Two Sorayas and a Tormenta in a mix of Spanish music old and new

It’s holiday time! And with it comes the chance to update my music playlists. Having recently covered what’s hot on the Portuguese and Brazilian music scene, this time I’ll look at the Spanish-singing world. The official Spanish sales chart, which has a real eyesore of a website, shows how – Enrique Iglesias apart – the Spanish chart is dominated by songs in English, while this Spanish Top 20 airplay chart rather bizarrely had more Portuguese offerings on it (two songs each by D.A.M.A and Anselmo Ralph, one by Badoxa) than Spanish ones, but this Top 50 chart had a wider representation of Spanish artists and some good stuff too.

This one is a new entry on it. I think it will do well, it grows on you. It’s got a Cocteau Twins-type guitar feel in the chorus. And two sultry singers and a lot of wet shirts in the video. It’s former Eurovision contestant Sonraya feat Vega and El Huracán (The Hurricane).

And here you can see what goes into the making of a music video nowadays…

Incidentally, there was a very successful Colombian singer also named Soraya, who unfortunately died of breast cancer in 2006 at the age of 37. Here is a lovely song by her, De Repente (Suddenly).

Back to the present, another new entry on that Top 50 chart is Todo Lo Que Tengo (All That I Have) by a youthful (mid-20s)  Xuso Jones, who apparently came to attention as an internet sensation. Judging by this, he is one to follow as he gains more mainstream recognition.

Now, onto a couple of classic hits that I tagged with my Shazam app recently while listening to a Spanish golden oldies radio station…

This one goes back to the 1970s, and the singer Nino Bravo has an impressive voice – he sounds like a Spanish Tom Jones or Tony Christie. Unfortunately he also died too young – in a car crash aged just 28. Un beso y una flor (A Kiss and A Flower), was very popular in the Latin world at the time and was released just before he died.

Now onto a prolific Argentinian singer, Tormenta (real name Liliana Esther Maturano) who is 62 now. This is very early 70s too… it’s Adiós Chico de Mi Barrio (Goodbye, Guy From My Neighbourhood) … gosh, this reminds me of so many cheesy pop songs in my teens!


The conditional in Portuguese

So far we’ve covered the present and future tenses in Portuguese, now let’s have a look at the conditional, which is not very complicated to form. This time, instead of using the verbs falar (to speak), comer (to eat) and partir (to leave), I shall use a different trio.

There are three sets of regular verbs in Portuguese

  1. those ending in ar, for example, andar, to walk
  2. those ending in er, for example, beber, to drink
  3. those ending in ir, for example, abrir, to open

In the present tense, you have to drop the ar, er and ir to get the verb stem, to which you add the present tense suffixes, but the conditional is like the future tense and the suffixes are merely added to the infinitive. And once again, thankfully, there is just one set of suffixes for all three verb groups. They are -ia, -ias, -ia, -íamos, -iam

Andar conjugates thus:

  • eu andaria - I would walk
  • tu andarias - you (singular, familiar) would walk
  • você/ele/ela andaria - you (singular), he, she would walk
  • nós andaríamos - we would walk 
  • vocês/eles/elas andariam - you (plural), they would walk
When it's time for "walkies", the conditional form of andar comes in useful if you are lazy. You would say "andaria mas..." ("I would walk but...) and then give your excuse not to go for a walk.

When it’s time for “walkies”, the conditional form of andar comes in useful if you are lazy. You would say “andaria mas…” (“I would walk but…”) and then give an excuse not to go.

LEARNING HINT: It’s fairly easy to remember the conditional suffixes: just remember that there is an “ia” theme, and the usual verb ending patterns apply. So as is often the case, the tu form takes an -s at the end, the nós form takes its usual -mos ending, and the third person plural (vocês/eles/elas) has its -m ending.

