I am Judy Hochberg, a linguist and Spanish language instructor at Fordham University in New York City. I started this blog in order to share my knowledge of the linguistic and cultural underpinnings of the most interesting aspects of the Spanish language. “Most interesting” is a truly subjective term. For me, it encompasses aspects of Spanish that are either unusual or surprisingly normal.
My credentials include a BA from Harvard (in linguistics and Romance languages), an MA and PhD from Stanford (in linguistics), and numerous publications in referred journals include Language, Journal of Child Language. and Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
Who is this blog for?
- Spanish students. This blog won’t teach you Spanish, but it will help you understand the “why” behind the seemingly arbitrary features of the language that you are attempting to master.
- Spanish teachers. This blog will help you answer the interesting questions that your students will ask (if you are lucky). It will also refresh and deepen the knowledge of Spanish linguistics and the history of Spanish that you probably acquired during your teacher training. Finally, it may suggest lesson topics that will encourage your students to think intellectually about Spanish instead of “just” learning it.
- Native speakers. This blog will provide a fresh perspective on your language, explaining aspects of Spanish that may have always puzzled you (like accent marks) or never occurred to you (like the lack of apostrophes). It will also help you to see your language in a broader context by comparing it to other languages, both related (French, German, Sanskrit) and not (Chinese, Hebrew).
- Linguists and language aficionados. lf you’re just plain crazy about languages, or professionally involved with them, join the club. I hope that my blog will offer you some new insight into familiar topics. And I look forward to your own comments!
Finally, a personal note: I tell my students that El español no está en mi sangre, pero sí está en mi corazón (“Spanish isn’t in my blood, but it’s in my heart.”) Perhaps this is because my father used to practice his high school Spanish with me and my sisters — mostly commands like ¡Acostaos! (“Go to bed!”). Whatever the reason, when I started Spanish classes in 7th grade I knew that I had found my metier, an identification that my later study of other languages and linguistics only intensified. I hope that this enthusiasm comes through in the blog and that we can enjoy Spanish together.
vámanos?? or maybe vámOnos
Judy, Fantastic blog! I learned a lot! Jason
Judy, I stumbled across your blog and , as a native speaker of Spanish, I am deeply delighted to see how much you love this language. ¡Ojala los hablantes nativos tuvieramos ese mismo entusiasmo, Judy! Keep the good work!
Thank you so much, Carlos. The more I know about Spanish, the more I love the language. I hope to get back to the blog as soon as I turn in my book manuscript in a couple of weeks. Un saludo, Judy
Just purchased your book ¿Por qué? 101 questions about Spanish today at the NECTFL conference in NYC. Just wanted to say thanks for publishing such a fantastic book. I can’t put it down.
Thank you so much! Please add a comment on Amazon if so inspired. Enjoy the book — my heart is in it, and I wrote it for you.
I really enjoyed this book, and took your advice above and posted an Amazon review. Thanks for an engrossing and well-researched book about Spanish!
¡Muchas gracias, Katherine! I’m so glad you liked the book!
I’m delighted to have found your blog yesterday! I immediately ordered your book.
I have a question: I notice that 1st and 3rd singular forms are different in present, preterite, and future, but the same in imperfect, conditional, and subjunctive. Are there other grammatical phenomena that divide along these lines? Does it have something to do with definite assertions? Or perhaps is it an accident of historical change?
Thanks for what you are doing. It’s fascinating!
I hope you got my direct email in which I said “hello” back and promised you a later answer to your question. This is it. This difference is certainly striking, but seems to be a mere historical artifact. In Latin, all these verb forms had a six-way contrast, but the contrast between 1st and 3rd singular was lost in Spanish because it depended on a final consonant in the Latin form that was lost in the transition to Spanish. For example, the singular forms of the present subjunctive of Latin cantare were cantem, cantes, and cantet, but the final -m and -t were lost. The singular imperfect endings likewise depended on an m/s/t contrast. The conditional is built on the imperfect conjugation of haber, so it had the same m/t merger. 1st vs. 3rd endings happened to be more distinctive in the Latin present and perfect (the source of the preterite), so they survived the evolution to Spanish. And the future is built on the present tense of haber.
