Author Archives: Dr. Jennifer Wagner

About Dr. Jennifer Wagner

PhD in Applied Linguistics, ESL/French teacher, author of two French books, and helping others to learn languages online at ielanguages.com.

A Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish - What are the most frequent phrases in telenovelas?

A Very Informal Corpus Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish: Pasión y Poder

A Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish, or How this Nerdy Linguist Spent her Friday Night

Ever since I discovered that Univision started including transcripts of their telenovelas online, I had been wanting to experiment with the free corpus linguistics software AntConc to analyze the most common phrases used in telenovela Spanish. I chose Pasión y Poder because it had the most transcripts still available on the website, even though I rarely watched it. It was a fairly typical telenovela, unlike El Hotel de Los Secretos or Yago, with plenty of fighting and drama and a (mostly) happy ending. Unfortunately Telemundo does not provide transcripts of their telenovelas (which tend to be better) which is a shame since I’d love to analyze the language of La Esclava Blanca, a Colombian telenovela set in the mid 1800’s.

Here’s how I created the corpus and found the most frequent phrases, if you feel inclined to be as nerdy…

How to be a linguistics/telenovela nerd:

  1. Downloading the html files was easy and quick thanks to the DownThemAll add-on for Firefox and the fact that the URL of each episode only differs by the number so I was able to use batch descriptors. (I know webscraping is possible with Python, but my programming knowledge is still pretty basic and I knew that I could get the files with the add-on in about 20 seconds.)
  2. Then I needed to find a way to extract the text from all of the <p> tags – since the transcript was the only text enclosed in these tags in all of the html code – and create text files for each episode. I managed to find some Python/BeautifulSoup code online after an hour of searching that did what I needed, after a couple tweaks, a few tears, and many error messages.
  3. Finally, I loaded all the text files into AntConc and played around with the Clusters/N-Grams option and N-Gram Size to find the most frequent phrases between five and ten words.

NEW! Watch a video explaining the steps:

Most Frequent Phrases in Pasión y Poder

So here are the most frequent phrases used in Pasión y Poder, starting with ten word phrases and ending with five word phrases. Keep in mind that some of the phrases are typically Mexican, and some are overly dramatic because, well, they’re from a telenovela!

  • A ver, a ver, a ver, a ver, a ver. (A ver is usually translated as let’s see, but I have no idea what a good translation for this many a vers together would be in natural English.)
  • No te metas en lo que no te importa. (Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong./Mind your own business.)
  • No sabes el gusto que me da que… (You don’t know how happy it makes me that…)
    ¿No te das cuenta? ¿No te das cuenta? (Don’t you realize? Don’t you realize?)
  • Esto no se va a quedar así. (This isn’t over. [said as a threat of revenge])
    No me lo tomes a mal, pero… (Don’t take this the wrong way, but…)
  • … lo que te voy a decir. (… what I’m going to tell you.)
    Lo único que quiero es que… (The only thing I want is that…)
    No, eso no va a pasar. (No, that is not going to happen.)
    No tiene nada que ver con… (It has nothing to do with…)
    Lo que pasa es que no…  (What is happening is that … not)
    No te lo voy a perdonar. (I’m not going to forgive you for it.)
    No te voy a permitir que… (I won’t allow you to…)
    Eres el amor de mi vida. (You are the love of my life.)
    No tiene la culpa de nada. (S/he is not guilty of anything.)
    A pesar de todo, lo que… (In spite of everything, what…)
    Creo que lo mejor es que… (I think the best thing is that/to…)
    Lo que me preocupa es que… (What worries me is that…)
    Lo único que espero es que… (The only thing I hope is that…)
  • Todo va a estar bien. (Everything will be fine.)
    Me da mucho gusto que… (I’m very happy that…)
    No voy a dejar que… (I’m not going to let…)
    No, por supuesto que no. (No, of course not.)
    ¿Que fue lo que pasó? (What happened?)
    Sí, lo sé, lo sé. (Yes, I know, I know.)
    Ya me tengo que ir. (I have to go now.)
    No me importa lo que… (I don’t care what…)
    … lo que vas a hacer. (…what you’re going to do.)
    Te pido por favor que… (I am asking you please to…)
    Ya me di cuenta que… (I already realized that…)
    De una vez por todas. (Once and for all.)
    ¿No te das cuenta que…? (Don’t you realize that…?)
    Yo no tengo nada que… (I have nothing that…)
    Y lo peor es que… (And the worst is that…)

Telenovela Battle of Screams and Insults

I was also interested in finding out which words I heard yelled all the time were more frequent:

In the battle suéltame (let go of me) vs. lárgate (get out), the winner is: ¡lárgate! (59 vs. 61)

And in the battle infeliz (fool) vs. desgraciado (bastard), the winner is: ¡infeliz! (74 vs. 69)

However, the winner of them all was ¡No puede ser! (It can’t be!) with a frequency count of 151.