Beber conjugates thus: beberia, beberias, beberia, beberíamos, beberiam (I would drink, you would drink, etc)

Abrir conjugates thus: abriria, abririas, abriria, abriríamos, abririam (I would open, you would open, etc)


Like the future tense, there are three exceptions (the same three verbs with a -zer connection). As with the future, the ze is dropped and an abbreviated stem is used:

  • dizer (to say) – dir is used as a stem: diria, dirias, diria, diríamos, diriam
  • fazer (to do) – far is used: faria, farias, faria, faríamos, fariam
  • trazer (to bring) –  trar is used: traria, traias, traria, traríamos, trariam

Soon I will look at the imperfect in Portuguese, then after that we will see how Portuguese uses the conditional and imperfect in slightly different ways to English.


See the VERBS section on the main menu and also the following posts:


Hot songs in Brazil and Portugual

It’s been a while since I looked at the Portuguese-Brazilian music scene, so here goes.

The Brazilian music charts tend to be dominated by música sertaneja (click to read the Wikipedia explanation). The acts are often male duos, sometimes brothers. One such brother combination is Henrique e Juliano, who are doing well in Brazil with the song Cuida Bem Dela (Take Good Care of Her), filmed live in what looks like an impressive modern church in the capital, Brasilia. I’m not a great fan of the Sertanejo music scene, but this crosses over into mainstream and I quite like it.

The gist of the song is this….

Esse é meu único aviso – This is my one piece of advice
Se ela quis ficar contigo – If she wants to be with you
Faça ela feliz, faça ela feliz – Make her happy, make her happy
Cuida bem dela – Take good care of her
Você não vai conhecer alguém melhor que ela – You won’t find anyone better than her

Surprise, gasp, surprise! There is a rare rock hit on the Brazilian charts too, courtesy of the outfit known as Malta, winners of the Superstar talent show contest earlier this year. I’ve been scouting for a while now for a decent new-generation Brazil rock band to follow, they could be in contention! The song is Diz Pra Mim, (Tell Me) and it’s taken from the album Supernova, which I think might be my Christmas present to myself.

One of the judges on Superstar was the ever popular Ivete Sangalo. She is getting a lot of airplay with this, Beijos de Hortelã (Mint Kisses).

Over in Portugal, they are hailing a new force on the scene, D.A.M.A. There is an interview with them in Portuguese here, but if you right click on it and use the “translate into English” option you will understand it well enough. They seem quite witty, the interview is full of risos (laughs). Perhaps their spectacular rise has been helped by recently being the support act for One Direction in Portugal, but don’t call them a boy band, they insist they are not, as they write their own material, etc. (in the interview they say in 10 years’ time One Direction will be the support act for them – risos). Anyway this is very catchy and it’s top of the airplay chart in Portugal. Às Vezes means Sometimes.

Finally, here is the Danish-born Mikkel Solnado, the son of a Portuguese actor Raul Solnado, teaming up with Joan Alegre for E Agora? (And Now?). Mikkel’s background and unexpected rise to fame (he composed jingles for adverts initially, and much of his material is in English) make interesting reading. There is some information on him in English here, and a lot more, including a video interview, in Portuguese here. The song is pretty smooth, and from what I have heard, his debut album It’s Only Love, Give It Away is worth investigating.

How good is singing judge Delia? You be the judge

Delia – real name Delia Matache – has been holding on to the top spot on the Romanian top 100 airplay music chart for a number of weeks now with Pe Aripi De Vant (Gone With The Wind). She has been a voice coach and a judge on the Romanian X Factor TV show, so is an influential figure on the local music scene, in the same way that Claudia Leitte is in Brazil. I have been following Delia’s progress ever since I discovered her song Doar Pentru Tine earlier this year (see Music for a Romantic Weekend, Part 1). That song didn’t make much of an impression on the charts, but Pe Aripi De Vant certainly has, and the video is stylish. Check it out.

If you are going to be a judge on a TV talent show, you have to practise what you preach. Some singers sound great in the studio, where sound engineers can mask their flaws, but then you seem then perform in a stripped down semi-acoustic set and you think, how embarrassing, they can’t sing for quids! They’re flat, they can’t hit the note! So I was curious to see how good Delia was in these circumstances. Listen to this performance of the song on Radio Zu, what rating would you give her?

