Monday, November 7, 2016

by Eugenio Rodríguez

the last lines I wrote
you were not there
I never saw you again
happens to the best of us
this constant looking forward
and seeing life in reverse
the woman, the child, the earth
the bird’s call from beyond
the centuries
doors open, doors close
loved ones go
shattered-glass images
darkened glitters
dusty feathers
in empty hands
that's all is left 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Circa College Days
By Eugenio Rodríguez

He was lifted from the photo, removed from all limitations imposed upon him by the old magazine, undeserving limitations on a man of his unrestrictive nature, and was told his death would come --or had already come-- five years later. Just like that. They thought that a man of such experiences, an artist who had traversed life’s darkest halls and sharpest corners, would take the news but with a burst of gallery-resounding laughter. The opposite happened. The most opposite to life one could imagine. His face turned putty, his cheeks waggled, as if his body seams no longer could hold him. It was something to watch: palpitations, fatigue, cheek slapping, alcohol-drenched handkerchief on his nose. If they had not come quickly to belie the truth, rushed to tell him it was all a joke, not to worry. But he, still pouting, still doubting. So they kept on. How could he believe in such advanced retrospectives, how could he go for such marble inscriptions, a man so well versed in Munch, who had not only echoed but transcended The Scream.  And so, little by little, with these sound reasons his face colors reappeared, his shirt puffed up again, his gaze regained in perspective, his chin pierced the air as before, and hardly without any effort, as someone who just put back on his bottle-green corduroy jacket, he rejoined the exact pose in the photo, next to one of his neo-expressionist paintings.

I closed the art magazine, left notes and footnotes on the century-old oak table, and stepped out of the room with endless book galleries circling above, walking alongside readers embalmed in the muted light, until finally I reached the main door of the New York Public Library. As I walked out into the afternoon, past the Roman lions and Doric columns, down the marble steps, I stopped midway, and took a deep breath. Pigeons fluttered over the tourists’ heads down at the end. Some, already dead, were
throwing bread crumbs into heaven.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Eugenio Rodríguez

