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Why can’t we all just speak the same language? 

What a wonderful world it would be…or would it?

I think we could agree that despite the benefits of everyone being able to understand and communicate with each other, a global language would have its obvious drawbacks. Most importantly, the loss of language diversity, and the culture and identity so closely tied to it.

Plus…gone would be those funny, awkward moments when you mistranslate, use a word with a racy double entendre, smile and nod when spoken to, only to realize you’d been asked a question. And what about those hapless attempts at a little humor in the language you’re learning? When you’re the only one laughing? Or when the listener is laughing and you didn’t say anything funny?

Which brings me to my point…the beauty of learning a second language often emerges in these unexpected moments, even the blunders, and allowing yourself to embrace them and let the “mistakes” fly. Those mistakes are proof that you care enough to make the effort.

It’s daunting. It requires letting your guard down and putting yourself out there without waiting until you’ve mastered a language. Stepping out of that ol’ comfort zone we’re all comfortably nestled in. Taking the opportunity to break the ice with a native speaker can lead to a new acquaintance and even foster a friendship.

I’m in a position to weigh in on this, having learned Spanish as a second language. And blunder I did, with abandon. As a university student in Granada, Spain, I may or may not have mistaken the word “caña” (draft beer) with “coño” (not draft beer). For months, I was under the impression that I’d been breezily throwing around “Who cares?” by saying “¿Quién cuida?” (“Who takes care of?”) until a native Spanish friend politely corrected me. It once took me ten minutes to place a three syllable order (té con miel - tea with honey) for an annoyed bartender to finally catch on.

I could go on.

The point is…proficiency just doesn’t happen without these mishaps. You have to get your mouth around the vowels, consonants, syllables, and hear yourself speak. You may find yourself settling for words you don’t exactly mean in place of an elusive expression you haven’t learned yet. Be deliberate about learning vocabulary and that will happen less and less. Surely you’ve been in the position of hearing a non-native English speaker struggle to make themselves understood and chances are you managed to understand them. Even if their execution or word choice wasn’t perfect. 

So, un consejo: try out the language you are learning any chance you get. Your little mistakes can be endearing and disarming! They're an inevitable and valuable part of the process. On the rare, unlikely occasion you experience a reaction like my grumpy-pants bartender, shake it off and make the choice to laugh at it. You'll grow a thick skin and build resilience...and the rewards will outweigh the uneasiness. Besides being a powerful exercise for your brain, I hope you’ll find that it opens a beautiful pathway for connecting with people.

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How to start a conversation when there's nothing else to talk about? The weather! It's a conversation that tends to come up organically if you find yourself waiting in line with people or quietly brainstorming for a way to fill an awkward silence.

In English, many of our weather expression begin with "it's":

It's pouring out!

It's so nice out!

I'm so glad it's sunny today.

Man, it's foggy!

In Spanish, "it's" can take a few forms, depending on the weather conditions, and whether you're speaking specifically or more in general.

Me explico:

HACER expressions: This versatile verb, which means to do or to make, can be used to express temperature and general weather conditions. In these statements, it loses its literal meaning and becomes more like "it's", as in the statements above. It takes the third person singular form with weather expressions:

Hace (mucho) frío.

It's (very) cold out. ("out" is implied for all weather expressions).

Hace fresco.

It's chilly/cool out.

Hace (mucho) calor.

It's (very) hot.

Hace sol.

It's sunny.

Hace viento.

It's windy.

Hace buen tiempo hoy.

It's nice out today.

Hace mal tiempo.

The weather is bad / It's not nice out.

ESTAR expressions: Sometimes we want to get a little more specific about the weather. Estar phrases are for adding some detail, for example, precipitation, clouds vs clear skies, sunshine. These are the most common with estar:

Está lloviendo. (or just: Llueve)*

It's raining.

Está nevando. (Or just: Nieva)*

It's snowing.

Está soleado. (like hace sol)

It's sunny.

Está nublado.

It's cloudy.

Está despejado.

It's clear; the sky is clear.

*Rain and snow can be single words too. "Está lloviendo / está nevando" more closely approximate "it is raining / snowing", while "llueve / nieva" are more similar to "it rains / it snows", but often those single words are used both for the actual moment as well as in general. (TMI?)

HAY expressions: Sometimes we use "hay" to indicate that there is some kind of weather element:

Hay niebla / neblina.

It's foggy / misty (lit: "there is" fog / mist).

Hay viento.

It's windy (lit: "there is" wind).

To negate any of these expressions, add "no" before hace, está or hay: no hay viento, no está nevando, no hace sol.

ADD SOME SPICE: Why not add some exaggeration when you're throwing your Spanish around? Here are a few statements, if you want to show what a natural you are!

¡Está lloviendo a cántaros!

It's raining cats and dogs! It's pouring! (lit: It's raining buckets)

¡Ay, qué calor! (don't leave out the "ay", it's a nice dramatic touch)

It's so hot out! (lit: What heat!)

¡Estoy sudando como un pollo!

I'm sweating like a chicken! (yup, it's a thing)

¡Me estoy congelando!

I'm freezing!

One last word of wisdom...Try learning these expressions as complete phrases, so you don't confuse the hace/está/hay starters. Learn a few at a time until they roll off your tongue easily, then learn a few more.

¡Que te diviertas! Have fun!

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