After the spring in Spain in 1995, I attended classes in Portuguese. I felt that Portuguese shouldn’t be too hard to learn, because it’s closely related to Spanish. I was wrong. Portuguese is much harder than Spanish – and in this I mean the pronunciation. As people say that written and spoken French are different languages, this could also apply to Portuguese.
I learnt the Portuguese as spoken In Portugal and I would say it’s harder to learn than French.
The verbs in Portuguese, however, are pretty close to the Spanish ones. The infinitives are pretty much identical with the corresponding verbs in Spanish. There are some differences, though:
Second person plural is not used (in Portugal)
Compound tenses are not used
“Synthetic pluperfect”, i.e., pluperfect is formed without auxiliary (like in Spanish and English)
Somehow I felt that Portuguese preserves more verbal forms than any other Romance language – Romance languages are those that derived from Latin. The conjugated or inflected infinitive is something specific for Portuguese only.
I attended elementary Portuguese classes in one year only. But after that, guess what? I bought myself the first Portuguese verb conjugation book to master the Portuguese verbs.
Since living a half year in Spain in 1995 I’ve been interested in verbs and verb conjugation. The reason is that the Spanish language has quite a lot of irregular verbs that the student just needs to learn, in order to properly communicate.
I learnt quite quickly the most used Spanish verbs that are all irregular; ser ’to be’, estar’to be’, ir’to go’, tener’to have’, haber’to have’, poner’to put’, etc.
But the more I learnt the more new irregular verbs. So I bought my first verb conjugation book ”Al artedeconjugarverbos en español”. This book simply contains 100+ sample verbs, each representing a group of irregular verbs. In the end of this book there’s an index with 12,000 verbs that refer to a sample verb.
This kind of verb conjugation book helps the student to find the correct conjugation for any verb. I say any verb, because a verb not being in the book is typically a new verb ‘neologism’ and these tend to be conjugated regularly.
Bookstores seem to have even 10s of verb conjugation books alone for the Spanish language. I assume this is due to Spanish being a popular language to study.
So did I learn to speak Spanish by read a verb conjugation book? No I learnt it when hitch-hiking around the Iberian Peninsula in spring 1995. But in the written Spanish the book served me for a long time as the ultimate help.
After finishing the Spanish verb conjugator, I thought that programming a verb conjugator for French verbs would be easy and straightforward. This was not exactly the case.
French belongs to the Romance languages, a group of languages that developed from the Latin language. So does Spanish. That’s the reason that verbs are quite similar between these languages; they have the same irregular verbs, the same moods, tenses, and persons, and they have the same kind of verb endings.
Compared with the Spanish language, the French verb conjugation shows less forms. The future tense of the subjunctive mood does not exist. And the subjunctive past has only one form, opposed to Spanish that has two forms for it.
There is one thing, however, that is much harder to program in the French verb conjugation; the compound forms are formed either with être ’to be’ or avoir ’to have’ as the auxiliary verb. (Spanish always uses haber ’to have’). The correct auxiliary depends on the meaning, and this requires a dictionary.
When I was done with entering the verbs that take être as the auxiliary verb — there are less verbs of this category — in compound tenses, I could release the French verb conjugator.
I developed the first Spanish verb conjugator in 1995. I chose Visual Basic 1.0 as the programming tool, more or less for two reasons: 1. I could write the software for Microsoft Windows; 2. the tool was free (I got it together with a computer magazine).
Spanish verbs are quite logical in the conjugation. By removing the two last characters from the end of the infinitive, we obtain the stem. And by applying certain endings we can get all the conjugated forms of the verb. Generally the endings depend on the conjugation (whether the verb infinitive ends -ar, -er, or -ir).
By simply applying the endings to the stem the conjugator can conjugate all regular verbs of the Spanish language, which account more than 90% of all the verbs. I porgrammed this in one afternoon.
In order to work well, the conjugator must also be able to conjugate all irregular verbs. This was the tricky part; all irregular verbs had to be put in different categories according to the irregularities that they show. So I wrote a dictionary that contained the irregular verbs and information about the irregularities. This was time consuming and required that the verbs were checked in various books.
At this point I decided to mark all irregularities in red. In means of programming it was done easily; if special rules were applied, use red language.
In addition to irregularities there is something that is called ortographic change. In practice it means that a letter ot two are replced with some other letter in certain situations. The ortigraphic rules are regular, so it was a matter of a few codelines.
Finally as you can imagine, am automated verb conjugator can conjugate the verb in any form. Now there are some verbs in Spanish that are not conjugated in all forms. I chose to mark these forms in grey. Unfortunately I had to build again a dictionary with information of non-existing forms.
To put this together, a Spanish verb conjugator works like this:
Check from dictionary, if the verb is irregular.
If the verb is not found in dictionary, consider that it is regular.
Remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir).
Apply the special rules for irregular verbs.
Add the verb endings and apply the ortographic rules.
In summer 2009 I convinced my family to visit Värmland during our summer vacations in Sweden — although Värmland was aside from our planned route.
So why did I want to visit Värmland?
Well, I had read that pretty recently there were Finnish speaking people living there: “The early 17th century marked the beginning of a substantial immigration from Finland. The areas where they centred were known as Finnskog. They kept their Finnish customs and language until the late 19th century. The last native resident to speak Finnish here died in the 1980’s.”.
After all we didn’t expect to talk there in Finnish, or more specifically “Forest Finnish”. But it was more than astonishing to see Finnish names on the traffic signs in the heart of Sweden!