The Phrase "al pelo"

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Alternate Spanish Greetings and Replies

There's nothing more fundamental in learning a new language than the greeting.  "Cómo estás" and "Muy bien" can be found in the first few pages of just about any Spanish textbook.  But what about when you've outgrown "todo bien"?  There are a limitless number of common responses you might give such as "todo tranqui(lo)" or "todo en orden".  Here's another you might not have heard before: Al pelo (literally "bareback").

Like most phrases the seem to make little sense at first glance, "al pelo" has an interesting back story.  During the time of the Spanish colonial rebellion, especially in the area of Columbia and Venezuela, the resistance forces were severely under equipped.  They would often steal or raise horses to be used in battle, but they lacked the resources for saddles.  

Only the generals had mounts and the common cavalry were often bareback.  After a time, the phase "al pelo" came to mean heroism in the face of limited means.  When askes how a journey was, one might reply "al pelo" to means they face obstacles but came out unscathed.  Eventually the phrase became synonymous with strength, health and valor.  Today "al pelo" means fantastic when referring to oneself.

So the next time someone asks you how you are in Spanish and you're feelign on top of the world, you might tell them, "Al pelo"!

The Context-Sensitive Subjunctive

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As you probably know, one of the most confusing concepts for an "anglo-parlante" to master in Spanish is the subjunctive mood.  The subject is usually introduced by learning a series of introductory verbs and phrases or grammatical structures that usually take the subjunctive.  The classic example is expressing desire as in “Quiero que vengas aquí”.  That’s all good and fine as long as long as life follows the rules, but language is a living, mutable thing and context can be everything.

Take the following sentence:
Digo que mi madre [ser] buena.
How would you conjugate “ser” in this sentence?  Es or sea?  

The answer is that it depends on what you mean!

Let’s take the first possibility. Digo que mi madre es buena.  What you’re saying in this instance is that your mom IS good (most are), something you’d do well to remember tomorrow if you live in Argentina where the third Thursday in October is Mother’s Day or “Día de la Madre”.

Now let’s take the second case and put ser in the subjunctive.  Digo que mi madre sea buena.  Now you’re saying that you WANT her to BE good.

It’s a subtle but important difference.

Let’s try with a few other verbs that might be either indicative or subjunctive.

indicar:
Indico que completa este ejercicio.  – ask you to complete an exercise
Indico que complete este ejercicio.   – state that you are completing an exercise

quejarse:
Los porteños se quejan de que no hay luz.  --  The power is out.
Los porteños se quejan de que no haya cortes de luz en pleno.  -- Not currently a loss of electricity.  Projecting in the future eventually repeats.) Imagined time in the future, for example in Winter, might be imagining what will happen in the summer when all the air conditioners kick in.

recordarse:
Le recuerdo que siempre hace bien la tarea. --  declaration that something is happening
Le recuerdo que siempre haga bien la tarea. --  is a demando or a request

Starting up in Chile.

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Loogla + Startup-Chile 2012

CORFO, the economic development authority of Chile, has welcomed Loogla into Start-Up Chile.  For anyone not aware of this innovative program, it attracts high potential startups from around the world to come to Chile and develop their projects.  Applications are reviewed by a panel of industry experts, and we're proud to have been accepted.  We at Loogla will be developing a better way to learn languages along with projects from some of the most prestigious intitutions in the world such as MIT, Harvard, Oxford and the Indian Institute of technology just to name a few.

After a long and interrupted development process to create the language learning system we would have wanted after moving to South America, it is invigorating to receive the endorsement of the Chilean government and a panel of specialists in entrepreneurial viability.  Our participation marks the beginning of our ability to offer Loogla to the public.  We are still accepting names for the closed beta so if you are interested in helping to make Loogla the best self-paced Spanish language eLearning platform out there, sign up for the beta using our no frills signup form.