Up the concrete steps from the sea-level parking lot behind the building to the swimming pool area, he was now standing next to the moon-glassy water; the obvious became apparent: the night sky, all that loneliness. He was carrying groceries, plastic bags weighing down his arms. There was no other excuse to come out of his apartment again.
Rather than going in and taking the elevator, he would walk around the pool and up the fire escape stairs, only three flights and a view out to the sea. After dinner and some reading to ease the guilt of watching a Netflix cop series episode, he would turn off the light on the night table and put a pillow over his ear to muffle the a/c buzzing, the world of noise.
But now he was standing next to the pool, just not moving. He looked up as far as his eyes could reach, not much into anything, he knew.  He was missing millions of stars, blocked by city lights. They were there, millions, zillions of them; he had once put his eye to a telescope at the Miami Planetarium, the free night for all to see beyond. He felt the need to live forever under that window to the universe; an evergreen evening would be his lifetime, incomprehensible to daytime people, those whose days begin with news and traffic reports. Trying again to reach as far as he could into that boundless space, he wondered how different his life would be living perpetually under that sky, with the night stopped on its track right then, as if the big flying wheels of the clock of all clocks had come to a halt, stuck in one of the grooves. What if time were always not moving, not changing, and still be time? An illusion, yes, like no other. Who would think about going to work at 8:24 pm? Our preoccupation with staying home and watching TV because tomorrow is Thursday, still two days away from the weekend, would be replaced by a new sense of forever evening, by a state of mind that comes after coming home and leaving the office behind, one Irish single-malt whiskey drink later; eight twenty-four pm was made for getting ready to go out dancing, to the movies, to dinner; how would it be living with that everlasting feeling that it was still early, feeling he always had time left to go back and do what he wanted to do and never did, spend a year bum-traveling in Europe, move to a country with a lot of mountains and street folk dancing, write books populated by characters no longer living under the illusion of life after death, no longer living as if they had lost the right to eternity, no longer pretending to be magnanimous in their acceptance of ghostly decay, no longer masquerading to be free from death when they were not, and yet living without acceptance but without despair. That seemingly halted sky that he was now trying to look into could achieve what revolutions have failed to achieve, "Who told you that life is a lot of travail in exchange for some fleeting pleasure: 25 years sleeping, 8 years watching TV, 10 hours ejaculating, having orgasms, all in an average 75-year life span. The evening is still young, and will remain so forever, and you, no-longer-young man, the clock has been stopped for you too." The new world would become one with the evening sky, not night, never night. Instead of worshipping the sun as primitives did, we would have no sun, the master of time; as long as it was always 8:24 pm, living and dying would no longer be demarcation points. Yes, living under this ever-young evening sky would be so different.
He then noticed something disquieting above; the sky had taken a different look, become agitated. Was he imagining it or his sight had reached farther than first impressions? The evening sky now appeared convulsive, whirling steam clouds reminding him of old locomotives as they pulled out of the stations, their big puffs erasing all those passengers waiting by the tracks; all that commotion in the sky felt like an old film, all happening behind the screen, posing no threat. He then realized that from the beginning of the beginning the sky must have been more than a perennial landscape, more than a chart for weather forecasting and sailing, before city lights and tower buildings blocked that window to the universe, parceled out for offices and condo views, before the sky became an expressway for planes, and air conditioning and electronic screens kept people inside their sealed rooms; true to the language of time, to the language of death, that night sky he was looking at must have meant hope even from the most beginning of time, even to the most primitive, hope of a secured dwelling, not brutal as their untamed nature, free from predators and even the need for prey, free from seeing a child, your child, burning in fever without recourse, because how could it have been otherwise, how could it be that one day that father, that mother would get up there, there, like the highest flying eagle, sailing in space, and find nothing, not their child, not even feathers or sandals left behind, how could it be that there was no rest in peace, and the mountain peaks pointed to a sky devoid of heavens.
He again tried to imagine what would happen if time stopped but with then and there remaining, another illusion, he knew, but not of heaven and hell. He could see all the people in his apartment building, all those neighbors who hardly said hello, after a while they would start coming out to the balconies, having noticed the passing of time that didn't pass, their TV sitcoms getting nowhere, the channels never breaking for commercials; they would stand out in their T-shirts, shorts, jeans, even bathrobes, clothes they hurriedly put on to step outside and see what was going on (an eclipse or something?); they would file down to the swimming pool area, walking by him as they always do, pretending not to see each other, and down the steps to the parking lot facing the sea; he could see them just milling around, trying to find reassurance but unable to ask the obvious for fear of asking the absurd ("Has time stopped?”); some of them would walk around holding portable radios to their ears, listening to the news, but would find nothing there, the same broadcasts reporting endless events, Jews and Muslims forever scurrying in and out of mountains of rubble in the Middle East, the God-loving terrorists blowing the same people over and over again, the same cars crashing in the local news, the same fires flaming, the same dead lying dead, the same children starving in Sudan, and yet nothing happening again, not even as a replay, and so the National Geographic specials on public television would continue roaming all over Africa, except inanimate matter, objects, like electric generators would indeed age and eventually die, cars, planes, transistors run their lifetime, and all lights would eventually go out, and timeless we, but not our objects, would find ourselves in our true nature in the universe of life, not the universe of things, we would find ourselves as shipwreck survivors and those stars and that full moon up there would be the only source, unless somehow there would be an alternative, not found, not looked for, and so discovered, perhaps a light inside us that was there and we never knew, just as we don't notice the stars because of all the city lights.
Having indulged in all this fantasy, he then heard his Western mind. It started to take presence, to discern that not everybody would be trapped by the stoppage of the now as we know it; scientists, those in the vanguard, always live beyond our temporal bondage and so they would be left out of the time freeze that was not; they would be the only ones able to look at trapped humans from the outside, as lab mice on a treadmill seemingly getting nowhere; they would feel compelled, as they always do, to solve this challenge to spacetime mathematical models, and unlock the non-future, but we would not be able to see the scientists on the other side of that black mirror that appeared as the evening sky; the scientists would be there, behind, watching with big eyes as from behind a magnifying glass, studying the puzzling dislocation; they would labor with the same sense of mission scientists have always shown at least since Galileo, until they could set free the flying wheels of the clock of all clocks; it would be a matter of time, of equational spacetime for them, before they would free them  out, and the evening would lurch on; yes, people living and dying again, the young starting all over again, making the same mistakes and indulging in the same illusions, and the inanimate would be animated, and as a post-world war recovery, new leased cars, city buses, bullet trains, they all would be put back on roads, planes back in sky at all times, and in offices, living rooms, bedrooms, movie-screen TVs, desktops, laptops, tablets, I-pods, MP3 players, smartphones, in pockets, in ears, on wrists. We would be back to normal.
The grocery bags were pulling down really hard now. He wondered if he could make it to the third floor, walk up the concrete stairs with a view to the sea, instead of going in and taking the elevator. It would do him good, the exercise, sitting in the office all day, in the car driving, in his bed reading.
Without much puffing, he made it to the third floor, and then did his acrobatics opening the fireproof door while holding on to the grocery bags. He held it open with his leg, just enough to breathe in the night air and take a last peek at the sky. All the illusion of turbulence was gone, hardly any cloud or star left, the city lights had come back on.
Pushing open the metal door, he stepped in and faced the hallway perspective: doors and ceiling light fixtures receding to the end, to the Exit light hardly visible at the end, the other fireproof door. Almost 9 pm by now; so many things to do. The door behind clanked shut. His destination on Earth: Apartment 308, past the elevator.


