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Spanish Quizzing and the Testing Effect

Time to practice your Spanish out loud! Today we’ll learn about the number one way to solidify a new language in your brain — and we’ll get to put it into practice right away. If you follow this one tip, you’ll be fluent in Spanish faster than you ever thought possible. Let’s put everything we’ve learned so far into Spanish practice, out loud.

Full Podcast Episode


Get ready to speak some awkward Spanglish.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

It’s Friday, and in general, our Friday episodes will mostly consist of some quizzing material you can use to consolidate and practice everything you’ve learned throughout the week. But first, let’s address something that most new students ask us: Why is it that we spend SO much of our podcast time on quizzing? Couldn’t this quizzing time be used more productively if we were to teach more vocabulary and grammar instead of drilling the same things over and over?

Well, here’s the thing about having so many quizzes. There’s a very-well-researched phenomenon called the “testing effect”. And this might be different from what you think of when you hear the word “testing”. Of course, we’re all familiar with the idea of taking tests to find out how well we’ve learned something, and that is important… but actually, *testing* or *quizzing* doesn't JUST measure how well you’re doing. It turns out that when you test yourself, it actually boosts your learning. All the little quizzes throughout this show serve as little checks to see if you’ve retained what’s being taught, but even more importantly, if you take these little quizzes seriously, it will accelerate how fast you learn the material. Participating in the quizzes actively, not passively, and actually trying to do well on them, will help you learn at least 200% better. Studies have shown over and over again that the mere act of making a guess (or trying to answer a question on a quiz) solidifies what you’re learning in your brain, and believe it or not, this holds true even if you’re pretty sure you can’t come up with the right answer. Researchers call this surprising phenomenon the “testing effect”.

So any time you hear us pausing an episode to quiz you on something, it’s super important to actually participate by trying to guess the answer, ideally out loud, because that’ll solidify your learning even further. And just as importantly, whenever the quiz has a Spanish answer, you should guess the Spanish out loud, and then also when you hear the correct answer, repeat the Spanish that you hear out loud. This is one of the most effective ways to practice your Spanish, both because of the testing effect and because of the muscle memory of saying Spanish words out loud in context, which you want to warm up to as quickly as possible.

Today we’ll be doing one of these active quizzes to practice everything we’ve learned this week. However, since this is just our first week on the podcast, we don’t really have all that much Spanish to practice quite yet. So that quiz will happen at the end of this episode. Before we get to that, let’s discuss a couple of nuances about the preposition de that we didn’t cover yesterday.

According to the dictionary, de means “from” or “of”. But fluent Spanish speakers know that these meanings only cover about half of the uses of de. That’s because de is a preposition, and prepositions are especially notorious for being used in quirky contexts that simply don’t translate between Spanish and English at all.

Covering all of THOSE uses of the word de would take months. We won’t try to do that right away. Instead, let’s just cover the 3 most common ways that de is used.

The most useful way to think about the word de is as the word “of”, where “of” can mean any of these things:

• Origin, as in “The people of the north.”

• Possession, as in “The house of my parents.”

• Material, as in “The sheet of paper.”

Let’s talk a little bit about each one, and we’ll start with origin.

Most Spanish students are introduced to the word de when they learn to talk about where they’re from. For example, “I’m from New York, but now I live in Texas.” In this sentence, the word “from” would translate as de.

In situations like this, Spanish speakers think of “from” and “of” as being the same thing. If you’re from New York, it also means that you’re “of” New York. If you identify as being from New York, there’s something New York about you that’s a part of your identity.

Now, it’s important to point out that this is true even if you’ve never left New York. Saying that you’re de New York doesn’t imply that you’re no longer there. Also, this doesn’t just apply to people; it can apply to places and things as well. In English, if we say that Sydney is a city “from” Australia, it sounds a bit weird, as if Sydney left Australia for some reason. But in Spanish, it’s totally appropriate to say that Sydney is a city de Australia.

Here are some bunch of examples of de to indicate origin or identity:

The birds of Africa.

The birds de Africa.

Las aves de África.

The special wine from the cellar.

The special wine de the cellar.

El vino especial de la bodega.

My friend from Toronto.

My friend de Toronto.

Mi amigo de Toronto.

The largest cities of Colombia.

The largest cities de Colombia.

Las ciudades más grandes de Colombia.

Now let’s talk about the next use of de. One of the most common ways it’s used is to indicate possession. A very simple example is “the father of my friend”, which would be “the father de my friend”.

But there’s something weird about calling this “possession”. If you think about it, my friend doesn’t own their father. Grammatically, though, we refer to this as a “possession” situation. This applies to any of the following phrases: The cap of the bottle, the door of the house, the hand of the writer.

Now, if these phrases sound awkward and wordy, there’s a reason. In English, we have a special thing we can do to make all of these phrases shorter. We can say “the bottle’s cap”, “the house’s door”, “the writer’s hand”.

Mm, that feels so much better to say. In English, we have this sneaky thing where we use an apostrophe and an S to replace the word “of”. And when you do this, the order of the nouns shifts around. Instead of “the hand of the writer”, with “hand” first, we have “the writer’s hand”, with “writer” first.

