Archive for the ‘Vocabulary’ Category

Practice your Spanish Vocabulary with jVLT

Friday, August 17th, 2007


Earlier this year I wrote that flashcards can be disadvantageous to language learning, but before that I included flash cards as one of 11 strategies to learn any foreign language.

So where am I on the issue?

I’ll let you read those two articles and find out.

Today, I’d like to present a piece of free, opensource, flashcard software called jVLT that will run on most computers (Windows, Mac & Linux), and help you learn vocabulary.

What does it do?

jVLT stands for Java Vocabulary Learning Tool and helps you do just that. You add the word combinations that you want to learn, the original and a translation. You can optionally add more than one translation for each word, as well as example sentences, definitions, pronunciation– you can even associate media files such as images and audio with your entries. You can also categorize your vocabulary.

After you’ve entered some words and translations, it’s quiz time. jVLT can create quizzes on all or part of your vocabulary list and maintains statistics on how many words you know, and can modify future quizzes accordingly.


Downloading and Installing

So how can you get a hold of this great product?

First, if you don’t already have it, install Java. Just follow that link, click “Free Java Download”, and follow the instructions to download and install.

After that’s taken care of, download jVLT and save it wherever is convenient. No installation is necessary, if you have Java (above) installed, you should be able to just double-click the file (jvlt-1.0.2.jar) and it will run.

You may also want to grab their sample Spanish – English vocabulary file and import it into jVLT as a starting point. If you have any questions on getting this to work, feel free to ask me.

Spanish Word Pairs: Gender can make a lot of difference

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Did you know you can change the last letter of some Spanish words and get an entirely new word with new meaning and gender?


There’s a whole class of words that end in either o or a depending on the gender of the person, such as camarera, camarero, tía, tío, and hermana, hermano. These words aren’t so hard to deal with since the gender corresponds to the person the word represents.


There’s also a bunch of fruit where the fruit is feminine and the corresponding tree that produces it is masculine. These aren’t too hard to remember either, once you catch on to the pattern. For example:

manzana (apple) – manzano (apple tree)
cereza (cherry) – cerezo (cherry tree)
naranja (orange) – naranjo (orange tree)
almendra (almond) – almendro (almond tree)

The hard part

Now we get to the hard part. Words that end in o or a, and depending on that difference, have a totally or partially different meaning. Watch out for these or you’ll get tripped up.

barranca – ravine, gorge, canyon, cleft
barranco – cliff, precipice, drop-off point, obstacle

bolsa – woman’s purse, bag in general, bolsa de plástico = plastic bag, bolsa (de valores) = stock exchange
bolso – (also bolsillo) – pocket, pants pocket, change purse (also monedero), money bag

braza – fathom (maritime measurement). Don’t confuse this with brasa, which is a red-hot coal.
brazo – arm (anatomy), fork (of a river)

cabecera – header, heading, beginning, head, headboard, headpiece, headline
cabecero – foreman, headboard (of a bed)

cobra – cobra (snake)
cobro – charge, collection (money)

cuenca – wooden bowl, eye socket, valley, river basin
cuenco – earthen bowl, hollow, cavity, depression (in the earth)

fruta – fruit (the pieces of fruit from a plant or tree)
fruto – results, payoff, consequence, benefit, profit, fruit (the yield of a plant or tree)

hoya – dale, hollow, river basin, grave, hole in the ocean’s floor. Not to be confused with olla (cooking pot, stew pot).
hoyo – hole, pit.

libra – pound (weight), constellation Libra
libro – book

manga – sleeve or arm of a shirt or other piece of clothing
mango – the fruit mango, handle (of a tool etc)

poma – pome, apple
pomo – flask, knob, cluster

ribera – shore, bank (of a river etc)
ribero – dike, levee (to hold back water)

ría – river delta, river mouth
río – river

saca – extraction, taking out, bag, sack
saco – sack, bag, sac, plunder, loot, suit coat, suit jacket

There’s probably a lot more of these word pairs as well. Watch out for them as you perfect your Spanish.

Tricky Words Part 4

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Tricky Words.
Here are a few more false cognates for ya’ll. 🙂

Marido. The word marido sounds a lot like ‘married’, but it really means ‘husband’. Esposo is another way to say husband. For wife, try esposa or mujer.

Chocar. This verb has nothing to do with choking, which would be estrangular, ahogar or sofocar. Chocar means to crash. It can also be used to express disgust or dislike. “Me choca esa canción” means “I’m sick of that song”.

Sensible does not mean sensible. Sensible in English is sensato, and sensible in Spanish is sensitive in English.

Vaso. This Spanish would means glass/cup when referring to a drinking vessel. Vaso is also used for vein. Vaso sanguíneo is blood vein. The English vase is a florero.

Pariente. This is does not mean parent, it means relative as in blood relations. Parents are padres.

Sano means healthy. To talk about being sane, look up the words juicio, cuerdo, cordura and sensato.

And that’s all I can think of for now. I’ll have to sit down and see if I can come up with some more to round out this series. It seems like it should have at least 5 parts. 🙂

Tricky Words Series

  1. Tricky Words: Parte Uno
  2. Tricky Words Part 2
  3. Tricky Words Part 3
  4. Tricky Words Part 4

Tricky Words Part 3

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Tricky Words.I’m back today with some more tricky Spanish words.

Bizarro. This is not by any means a very oft-used Spanish word, but when you run across it, it will do you well to know it means gallant, brave, dashing, generous, or splendid, and not bizarre, strange or weird. To talk about bizarre or strange things, try raro or extraño. Note also that raro is closer in meaning to strange than to rare.

Coraje does not usually mean courage*, which would be valentía. Coraje actually means anger, rage.
* Apparently, there are some areas where coraje can mean courage, or “fighting spirit”, but by and large this isn’t the case.

Actual. Actual in Spanish means current. Actualizar means to upgrade, update or bring up to date. Actualmente means currently. So how to get the English meaning for actual? Try verdadero or real. For actually, try por cierto, de hecho, or al contrario.

Compromiso does not mean compromise in the sense of giving in to the other party or changing your ideals. Compromiso actually referrs to a commitment, obligation or even an appointment. “Tengo un compromiso” is the best way to say “I have something I need to do”, “I have an appointment/commitment” etc. So how can you talk about compromise? It’s actually a tough question, but the verbs tolerar (tolerate), and ceder (to yield) work pretty well. The dictionary has transigir, but I’ve never heard it in normal conversation.
Soccer Ball
Fútbol. In Spanish this word can be used with or without the accent mark, with the predictable change in pronunciation, but it can’t be used for the popular US sport named football, which would be fútbol americano. Fútbol actually means soccer. Of course, I can’t forget all the British English speakers, who actually do use the word football to talk about soccer. So much so that a soccer player is a footballer.

Tricky Words Series

  1. Tricky Words: Parte Uno
  2. Tricky Words Part 2
  3. Tricky Words Part 3
  4. Tricky Words Part 4

Tricky Words Part 2

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Tricky Words.Here’s the second installment of Tricky Words– Spanish words that are difficult for the native English speaker.

Let’s dig right in.

Excitar does not mean to excite, nor does excitarse mean to get excited. It means to arouse or get aroused in a sexual sense. To talk about being excited, use emocionar, emocionarse and emocionado.