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Grammarly is a Facebook page that I like (in both senses of the word) a lot. I enjoy their clever posts, especially when it is clever language about language (so meta). I recently saw a question they posted that, while about the English language, made me think about Spanish grammar rules.
After a moment of consideration, I realized that the sentence should technically be “I wish I were traveling in Europe”, using the subjunctive tense. This distinction is not a commonly recognized or utilized one in average English usage. The subjunctive often gets overlooked because the subjunctive forms of most verbs are identical to the other forms, or they’re used in contexts where the forms are not essential. For example, “I wish I was traveling in Europe” and “I wish I were traveling in Europe” mean essentially the same thing, while “I was traveling in Europe” and “I am traveling in Europe” (past tense vs present tense) have clearly different meanings.
I have always loved to read, and English was by far my favorite subject growing up. I even studied English literature in college, and one would think in the course of all that education I would have become familiar with most, if not all, of the aspects of our language. And yet, I don’t think I really grasped the impotence of the subjunctive tense until I learned Spanish. That makes sense, however. The subjunctive is not used as much in English and thus is not as important to learn about as it is in Spanish. I understand the lack of emphasis on it.
Because I’m not used to distinguishing the subjunctive from other forms in my native language, I have to work hard to remember to do so in Spanish. I like that learning Spanish has taught me something about my native language and helped me appreciation some of the nuances of it more. I find this give and take to be very common when it comes to the experiences of language teachers and language learners. Language and cross-cultural exchange empower people to not only learn about the culture associated with that language, but also to reflect on and gain insight into their own experience, giving them distance to do so by nudging them to step out of it.
I love that Spanish has enabled me to view my language and culture in a different way. Of course, studying it has also allowed me to appreciate Spanish language content and culture, whether I encounter it in its original form or an English adaptation. When learning a new language, it is important to acknowledge that while things like vocabulary and grammar may seem relatively unimportant, they are integral parts of an important and exciting whole. They are the building blocks of real Spanish fluency and can thus have a meaningful impact on your life.
To learn grammar and vocabulary while listening to authentic native spoken Spanish and improving your fluency, download Pars Omni Spanish Voices for free today. You can even search the library for stories that include specific grammar points you’d like to practice, like the subjunctive!