Use your gardening books to learn Spanish

By Richard Handscombe


MANY expats come to Spain to enjoy the climate, food, culture and generally relaxed way of life.

Many also have a determination, at first at least, to learn some Spanish to be able to shop, find their way around Spanish menus, buy things in the local store, speak to the Spanish gardener and be friendly with Spanish neighbours.

Some make speedy progress by concentrating from day one on being able to speak, listen to a little Spanish TV, if only the news or a football match to start with, read the headlines and gradually the contents of Spanish newspapers.

They also make shopping lists for garden centre, agricultural cooperatives and agricultural/garden machine shops and write out a few basic questions as openers to find things if they are not obviously on display.

Others soon give up because of the way Spanish is taught with months of concentration on grammar, the reading for a few minutes of a novel by a Literary Nobel Prize winner such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the studying of the 13 cases of the subjunctive so that you yourself could write a text along the lines of Shakespeare before you really get around to trying to talk in public.

This can be a soul destroying process, as I initially experienced with a well -known Spanish language school. This can be made worse in some popular expat areas in that the first time you try out your embryo Spanish, the Spaniard you are addressing says , ‘Don’t make things difficult for yourself, speak to me in English. I know some and I need the practice to get better’.

Since our readers garden, or have a gardener who they would like to design and maintain a garden their way, all our original four major gardening books have useful vocabularies at the back and plant lists/descriptions with Botanical, English and Spanish names. 

The vocabularies are grouped under useful headings such as measurements, commonly useful words, materials, tools, parts of plants, types of plants, gardening verbs, and gardening adjectives.

Take these gardening books out of the book case and:

  • Read through them regularly checking each week how many of the words you can remember.
  • Prepare garden related shopping lists that you could speak about or show Spanish garden centre and shop assistants.
  • Offer to give your gardener some English coaching in return for him helping you with your Spanish –start this by wandering around the garden together describing each feature plant and problem in both languages.
  •  If you have a Spanish teacher lend her your gardening book/s and ask her to concentrate on using gardening words phrases and sentences during your lesson and setting you relevant homework. I remember writing out for my early Spanish coach my gardening activities for the past week as the basis for a discussion and for my coach to correct my writings.
  • Use the vegetable and fruit names from the above vegetable and fruit books when preparing food shopping lists.

Best of luck in making progress during the autumn and enjoying Spain even more than you do, or disliking it less. , [email protected]

September 2013.

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