Monday, 16 December 2013

¡Feliz Navidad!

That's 'Happy Christmas' if you didn't know.

One of the most interesting traditions in Spain can be seen every Christmas. The Belén.

Belén translates as Bethlehem, but it means the Nativity scene of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger in the stable.

With the Reyos Magos in the background.

Surrounded by the Pastores.


And their ovejas.

And other assorted livestock like burros, vacas, camelos...

And productos. Can you see zanahorias, tomates, flores, calabacínes, lechugas and a few palmeras giving datilles?

Also pan, peras, platanos...

There are assorted building materials and utensils... I can see ladrillos, tejas and leña.

Mantas and candiles...

Macetas and jaras...

And, here in Valencia...

A Belén can come in all shapes and sizes, like the pequeño at the top. The grande, below.

Mercado Colón, Valencia.

Some are of positively biblical proportions...

Murcia city centre.

Many families visit the large Belénes in shopping centres, town halls, shops. But the most fun seems to be the one you build at home, adding a piece or two every year from the markets which sell all the stuff in the pictures. I took these snaps in Valencia's Mercado Colón in early December, and it really was quite a small collection. I know there's a much bigger market for Belén materials outside the catedral in Barcelona every year. So if you're in Spain over the Cristmas season, why not pick up a souvenir. Like one of these...

These are the (in)famous Cagadores which many Spanish children delight in searching for. (They don't feature in every Belén.) It started as a Catalan tradition but it seems to have spread at least as far as here in Valencia.

¡Feliz Navidad a todos! I'll be back in the año nuevo.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Sticky Situation (What's Your Favourite Toy? 4)

I'm going to look at a very useful word today. Pegar.

It's a verb meaning to stick or to glue. (It does have other meanings.)

Change it a little bit and you get pegamento. Which means glue. 

Can you work out what 'blanco escolar' means?

Pegamento en barra is a glue stick.

And you can also get a pega pen.

And finally (this is what I've been leading up to, the 'favourite toy' bit)... una pegatina?

Which is a 'sticker'. And here's Bob Esponja (va al médico). And I'll bet your Spanish is good enough to translate that. (Look at the picture, carefully!)

Finally, while I was searching the internet looking for Spanish gluey things, I came across this.

Haven't a glue! (Uh, I mean 'clue'.)

By the way, I hope all this new vocabulary sticks...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

What's That Funny Smell?

Does this ring any bells?

If you look at the name of the author you might give yourselves a clue...
I'll help you out, Pablo Diablo literally translates as 'Paul the Devil'. Or in English... Horrid Henry! Yes, he's a great favourite here in Spain. My class love to hear the stories but refuse to believe that his real name is Horrid Henry, as they all first met him as his Spanish version, Pablo Diablo.

But have you any idea what 'bomba fétida´means? Again, looking at the picture will help. And if you're still not sure, try this...

Got it now? Yes, they're 'stink bombs'. Just a little something I thought you might need to know on your next visit to Spain...

Friday, 22 November 2013


We British are known for our love of animales. But I have to tell you that the Spanish are just as fond of their furry (as well as feathery and scaley) amigos.
So it came as no surprise to me to ver this in Valencia...

If your ojos are really sharp you might just be able to spot (and read) a very big clue as to what this is...
If you need a little help, here's a better view:

Sí señor (that's how Spaniards say, 'Yes, sir!' when they want to emphasise something), it's a dog toilet! Isn't that something you don't see in the middle of Oxford Street! Although I've been out of the UK for nearly ocho años, so, who knows?
Anyway, I think it's a nice thought. A bit of privacy for Rover or Spike or whoever. Actually, Spanish dogs can have some quite strange nombres. A vecino (neighbour) had one called Rocky. Yes, a Spanish perro called 'Rocky'. And no, it wasn't a huge great beast; many Spaniards live in flats so the majority of perros I see (including this one) are muy pequeño.
Another one I know se llama Luna, which means 'moon', even thought it isn't round or white. It's actually a skinny little brown thing. Luna? Doesn't seem right.

And did you know, perros españoles don't go, 'Woof, woof!' like British ones do? Well, so the children in my class insist. They tell me perros en España go 'Wow, wow!'
My guess is they only say that when they see their very own dog toilet. 
In fact, I think I said it myself when I spotted it. 


