Saturday, 30 April 2011

Please, like, and dodgy translators

When first learning Spanish I put the simple word 'please' into the translation app I had on the old Nokia I had at the time (I don't think they were called apps back then, but I can't remember what we called them). The translator popped up with the anwser 'gustar'. Now this is technically correct but definitely not what I was looking for, nor what anybody would be likely to be looking for as a translation for 'please'.

As any beginner student of Spanish knows, 'please' is 'por favor', meaning 'for favor'. However in English there is also a verb 'to please' which translates as 'gustar'. It isn't that common a verb in English but in Spanish it is used all the time to express liking. If I like something then I can say it pleases me, and in Spanish that is the only way to say it.

For example -

me gusta pan = I like bread (bread pleases me)
nos gusta bailar = they like to dance
le gustan las montañas = he likes the mountains
¿que te gusta comer? = what do you like to eat?
no me gusta la comida = I don't like the food
me gustas = I really like you

Be careful with the last one - this implies being attracted to someone. If that isn't what you want to say then use 'me caes bien' instead.

Friday, 29 April 2011

El Aguila Roja

It is often said (including earlier on this blog) that watching television programmes is a good way to learn a foreign language. The problem though is that it can sometimes be difficult to find interesting material to watch. Personally I cannot stand watching most dubbed programmes, so I like to find good programmes that were originally made in Spanish. My favourite at the moment is 'El Aguila Roja', which means 'The Red Eagle'. The concept is similar to Zorro or the Scarlet Pimpernel, i.e. a period twist on a superhero theme.

The action takes place around 400 years ago, which was a pretty interesting time in Spanish history and literature. The hero is Gonzalo, schoolteacher by day and masked crime-fighter by night. After the murder of his wife he is sworn to track down her killers and avenge her death. Following the trail leads to a much bigger conspiracy which is gradually revealed to both Gonzalo and to the viewer. The only people who know about Gonzalo's secret identity are his sidekick, Satur, and the mysterious monk Agustín. Gonzalo's son Alonso starts to suspect the truth as well. The villain of the piece is the Comisario - a kind of medieval chief of police - and romance wise there is a complex love polygon involving Gonzalo, his sister-in-law Margarita, Juan the local doctor, Marquesa Lucrecia and the Comisario.

All in all it is an enjoyable period action series with plenty of swordfights and stunts plus a bit of romance, conspiracy and intrigue. It is good fun but definitely not to be taken too seriously. It is not really suitable for kids, despite having a similar feel to many English language shows that are family viewing, because it can get a bit graphic at times both in violence and sexual scenes.

One of the best things about the programme is that you can watch it for free courtesy of Spanish network RTVE at (click on Capitulos completos). There is also an upcoming Film version to look out for.

Some useful vocab -

amo = master / boss
cuñada = sister-in-law
comisario = police captain / superintendant / commisioner
marquesa = marchioness
el aguila roja = the red eagle

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Seven essential Spanish words

When learning any language, I think that there are seven words that can be considered absolutely essential to know - basic greetings, yes/no, please and thank you and so on.

Here are my seven essential words in Spanish -

hello - hola
goodbye - adios
yes - sí
no - no
please - por favor
thank you - gracias
beer - cerveza

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Using the library

There is a wealth of useful material out there when it comes to learning Spanish, but a lot of it can be pretty expensive. The Michel Thomas course I reviewed a couple of weeks ago is one example - it is not bad value for money but it is still quite a lot to spend if you are not sure whether you are going to benefit from it. Personally I love Michel's style of teaching, but it might not suit everybody.

Fortunately there is a place where you can try out these courses for next to nothing, as well as read a reasonable selection of Spanish books for free. I am talking about the often overlooked local public library. My local library back in the UK (and it was a fairly small one) had a selection of Spanish audio and video courses from Michel Thomas, Linguaphone, the BBC, Berlitz and Pimsleur amongst others, as well as plenty of reference books on grammar etc. and a selection of novels in Spanish. This really is a great resource for learning Spanish (or other major European languages) and one that I think everybody should support.

I haven't visited libraries in the rest of the English speaking world, but would welcome any comments from readers about the library system in their part of the world.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

What's with the question marks?

