Looking for ways to kickstart your study of Spanish? Interested in even more ways to keep your Spanish solid over the summer? Don’t look to a book or to Busuu–take your Spanish into the backyard.

At this time of the summer here in the northern hemisphere, there is so much happening. Describe it in Spanish! These words are practical–to be sure–but they are also poetic. One can be tan chico/a como [as tiny as]…tan rápido/a como [as fast as]…tan lindo/a como [as beautiful as]…even tan hambriento/a como [as hungry as]…This combination of simile with simple, practical vocabulary works in L1 so it’s sure to work in L2.

Making vocabulary both tangible and timely is the key to making it stick. Too often, driven by an abstract set of standards or an arbitrary selection of words, language students miss the chance to learn real vocabulary they may use in their day-to-day. Where vocabulary is appropriately pegged to a local–say the airport or the market–it seems it’s a step away. I was the victim of this in my own vocabulary training. I had amazing teachers who offered me opportunities to let language be my guide and my inspiration. Nevertheless, words like “racoon,” “robin” and “tick” came to me too late. You might say that I’m lucky to not have to learned these words earlier. After all, a racoon and tick infested environment offers enrichment from a vocabulary standpoint, but it’s also an environment full of vermin. “Teach me ‘milk [leche]’ and ‘honey [miel]’ and I’m good,” you might say. I’d argue it’s reasonable to think you can know the word to have the ability to stay clear of these bichos.

What can these words teach us about our local environments and our blind spots as language learners? The only way to find out is to get outside. Keep a vocabulary journal of these words and add your local fauna to the list. Also note that the words for a single species can vary from country to country, province to province as much as the fauna varies itself. Curiously this happens more when fauna becomes food, but be aware nonetheless.

Click here for a Quizlet set for review when you come back inside.

  1. La hormiga – ant
  2. La abeja – bee
  3. La mariposa – butterfly
  4. La polilla – moth
  5. La mariquita – ladybug [Extra credit for being a super-fun word to say]
  6. La mosca – fly
  7. El mosquito* – mosquito (“little fly”)
  8. El ciempiés – centipede [Extra credit for reinforcing numbers and Latin roots]
  9. El escarabajo – beetle
  10. El pulgón – inchworm
  11. El saltamontes – grasshopper
  12. El grillo – cricket
  13. La araña – spider
  14. La garrapata – tick
  15. La libélula – dragonfly [Extra credit for being a super-fun word to say]
  16. El bicho – critter, bug, any of the above
  17. El gusano – worm
  18. El pájaro – bird
  19. La paloma – dove, pigeon
  20. El petirrojo – robin
  21. El halcón – hawk
  22. El estornino – grackle
  23. El pavo – turkey
  24. El cuervo – crow
  25. La ardilla – squirrel
  26. El conejo – rabbit
  27. El mapache – raccoon
  28. La marmota – woodchuck
  29. El zorro – fox
  30. El ciervo – deer

*Note: Add “-ito/a” to any of these words and you have a little/diminutive one: conejito, pajarito, palomita…