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LINGUIST List 19.574

Tue Feb 19 2008

Disc: Language Pedagogy & “Vosotros” Form in Spanish

Editor for this issue: Ann Sawyer <sawyerlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Brandon Simpson, Language Pedagogy & “Vosotros” Form in Spanish

Message 1: Language Pedagogy & “Vosotros” Form in Spanish
Date: 13-Feb-2008
From: Brandon Simpson <bwsimpsonfuse.net>
Subject: Language Pedagogy & “Vosotros” Form in Spanish
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Many teachers ignore the “vosotros” form completely when they teach 
Spanish. When Spanish students start studying Spanish in college, they’ll
be completely lost when they see it. I think doing this is unjust, and it
does the students a disservice.

Reason 1
I think teachers ignore it because they believe that nobody uses it
anymore. If that’s the reason, they are wrong. Spaniards use it on a daily
basis, a country with a population of 40 million people. By avoiding the
“vosotros” form, you are limiting your communication abilities with a large
population of Spanish speakers. I can recall one Spanish teacher who said,
“Only an idiot would teach the ‘vosotros’ forms. No one uses that anymore.”
Still, every Spanish instructor I’ve had, from high school to college, has
taught the “vosotros” forms.

Reason 2
Another reason for teaching the “vosotros” form is that it is very useful
for verb charts. Look at the chart below:
soy somos
eres sois
es son

This is ser fully conjugated. As you can see, the “vosotros” form is sois.
Now look at the chart below without it:
soy somos
es son

Removing it makes the chart less effective because there is no plural
counterpart to the “tú” form. Some teachers list the verb conjugations in a
single list like this:

This is far less effective than the two-column chart approach. And it also
throws a monkey wrench into “shoe verb” charts.
Singular Plural
1 juego jugamos
2 juegas jugáis
3 juega juegan
Try to imagine a shoe drawn around the singular forms and the 3rd person
plural of this chart. The only two verb conjugations left are the
“nosotros” and “vosotros” forms. If we used the one-column approach, a shoe
could not be drawn.

Reason 3
To my knowledge, all college professors teach their students the “vosotros”
form. They may not stress it very much, but they still teach it. So if a
student didn’t learn the “vosotros” form in their high school Spanish
class, they will have to have a crash course in it when they go to college.
That means that a student may have to learn several verb tense forms for
“vosotros” and its pronoun “os” in a short amount of time.

Reason 4
All works of Old Spanish literature have the “vosotros” form in it. If you
read any piece of Old Spanish literature, you will have to be able to
recognize it. It was never ignored; it was used by everybody.

Reason 5
The “vosotros” form appears on the AP Spanish test. That should be a good
enough reason alone for high school Spanish students to learn it.

Reason 6
If you tell a Spaniard that you know Spanish, they will assume that you
know the “vosotros” form. If you tell them that you were told it was
useless, they will be shocked and possibly even offended. Spaniards will
use the “tú” form with you immediately. Therefore, they will use its plural
counterpart with you and your friends: “vosotros.”

Reason 7
Learning the “vosotros” form doesn’t require much more effort to learn. By
learning it, you can avoid all the problems that you could encounter in the
top 6 reasons.

I could also make a case that knowing the “vos” forms are important to
know. However, Spaniards will assume that you know the “vosotros” forms.
Any Spanish speaker from Argentina (where “vos” is used in place of “tú”)
or any other “vos” users will not assume that you know “vos” forms. In
fact, using “vos” in certain countries implies less formality than “tú.” It
is sometimes referred to as the intimate form. To form the “vos”
conjugation of verbs, you have know what country you’re in first. If you’re
in Argentina, take the “vosotros” form and remove the –i in –ar and –er
verbs. If it’s an –ir verb, the two forms are identical. In other
countries, the “vos” and “vosotros” forms are exactly the same.

These reasons should compel you to study the “vosotros” form. It is used
regularly, taught in college courses, and doesn’t require much effort to
learn. If I taught a Spanish class, I would NEVER ignore the “vosotros” form.

Brandon Simpson,
Author of “Learning Foreign Languages: Everything You Need To Know” and
“Demystifying Spanish Grammar: Clarifying the Written Accents, Ser/Estar,
Para/Por, Imperfect/Preterit, and the Dreaded Spanish Subjunctive”

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Spanish (spa)

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