So what have we learned?

To sum up, Telenovela Spanish is hilarious and corpus linguistics is amazing.

If you’d like to learn more about Corpus Linguistics, there is a great free Corpus Linguistics MOOC at Futurelearn and the hands-on exercises in the new textbook Practical Corpus Linguistics will get you started with AntConc, plus there are tutorials on Youtube on how to use this software. If you’re interested in learning Python, try Dr. Chuck’s Python for Everybody lessons.

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

If your students already use Buzzfeed to waste time online, make sure they know about the French language version so they can turn that wasted time into learning opportunities. Not only is French Buzzfeed useful for learning informal language, it is also useful for learning about cultural differences.

Learning French language and culture with Buzzfeed

The list, 28 choses bizarres pour tous les Français qui visitent les États-Unis, is great content for teaching and learning about cultural differences between France and the US – especially for students who have never spent time in France. There is a slightly different version in English, with more explanations, which you can also use for a few more differences.

The lists include practices related to shopping, eating out, school, fashion, money, etc. which can guide discussions on what is common in America and why the French find it weird or odd. For students who have not experienced living or studying in France, they may have never thought about these American practices, and maybe assumed that they were the same in other countries. Personally, I was delighted to find out the air conditioning wasn’t so extreme and there were fewer commercials on TV, but annoyed that there were no 24 hour stores. I liked that tax is already included in prices, yet I hated having to get the server’s attention in restaurants.

These practices can also lead to deeper discussions about what is considered normal, correct, polite, rude, or strange to different cultures. Americans might not understand why people smiling all the time would be odd to the French. What is so “wrong” about flying the flag everywhere? Why do the French think that coffee must be drunk only at a café or while sitting down?

The information learned from these lists is certainly useful for students who are about to go abroad and what to expect. They will learn that 24 hour stores are very rare in France, you can’t buy food and drinks at pharmacies, waiters will ignore you in restaurants, wearing pajamas in public is not acceptable, you won’t get ice in your drinks, and you won’t have to figure out how much to leave for a tip.

Another interesting list is Comment les Américains imaginent la France vs. la réalité, which offers a more realistic look at life in France through stereotypes and the extreme opposites.

Buzzfeed has versions for other countries/languages as well: Brazil, Germany, Spain, MexicoSpanish, and Japan.

Mexican Slang I Learned By Binge-Watching Telenovelas

Mexican Slang I Learned By Binge-Watching Telenovelas: ¿Quién es Quién?

I’ve recently been binge-watching the Telemundo telenovela ¿Quién es Quién? to learn more Mexican slang. Comedic telenovelas often use tons of informal expressions and slang words compared to the more dramatic ones, but the characters also talk really fast so you’ll most likely need access to the subtitles and the internet to look up words in order to really understand much. I use Wordreference.com and AsíHablamos.com to find definitions. Not all of the following words and phrases are considered slang, but they are words that I never learned from books and thought were useful, especially if they have other meanings in addition to the informal one.

¿Quién es Quién? has now finished its run on Telemundo, but you can watch the episodes online with Spanish subtitles, though they are probably geo-blocked to the US. Episodes 1-61 plus 91 are 45 minutes long, while episodes 62-90 are 90 minutes long. The best way to watch the episodes is through the Telemundo Now website or app, but I believe you need to log in with your cable subscriber. The full episodes are still available on Telemundo’s regular website that doesn’t require you to log in, but beware that episode 27 is actually episode 25 again, and all the 90 minute episodes have the parts out of order – all parts 2 and 3 should actually be the final two parts. I’m not sure when the videos will be removed from the regular site, but they should remain for some time on the Now site. Plus you can always skip around and read English language recaps at El Cohete to get caught up.