There are a couple of punctuation marks used in Spanish which are not seen in English, namely the upside down question mark and exclamation mark '¿' and '¡'. They can look a little confusing at first, but are simply used to begin the question or exclamation. Often they come at the beginning of the sentence, but this is not necessarily the case. The upside down symbol appears at the start of the actual question or exclamation even if this is mid-sentence.

A few examples -

¿Como estás? - How are you?
Y la restuarante, ¿donde está? - And the restaurant, where is it?
¡Qué lástima! - What a shame!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Slightly irregular -ar verbs

Yesterday's conjugation of the week was 'contar' - 'to count' or 'to tell'. Like most Spanish verbs with an 'o' in the second to last sylable it is conjugated slightly irregularly. In verb forms where the 'o' is stressed it becomes 'ue', with the 'u' being pronounced a bit like a 'w' in English.

There are many verbs which follow this pattern. Here are a few of them -

costar - to cost
descontar - to discount
recontar - to recount
probar - to prove, to test, to try
aprobar - to approve, to pass (an exam or a law)
acordar - to agree, to remind
acordarse - to remember (using the reflexive form of acordar which is something for another post)
recordar - to remember
mostrar - to show
rodar - to roll
sonar - to sound
soñar - to dream
soltar - to release, to let go of

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Conjugation of the Week - 3. Contar - To count or to tell

Like last week's example, 'contar' is an -ar verb, so it has the same endings as andar and other regular -ar ending verbs. However it is slightly irregular, like many Spanish verbs that have an 'o' or an 'e' in the second to  last sylable. More on that tomorrow. See previous posts in this series for more about conjugations.

Contar - To count or to tell (a story)

cuento = I count
cuentas = you count (sing. fam.)
cuenta = he/she/it counts, you count (sing. formal)
contamos = we count
contáis = you count (pl. fam.)
cuenten = they count, you count (pl. formal)

Useful Website - Word Reference

When learning a language a good dictionary is invaluable, and these days they are found online as much as in the bookshops. My personal favourite is This site has a wealth of resources in many languages. There are bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, verb conjugators and specific dictionaries such as a legal dictionary. If a word is not found in the bilingual dictionaries you can search the monolingual Spanish dictionary and there will always be a link to search the RAE (Real Academia Epañola) dictionary which is the official authority on the Spanish language.

In addition to the various dictionaries, there is also an active forum for language questions. This can be a great way to find out how a word or phrase might be used or translated in real life. There is often some discussion about the different ways a word might be used in different parts of the Spanish speaking world.

Finally there are a few useful extras including iPhone and Android apps and a mini-site which can be embedded into a website (which may well make an appearance in this blog's sidebar very soon).

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Correction - Andar

Just a quick correction - or note - to the Conjugation of the Week post on Andar. Andar isn't actually a completely regular verb as I said it was in the post. It is regular in the present tense though, which is the only one I posted, so all regular -ar verbs are conjugated this way in the present tense. It is irregular in some other tenses though (the preterite past for example) so I probably should have used a different verb as an example of a perfectly regular verb.

A big D'oh from me. And a mental note to check more carefully what I write, especially when there are hundreds of regular verbs to choose from.

Apologies to all the readers.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Andorran Elections

Reading newpapers or watching news reports can be a great way to learn Spanish, but it can be difficult to follow the news if you don't know the political background of a country.

Starting with where I am right now, Andorra has just held a general election, and has had a change of government as a result. For such a small country (there are just over 20 000 voters out of a population of around 90 000 as many residents do not hold Andorran nationality) there are a lot of political parties. The most significant, at least this time around, are the Social Democrats (Partie Socialdemócrata - PS) to the centre left of the political spectrum, and the Democrats for Andorra (Demócrates per Andorra - DA) to the centre right. Despite the similarity of names the parties seem to have quite different policies with PS taking a more interventionist approach than DA.

In the recent election, the result was a substantial win for DA, making Toni Martí the new head of the government (jefe del gobierno). DA are the orange (naranja) party here, so the papers were talking about a sea of orange.

You can read more about the Andorran election (in Spanish) in this article from El Periodico.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Using TV and Films

Image: digitalart /
Watching films and TV can be a great way to learn and practice your Spanish. Once you reach a level where you can follow a Spanish film without subtitles it is very satisfying (although obviously some films are easier than others). However if you just throw yourself in at the deep end and try to watch a Spanish television channel or film it can get very frustrating very quickly if you do not understand enough to get the gist of what is going on.

