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Friday, April 05, 2013 (read 12968 times)

The Spanish Verbs IR & VENIR

by Lauris

Earlier this week, I was chatting with a colleague, when we started discussing a problem experienced by non-Hispanics with the verbs IR & VENIR (GO& COME). While Spanish speakers understand the difference perfectly, non-natives seem to be totally confused. 

"¿Vienes esta noche?"

Have you ever had a conversation with a French, Italian or even an Iranian student when suddenly the following question arises: “¿Vienes esta noche?” (Are you coming out tonight?) A simple reply of “Sí vengo”(Yes, I’m coming) causes teachers to experience feelings of frustration and hopelessness. We think to ourselves (we don´t say it, but we think it): “Darn it! Why didn’t I dedicate myself to something other than teaching?” And frustrated, you think that it is just useless.

But later, after composing ourselves, a light appears at the end of the tunnel as we think of a way to overcome the problem.

The next day, you stand next to the chalkboard and draw two 3D arrow shapes; one pointing towards the class (coming) and the other pointing away (going).  Satisfied with your artistic skills, after having spent two hours perfecting the picture at home, you return and ask the class the following question: “What do you see here?”… Silence, faces of bewilderment and panic as the students begin to think that their teacher has gone mad! You then explain to the class: “MOVEMENT! Two similar movements, but different… One leaves from where I am and the other comes towards me. Understand?” Suddenly, smiles, heads begin to nod, sighs of relief, the feeling that the students have realized that they aren’t going to need to commit their teacher to a mental home today fills the room.

Your point of view is important

With the total self-confidence of a performer who has the undivided attention of the audience, you take a piece of red chalk and write in letters the size of watermelons the verb IR (TO GO) above the “going arrow” and the verb VENIR (TO COME) above the “coming arrow”.  Then comes the axiom, the perfect sentence, the idea, as Aldous Huxley would say, that you hope to open “The Doors of Perception” (of the students understanding) and you realize that your POINT OF VIEW IS IMPORTANT when learning Spanish.

You explain that the only difference that Spanish speakers see between the two verbs is 180° and for a second that song by Julio Iglesias, that almost unknown guy living in Miami, crosses your mind: “Unos que vienen, otros que se vaaaaannn…” (“Some that come, others that gooooo…”) but in a moment of clarity, you decide that it is better to leave it for another time. You do a little role play with your students to help them understand that for Spaniards, repeating the verb that appears in the question is not as important as respecting the location of the speaker and the listener. With the pendulum-like flow of the conversation coming in and coming out, the word IR becomes VENIR and visa-versa depending on your position during the conversation.

If you are lucky, there will be smiles and maybe even an “Ach Sooo!” (Oh yea!) as that one German student in the class figures it out.

You think this ends here? Dream on!

In another moment of creativeness, you turn your back to the “audience” and draw one stick man next to the Spanish verb IR and another next to the Spanish verb VENIR. Then you draw a small box in the hands of each figure. Then using the yellow chalk, you add the Spanish verbs, LLEVAR & TRAER.

You explain that these verbs also appear in lots of periphrasis, expressions and Spanish idioms, but there are special uses which belong to pure and simple lexicon.

When you sit down, breathing deeply, you almost expect a round of applause. You sit like Moses, with The Ten Commandments in your hands, spilling your knowledge left and right. 

Later, reality puts you in your place when, you come across two of your students conversing in Spanish and one asks, “¿Vienes a cenar con nosotros a la Tapa Loca?” (Are you coming to dinner with us at the Tapa Loca?) and the other responds: ¡Sí, vengo! (Yes, I’m coming)!

And you realize that being a Spanish teacher is a “Never Ending Story”… Long may it last…

Keywords: spanish verbs,go in spanish,ir in spanish,spanish verb ir,come in spanish,spanish verb venir,ir and venir,venir in spanish


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