Category Archives: Learning through Literature

Spanish for foreigners: Four links – LETRA LIBRE Magazine



This webpage will lead you to four links (enlaces) where you can find some neat resources to learn and practice Spanish, which includes:

1. Basic course

2. Practice

3. Audiobooks

4. Readings, step by step, arranged by levels

I have reviewed numbers 3 and 4 and recommended before to anybody who is interested in reading and listening diverse stories in Spanish (novels, poetry, short stories). Some of them are original in English, but have been translated into Spanish, in case you want to try a story that you already know :).

Reading is an excellent way to gain more vocabulary and become familiar with some good sentence structures. Worth to check out and try ;).

Poem “Curriculum”, by Mario Benedetti


Mario Benedetti
El cuento es muy sencillo,                             The story is very simple,
usted nace,                                                           you are born,
contempla atribulado                                      you contemplate afflicted
el rojo azul del cielo,                                        the red blue colour of the sky,
el pájaro que emigra,                                       the bird that emigrates,
el torpe escarabajo                                           the clumsy  beetle
que su zapato aplastará                                  that your shoe will squash
valiente.                                                                brave.

Usted sufre,                                                         You suffer,
reclama por comida                                        you claim for food
y por costumbre,                                              and for habit,
por obligación,                                                  for obligation,
llora limpio de culpas,                                    you cry free of guilt,
extenuado,                                                          exhausted,
hasta que el sueño lo descalifica.               until the sleepiness disqualifies you.

Usted ama,                                                           You love
se transfigura y ama                                         you transfigure yourself and love
por una eternidad tan provisoria               for such a provisional eternity
que hasta el orgullo se le vuelve tierno   that even pride turns out tender
y el corazón profético,                                    and the prophetic heart ,
se convierte en escombros.                          turns into rubble.

Usted aprende                                                    You learn
y usa lo aprendido,                                           and you use what you learned,
para volverse lentamente sabio,                to become slowly wise,
para saber que al fin el mundo es esto,    to know that at the end the world is this,
en su mejor momento una nostalgia,       on its best moment a nostalgia,
en su peor momento un desamparo,        on its worst moment a state of neglect,
y siempre, siempre                                           and always, always
un lío,                                                                     a mess,
entonces,                                                              then,
usted muere.                                                       you die.


This poem of Mario Benedetti can be very useful to practice conjugation of verbs.  The author is only using the formal personal pronoun usted (you). However, you can practice changing the person or even the tense of the sentence. For example, you can start saying: “El cuento es muy sencillo, tú naces, contemplas…”

Let’s try to practice the conjugations of regular verbs  in Spanish:

Verbs ending in AR, like AMAR, have usually this endings (in bold letters) when conjugated in present, past and future tenses:

a) Tiempo presente: Yo amo, tú amas, usted ama, él/ella ama, nosotros(as) amamos, ustedes aman, ellos(as) aman;

b) Tiempo pasado: Yo amé, tú amaste, usted amó, él/ella amó, nosotros(as) amamos, ustedes amaron, ellos(as) amaron;

c) Tiempo futuro: Yo amaré, tu amarás, usted amará, él/ella amará, nosotros(as) amaremos, ustedes amarán, ellos(as) amarán.

You can conjugate in the same way other verbs contained in this poem such as: llorar and contemplar.

The conjugation of verbs ending in ER, like APRENDER, in present, simple past and future tenses, usually goes this way:

a) Tiempo presente: Yo aprendo, tú aprendes, usted aprende, él/ella aprende, nosotros(as) aprendemos, ustedes aprenden, ellos(as) aprenden;

b) Tiempo pasado: Yo aprendí, tú aprendiste, usted aprend, él/ella aprend, nosotros(as) aprendimos, ustedes aprendieron, ellos(as) aprendieron;

c) Tiempo futuro: Yo aprenderé, tú aprenderás, usted aprenderá, él/ella aprenderá, nosotros(as) aprenderemos, ustedes aprenderán,  ellos(as) aprenderán.

Notice that even though nacer ends in ER too, in the first person, singular, you say “yo nazco”, but it keeps the same endings with the other persons, for example: tú naces, él nace, etc.

The conjugation of verbs ending in IR, like SUFRIR, in present, simple past and future tenses, usually goes this way:

a) Tiempo presente: Yo sufro, tú sufres, usted sufre, él/ella sufre, nosotros(as) sufrimos, ustedes sufren, ellos(as) sufren;

b) Tiempo pasado: Yo sufrí, tú sufriste, usted sufr, él/ella sufr, nosotros(as) sufrimos, ustedes sufrieron, ellos(as) sufrieron;

c) Tiempo futuro: Yo sufriré, tú sufrirás, usted sufrirá, él/ella sufrirá, nosotros(as) sufriremos, ustedes sufrirán, ellos(as) sufrirán.

Keep in mind that although the verb morir ends in IR too, it is not a regular verb.  In this case, you have to replace the vowel ‘o’ in verb morir by the vowels ‘ue’ in all the persons except in the first person, plural.  For example: yo muero, tú mueres, él muere, ellos mueren, but nosotros morimos.

Finally, do not forget that everytime there is an accent, you should stress that syllable when speaking ;).

Poesía: “No te rindas” de Mario Benedetti


Español: Fotografía del escritor y poeta urugu...

Enjoy your Spanish practice with the poem “No te rindas” (Don’t give up), by Mario Benedetti (Paso de los Toros, Uruguay, September 14, 1920 – Montevideo, Uruguay, May 17, 2009), which I found translated here: Poesia: No te rindas de Mario Benedetti – Awareness’s blog.  I feel it is full of positive thoughts for moments when things are being very difficult despite of all of our hard work.  On this link, you can also find a video with audio of the poem, so you can listen to it, while reading it in Spanish :).

“Llegó con tres heridas”, poema de Miguel Hernández


Português: Uma das placas com trecho de um poe...

Llegó con tres heridas:
la del amor,
la de la muerte,
la de la vida.

Con tres heridas viene:
la de la vida,
la del amor,
la de la muerte.

Con tres heridas yo:
la de la vida,
la de la muerte,
la del amor.

He/she arrived with three wounds:
the one of love,
the one of death,
the one of life.

With three wounds, he/she comes:
the one of life,
the one of love,
the one of death.

With three wounds, myself:
the one of life,
the one of death,
the one of love.

This poem gives us a good example of the use of a definite article, followed by a prepositional complement, like in “la del amor, la de la muerte, la de la vida” (“the one of love, the one of death, the one of life”). These prepositional complements have the role to specify the noun “herida” (wound). Since “herida” is a feminine noun, it agrees in genre with the definite article “la.”

During the poem, we are told about three different kinds of heridas (wounds): “la herida del amor”, “la herida de la muerte” and “la herida de la vida.”  Then, we can omit the noun herida (to avoid repeating it), and change it, as in the poem, to: “la del amor”, “la de la muerte”, “la de la vida.”

La herida del amor. (The wound of love) => La del amor (the one of love).
La herida de la muerte. (The wound of death) => La de la muerte (the one of death).
La herida de la vida. (The wound of life) => La de la vida (the one of life).

Miguel Hernández (30 October 1910, Orihuela – 28 March 1942, Alicante, Spain) lived during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939), before the Franco dictatorship. The idea of someone having three wounds in three different moments, makes me think of different stages for different people (he talks about a third person, and himself). However, when the author talks about himself, he mentions the wound of love after (maybe beyond) the wound of death, like suggesting that love goes beyond life and death ;).