Mexican Slang Vocabulary from ¿Quién es Quién?

aguafiestas – spoilsport, party pooper, wet blanket

andar de parranda – to be out partying; go out on the town

apapachar – to spoil, indulge

babosada – nonsense; stupid thing

baboso – stupid, silly

bajeza – vile deed, nasty thing to do

berrinche – tantrum, fit

billullo – money

bola – lie, fib / ball, marble, scoop of ice cream

bote – jail / container / small boat / bounce / jackpot

bronca – fight, quarrel, scolding

burrada – nonsense / a lot of

callejón sin salida – dead-end; problem without a solution

canijo – untrustworthy / good at sports / weak, sickly, puny

carnal – brother, buddy, pal

chafa – lame, shoddy, cheap

chamba – job, work / fluke, pure chance

chambear – to work

chela – beer

chido – fantastic, cool

chorro – loads, tons / stream, jet

chueco – crooked, dodgy, illegal

chulo – pretty, good-looking

coscolino – playboy, womanizer

cuate – friend, buddy, mate

cursi – sickly sweet, corny

dar carpetazo – to put an end to

despachar – to finish off, bump off

dizque – so-called, supposed

encuerada – stripper; nude

entero – calm, collected, have it together

fanfarrón – show-off

feria – money, change, coins / fair, festival

flojo – slacker, deadbeat, good for nothing

fregada – mess, mix-up

fregar – to mess with, hurt, ruin

fulano – so-and-so, what’s-his-name

gacho – mean, nasty, cruel, unlucky, ugly

gandalla – thug, scoundrel, lowlife

gatada – sly trick

jalarse – to run, hurry, rush, dash

jarabe de pico – sweet talk, verbal persuasion

lana – money

lata – bother, nuisance, hassle / tin, can

matón – thug, brute, bully

méndigo – despicable, terrible, loathsome [not to be confused with mendigo – beggar, panhandler]

menso – stupid, silly, dumb

mono – cute, adorable / overalls / cravings / monkey [not be confused with moño – bow, ribbon / bun (in hair) / sweet bun (pastry)]

morra / morrita – girl

mujeriego – playboy, womanizer

neta – truth

padre – good, great

pelado – lowlife / peel, skin / bare, empty, bald

picaflor – playboy, womanizer

piropo – flirtatious remark

pleito – fight

raite – ride, lift (in car) [this is very American/Northern Mexican Spanish; you can also use aventón]

re- / rete- – very, a lot

ruca – old lady, spinster

tarado – idiot, fool, moron / crazy, loony

tarugada – nonsense, stupid thing

tarugo – stupid (blockhead as a noun)

tener la espina clavada – to be dying to do something

trago – drink, sip, gulp / hard time

trepadora – social climber

 

Reductions in Spanish Speech

‘tá instead of está

‘perate instead of esperate

pa’ instead of para

Estamos? instead of estamos de acuerdo?

 

Phrases and Expressions

¿a poco no? – isn’t it, don’t they, etc. [general tag question]; isn’t that right?

ahueca el ala – beat it; get out of here!

al grano – get to the point

hijole – gosh! wow! jeez!

me lleva – damn it!

me vale gorro – I don’t give a damn!

menos mal – just as well; lucky for me

ni hablar – let’s not even go there/talk about it

ni que ocho cuartos – my foot! yeah right!

o sea – I mean; in other words

vé tú a saber – who knows; your guess is as good as mine

yo qué sé – don’t ask me!

 

Cultural Notes

The emergency number 911 is pronounced nueve once.

When answering phone calls, most characters said si, bueno? or si, diga?

 

¿Quién es Quién? is set in Los Angeles, but was largely filmed in Miami in case you’re wondering why some house doors open outwards (a Florida building code for hurricane safety).

French for Spanish Speakers Courses at California State University Long Beach

French for Spanish Speakers Courses at CSU Long Beach

Did you know that California State University at Long Beach offers French for Spanish speakers courses? They also offer similar courses in Italian for Spanish speakers that emphasize the similarities between these Romance languages. I haven’t heard of other universities (yet) that offer courses like this, though the University of Texas at Austin’s Portuguese courses usually include many students who already learned Spanish and their Tá Falado podcast is designed with Spanish speakers in mind.

Fundamentals of French for Spanish Speakers Course at Cal State Long BeachFundamentals of French for Spanish Speakers course description at Cal State Long Beach

The professors at Cal State Long Beach have also been working with local high school and community colleges to help them develop their own courses. The concept of intercomprehension and taking advantage of the similarities between languages to learn them faster and easier is nothing new in Europe, but I’m always surprised about the few resources available for learning multiple related languages together in the US or for English speakers. I hope more universities, especially Hispanic-serving institutions, follow Cal State’s lead.

Please let us know in the comments if you’ve heard of other schools or universities that offer courses like this!

If you are interested in learning several languages simultaneously, don’t forget to check out our comparative languages resources, including videos for learning French and Spanish together.

Learn Two Languages Together with Duolingo

Interested in learning two languages together, or learning a third language through your second?