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Easy as Alpha, Bravo, Charile...

I often have trouble giving my name over the phone.
'Dean,' I'll say.
'Bean?' they'll respond. (At least I think that's what they've said.)
'No, Dean,' I'll repeat, stressing the 'Deee,' bit.
'Team?' they'll reply, not stressing the 'Deee,' bit.
It's at this point that I go back to my childhood, and use a nifty little method which my mates and I taught ourselves when we were about 7- or 8-years-old.
'Delta, echo, alpha, November,' I'll say with a flourish.
Job done.

It's the NATO and International Aviation Phonetic Alphabet and it's really useful to know, especially if your name has a lot of the tricky letters that all sound remarkably too similar: B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V (and Z if you're in the United States).

But what do I do here in Spain? Can I shout, 'Delta, echo, alpha, November,' down the phone and expect Pedro or María to understand. The answer is, 'probably, no.' So what do I do? Well, the real answer is I panic as I fail to think of any Spanish words starting with a 'D'. So the next obvious question is, 'Do the Spanish have their own version which I could look up and (more importantly) learn?'

And the answer is, 'Sí!'

In fact, it's not just Spain which has its own version as you can see here: Phonetic Alphabets (Selection)  But it's Spain which I'm obviously going to concentrate on. 

So what do I say if 'D-E-A-N.' is misheard on the phone?

Easy, 'Dolores-Enrique-Antonio-Navarra.'

And if I need to spell 'Jeremy'?


So, if you want to be really helpful to your parents, on your next trip to Spain, when they need an address (your hotel, a restaurant, the street that the bus to the airport departs from… in ten minutes…) have a go at learning the Spanish phonetic alphabet. Here it is, with a few notes on what all the words mean and how to pronounce them:

Antonio. (I wonder if women say Antonia?)

Chocolate. Yes, strangely, the Spanish list also has an entry for ‘ch’ which used to be a letter in its own right. I'd be tempted to use 'Carmen, historia'.
Francia. (Spanish for France).
Gerona. Town and province in the North-East, on the coast bordering France.
Historia. History. (In case you weren’t sure.)
Inés. (The Spanish version of Agnes.)
José. (Pronounced Ho-seh).
Lorenzo. (Spanish for Laurence.)
Llobregat. Again, the double ‘l’ also has its own entry, Llobregat. There is a river, near Barcelona called Llobregat, but beyond that, I’m clueless. I'd say, 'Lorenzo, Lorenzo.'

Navarra. Autonomous community in northern Spain.
Ñoño. It’s an adjective meaning insipid or spineless, used for the letter 'Ñ'.
Oviedo. Capital city of Asturias, on the North coast.
Querido. (Means ‘dear,’ at the start of a letter, but also, ‘darling’.)
Sábado. (Saturday).
Tarragona. Capital city of the province of the same name.
Ulises. Boy’s name. Spanish version of Ulysses.
Valencia. Capital city of the province of Valencia in the Autonomous Community of… Valencia! New York, New York? So good they named it twice? Hah! What about Valencia (the city), Valencia (the province), Valencia (the autonomous community)!! So good they named it three times! (With apologies to Gerard Kenny.)
Washington. Washington?! Interestingly enough (well, I thought it was interesting), Spanish doesn’t have any words beginning with the letter ‘w’. Any words you do find in a Spanish dictionary will be foreign (what are often called 'loan' words). My dictionary has ten entries: walkie-talkie, walkman (I guess there’ll be nine in the next edition), Washington, wáter (meaning toilet), waterpolo, wátman (meaning ‘cool’!?), whisky, Winchester, windsurf and WWW.
Xiquena. The name of a castle in Murcia. Pronounced Chic-en-ah.
Yegua. A mare. Pronounced Yeh-gwa.
Zaragoza. Capital of Aragon, in the North-East. Pronounced Zar-ah-goth-ah.

N.B., I've posted what is essentially the same article on primary and secondary sites this week.


Friday, 8 November 2013

¡Fiesta! Tres. He's Behind You!

What's this for?