Eugenio Rodríguez

El tipo apareció de la nada, con esa ausencia de cara, con esa blancura de manos y gestos. Pero algo en él, no sé, no me engañaba (allí debajo estaba el grito). Tipo cerrado de labios, hablaría renuente a las palabras, como esos niños que rehúsan sonreír ante el lente del fotógrafo. En sus ojos se notaba la intención del que sabe algún secreto, el secreto del otro que le mira (su mirada fija en el espejo, como esos cuadros que te siguen con la vista). Hubiera querido; es más, lo haría . . .  Pero entonces, en ese instante, oí mi nombre.  Allá fuera del baño, gentío y música. Alguien había abierto un filo la puerta; Janet me llamaba.

Desapareció del espejo.


Eugenio Rodríguez

The guy came out of nowhere, as if lacking a true face, with a certain whiteness of hands and gestures. But something about him, I don’t know, he couldn’t fool me (there, underneath, deep down, the scream was there). Tight-lipped, he looked like the type reluctant to speak the words, like those children who refuse to smile at the photographer's lens. In his eyes, as someone who kept some secret, the secret of the other who looks at him (his eyes in the mirror like those in a painting that follow you). I wanted, what’s more, I would . . . But then, at that moment I heard my name. Back outside the bathroom, the crowd, the music. Someone had crack-opened the door; Janet was calling me.

He disappeared from the mirror.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Actualicemos el idioma español
por Eugenio Rodríguez

El español, la lengua de Castilla medieval, de la España contrarreformista, de un país europeo que no experimentó la Revolución Industrial, ni se integró a la modernidad sino hasta desaparecer Franco, la lengua del realismo mágico, seamos francos, resulta un tanto torpe para describir la realidad primermundista en constante evolución, la nueva Era de la Información.
           Bien lo sabemos los traductores y escritores que nos ganamos la vida buscando correspondencia, muchas veces imposible, entre el inglés y el español. Y no solo se trata de la terminología, sino de la capacidad de concisión sintáctica de ese idioma de la modernidad: el inglés.
           Los idiomas reflejan la cultura. Y el inglés responde a una cultura democrática, antitética a las academias reales o no, responde al pragmatismo tecnológico. El resultado es una tendencia a sintetizar que no existe en español.
En cuanto a vocabulario, en inglés por esa inclinación cultural se busca la abreviación. Constantemente se acortan las palabras: lab para laboratory (laboratorio) y ad para advertisement (anuncio); o se combinan: webinar para web seminar y e-mail para electronic mail. ¿Por qué entonces, entre otros ejemplos, no usar ‘lab’ en español en vez de ‘laboratorio’, o ‘webinar’ en vez de ‘seminario web’? Ya se usa ‘e-mail’, aunque a regañadientes. Ah, sí, los anglicismos y el Spanglish amenazan al castellano, así como los ibéricos transformaron el latín vulgar.
Esa tendencia cultural a la abreviación la tenemos también en la sintaxis. En inglés contamos con estructuras gramaticales que permiten ser conciso, no así en español.
Para citar los casos más obvios. Tomemos el dedeo, o el uso tedioso, repetitivo de la preposición ‘de’ en español. En inglés tenemos dos formas adjetivales que no existen en español.
·        El uso de los sustantivos en calidad de adjetivos:
     The New York City Police Department (6 palabras) 
El Departamento de Policía de la Ciudad de Nueva York (10 palabras) 
    The e-mail from the ABC Insurance Company sales executive (9 palabras)
    El correo electrónico* del jefe de ventas de la Compañía de Seguros ABC
    (13 palabras)

