Friday, January 7, 2011

day seven

Ok, my kids suck. I asked them one simple question to help me learn Spanish words for “day 7”. Tell me the two most important words in Spanish I need to know. Since they are Generation Z, or whatever they are calling generations these days, they already have a few years of Spanish education under their belts. Two suggestions from them and I’m afraid one of them has sent me into pure hell.

The first suggestion (from the 8 year old) was “maiz” which means “corn”. Put a tilde on the “i” in “maiz”. So my question to her is, “I asked you to tell me the most important word I need to know in Spanish and you say ‘corn’? How is that the most important word?” Her response, “Don’t you like corn?”

Ok, moving on. Kid #2 (11 years old) says I need to learn “gustar” and this is where I’m getting very confused and I hope people can help me out.

She says you say, “me gusta el libro” for “I like the book”

But this makes no sense to me. Don’t I say “yo te quiero” for “I want you”? But if I don’t really WANT you but I just LIKE you then its “me gustas tu”. How come I don’t say “yo te gustas”?

There’s no real explanation. If I like you, then you’re the subject of the sentence. But if I WANT you or LOVE you (“te amo”) then you’re the object of the sentence. I guess if I want or love something I can’t give it too much power, I have to objectify them. But liking is safe. Its like I’m saying, its ok if the sentence centers around you (you’re the subject) because I only like you anyway. I don’t really WANT you like I’d want, say, “maiz”.

So here’s the conjugations:

Me gusta el libro.
I like the book.

Te gusta el libro.
You like the book.

Nos gusta el libro.
We like the book.

Me gustan los libros.
I like the books.

Te gustan los libros.
You like the books.

Nos gustan los libros.
We like the books.

Now that we got that out of the way, lets see what my favorite Spanish-English dictionary writer (see day 4) has as his uses for gustar. First off, he can’t simply say, “me gustas libros”. His first example is:

no me gusta mucho” – I don’t like it very much.

But then he gets more complicated in his next usage:

“eso es, así me gusta” – "that’s right, that’s the way I like it". I guess “asi” is “the way”. So finally (again, see day 4), he found the girl to do what he wanted when he gave the right incentive (“le pago”).

And finally, he reveals his true colors in his next usage:

“vivía recluido y no gustaba de compañía” – he lived lke a recluse and did not like company. Some of these words are too hard for me right now but we have “compania” for company. And “vivia” for “he lived” and “recluido” must mean “like a recluse” or “reclusively”. But…”gustaba”. That’s not one of the conjugations above.

Oh wait, no problem. According to wiktionary its “the third-person singular imperfect indicative “ of gustar. So forget it. I’m never learning that. No soy es aprender eso [Update: Claudia laughing when she read that. Apparently I screwed up this sentence royally. She says I'm saying, "no am is to learn that", and the correct way ("correctamundo" as the Fonz would say) is to say "no Voy aprender eso" - I am not going to learn that. ]

Would also “vivia recluido y no gusta compania” work also? And by “work” what I mean is, “would people understand me?” I’m fine if they think I’m a dumb gringo. I am and always will be one. But I just want to make sure they comprende me? Comprendes?

And while we are on the subject of comprende, our favorite dictionary writer’s first use is:

compréndeme, no me quedaba más remedio” – you have to understand, I had no choice!

“remedio” == choice”

And it even gets better. If I look up his first usage on “remedio” I get:

“es un tonto sin remedio “ –“ he's so stupid he's beyond redemption

I guess when I finally end up in a Spanish speaking country that’s what they might be saying about me.

Words of the day: maiz (corn), gustar (to like), tonto (“stupid”), sin (without), compania (“company”), remedio (choice), and I’m starting to understand comprendes a little more. Oh, and vivia, for “he lived” I think more on that one next time.

Claudia wanted me to study carefully, " inmundicia". But maybe tomorrow.


  1. James I heard you practicing your rrrrr and it is coming along VERY WELL!!! you go!

  2. Hi James, I ended up here through Claudia. remedio means remedy -literally. Like a medicine, you know?
    So "I had no other remedy"(anything else to fix it with)or "he is dumb with no remedy(no way to cure him of his dumbness).
    Don't worry, gustar-querer-amar will sort themselves out with time. Vas bien, animo!

  3. Serene,thanks. I hope you are right. I try to make it all fit into a neat box, like learning a computer programming language. But I guess it doesn't work like that.

  4. Gustar is NOT 'to like', it is 'to be pleasing to'. So "Me gusta el libro" might translate nicely as "I like the book", but it means, literally, "The book is pleasing to me." Suerte!

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