Quite a voice, eh? Not sure about the headwear, though. It looks like a cross between a chef’s hat and a ramekin with a sagging souffle inside!

Here’s a version with the lyrics.

Aldi’s ‘Perfect Aussie Christmas’ takes place in … Romania! (Budgie smugglers included)

The fortified Saxon church in Biertan, Romania. Photo from Wikipedia.

The fortified Saxon church in Biertan, Romania. Photo from Wikipedia.

It’s not often that you get a Romanian connection in Australian television advertising, but here’s one. German grocery retailer Aldi has produced an advert about the “Perfect Aussie Christmas”. It’s supposed to be set in a (fictitious) Scandinavian town called Julbacken, but the real life location in the advert is Biertan in Transylvania, Romania. According to some reports, the centre of the nearby town of Mediaș was used in filming too. However, the most scenic bits, in which you can see the historic fortified Saxon church (pictured above), are definitely set in Biertan. And yes, you can hear Romanian in the advert too.

The ad looks at the sort of things an Australian might do over Christmas (where it is bloody hot at the time of the year) and transposes them to Europe (where it is bloody cold). Hence there is a surf lifesaving team dressed in “budgie smugglers” * - the swimwear much favoured by our Prime Minister (and Bernardo too, I might add, when he does his  swimming). And there are demonstrations of cricket games and impersonations of hopping kangaroos.

Oh, and if you are wondering what the “Duni” wooden shack is, that is a “dunny” – an outdoor toilet. For some reason, in early Australian housing, the dunnies were set up in isolation away from the rest of the house, usually right at the bottom of the back yard. Going to the toilet in the middle of the night must have been laborious, and scary for the kids.

Here is the advert in which Romania is looking good …

Unfortunately I did not get to see Biertan on my visit to Romania last year. The language course I did there included a cultural outing from Sibiu to Sighișoara (the other famous Saxon citadels in the region) but not Biertan, even though it is only about 10km off the main road. I believe Biertan is now included in the itinerary. I will do it next time!

* The Urban Dictionary says budgie smugglers is ‘Australian slang term for men’s tight-fitting Speedo-style swimwear. The ‘lump in the front’ apparently resembles a budgie when it is stuffed down the front of someone’s shorts.’

Going from Biertan to Sydney, Australia, here is a fun look at budgie smugglers … and you can see why Australia is such a popular destination for Europeans at Christmas time – the beach and surf looks fantastic. I’ll smuggle my budgie this summer.

Tips on Romance languages from the Transparent team

All was lost if the tape got stuck in the machine! Image from Pixabay

Images from Pixabay

announcer-316584_640Language learning aids have gone through interesting technological phases in my time: thankfully cassettes (Remember them? If not, then you must be so young, but the pictures will give you some idea) did not last long. They seemed like a great invention at the time, but if the spool of tape got stuck it would end up looking like reams of black spaghetti (the black spaghetti in the smaller picture is only a mild version, you should have seen the spaghetti when it was really twisted!). Cassettes soon gave way to audio CDs, then computer software became affordable too and added interest to the mix. I suppose apps are the way to go now.

The first computer language learning program I bought was Transparent Language’s Portuguese, and one could also subscribe to the company’s Portuguese Language Blog. The posts come in by email (you can subscribe on the top right-hand side of their website). It’s pretty comprehensive, its archives go back to June 2007.

Transparent Language has blogs on other languages too, of course, including French, Spanish and Italian, but not Romanian, and offers tips on language learning. I came across a post recently by Malachi Rempen entitled “How to Keep Multiple Languages Straight“. Rempen is a Swiss-born American film-maker who has lived in France, Morocco and Italy, and currently lives in Germany, so his brain has had to grapple with many languages. His post outlined how he tried to stop muddling one language with another.

What he had to say about Romance languages was encouraging.