Fortunately, modern technology gives you more options to help you out - namely a selection of languages for both audio and for subtitles. For me, the easiest way to watch the television and still learn some Spanish is to watch English programmes or films with the subtitles in Spanish. Many Spanish language channels and lots of DVDs offer this option and it is an almost effortless way to expand your vocabulary. Just read along in Spanish and work out how the English phrases are translated. It is great if you want to learn a few more colloquial phrases as well, although bear in mind that the translations are probably equivalents rather than literal.

If you want to challenge yourself more, I find watching Spanish programmes with Spanish subtitles very useful, as it helps me with any words that my ears miss. I find it is sometimes different to separate the words when people speak quickly, so subtitles can really help.

You may have noticed that I didn't suggest watching a programme in Spanish with the subtitles in English. This is because this method never worked well for me. Perhaps because I am more of a visual than an aural type of learner I find it really hard to concentrate on the Spanish audio if I can see the English translation in front of me. That is not to say that you shouldn't try it - we all learn differently after all, and what works for me is not what works for everybody. The great thing is that with a few presses on a remote control you can try all the combinations and see what works for you.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Se voló

I thought I would share with you the most recent Spanish phrase I picked up this week. I was rock climbing with a few Argentinian lads  After skiing in the morning we were rock climbing in shorts and T-shirts, which is why I love the spring, but that is a story for my other blog. Anyway, at one point I fell off near the top of the cliff and the lad holding the rope was not using the gri-gri as well as he could have been so I ended up falling a long way before the rope stopped me. One of the other lads then said "se voló", meaning "he flew", using the reflexive form of the verb 'volar' (to fly).

This probably is not a phrase that comes up that often, at least in this context, but 'volar' is a reasonably common verb. It also several more idiomatic uses, some quite region specific, so "se voló" can also mean "he stole" or "it blew off". Usually the context will make the meaning clear.

Note that if you wanted to say 'to fly' in the sense of controlling an aircraft, you would use the verb 'pilotar' instead of 'volar'

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Regular -ar verbs

Yesterday's conjugation of the week was 'andar', which is a regular -ar verb. This means that it's endings are the same as any other regular -ar verb. They will also be the same as most irregular -ar verbs as it is the stem which changes with many irregular verbs. The stem of the verb 'andar' is 'and' and because it is a regular verb, this does not change in different forms of the verb. What changes are the endings which replace the 'ar'. This means that if you learn the endings for one regular -ar verb you know them for all of them, and since they are the most common type of verb in Spanish you will have a good start on the grammar.

Here are a few more regular -ar verbs to get you started:

hablar = to speak
esperar = to wait/to expect/to hope
evitar = to avoid
aceptar = to accept
doblar = to bend
desayunar = to breakfast
llamar = to call
echar = to put/to throw (and many idiomatical meanings - it crops up a lot in Spain)
llevar = to carry/to wear
enojar = to make angry
tomar = to take
visitar = to visit
trabajar = to work
terminar = to finish

Monday, 18 April 2011

Conjugation of the week - 2. Andar - To walk (regular -ar verb)

This week we have a regular -ar verb, which means the endings are the same as for any other regular -ar verb. More on that tomorrow. Note that whilst in Spain, 'andar' usually means 'to walk' in Latin America it can often mean 'to go'. For more on conjugating verbs, see last week's post.

Andar - To walk

yo ando = I walk
tu andas = you walk (sing. fam.)
el/ella anda = he/she walks
usted anda = you walk (sing. formal)
nosotros andamos = we walk
vosotros andáis = you walk (plural fam. in Spain)
ellos/ellas andan = they walk
ustedes andan = you walk (plural formal, and plural in Latin America)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

European vs. Latin American Spanish

One of the challenges of learning Spanish is that there are so many different variations in different regions. I have learnt a lot of the Spanish spoken in Spain, as I live in Andorra during the wintertime, two miles from the Spanish border. I also spent three months in Bariloche in Argentina, where the Spanish is quite different. Many of my colleagues in the ski school in Andorra are from Argentina and a few are from Chile, so I hear different styles of Spanish spoken on a daily basis, along with Catalan and a bit of French. This makes life interesting but potentially confusing as well, and I find my own pronunciation jumps between Castillian and Argentinian quite regularly - probably not a good thing.