You're all probably imagining what you'd want to do with it, and you'd be right! It's a toy, and a prized one in this area. The game you play with it is simple. You chase your mates all over the place. I see them quite often here. Some are clearly 'home made', like this one.

You'll also see them on the front of bikes or just held in the hands.

Do you know how much 25 euros is? 

It's all a lot of fun chasing your mates around the park, but every now and again things get much more interesting when a team of professional chasers come to a town's fiesta bringing their own very special friends...

But just because the professionals are in town, doesn't mean you can't bring your own...

Some of the children are remarkably big for their age, don't you think?

If you're ever in Spain, especially over the summer months, it's worth checking out in the local press or the oficina de turismo to see if one of these 'bull-runs' is on. They're called encierros infantiles and you'd be very welcome to join in...

I'll finish with a video I shot in a town called Nules near Valencia. Watch out for the 5th bull...

A sad note to end on, and a serious warning: While all this running around and screaming while being chased by a man with a bull on wheels is clearly great fun, don’t let it mask the fact that the ‘real thing’ is an extremely dangerous affair. 

Adults running with real bulls (toros) is very popular in certain parts of Spain, like here, in the Valencian community. If you look closely in the videos you’ll see the ‘cages’ (called cadafales) where people run to safety when a real bull is loose on the streets. Spectators stand inside the cages or sit in the seats on top. And sadly, every year, the local newspapers report serious injuries and deaths during these small-town bull-running fiestas. 

In fact, four days after I filmed this encierro infantil in Nules, a man was killed.  

Enjoy your holidays...

For a more in-depth piece on encierros infantiles see this post on my main Zen Kyu Maestro blog: Bull-running-for-kids

Friday, 1 November 2013

Easy as ABC...

¡Hola todos! (Hello everyone.)

Do you know your ABC? Of course you do! But do you know your ABECEDARIO? Your Spanish ABC.

It's often surprisingly useful to know your ABC in Spanish. I remember once phoning a Spanish hotel and asking them for directions. They said the name of the street, but I couldn't make sense of the word. It sounded like 'noo-way-bay-day-ok-too-bray' which is what I wrote down, ready to show to a taxi-driver. 

But I wasn't sure I'd got it right, so I asked the receptionist to spell it. Luckily I knew my ABECEDARIO as my hotel turned out to be in Plaza Nueve de Octubre. Which is Ninth of October Square. (The 9th of October is a big fiesta day in Valencia, commemorating the day in 1238 when Valencia was won back from Arab invaders.)

So, here's a neat little song from the 'Tio Spanish' (Uncle Spanish) team, which will help you learn your ABECEDARIO, all 27 letters of it.

Now, does anyone know why there are 27?


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Meet Mario.

‘Street theatre’ is very popular here in Spain. Near where I live, the town of Vila-Real hosts an annual festival. ‘Mario’ was one of mis favoritos last year, although I must point out that the puppeteers came from France. Notice in the first video the audience shouting ‘No’ and ‘Sí’.  

This second video is just for fun.

There's always something going on in the streets (calles) here in Spain. Next time you visit, look out for posters advertising events such as this, or visit the local oficina de turismo.

And as you can see from these videos, you can enjoy lots of things even when you haven't learned very much of the language.

¡Disfruta! (Have fun!)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Fiesta Dos. Buckaroo...

Hola. ¿Qué pasa? 

I hear that phrase a lot here. It means, ‘What’s happening?’ or ‘What’s going on?’
The usual reply is, ‘Nada.’ Nothing.
Try it with your friends in the playground each morning.
‘¿Qué pasa?’
Hours of fun. Well, seconds. But you’ll sound so Spanish!

Now, I’ve got something a bit special today. I was out during the summer and something was going on...

Any idea what it’s for? Well, do you know the toy ‘Buckaroo’? You have to place things onto a horse until it ‘bucks’ them off. This works a little bit like that. Watch the video.
These toros are a common sight when local ferias (fairs) come to town, especially in this area (the Valencian community) where bulls play a large part in the culture. 

So, the next time you go on holiday to Spain, check out on the internet or in the local oficina de turismo to see if there is a feria coming to a nearby town. 

But if there is, remember to hold on tight!