Although the majority of courses at Duolingo in other languages are for learning English, there are some courses designed for native speakers of other languages to learn languages such as French, Spanish, German, etc. If you’re already used to the interface in English, it is quite easy to change to another language and try the courses available.

And of course, if you already speak another language, you can always use that language to learn another. Depending on how closely related the languages are, it may be easier to learn a third language through your second language instead of your native language. Personally, I prefer to learn Spanish through French rather than English.

As of mid 2016, the following languages offer Duolingo courses in more than just English:

For Spanish speakers – English, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Catalan, while Guarani and Esperanto are almost ready

Learn two languages together with Duolingo

Duolingo courses currently available for Spanish speakers

For French speakers – English, Spanish, Italian, German, and Portuguese

For Italian speakers – English, French, German, and Spanish

For Portuguese speakers – English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian

For German speakers – English, French, and Spanish

For Russian speakers – English, German, French, Spanish, and Swedish

For Arabic speakers – English, French, German, and Swedish

For Turkish speakers – English, German, Russian, and French

For Chinese speakers – English, Spanish, and French

For reference, English speakers can currently learn the following languages on Duolingo: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Irish, Russian, Turkish, Danish, Norwegian (Bokmål), Esperanto, Ukrainian, Polish, Welsh, and Vietnamese. Hungarian, Greek, Hebrew, Czech, and Romanian will be released next, with Swahili, Hindi, Klingon, Korean, Indonesian, and Yiddish to follow (but not for a while!)

Don’t forget that you can learn two languages together, or multiple languages simultaneously, with our multilingual comparative resources

Best Chrome Extensions for Learning Languages

Best Chrome Extensions for Learning Languages

What are the Best Chrome Extensions for Learning Languages?

Extensive reading in a foreign language is an extremely effective way to increase your vocabulary, but without the use of graded readers or interlinear translations, it can be frustrating and tedious using a dictionary to look up words that you don’t know. Luckily there are some Chrome extensions that you can use when reading webpages to instantly translate words and even save them to flashcard decks to review later. These Chrome extensions for learning languages all use Google Translate to produce the translations, but let’s take a look at their different options and features.

 

Readlang Web Reader

My favorite Chrome extension for learning vocabulary through translation is Readlang because it saves every word you click on as flashcards so you can review them later. The entire sentence is also saved so you have the context, which is very important in learning vocabulary. You can also change the settings so that you hear the pronunciation after you click the word, and import the entire webpage to your Readlang account. The free account gives you unlimited single word translations and 10 phrase translations per day, while the premium account is only $5 a month or $48 a year. You can also install the Readlang bookmarklet on mobile or tablet (Safari or Chrome on iOS and Chrome on Android).

Readlang Web Reader Chrome Extension for Learning Vocabulary through Translation

Readlang Web Reader

Readlang Flashcards created from words you clicked on

The words you clicked on and the entire sentence are imported into your flashcards

 

Mango Reader Beta

The Mango Reader extension was just released in April and it is still in Beta mode, but it looks promising. After installing the extension, choose the language that you’re learning in the settings, and then just double click on a word. The translation will appear, along with a speaker icon to listen to the pronunciation, plus links to WordReference and conjugation websites. If you have a Mango account, you can sign in and have the option to save the word to your Vocab List to study later. You may have access to Mango Languages for free through your local American or Canadian library, but if not, unfortunately there isn’t a free option to create an account just for Mango Reader. However, for $20 a month or $175 a year, you will have unlimited access to all of their language courses (71 languages and counting.)

One small bug I noticed was that the pronunciation is sometimes an American accent pronouncing the word as if it were English, but the second click produced the correct pronunciation in the correct language. Currently, the supported languages for Mango Reader include: Modern Standard Arabic, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Latin American Spanish.

Mango Reader Beta Chrome ExtensionMango Reader Beta 

 

Rememberry

Translate words on webpages and save them to your own customizable flashcard decks with Rememberry. Translations  and pronunciations are via Google Translate. This is a relatively new extension, and mobile apps and offline use are in the works.

Google Translate

Of course, Google Translate has their own Chrome extension that makes it easy to quickly look up a translation. With the Google Translate extension, you highlight a word to get the translation (and pronunciation, if available). Clicking on More will take you directly to the translate.google.com page.

Google Translate Chrome Extension

Google Translate Chrome Extension

 

Overall, I prefer to use Readlang because of the minimalist interface and the fact that the entire sentence is automatically saved. Sometimes I just use Google Translate if I’m not interested in saving words to flashcard decks. If you already use Mango Languages often, then their web reader might be a better option so you can save your word lists to your existing account.