Spanish doesn’t have this trick. Any time you see an apostrophe and an S to indicate possession in English, to translate this into Spanish, you have to switch the whole order around and use the preposition de.

Let’s practice this with some sentence examples. In each case, see if you can predict the word order before listening to the altered Spanish.

The pilot’s schedule.

The schedule de the pilot.

El horario de la piloto.

The food’s rich smell.

The rich smell de the food.

El rico olor de la comida.

Your brother’s foot.

The foot de your brother.

El pie de tu hermano.

The doctor’s sister’s nose.

The nose de the sister de the doctor.

La nariz de la hermana de la doctora.

Another common use of de is to indicate what something is made of. For example, “a statue of bronze” would be “a statue de bronze”.

In English, we can switch the word order around to eliminate the word “of”. This would turn the phrase into “a bronze statue”. This doesn’t work in Spanish! Every time we describe what something is made of, the word de has to be thrown in.

So “the stone table” would become “the table de stone”. “The wooden horse” would become “the horse de wood”. And “a snow storm” is “a storm de snow”.

So in summary, the word de is used ALL the time in Spanish to reword things that we say completely differently in English. This is why de is one of the top two most-frequently-used words in Spanish! It appears simply everywhere, even where words like “from” and “of” would not be used in English.

To get some more practice using de, try predicting how it  would be used in the following sentences. Some of these are pretty tricky!

It’s Samuel’s water bottle.

It’s the bottle de water de Samuel.

Es la botella de agua de Samuel.

I said I was from Arizona.

I said que I was de Arizona.

Dije que era de Arizona.

I hope Mom's leather jacket wasn’t lost.

I hope que the jacket de leather de Mom wasn’t lost.

Espero que la chaqueta de cuero de mamá no se haya perdido.

There are actually many more uses of de that are context-specific, associated with specific nouns or verbs for idiomatic reasons. For now, though, don't worry about that. Just remember the three major uses of de: To indicate origin, possession, and material.

All right, now that you know the words that make up over 13% of the Spanish language, it's almost time for a quiz to summarize everything we’ve learned this week! Before we get started… a quick comment on the fact that we're using Spanglish in these quizzes.

A lot of students get frustrated by the fact that we're doing this hybrid English-Spanish thing. And don't worry, it won't last forever! The reason we're doing it is because you can't really make Spanish sentences without some nouns and verbs, and we haven't learned those yet. But if we were to go and start working on nouns and verbs right now, before even using the testing effect to solidify the things that you've learned, it wouldn't be very effective teaching. We really have to be exclusive about the few little words that we've taught so far, especially during these first two weeks of foundational grammar, because right now, we want all of our cognitive capacity to be focused on the words that we’ve learned so far. If you personally don't think it's helpful and think that your cognitive capacity is being taxed by the fact that you have to switch between English and Spanish a lot, here are two things to keep in mind:

First of all, again, this won’t last forever! Within a few weeks, you'll be saying sentences entirely in Spanish and won't have to switch back and forth like this.

Second, these sentences really are Spanish sentences! At this point, even with just the 6 words that you've learned, the sentences that you're speaking are structured like Spanish sentences, just with some English words thrown in.

With that in mind, let’s get on to our quiz. In each case, only try to guess the Spanish that you know; afterwards, you will hear the entire sentence in Spanish, but don’t worry about the words we haven’t learned yet. Instead, just try to see if you can recognize the words that you do know when you listen.

I said that it isn’t here.

I said que it no is here.

Dije que no está aquí.

You hoped she and I were together?

You hoped que she y I were together?

¿Esperabas que ella y yo estuviéramos juntos?

I saw that it was a ceramic mug.

I saw que it was a mug de ceramic.

Vi que era una taza de cerámica.

They took it to the lady from Italy.

They took it a the lady de Italy.

Se lo llevaron a la señora de Italia.

She didn’t care and I knew it.

She no cared y I knew it.

A ella no le importaba y yo lo sabía.

It was María’s plastic chair.

It was the chair de plastic de María.

Era la silla de plástico de María.

This can’t be from Spain!

This no can be de Spain!

¡Esto no puede ser de España!

That doesn’t matter.

Eso no matters.

Eso no importa.

She hoped we wouldn’t go to Canada.

She hoped que we no would go a Canada.

Esperaba que no fuéramos a Canadá.

That came from this window.

Eso came de this window.

Eso vino de esta ventana.

Don’t touch John’s wine glass.

No touch the glass de wine de John.

No toques la copa de vino de John.

I think he ran from the house.

I think que he ran de the house.

Creo que salió corriendo de la casa.

You won’t tell me they did it?

You no will tell me que they did it?

¿No me dirás que lo hicieron?

I couldn’t believe that!

I no could believe eso!

¡Yo no podía creer eso!

If you had more trouble with this quiz than you expected, don’t worry, you can always go back to the last few episodes to review and practice these skills. You can also get more practice with these using the free quizzing materials available at LCSPodcast.com/5.

On the other hand, if you feel like this was a breeze and you’re ready for something more challenging, next week is gonna be awesome —  it includes some of the words that even advanced Spanish students have the most trouble with, such as por, para, and best of all, the word lo. In fact, next week we’re presenting some of my all-time favorite Spanish lessons that we’ve ever put together, so tune in again on Monday.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was provided by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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