·        Y como el gerundio tiene función de sustantivo en inglés, pues:
                   the high-school swimming class teacher (6 palabras)
                   el profesor de natación de la escuela secundaria (8 palabras)
            Se dirá que esta opción, tan común en inglés, es antitética al español, o sea, “suena mal”. Decir la mesa roble (‘the oak table’), qué raro, ¿no? Sin embargo, tal uso ya existe en español: el hombre rana, un esposa modelo, células madre   
Por tanto, por qué no generalizarla.         
Y en cuanto a que el gerundio en español funciona como adverbio y, como tal, no puede usarse como adjetivo al igual que en inglés. Pues sí, también tenemos excepciones en español del gerundio como descriptivo. Veamos:
     Alcánzame el agua hirviendo (boiling water).
     ¿Ves a esa señora llorando?” (the lady crying)    
    Se podrá decir que este segundo ejemplo es el de una oración subordinada de forma abreviada: ¿Ves a la señora (que está) llorando? Y esto nos trae al quequeo en español, el uso repetido del pronombre relativo ‘que’.
           En inglés, cuando el pronombre relativo no funciona como sujeto en la oración subordinada, entonces se puede prescindir de él.
          Por ejemplo: She is the lady (that) I talked to you about.
                               Ella es la señora de la que te hablé.
Y, además, en inglés tenemos el apóstrofo, otra posibilidad para prescindir de la preposición ‘of’ o ‘de’. Sí, ya se sabe que el apóstrofo no existe en español, pero por qué no integrarlo a la lengua como otra forma de concisión. Por ejemplo, por qué no decir d’aquel en vez de aquel. (Y sobre todo en los casos del enlace natural de dos palabras como en la lengua hablada, como l’amenaza y no la amenaza.)
Controlemos la pasión del nacionalismo cultural. Aquí no se trata de resistir el imperialismo lingüístico del inglés, porque de ser así los catalanes y los vascos, entre otros, tendrían razón en rechazar el imperialismo de la lengua castellana.
No hay idiomas inferiores, afirman los lingüistas. Cada lengua es insuperable para describir su propia realidad. Pero con la globalización surge una cultura supranacional, de fibra óptica, digitalizada, en línea, wifi (ya sé, wifi es un  sustantivo, pero, una vez más, por qué no usarlo como calificativo: la cultura wifi).  
Los que quieran conservar la vigencia del español, más allá de su importancia por la cantidad de personas que lo hablan, deben adecuarlo a los tiempos y no aferrarse a la pureza de sangre. De lo contrario seguiremos no ya en Macondo, pero siempre en provincia, nunca en la capital global. 

                                                                # # #

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Temas controversiales

Temas controversiales para discutir en clase . . . 

Los Padres de la Patria de Estados Unidos se opusieron al sistema aristocrático basado en linaje, pero también desconfiaban de las masas. Su concepto de democracia era más bien una meritocracia. O sea, escala social basada en talento y esfuerzo y no en favoritismo por linaje o corrupción. Si un ciudadano es más inteligente y se esfuerza más, ese ciudadano debe ocupar una posición más alta en la sociedad.

           Claro, esto es en teoría. Si la vida es una carrera, todos debemos partir de la misma raya. Sin embargo, el que nace de una familia pobre --sobre todo en un país sin prestaciones sociales como el Medicaid-- inicia esa carrera con muchas yardas en desventaja. Para empezar, una nutrición deficiente en un bebé afecta su desarrollo, incluso su cociente de inteligencia. Y esto es algo que no se menciona por ser un tema utilizado por los racistas (recuerden a Hitler y la eliminación de los inferiores).  

          Incluso esto pudiera explicar en gran medida porque los países pobres no logran salir de su extrema pobreza. No son los recursos naturales, sino los humanos los esenciales para el progreso de un país. Deben crear capital humano invirtiendo, sobre todo, en la alimentación y la salud. 

           Esto nada tiene que ver con socialismo. Hablamos de invertir en capital, en capital humano. Si no, la ola de refugiados ilegales hacia Europa y EE.UU. seguirá en aumento . . . dantesco.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Which is more difficult to learn, English or Spanish?

English, of course. English can be chaotic because the changes come mostly from the users and not from an academy filtering and organizing the language, as is the case of the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy).

But having not such a filter –and since mostly everything new is invented by the U.S.–English is a richer language. (But don’t tell that to a Hispanic . . .)

Prescriptive and Descriptive Grammar

Prescriptive grammar is when rules are established from above, from the language authorities, whether a language academy or linguistic experts.