Cerveza - good for practising your pronunciation
Althought the pronuncuation is the most immediate difference between European and Latin American Spanish, there are significant differences in vocabulary and grammar as well. In fact our ski school recently put a notice on the wall in four languages - English, Catalan, Spanish, and Argentinian. This was a little tongue in cheek but does illustrate that there are differences.

The biggest grammatical difference is that in Spain 'vosotros' is used for the second person familiar plural, whereas in Latin America 'ustedes' is used.

The biggest difference in pronunciation I think is the Castillian lisp, widespread in Spain but not seen in Latin America. This means that the soft 'c' and the 'z' in Spain are pronounced with a hard 'th' sound, like the 'th' in thought. In Latin America these letters are pronounced exactly like the 's' which is always a hard 's' sound like the 'c' in voice.

So cerveza (beer) is pronounced ther-vay-tha in Spain but ser-vay-sa in Latin American Spanish.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Well, I'm into the second week of the new blog now, and so far have managed to keep to a post a day - even if some were shorter than others. The stats show a handful of readers so far - welcome and thanks for reading all three of you.

It seems a good time to pause and talk about where I plan to go with this blog. I am not a Spanish teacher but I do teach in Spanish - I teach skiing in Spanish that is. I know there are a lot of Spanish learning blogs and websites out there so there might not be so mush need for another one. Having said that, the fact that there are so many resources out there means it might be useful to review a few of them and try to point people to the best ones.

The other thing that I hope will make this blog a little different from others is that I still see myself as a student of Spanish rather than a teacher of it. So in spite of the 'lessony' feel to some of the posts so far, I want mainly to share my own experiences of learning Spanish and pass on the lessons I have learnt, the mistakes I made and the things I am still learning, plus hopefully some of the fun I had along the way.

So 'Bienvenidos a todos', welcome to all, and please comment if you have any thoughts on the blog so far.

Friday, 15 April 2011

A few of my favourite words in Spanish

One of the pleasures of learning a language is finding those words that are simply fun to say. It doesn't really matter what they mean - for me it is about the way they roll around the toungue. Here are a few of my favourites, picked at random,  but I am sure you will find your own as well.

peligroso/a = dangerous
menitroso/a = liar
crepusculo = twilight
penumbra = semi-darkness
melocotón = peach
amanacer = to dawn

Just a quick note for those new to Spanish - the o/a at the end of the first two words is to show that the ending changes depending on gender. So a man who tells lies is un mentiroso and a woman who tells lies is una mentirosa, for example.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Useful website - BBC Spanish

One of the most useful resources I found when starting to learn Spanish was the BBC Languages website. This is part of the BBC Learning Zone, which shows various educational programming on BBC 2 in the middle of the night for people to record.

The first thing to try on the site is the Test Your Spanish quiz which assesses your current level before giving you a few suggestions as to what to look at next. Some of the suggestions might take you to TV programmes which aired a few years ago and are only available as clips and transcripts, but others take you to useful learning material on the website.

More advanced students of Spanish may find there is less to interest them, especially compared to other resources on the web, but beginners will find a good range of interesting material to get a good start in learning the Spanish language.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Even more on tener

The last two posts talked about the verb 'tener', its conjugation and some of its uses. It was a long while before I realised that as well as meaning 'to have' it also translates in many cases to the four letters 'tain'. Although not a word in itself in English it is a fragment, or ending, to many other verbs. Meaning that not only is it easy to translate these verbs into Spanish, it is easy to conjugate them as well as long as you know how to conjugate 'tener'. Be careful to note though that the translations are not always perfect matches, and that there are some exceptions e.g. pertain = pertenecer not pertener.

Some examples of 'tain' words and their translations:

obtain = obtener
detain = detener
entertain = entretener
retain = retener
maintain = mantener
sustain = sostener
contain = contener
abstain = abstener

And some examples of their uses:

obtienes el libro = you obtain (or get) the book
contiene agua = it contains water
dejame entretenerte = let me entertain you
me detengo aquí = I stop here (literally - I detain myself here)
tienes que mantener el equilibrio = you have to maintain (keep) your balance - one from my ski teaching career

There are many more examples, but if you can remember the rule of thumb that any variation of 'tener' found in another word tends to mean 'tain' it is much easier to deduce what certain Spanish words mean.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

More on tener

Following on from yesterdays conjugation of 'tener' (to have) it might be helpful to look at a few of the many uses of tener. Basically it means to have, in the sense of possessing something, but not in the sense of to have done something where 'haber' would be used instead.

