The Joy Of Spanish Intercambios!

If you’ve read Errant in Iberia you’ll know that the whole intercambio (language exchange) process was fairly instrumental in the fact that I planned to only spend one month in Madrid… and have now been here nearly 12 years!

My intercambio lead me to a wife, and a life, in Spain, so you can imagine I am a fairly big fan of the whole idea! So I was really happy when I got an email from Foster Hodge, with an excellent account of his intercambio experiences. I’ve included the whole article here, it’s a great read:

Mi Primer Intercambio – by Foster Hodge

After spending more or less a month in Madrid, working on my Spanish, learning the ropes of the city, and falling in love with a new and exciting culture—I decided it was high time to take the next step. I had received quite a bit of encouragement from friends and professors of mine that I should get myself an intercambio, or a language exchange partner.

I decided to put my nerves aside and posted an anuncio in, a wonderful website that offers a wide variety of things from renting and buying property, to citas de Internet and intercambios.

To my surprise, a couple days after posting my anuncio my inbox was flooded with responses from young Spaniards who were interested in meeting with me for a language exchange…
Continue reading “The Joy Of Spanish Intercambios!”

“At least it’s good for my Spanish!”

There have been many times over the last 12 years in Spain when, faced with a situation where I’ve felt waaaaaaay-in over my head as a non-native speaker, I’ve sat back, smiled (or winced!), and said to myself, “Oh well, at least it’s good for my Spanish!”

These situations include everything from the truly horrendous (speaking in Spanish to morticians after the death of a friend), to the exceedingly-important-not-to-get-it-wrong (negotiating the purchase of a flat, as related here), and the truly fantastic (getting through the technical Spanish of my wife’s pregnancy and the birth of our son!)

Whenever I felt in over my head, I just remembered the mantra: “At least it’s good for my Spanish!”

Over at our sister site Notes in Spanish, we are giving away lots of free videos and special reports this week that will, without any doubt, be very very good for your Spanish!

The Other Side Of Easter in Cadiz… – Guest Blogger Robert Gordon

Guest blogger Robert Gordon reflects on the recent Easter migration to his corner of the Bay of Cadiz…


Just over 10 years ago the area in which I live was covered in woods and fruit orchards, indeed my own home is set on what was an orange grove – as you can see from the photo many changes have taken place. The development of this part of La Bahía de Cádiz has established it as a considerable attraction for Spanish tourism, indeed over ninety per cent of the visitors here are Spanish, most of whom are second home owners.

In my barrio, the Spanish swallows arrive from Sevilla, Cuidad Real, San Sebastian and mostly from Madrid. What brings them to a fairly ordinary town to pass their well earned holidays, and how do they pass their time?

Well in most part they come for the ambience. Los Gaditanos have a reputation: “Ellos saben reírse de sí mismo” (they know how to laugh at themselves) even in these difficult times. During fiestas they form sizable groups in the cork woods, break into song, and will adapt any handy object into a form of percussion to enjoy day long festivals created by their own initiatives and paid for by their “vaquita” (piggy bank).

Many of the city dwellers that arrive have told me they seek “turismo nacional” and it can be found here in a form much less “bomdardeado” than in many other parts of coastal Spain. They are “con su gente, como estar en casa” (with their own people, they feel at home).

Semana Santa, Easter, represents “un aperitivo del turismo” with the main course served in July/August. Alongside the week long religious festival, the visitors relax, recharge batteries, and enjoy the local attractions which are mainly the food, spectacular light, and the beaches.

I at first doubted that the food here (fish) had a national reputation, but those doubts are long gone. Seeing Madrileños queue 40 minutes for a table resplendent with a “surtido” of fried/grilled fish and an uncountable variety of mariscos is proof enough for me. After lunch they stroll around town licking their preferred ice cream from tiny plastic spoons.


The swallows also tell me they love the beaches, not just for their natural attractions, but also for the fact that they have remained authentic in that they are both free and “bring your own”. There is no hiring of sun loungers, parasols etc. This leads to wonderful streams of beach pilgrims penguin-padding down to the shore laden with… well almost the kitchen sink.

During Semana Santa beach occupation is light, it is after all only the aperitivo, but the swallows are suffering from winter withdrawal symptoms. So down on Playa Santa Catalina they bask, preen and dip their wings in the fresh sea, revitalize all working parts and restore the canyons of their minds which have suffered from the winter grind.

They are easy to spot, sporting their recently purchased “pijo” (posh) spring outfits. During my evening stroll through my barrio, I see them, rollerblading, biking in family groups – enjoying themselves. They elegantly walk by with their tiny lap dogs cradled on their forearm. Couples with v-neck sweaters draped around the shoulder swan neck the plots which have changed since their last migration.

Their gardens come alive at night with chatter and sounds of local dishes being eagerly devoured, and later hoots and hollers over shared jokes and card games. I very much enjoy their arrival and whilst they are now gone, they will soon return for their summer visit, which will take both a similar and different form. For me there is something quite wonderfully distinctive and impressive in the style that my Spanish visitors pass their days here in Cadiz.

Why does Spanish Need a Por and a Para?

Recently we were discussing why Spanish needs two verbs for ‘to be’, Ser and Estar. OK, so there were valid arguments for that, but please, someone tell me why they need two prepositions, Por and Para, for ‘for’?!

Thoughts welcome below, and for keen Spanish learners, we’ve been dissecting Por y Para in our latest Notes in Spanish episodes:

Click here to nail por y para once and for all!

Gracias por tu atención 🙂

What do we do over at Notes in Spanish?

Well, over at we try to make learning real Spanish as much fun as possible!

To make all our resources more accessible, we’ve just put together a new Intro section for those of you that are new to the site. Check it out here, and do please come back and let me know if these new intro pages were useful – I’d love some feedback!