Thanks for a great question!
Thanks for your wonderful book. Some contributions: 1. Spanish preserves the Latin nominative in some masculine names (Dios, Marcos, Carlos). Also note the Latinate espíritu. And the reduplicated forms conmigo, contigo, consigo, which puzzle learners! On Portuguese, it is definitely harder for Spanish-speakers than the other way round, not only because of the vowels but because of serious phonetic attrition. Lots of liquid consonants have disappeared, for a start. La persona becomes a pessoa. The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais would be Minas Generales in Spanish! In fio (thread) Portuguese has lost the l while Spanish has lost the initial f. But Portuguese often preserves earlier forms in special uses, e.g. general for the military rank. Also padre and madre in the religious sense, but pai and mãe in the family one. So a Portuguese can understand the Spanish forms, but not the other way round. Do you know Paul Teyssier, Comprendre les langues romanes? It is written for Francophones to help them read other Romance languages , but you should definitely get a copy if you do not already have it. It compares French with Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian – invaluable.
Hi Gerald, so good to hear from you, and I’m glad you liked my book! I have taken due note of your comments,and will put Paul Teyssier’s book on my library reading list — too expensive to buy a copy…Be well, Judy
PS just found a copy of the 2004 edition for under $30 including shipping. I’ll tell you what I think once it arrives and I’ve had a good look.
Thanks Judy. I love your approach.
Estaba buscando una serie de rúbricas para los ensayos de AP y encontré tu blog. Qué pequeño es este mundo. Espero que estés bien, y por supuesto te seguiré, pues siempre tienes tantas ideas interesantes para instruir. Un saludo desde Boston,
Hola Mirna, ¡qué placer oír de ti! Espero que hayas encontrado las rúbricas que buscaste, además de mi blog.
Aunque no he abandonado el blog, recientemente no he escrito tanto en ello como en el pasado. Debo volver a hacerlo.
¡Shana tova! — Judy
Shaná tová a ti! Espero que disfrutes de los festejos de Año Nuevo en armonía. ¡Saludos!
Hola, Judy, Judy, Judy!
Que placer eres. Muchísimas gracias por tu ser y conocimiento. Sentí tu alma Espanola.
A mi también me encantan las idiomas romanticas. Deseo conocerte unos de estos días.
Marianne (Marianna en español)
Hi Dr. Hochberg!
I’m an independent learner of Spanish waiting on a copy of ¿Por qué? from my school library, which I’m very excited to read. I was wondering whether there were any specific courses/textbooks/resources that you would recommend for self-study, especially those that take a pedagogically rich and innovative approach to teaching? I’m planning my course of study and would really appreciate your input on what is best to use.
Thank you so much! 🙂
Laila, I’m delighted to hear from you. These days you have a lot of choices for self-study. Here are some resources I recommend:
* If you like a traditional grammar book, The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice is excellent.
* A free online audio course that people rave about is Language Transfer (just Google it). Apparently it is inspired by the teaching method of Michel Thomas, whom I admire. (I did his German course, and my cousin did Italian.)
* The Dreaming Spanish videos are good for advancing your listening comprehension. Very clever.
* You will find succinct explanations and some practice activities at https://tildesites.bowdoin.edu/~eyepes/newgr/ats/
* The practice activities at https://personal.colby.edu/~bknelson/SLC/index.html are excellent. I especially recommend them when you are dealing with direct vs. indirect object pronouns and preterite vs. imperfect.
* You will find a longer list of resources at https://www.reddit.com/r/Spanish/wiki/resources
I hope you enjoy my book, and don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon!
Dear Dr. Hochberg,
Thank you so much for taking the time to kindly reply to my question and for connecting me with such great resources, I really appreciate your help! I look forward to where this journey of learning takes me 🙂
Have a great week ahead and happy Memorial Day!