Sunday, September 25, 2011

Advanced Spanish Grammar

We would all do well to take an advanced grammar course, no matter the language. Before I get too far, though, I'm going to claim that any missteaks I make are here on purpose to point out the need for better grammar and spelling lest I am caught by the cardinal sin of improperly making fun of someone else's grammar.

That said, a blog post comes to mind, which came across Twitter earlier today. With the caveat that I understand that I'm not a perfect grammarian, and I've come a long ways in my learning not to look down on those with poor spelling and grammar skills, I really do like this post that I'm going to share, and I am not making fun of it at all. I have not yet watched the video she cites, but I plan to. The post is great, so if you get a pingback from this and come find my post, Chelsi, please don't feel bad.

I'm just going to say that it's a little funny to write a post talking about students' poor grammar skills and title it Is Texting and Instant Messaging Ruining the English Language? when it should have obviously started with the verb "Are" due to its compound subject. I totally get where she was going with it, thinking of texting and instant messaging (and later tweeting) as a singular phenomenon. Is Informal Electronic Messaging Ruining the English Language? I don't know what else I'd call it, and it doesn't matter. The title is fine, and the article is great. If anyone thinks I'm making fun, I'm not. I'll save the snark for responses on Yahoo! Answers. It's a blog post, which by definition is a less formal communication method. Being less formal, it is more important to get the point across than anything else, and we would all do well to cut each other a little slack. I often specifically choose to ignore certain grammar rules to reinforce a point or to make my writing more approachable. Yes, I am pointing out a grammar mistake in someone's post about poor grammar in order to make the point that she gets her point across well enough that it doesn't matter that she even made the mistake.

Okay, so what does this have to do with Spanish? Well, when you're learning a new language, you often learn many things about your own language that you wouldn't have otherwise. Also, when talking to someone who is a native or at least well-educated speaker, it is much different than talking to someone who speaks in halting sentences and a poor accent. We joke about some foreigners forgetting to use words like "the" or not conjugating nouns properly. It is those little things that make a huge difference in sounding educated or not. That is why this class is so important. It focuses on all the little things that take you beyond being able to find el baño and allow you to have a decent conversation with an intelligent person in the new language.

It goes into proper use of the common prepositions a, con, en, and de (to, with, in, and of). The ever-confusing verbs ser and estar (to be) are covered, as are the tricky pair of prepositions para and por (for). In addition to those words, advanced verb forms and tenses are reviewed, including such favorites as the past perfect and imperfect, reflexive verbs, and passive voice.

My favorite advanced grammar skill is piling on reflexive and direct object pronouns at the end of a verb. You can end up with a two word (Quisiera comprartelo.) sentence in Spanish with what would be eight words (I would like to buy that for you.) in English. Granted, they are the same number of syllables, so you're not saving much.

I'm interested by concepts that are present in one language but not another, such as clusivity. A word I really like in Spanish is aquel. It has a few different forms based on gender and number, plus it can be either a pronoun or an adjective, but on top of that, the concept of aquel is one we lack in English, unless you include "them thar hills". Grouped together, there are éstos, ésos, and aquéllos, meaning these, those, and those way over there, respectively. Aquel refers to not just those things, but those far away things. I think if we had such a construct, McCain may have referred to Obama not just as That One but as Aquél.

No comments: