We are not far away from many students’ first contact with the study of Spanish. Falta poco. If this year is like others, students will begin with the most common of all verbs: ser, estar, llamarse, querer, decir, etc. To a certain extent, we need to start with these verbs–they are the most common and the trickiest, so it’s best to begin early. At the same time, these verbs–essential as they are–could set students on the wrong course because they are so problematic and they may not allow students to say what they want to say, and let the words fall out…honestly, I want to see them be brave. (I digress.)

There is a larger problem here in the most fruitful yet fragile first days of language study: we too often start where the book begins and/or where we always started. Why? Where else could we begin? What might students want to talk about? How can we move from pattern of regular verbs to irregular ones, rather than the other way around? These are questions I gin myself asking as I look ahead to this year.

…we too often start where the book begins and/or where we always started. Why? Where else could we begin? What might students want to talk about? How can we move from pattern of regular verbs to irregular ones, rather than the other way around?

With these questions in mind, I have pulled together 50 essential verbs for the new year. I created a Quizlet of the verbs here. I used five criteria. 1) They are all -ar verbs, easy to use as infinitives and conjugate from day one. 2) They are all regular verbs, minus some minor accentuation for pronunciation on the verbs indicated with an asterisk. 3) They are verbs that speak to the educational, social, political and technological world in a way that lists typically don’t. 4) They are, in many cases, verbs whose roots or lexical origins can connect students to other vocabulary (e.g. navegar –> nave, respirar –> respiración). 5) They are verbs that are typically sequestered because of grammar (reflexive verbs) or perceived lexical level. I have chosen not to. In fact, a large part of my thinking here is intended to liberate these linguistic treasures from arbitrary arrangements.

Now, I recognize any list is incomplete and incompatible with everyone’s learning goals. Nevertheless, making list more modern and supporting students as they make the words their own is my goal. The words don’t fit any one lesson–el hogar, el hospital–yet they can be easily applied to most topics in modern life. These include current events, careers, technology, wellness, politics and policy.

Here they are:

  1. abogar – to advocate
  2. acomodarse – to make one’s self comfortable
  3. activar – to activate
  4. adaptarse – to adapt one’s self to
  5. alegrarse – to be happy
  6. animarse – to get excited
  7. anticipar – to anticipate
  8. archivar – to file
  9. bloquear – to block
  10. calcular – to calculate
  11. colaborar – to collaborate
  12. comunicar – to communicate
  13. confiar*- to trust
  14. crear – to create
  15. cuestionar – to question
  16. descargar – to download
  17. descifrar – to decipher
  18. desconfiar* – to distrust
  19. desmontar – to take apart
  20. destacar – to point out
  21. educarse – to educate one’s self
  22. elaborar – to elaborate
  23. enamorarse – to fall in love
  24. estrenar – to debut
  25. evaluar* – to evaluate
  26. explorar – to explore
  27. expresarse – to express one’s self
  28. guardar – to keep
  29. indicar – to indicate
  30. informar – to inform
  31. iniciar – to initiate
  32. innovar – to innovate
  33. inspirar – to inspire
  34. investigar – to investigate
  35. lanzar – to launch
  36. meditar – to meditate
  37. montar – to put together
  38. motivar – to motivate
  39. navegar – to navegar
  40. opinar – to opine (fig. to think)
  41. organizarse – to get organized
  42. preguntarse – to wonder
  43. programar – to program
  44. protestar – to protest
  45. publicar – to publish
  46. reflexionar – to reflect
  47. relajarse – to relax
  48. respirar – to breath
  49. valorar – to value
  50. votar – to vote

I hope that as words become more pertinent and personal, students can get excited about doing just that: liberating and living vocabulary, not just listing it. It could start with just straightford questions: ¿Qué valoras tú? ¿Quién te inspira? ¿Qué opinas de…? As I stated above, many of these words are cognates and/or have logical lexical roots to they can be easy to place for students at any pace.

I will conclude by saying that verbs are not spoken or learned in lists. They need to be liberated and lived. This could happen in conversation, word maps, projects, games. I hope that as words become more pertinent and personal, students can get excited about doing just that: liberating and living vocabulary, not just listing it. This is true in Spanish and any other language. With a few tweaks these words and the reasoning that landed me here will work for any language.

 

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