve realised that learning a foreign language needs much more than a basic grasp of the grammar of your own language…why is this?

Well the language teacher uses the proper terms for such things as adjectives, adverbs, pronouns. relative pronouns, pronouns with prepositions…

and all those things I have never had to think about in English…like which tense to use…well now that needs to be part of my thought process…is the action past and completed..was it a continuing action in the past….can I link it to the present or was it in the past but still in process….do I walk or am I walking…..and what are gerunds anyway?  Do we need to think about them?

Some days I feel my head is swimming with such thoughts as is this word masculine or feminine?

There is no rule but a skirt is feminine (falda) and trousers are male (pantalones).  You need to learn this for every word you need to use, and then if you want to say that the item is your’s you change the word for that depending on the gender of the noun (check me!!!), you also need to change it if you are saying there is none of the thing in the area or any in the area……

They also quite often miss out the “subject” of the sentence so you just have to look at the verb to work out who is doing the “action”.

But probably so far my two least favourite Spanish grammar things are imperatives..you use these for when you want to order someone to do something like “give me my jacket” or “don’t drink anymore”.

What I don’t like about these is there are different forms for when you want someone to do something so eat more is “comE mas” and don’t eat more is “no comAS mas”.  I really don’t get this at all…why not just bite the bullet and use the same phrase????  Wouldn’t that make it easier?

My second least favourite Spanish grammar rule…personal pronouns…where I now need to think about direct and indirect complements….what?

And once I have decided whether it’s a direct or indirect complement I then have to look at the words and if for example “le, les” is next to “lo, la. los or las” heaven forbid I have to change the indirect complement to “se”…still not sure why but for some reason this is one rule that seems to stick in my head..I just have to picture the “le and les” fighting it out with the “lo, la,los or las” and then I realise there is simply no way they can be together….even more strange is the rule whereby you add the direct and indirect complements onto the end of the verb….if you are not lost by now…I am…let’s take an example….”El profesor esta exlicando la leccion a los alumnos” which is “the teacher is explaining the lecture to the students”..now in English to replace the lecture and the students it would be pretty damn easy…”the teacher is explaining it to them”.

Now in Spanish the them would be “les” and the lecture would be “la” but remember what I said about the fighting direct and indirect complements…so it becomes “El se la esta explicando”….so far so good…a bit contrived but hey ho…but not finished yet…they then decide randomly to add the “se” and the “la” onto the end of the “gerund” so it becomes “El esta explicandosela”….oh my word is there any need for such complexity….

I suppose the real difficulty is learning English as a child you never really think about the tenses you are using….and you never really have to think about whether an action is continuing or not…and whether the complement is direct or indirect….at least I am gaining a useful grammar lesson in English though it might be some time before “estoy escribiendo mi blog en espanol” which translates as “I am writing my blog in Spanish”!

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7 Responses to “An English grammar lesson in La Paz”

  1. Marco D. August 6, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    I know that it’s much easier to say it than to do it but maybe you should try to learn spanish as a child would do it. Don’t think about which tense is correct in a certain situation, just listen carefully to people and try to imitate them! Suerte 🙂

    • angiemain August 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

      Thanks Marco! The trouble is kids don’t have the adult thing of getting red and flustered when they get it wrong. Still once I have mastered these direct and indirect objects I am sure I will be able to converse with any bolivian I meet!!! Ha ha!! A

  2. Isobel Main August 6, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    The problem is Ange our silly schools at one point decided Spelling and Grammar were no longer important and now you are paying the price. As long as you ‘flied’ an Eco ‘flagg’ you were in tune with the moment. By the way I hope the stomach has stopped making music and the charango has taken over again. Mum

    • angiemain August 7, 2010 at 12:33 am #

      I know! They didn’t do it at Airdrie Academy at all even in Higher English. Quite ridiculous that the Spanish teacher knows more English grammar than I do!!!! Still at least if you have a eco flag that will help you in your future career!!! Stomach much better and sticking to simpler foods here…charango is ok but think I need a metronome sent over…my timing is as bad as ever! Love, Angexxx

  3. Gus and Eileen Paterson August 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Your blog is very interesting Angie, as are the comments, your humour is very suttle at times, which I like
    I am learning a lot about the ways of the people you are meeting, this is a cheap way for Eileen and I to learn which is just as well, we are a wee bit too auld to do as you are doing, we would have loved to have taken the chance, but we didn’t have the bottle to do it, so more power to your elbow Angie!!
    It is raining [again] nothing changes, gives us all a wee rest from the garden, you will be seeing some strange plants on your travels, I would have been tempted to collect seeds, but it is illegal I think you need a license or a permit.
    You take care, lots of love from Eileen and Gus xx

  4. English Grammar September 2, 2010 at 3:35 am #

    I am definitely linking! This has been really informative. My brothers are all Math professors and I am an English preschool teacher 🙂 How was that? 🙂 Thanks anyway and more power to you!

    • angiemain October 1, 2010 at 12:38 am #

      Hey ! Thanks for your message. Sorry for the delay in replying. Have been in the North of Peru without much access to the internet for ages! Been looking at your website….it is awful but such words as prepositions are just a mystery to me….this week’s Spanish learning has involved writing down every word in the Museum of Gold in Bogota so I know such varied words as those for copper, sheets, wax, wires, nails, hammer…all very useful I suppose! Hope all is well. Angie

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