Descriptive grammar, however, describes how the native speakers use the language.

In the case of Spanish, the prescriptive approach, set by the Academia Real Española, has been paramount. Only recently there has been some allowance for descriptive grammar, coming mostly from how the Latin Americans use the language.

Again, Spanish is a rule-oriented language, mostly a logical language but English is less so, much less so. That’s why Hispanics learning English find it hard to believe that sometimes there is no logical explanation for why the English language is used this or that way. (“Teacher, is there a rule for when the vowel ‘a’ is pronounced short as in ‘at’ and long as ‘artist’? Or when it is pronounced as ‘ei’ as in ‘cake’? How do I know when it is pronounced one way or the other?)   

That’s why the subjunctive has almost disappeared in English. The English grammarians want to preserve it but to no avail –Americans, a practical people, shun complicated grammar.

But bear in mind: Grammar is about the language, and not the language itself. The direct way to learn a language is orally. And grammar should be taught in context, ideally in oral context –grammar is not math.  

Most Hispanics as well as Americans use the language correctly even though they have forgotten the rules. Ask the average Hispanic about the subjunctive mood, and you’ll see his or her eyes roll. 

Nothing new: throughout most of human history only a few at the top of the social scale were able to read and write; the rest learned languages orally –the oral tradition.

The first priority is to listen and speak the language, never mind accuracy at first.

When I first came to this country I quickly learn to say “Iu sonavabích.” Never mind saying it like in syllabic Spanish: “You-son-of-a-bitch.” They understood my "sonavabich" –I could see it in their faces.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

PRONUNCIATION – Vocal Chord Vibration

A crucial difference to reduce your accent: In Spanish, as opposed to English, the vibration of the vocal chords is not heard as much and as often as in English.

In English (a Germanic language) we speak more from the back of the mouth. But Spanish (from Latin) is much more of a front-mouth language.

When speaking English I still have to remind myself of this fundamental difference –a difference that accounts in part for the Hispanic accent in English.

That’s why Hispanics learning English find it difficult to differentiate between, say:

                                   ‘bag’ and ‘back
                                   ‘lab’ and ‘lap
          They fail to vibrate the vocal chords as much as they should 
          when pronouncing the final ‘g’ and ‘b’ –and other voiced consonants.

As for vowels:

All vowels are voiced (pronounced with audible vocal chord vibration)

Even the short-sounding vowels are voiced: 

                      pat -  sit -  of - pull 

Also, the vowels in stressed syllables are pronounced longer and that also accounts for more audible vibration. Remember that in Spanish we do not elongate the stressed vowels, but pronounce them with a somewhat higher pitch.

We do not have short- and long-sounding vowels. As you know, each vowel has only one possible sound.

The only vowels that are pronounced in the back of the mouth are the ‘o’ and ‘u’ and even in these cases you do not hear the vocal chord vibration as in English.

Examples:   too   -  tú
                    pot  -  pote    

Bottom line:  Speak Spanish from the front of your mouth and you’ll be on safe ground 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


In relaxed conversation, we usually stress the important words --the “content words,” as we say in linguistics-- and do not stress the unimportant words --the “function words.”

Content Words                                       Function Words
Nouns                                                      Subject Pronouns: I, you, he, etc. 
Possessive Pronouns: mine, yours, etc. Object Pronouns: me, him, her, etc.
Interrogative Pronouns: what, why, etc.
Main verbs                                               Auxiliary verbs
                                                                Modals: should, may, might, etc.
                                                                Prepositions: to, for, in, etc.
                                                                Conjunctions: and, so, but, etc.
                                                                Articles: a, an, the, etc.

Example:  I’m going to talk to her. (“I’m gonna talk to‘er.”)

No such thing as function words, or unstressed words in Spanish.  

To the extent that you do not pay attention to the pronunciation of each word in a sentence, your speech is considered sloppy.

In Spanish, we are supposed to pronounce every word clearly.

Example:  Hablaremos mañana; encontraremos una solución.
                 (As opposed to English: We’ll talk tomorrow; we’ll find a solution.)

Linkage. We do link words in conversational Spanish.

     (a) When same vowels at the end and beginning of following words:
          Example:  la-almohada  (the pillow)
          But those who want to be careful pronounce both a’s, or as a longer ‘a’.
     (b) Also when vowels are different:
          Example:  hombre-alto (tall man)
          Again both vowels are articulated although linked.