“Learning romance languages is great because the grammar is basically the same across the board, with a few exceptions and oddities here and there. Plus, since they’re all based on Latin, a great number of words are the same. And the more complicated the word, the more likely it is to be the same in all the romance languages. If you’re reading this article you have a huge head start on Spanish and French, since you already know words like “complicated” and “exception” and “pronunciation” (watch out for false friends like “embarrassed”, though, or you’ll be telling everyone in Madrid you’re pregnant).”

To read the item in full, go here. Hope you are inspired! Cheers.


Earthquakes of one sort and another in Romania, Portugal and Brazil

graph-27783_640There was an earthquake (or cutremur, in the local lingo) measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale in Romania yesterday. It was centred on Țifești, about 80 kilometres north-west of of Galați, and very close to the last reported earthquake in that country in October 2013.

Anyone who lives in an area that is prone to earthquakes – and there are many – should be aware of what actions are recommended should one hit. See “What to do in un cutremur or mysterious earthquake swarms“.

Political earthquake

Meanwhile, the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW) is carrying an item “A political earthquake in Romania”, which gives an excellent analysis in English of Klaus Iohannes’s shock win in the Romanian presidential election. To hear Romanian journalist Lavinia Pitu’s views on the stunning political upset, go to the broadcast here.

Tremors in Portugal and Brazil

Meanwhile, political earthquake swarms are occurring in Portugal. Also yesterday, former prime minister José Sócrates was arrested along with three others as part of an investigation into tax fraud and money-laundering. Barely a week ago, Immigration Minister Miguel Macedo resigned amid a growing scandal over the country’s provision of  “golden visas” or fast-tracked resident permits to business figures.

Images from Pixabay

Images from Pixabay

In Brazil, meanwhile, there has been a massive corruption scandal at the oil giant, Petrobrás: many politicians and public figures are alleged to have received bribes or kickbacks on contracts. (The police investigation is known as Operação Lava Jato or Operation Car Wash, or Jet Wash). The scandal is putting immense pressure on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who once chaired the Petrobrás board. The weekly current affairs magazine Veja and newspapers such as Estadão de São Paulo are probing to see how much she knew and how far up the political and business ladders the kickbacks went, and there have been demonstrations in the streets about it too.

There will be a lot of interesting reading in Portuguese language newspapers for some time to come.

How to remember the days of the week in Romance languages

calendar-31953_640It’s scandalous that one of the great intellectual ground-breaking theses of 2013, The amazing story of how days got their names, has not yet been picked up by academic, language and history magazines all over the world, let alone gone viral on the internet. It’s a more important document than the binary code and the Book of Genesis put together! Really, what geniuses have to do to get the recognition they deserve? Why isn’t Bernardo’s brain Instagramed more than Kim Kardashian’s bum?

As that document noted, the days of the week in modern Portuguese may look odd to speakers of other Romance languages because the Portuguese switched to a counting system. However, they shouldn’t present too much difficulty because the counting words are reasonably recognisable even to English speakers.

Here is a table outlining the days of the week in my five Romance languages, and underneath are some observations on how to remember them or, if you are learning more than one Romance language, to help avoid muddling them. The  Portuguese weekdays have been abbreviated to keep the columns looking even. Strictly speaking, though, they are segunda-feira, terça-feira, quarta-feira, quinta-feira, sexta-feira. But in conversation the -feira is often dropped anyway.

Romance days correct

Notes to help you remember some of this:

  • In French all days except for Sunday end in i.
  • In Italian all weekdays end in ì (with the accent)
  • In Romanian all weekdays end in i (without an accent)
  • In Spanish all weekdays end in s – the only ones in the table that don’t end in a vowel.
  • Portuguese and Brazilians have sex on Fridays as a matter of routine.
  • All Mondays have an un in them. In Australia there is a joke about having a “no undy Monday” … not wearing underpants on Monday.

Alan Parsons and his colleagues in the Alan Parsons Project must have been learning Portuguese when they wrote this lovely song, Days are Numbers. Here’s a clip on YouTube that includes an Italian translation.

