Goal written by one of PBO’s Students: “Dominar el subjuntivo.”
Most Spanish students have this idea that the subjunctive is the devil. It is different, it is a challenge coming from English, but in my opinion it’s fascinating. If you think about it, the subjunctive really opens a window into the culture. It’s pretty cool that you can express doubt by changing one letter (in some cases a few) and not having to throw in extra words. It’s also cool that you have to use it with cuando when you’re referring to the future – just a little reminder that anything could happen and that what happens next really is out of our control. I like to think of it as “The God Mood” (it’s actually a mood, not a tense – it’s a mood that has 4 tenses).
So, how do you attack this monster? Here are my suggestions:
1 – Have a good attitude. Look at the fascinating part of learning this mood, not the complicated part. Learning a language is 50% attitude. If you have the right attitude and enthusiasm, the rest will follow.
2 – Learn one piece of the puzzle at a time. There are many instances when you would need the subjunctive. Concentrate on one, get it down and move on to the next.
For example, now you know that when you use an If clause you need the subjunctive in the “If” part of the sentence. You also know that if it’s an If clause referring to the present or future, you need the imperfect subjunctive and that if it refers to the past, you need the pluperfect subjunctive. This is what we’ve been working on in class for 3 weeks, so now, for the next month or so, be on the lookout for this. Now you will start to hear it everywhere, as it’s very common. You may not hear it in full sentences, but for example you may hear “si pudiera” by itself – “if I could” or “si hubiera ___” – “If I had ___”.
3 – If the subjunctive is something that you’re working on, tell your teacher. Let him/her know what part of the subjunctive you’re working on and he/she can make an effort to point it out in class.
4 – Start looking for opportunities to use it. They’re everywhere!
5 – This is one aspect of the language that I truly believe is better to learn from use rather than by studying it. It’s very complicated when you dissect it, but not nearly so when you just repeat it and learn it naturally. Eventually, once you have started using it and feel pretty comfortable with it, you can study it and refine what you’ve learned.
Logistically speaking there are 3 parts to learning the subjunctive:
1st – You need to know IF you need to use it.
2nd – You need to know when the action occurred or will occur (past or present/future).
3rd – You need to know what tense was used in the other clause so that you can determine which tense to use in the subjunctive clause.
Start with learning when it’s used. Once you’ve mastered that, you can figure out the other stuff.
6 – Have fun with it! Give yourself a pat on the back every time that you make an effort to use it! And don’t make the mistake of never learning it. Many Spanish students do that and let me tell you that you will never be able to express yourself well in Spanish if you do not eventually learn it. So go for it…break it down into small chunks and go!
The optional homework this week is to write a paragraph about how different your life would have been if you had made a different decision at some point. Next week we will ask you all to share it with us.
Por ejemplo: Si hubiera cuidado mi salud no tendría todos los problemas médicos que tengo ahora. Si no hubiera fumado por tantos años, si hubiera comido mejor y hecho ejercicio, probablemente estaría en buen estado físico ahora y no tendría que seguir un régimen tan estricto. Ojalá me hubiera dado cuenta de la importancia de la salud cuando era más joven.
En español: La tarea opcional es escribir un párrafo sobre cuan (que tan) diferente habría sido tu vida si hubieras tomado una decisión distinta en algún momento. La próxima semana les vamos a pedir que lo compartan con la clase.