    (c) Words ending with a consonant and followed by a vowel.
         Example:  el-abuelo  (the grandfather)
Remember: In English we have a similar stress system in the pronunciation of vowels  (the unstressed vowels usually become indefinite). And in sentences, again, we also have a stress system based on important (content words) and unimportant words (function words).

In Spanish, we do not have “unimportant” or unstressed words in a sentence.

Languages reflect the native culture. As opposed to English, Spanish is originally from once aristocratic Spain (la Real Academia Española – the Royal Spanish Academy). Remember Don Quijote, the medieval gentleman who refused to accept modern times.

Controversial (I love thoughtful controversy)
That’s why many Cubans in the island –although educated-- tend to be “sloppy” in their pronunciation. The Marxist-Leninist revolution rejected the middle-class manners (considered “bourgeois”) and replaced those manners with those of the proletariat, the worker. 

Again, on the average, island Cubans tend to be more educated, but South Americans, for example, even in the least developed countries, are more careful in their pronunciation. Those are societies in which language shows our social level. 

Colombians go to the extreme of using formal ‘usted’ even with their girlfriends/boyfriends. 

Nobel-prize novelist Garcَía Márquez’s novel Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Loneliness) deals with those medieval strains still found in some South American countries –although globalization is doing away with those windmills.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

English-Spanish Differences - Word Stress

Pronunciation – Vowels
English-Spanish Basic Differences

We all know that in Spanish the five vowels have each only one invariable sound, and each of those sounds has no 100% match in English.

In English the five vowels have at least 14 possible articulations and there are no rules when, for instance, the ‘a’ is pronounced short (the mouth less open) as in ‘at’ or long (the mouth more open) as in ‘artist’.

English: stressed vowels are lengthened
Spanish: stressed vowels are somewhat louder but not lengthened (except for emphasis)

atom - átomo
atomic -  atómico

English: The [ǝ] symbol is called the schwa and it is used to indicate the indefinite sound of an unstressed vowel.

If you look up the word ‘atom’ in the dictionary, you’ll find it is pronounced as átǝm (the ‘o’ is indistinct)

Take the word ‘átomo’ in Spanish. A movie actor trying to imitate the English accent when speaking Spanish would pronounce it as ‘aatǝmǝ’.

The schwa [ǝ] is also found in stressed syllables consisting of a vowel plus the letter ‘r’, such as bird [bǝrd], turn [tǝrn], earn [ǝrn]. Again, in these words the vowel has become blurred.

Spanish: No such thing as a schwa. Unstressed vowels are not shortened and blurred. No vowel blurring in Spanish pronunciation.

Exercise. Make sure to pronounce every vowel clearly in the Spanish version of these words. First exaggerate the articulation of every syllable in Spanish, and then pronounce it normally.  

atom  -  átomo  [á-to-mo]                                 
atomic – atómico [a-tó-mi-co]
competitive  - competitivo [com-pe-ti-ti-vo]
original  -  original [o-ri-gi-nal]
invitation  -  invitación [in-vi-ta-ción]
famous – famoso [fa-mo-so]

And those who want to reduce their American accent when speaking Spanish should practice by reading at least a couple of paragraphs exaggerating the articulation of every syllable and then read them again normally. Do that every day.

We can practice further in class.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Las Preposiciones


In Spanish, all those verb endings, the tenses, and the subjunctive mood . . . But in English, ay, Mami, las preposiciones . . .

Nothing is more difficult for a Spanish-speaking student learning English than the use of prepositions. Para un hispanohablante nada es más difícil en la gramática inglesa que el uso de las preposiciones.

DIFFERENCE: In Spanish we don’t have verb phrases or idioms in which the preposition changes the basic meaning of the verb. En español no tenemos frases verbales o expresiones idiomáticas formadas con preposiciones que alteran el significado del verbo.

Tómese el verbo get, que en su forma básica significa conseguir, obtener. Usado en combinación con preposiciones, get adquiere más 30 diferentes significados.  He aquí un ejemplo:

Get through (terminar).  “Finally, I got through (finished) reading that book.” TRANSLATION: Al fin terminé de leer ese libro.

[Observe cómo en inglés se tiene la alternativa de usar la expresión idiomática o, de forma menos informal, sólo el verbo correspondiente.]

Notice how in Spanish we don't use prepositions to form idiomatic expressions:

Costar trabajo (costar means 'to cost', but this idiom means 'it takes a lot of work' and it is used with the indirect object pronouns me, te, le, nos, les).  “Me costó trabajo".