Tengo un vaso = I have a glass
Tiene un coche = he/she has a car
¿Tienes una bolsa? = Do you have a bag?

It is also used in many situations where 'to be' would be used in English, for feelings or characteristics. I like to think of saying "I have hunger", "He has fear" etc.

Tengo hambre = I am hungry
Tienen frío = They are cold
Tener sueño = To be sleepy
Tenemos suerte = we are lucky
Tiene miedo = he/she is afraid

Another very common use of 'tener' is in the phrase 'tener que' meaning 'to have to'.

Tiene que ir = he/she has to go
Tengo que pensar = I have to think
Tenemos que empezar = we have to begin

I am sure to many the material in this post is quite familiar, but I wanted to start near the beginning of my own journey into Spanish. Tomorrow I plan to continue on the theme of 'tener' but with a handy fact I did not discover until much later in my Spanish learning career.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Conjugation of the week - 1. Tener - To have

So - grammar is boring and learning verbs is even more boring. Unfortunately it is also pretty important. Unless you are lucky enough to be able to pick up the language entirely by listening and speaking, you are going to have to learn some verbs.

My suggestion is to spend ten minutes or so every few days choosing a different verb and learning how to conjugate it. To help out (and to revise the verbs myself at the same time) I will post a different verb/tense to learn each week. For those put off by big grammar words like conjugate, It is simply learning the different forms of the verb for I, we, he, she, they, you - e.g. I am, we are, he/she is, they are, you are. Unfortunately Spanish is a little more complicated as there are more forms of each verb. More on that later. For now, here goes with the first verb:

1. Tener = to have

yo tengo = I have
tú tienes = you have (singular, familiar)
el/ella tiene = he/she/it has
usted tiene = you have (singular, formal)
nosotros tenemos = we have
vosotros tenéis = you have (plural, familiar) *
ellos/ellas tienen = they have (ellos for males, ellas for females)
ustedes tienen = you have (plural, formal)

* vosotros is used in Spain but not in Latin America where ustedes is used instead for the plural form of you, whether formal or familiar.

Note that the subject pronoun (yo, tu etc.) is generally omitted in Spanish as the verb form makes it clear who is being talked about, so 'tengo el coche' = 'I have the car'. Also note that the usted form (you, formal) is exactly the same as the el/ellos (he/she) form. This is always the case in Spanish, but the explanation of why will have to wait for another post.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Keep it interesting

With learning Spanish I found that the easiest way to keep motivated was to keep it interesting. I didn't want to sit down with a dictionary learning verbs for hours, but doing it for five minutes now and again is not a great chore. The best thing for me was to use as many different learning methods as I could find but in small doses. I would find some resource on the net, use a course like the Michel Thomas Method reviewed yesterday, listen to a podcast, watch a little TV, read the newspaper, dip into a dictionary or simply chat to people. When it becomes tedious to learn is when you stop doing it, so don't let it become tedious.

All the methods I just mentioned work equally well for beginners or advanced learners, but obviously you need to adapt the difficulty of what you do to your level. As a beginner, browsing the newpaper headlines and matching them to stories you know about already from the English news can tell you a lot. As you get more advanced you will try to read more and more of the paper, but you don't have to stick with it beyond the point of boredom.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Review - Michel Thomas Foundation Course

One of my greatest aids in my early days of learning Spanish was this Foundation course, and I have returned to Michel Thomas' courses many times since - both to continue to his more advanced Spanish classes and for an introduction to other languages. Having said that, his courses are not without their downsides, so it is worth spelling out the pros and cons of his method compared to other materials.