What’s your favourite day of the week in the table? Mine is the Romanian Saturday, sâmbătă - it sounds like fun.

Shock as Sibiu guy wins Romanian election

Sibiu's main square at night. Photo: Bernard O'Shea

Sibiu’s main square at night. All photos: Bernard O’Shea

I was very surprised to read on the news late last night that the Mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Iohannis, had beaten Prime Minister Victor Ponta in the Romanian presidential election. Ponta had won the first round, in which there were 14 candidates, and was tipped in the opinion polls to beat Iohannis in the subsequent two-candidate run-off.

Sibiu was where I did a two-week summer language course last year, through the Rolang School. The city was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and was one of the fortified Saxons towns on the south-eastern frontier (the goal being to halt any Ottoman invasion). Its German name was Hermannstadt, and the German influence is still there, although it has been diluted significantly, as the German community had to put up with a lot of persecution and oppression under the communist regime, and many left when they could. Klaus Iohannis himself is an ethnic German.

This is called Liar's Bridge. I swear!

This is called Liar’s Bridge. I swear I am telling the truth!

When I was there, the locals told me that Sibiu was widely regarded as the most well-run and least corrupt city in Romania, and they said, if only the rulers of Sibiu could rule the country too, but you never know whether that is just local boastful talk, exaggeration or naivety. Well, now they have got their wish, to a limited extent – how much can one man change an entrenched political system? Good luck to him.

According to news reports, in Romania, the president is in charge of foreign policy and defence, and names key prosecutors and the chiefs of intelligence services.

Anyway, the news coverage made me feel nostalgic and I’ve plucked out some of my pics of Sibiu to hopefully inspire you. Summer language courses, 2015, anyone?


Sibiu is a festive place. While I was there, it hosted a very colourful international dance festival, followed shortly after by an international Gothic rock festival, headlined by bands from Germany and Scandinavia. Check out some of the vibes.

A Romanian troupe at  Sibiu's international dance festival

A Romanian troupe at Sibiu’s international dance festival

But it was the South American dancers who really caught the eye

But it was the South American dancers who really caught the eye

Germanic folk, maybe? At a dance festival.

Germanic folk, maybe? At the dance festival.

Fun with the dancing fountains

Fun with the dancing fountains


I don’t know which band this guy plays in – it was one of the “filler” Romanian acts early in the day – but he was a bloody good guitarist and his band was excellent (they had a female lead singer who also played keyboards). If you are out there, Mr Guitarist, send me a CD!

Rock and roll played loud in a city square at 11am is a great way to start the day! (Bernardo's a late starter)

Rock n roll played loud in a city square at mid-morning  is a great way to start the day! (Bernardo’s a late starter)


Just outside Sibiu at Dumbrava is the ASTRA National Museum complex, the country’s largest open air museum, where you can see traditional houses and artifacts from over the country. Plus some folkloric singers and dancers, if you are lucky.

Girls, girls, girls!

Girls, girls, girls!

No place like home

No place like a quaint old home

And what was he thinking?

And what was he thinking?


Definite and indefinite articles in the main Romance languages

Hello Romance language lovers, here is another revision sheet (I use the tag “revision” for this series), culled and simplified from previous posts. The info has also been put into each language’s Grammar section on the main menu.


indefinite articles

  • un is used with masculine nouns (un livre = a book)
  • une is used with feminine nouns (une plume = a pen)

definite articles

  • le is used with masculine nouns (le père = the father)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la mère = the mother)
  • l’ is used in front of a vowel (l’enfant = the child)
  • les is used with plurals (les parents = the parents)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in French, go here.




  • um is used with masculine singular nouns (um copo = a cup, glass or tumbler)
  • uma is used with feminine singular nouns (uma cidade = a city)
  • uns is used with masculine plural nouns (uns copos = some cups)
  • umas is used with feminine plural nouns (umas cidades = some cities


  • o is used with masculine singular  nouns (o livro = the book)
  • os is used with masculine plural nouns (os livros = the books
  • a is used with feminine singular nouns (a caneta = the pen)
  • as is used with feminine plural nouns (as canetas = the pens).

