Posted by: janecronin | July 16, 2017


Since the object of this series of articles is to learn something new, I thought the verb meaning “to learn” that is “aprender” would be a suitable place to start.

This form of the verb “aprender” ending in “-er” is what we call an “infinitive”, that is the equivalent of “to learn” in English.  However, whilst in our language “to learn” has very few forms (learn, learnt (or learned) learns, learning), “aprender” has multiple forms, although it is in fact completely regular throughout all its changes.

I usually teach this verb to beginner students in a form we can label “present participle” or “gerund” which means “learning”.  Here is the sentence I teach, which some people find hard to get their tongues round at first: “Estoy aprendiendo español”.  It simply means “I’m learning Spanish” and I recommend it as a way of communicating to a Spanish person who might be a bit impatient with our efforts, or who we simply feel we would like to explain ourselves to.

It is interesting to realise that many other words, such as nouns and adjectives, in Spanish are based on verbs.   In the case of “aprender” we find the word “aprendiz” which means “learner”.  We can trace the connection to the English word “apprentice” which to all intents and purposes means the same thing, even though for us “apprentice” refers to a particular role or position in the work place.  “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in Spanish is “El Aprendiz de Brujo”.   A learner driver is also “aprendiz” although for some reason of international law, Spanish learner drivers have to have the letter “L” for “learner” on their cars.

The word for the period or process of learning or apprenticeship is “aprendizaje”.  We can talk about our “aprendizaje de español” or someone else’s “aprendizaje de ingles” (Spanish learning and English learning) and living in Spanish of course is a learning process – “un proceso de aprendizaje”.  As far as I know, that is the only equivalent of that odd English phrase “a learning curve” which personally I have never really understood.

A phrase that is used when referring to the learning process is “aprender a aprender” (learning to learn).  Apart from reminding us that there are all kinds of learning techniques to help us learn, this phrase also serves to remind us that the verb “aprender” is followed by the ubiquitous word “a” when it goes before another verb.


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