Any others?

Are there other Chrome extensions for learning languages that you recommend? Let me know!

[Post updated in April 2017 replacing Rememberry with the now-defunct lingua.ly extension.]

Learn Informal French, French Slang, and Spoken French Expressions with authentic and spontaneous mp3s by several native speakers of French - transcripts and exercises also included!

Learn Informal French and Spoken French with new e-book and mp3s!

Informal and Spoken French e-book + mp3s now available

The companion to French Language Tutorial, Informal and Spoken French, is now available. This e-book is also more than 200 pages with 91 mp3s and free lifetime updates. It is designed to help you learn informal French that is often missing from textbooks and grammar books.

Learn informal French, French slang, and spoken French with authentic mp3s

This new e-book includes: reductions in speech, slang vocabulary and informal expressions, proverbs and idioms, 61 authentic and spontaneous French listening resources with fill-in-the-blank exercises and transcripts, and various realia images from Europe that show how French is used in real life. Both PDF and Word formats are included for easier editing and printing of the exercises. French teachers, feel free to use them in your classes! There are also online exercises to accompany the informal vocabulary lists and listening resources. Download a sample of Informal and Spoken French (including the table of contents).

Buy Informal and Spoken French


Buy Informal and Spoken French with French Language Tutorial!

Buy French Language Tutorial and Informal and Spoken French Together!

You can also buy the two French e-books together at a discounted price. These two products together include over 450 pages, 300 mp3s, and SEVEN HOURS of recorded French.

Buy French Tutorial + Informal French


If you had previously bought French Language Tutorial via Gumroad, you will receive an e-mail with a link to purchase Informal French and Slang at a large discount. E-mail list subscribers also receive a discount on ALL products!

Thank you for supporting ielanguages.com!

(Italian Language Tutorial will be available very soon!)

World Congress of Applied Linguistics - AILA 2017 in Brazil

AILA 2017 in Brazil: World Congress of Applied Linguistics

AILA 2017: World Congress of Applied Linguistics

The 18th World Congress of Applied Linguistics (AILA 2017) will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 23 to 27, 2017. The call for papers has been extended to May 31, 2016, so submit your proposals (in English, Portuguese, or Spanish) for papers, posters, workshops, or symposia at the official website.

This is the largest gathering of applied linguists in the world, and it only happens once every 3 years. The last one was in Brisbane, Australia, and since I was doing my PhD in Australia at the time, I was fortunate enough to go. Over 1,500 delegates attended and the conference ran for 5 full days. It was an exhausting, but amazing, week. The theme for this year is Innovation and Epistemological Challenges in Applied Linguistics.

AILA 2017 also has a Facebook page if you’d like to follow their updates. I don’t think there’s an official Twitter hashtag but I use #AILA2017

Hope to see you all in Rio next year!

If you’d like to start learning Portuguese in preparation for your trip to Brazil, check out the Portuguese tutorial with audio recordings by native speakers, the Foreign Service Institute course From Spanish to Portuguese, and the Romance Languages Comparative Vocabulary Lists or Verb Conjugations!

Spanish Accents Game by El País

Fun Spanish Accents Game

Play a Spanish Accents Game

Here’s a fun game to see if you can hear the various Spanish accents around the world. El País has a multiple choice quiz where you choose a country depending on which accent you hear in the video.

 

Spanish Accents Game Screenshot

 

I have no problems hearing differences in the accents from Spain, Mexico, and Argentina, but the others are still difficult for me to distinguish. Luckily the videos in the game are actually of people talking about a certain word or expression used in their country, so if you have knowledge of regional vocabulary, you can still figure out what country they are referring to even if you aren’t sure by the sound of the accent alone.

Try it out and see how many you can get!

German Language Tutorial PDF e-book and mp3s now available

Learn German with German Language Tutorial e-book and mp3s

German Language Tutorial Now Available for Purchase!

If you are learning the German language and would like a complete overview of German grammar and vocabulary as well as audio files so you can read and listen at the same time, then this is the product for you.

The PDF e-book includes:

  • over 160 pages of grammar and vocabulary topics and sample sentences,
  • realia images and photos taken in Germany and Austria so you can see how German is used in real life,
  • links to German, Austrian, and Swiss websites so you can learn more authentic German online,
  • plus nearly TWO HOURS of audio (127 mp3s) recorded by two native speakers – the lovely Sabrina and Simone – so you can learn the pronunciation of each word and sentence.

Your purchase also includes FREE lifetime updates to the e-book and mp3s!


Buy German Language Tutorial