NOTE: there is no change with articles in front of a noun beginning with a vowel

  • o amigo = the (male) friend; uma amiga = a female friend

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Portuguese, go here.




  • un is used with masculine singular nouns (un camino = a path)
  • una is used with feminine singular nouns (una ciudad = a city)
  • unos is used with masculine plural nouns (unos caminos = some paths)
  • unas is used with feminine plural nouns (unas ciudades = some cities)


  • el is used with masculine singular nouns (el camino = the path)
  • la is used with feminine singular nouns (la ciudad = the city)
  • los is used with masculine plural nouns (los caminos = the paths)
  • las is used with feminine plural nouns (las ciudades = the cities)

NOTE: Feminine nouns that start with ha or a stressed a take the masculine article in the singular but the feminine in the plural:

  • un arma, el arma, las armas (an arm, the arm/arms, in a military sense)
  • un hacha, el hacha, las hachas (an axe, the axe/axes)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Spanish, go here.




  • un is used with most masculine nouns (un ragazzo = a boy)
  • uno goes with masculine nouns starting with z or s+consonant (uno zio = an uncle, uno sbaglio = a mistake)
  • una goes with feminine nouns starting with a consonant (una ragazza = a girl)
  • un’ goes with feminine nouns starting with a vowel (un’automobile = a car)


  • il is used with most masculine nouns (il ragazzo = the boy)
  • lo is used with masculine nouns beginning with or s+consonant (lo zio = the uncle, lo sbaglio = the mistake)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la ragazza = the girl)
  • l’ is used instead of lo or la in front of vowels (l’animale = the animal)


  • i goes with most masculine nouns starting with consonants (i ragazzi = the boys)
  • gli is used before any masculine nouns beginning with a vowel, z or  s+consonant (gli amici = the friends, gli zii = the uncles, gli studenti = the students).
  • le is used with feminine nouns, even if they begin with a vowel (le amiche = the female friends, le madri = the mothers).

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Italian, go here and here.



Romanian has masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. Neuter nouns behave like masculine nouns in the singular, but feminine nouns in the plural. The formation of plurals in Romanian is not as simple as in the other Romance languages, there are a number of options depending on whether the noun ends in particular vowels or consonants. Spelling and phonetic changes can occur.


  • un is used with masculine singular nouns (un băiat = a boy)
  • un is used with neuter singular nouns (un timbru = a postage stamp)
  • o is used with feminine singular nouns (o casă = a house)
  • nişte is used with plurals (nişte băieţi = some friends, nişte case = some houses)


The definite article is a suffix (attached to the end of the noun), and again the suffixes can vary depending on what vowels or consonants the noun ends in. And because it is a suffix, the plural forms of nouns taking a definite article will be different to the plural forms used with the indefinite nişte above. Here are some typical examples.

Masculine nouns: the singular suffix is typically -l, -ul or -le, and in the plural it’s i

  • băiat (boy), băiatul (the boy), băieţii (the boys)
  • membru (member), membrul (the member), membrii (the members)
  • unchi (uncle), unchiul (the uncle), unchii (the uncles)
  • munte (mountain), muntele (the mountain), munţii

Feminine nouns: the singular suffix is -a or -ua and in the plural it’s -le

  • fată (girl), fata (the girl), fetele (the girls)
  • blană (fur), blana (the fur), blănurile (the furs)
  • cafea (coffee), cafeaua (the coffee), cafelele (the coffees)

Neuter nouns: the singular suffix is typically -l, -ul or -le, and in the plural it’s always -le.

  • ou (egg), oul (the egg), ouăle (the eggs)
  • vin (wine), vinul (the wine), vinurile (the wines)
  •  tricou (T-Shirt), tricoul (the T-shirt), tricourile (the T-shirts)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Romanian, go here and here.