The foundation course consists of eight hours of material over eight discs, which I  find good for long car journeys. His method avoids homework, and one of his key points is not to try to think too hard. In this course he teaches two students, which helps create a learning atmosphere as you feel like one of his class. Some people have complained that they have found one or other of the students annoying, but for me they were fine. The general method is that Michel gives some vocabulary or a structure, then asks you and the students to translate a phrase from English to Spanish. You pause the CD, say your version, then listen to the students' attempts followed by the correct version. This works surprisingly well as he starts with simple material and gradually builds it up bit by bit. This way it never feels like there is anything too difficult.

I think that Michel's great strength is in teaching what he calls the 'structure' of the language. Basically the grammar and the way the language works. His personal charisma really comes through on the recordings as well, making it very easy to keep listening. Using this course you can arrive very easily at a good understanding of how sentences are formed in Spanish.

Obviously in eight hours it is not possible to learn everything, and there are several disadvantages to Michel's approach as well. Firstly, I find that the language he teaches is quite formal - he concentrates on the formal 'usted' form a lot more than on the more familiar 'tu' form (although he does explain both and the differences between them). In my experience of modern day Spain, Andorra and Latin America, the 'tu' form is far more widespread, although to be fair I do work in a fairly informal environment. Secondly, the Spanish he teaches is more Latin American based, so the vosotros (you plural and familiar) is completely ignored. Thirdly, there is not a huge amount of vocabulary presented, so to really get the benefit of the course I think you need to use other material in parallel with it to build your vocabulary at the same time as learning the grammar.

Sadly, Michel Thomas died in 2005, so he will not be recording any new material, but he left a great legacy of language learning resources and his famous Method. Overall this course is a great way to get a good grounding in Spanish very quickly, as long as it is supplemented by some means of learning the vocabulary - and there are plenty of resources for that on and off line, many of them free.

The course is currently on sale for £46.46 on Amazon UK, which is a little over half the price it sold for when I first used it. It now includes two additional review CDs which compress the material of the course into two hours. Whilst these can make a useful refresher or revision tool, I found I preferred the more leisurely pace of the original eight CDs, but they are thrown in for free so can simply be considered a bonus if you find them useful.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Mañana - two meanings

I should add to yesterday's post that 'mañana' means 'morning' as well as 'tomorrow', which can be a little confusing. So "tomorrow morning" would be "mañana por la mañana" (literally "tomorrow by the morning"). "This morning" is "ésta mañana", whilst "tomorrow afternoon" is "mañana por la tarde".

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My First New Word in Spanish - Mañana

As I said yesterday, when I arrived in Andorra I knew practically no Spanish. I began to hear certain words and phrases quite frequently though, and the first I remember hearing was "mañana", meaning "tomorrow". The letter ñ is pronounced like ny by the way so mañana is roughly pronounced manyana.

To work in Andorra we have to have a work permit which can take a fortnight or more to obtain and entails a paper chase around the country plus - the first year at least - a medical examination. When I arrived here for the first time and began the paperwork I soon got used to being told "mañana", as in "come back tomorrow" at various offices and desks connected to the immigration process. I did get the tarjeta verde (green card) shown to the right just in time to start work for the Christmas holidays though.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

My new blog :-)

So today I start my new blog - my second. I wanted to share my experiences of learning Spanish over the last few years, as well as give myself a bit of extra motivation to keep going.

A bit about myself to begin with. I work in Andorra as a ski instructor during the winter months. When I first arrived in Andorra five and a bit years ago I couldn't speak a word of Spanish. Okay, that isn't stricly true - I had memorised the phrase "Buenos dias Señor, ¿habla usted inglés?" which is a somehat overly formal way to ask somebody if they speak English. Below is a picture of myself with my colleagues in the ski school during my first season in Andorra.

I actually found it pretty dificult to learn Spanish at first as everybody I spoke to would speak to me in English. The ski resort I work in has a lot of English people in it as well, which is why they gave me a job in the first place in spite of my lack of Spanish. I persevered though, finding a lot of resources through the web - many of which I plan to mention in future posts. I found that as people realised I was making an effort to learn the language they spoke to me more in Spanish and less in English.

Finally, before anybody points out that the language of Andorra is Catalan and not Spanish, I should say that I made the descision to learn Spanish first as the more useful language for communicating with friends and colleagues here who often come from Spain or Latin America rather than just Andorra and Catalunia. Watch this space for news of my "Trying to Learn Catalan" blog but that might be a few more years in the making.

Tomorrow - my first new word in Spanish