Sometime during the first week of every semester, my Spanish students always ask me if they have to learn the vosotros form for verb conjugations. No high school Spanish instructor seems to teach the vosotros form. Now that I think of it, Señor Mordini never made us learn the vosotros form at Divine Heart Seminary. And Señor Mordini was from Spain! I didn’t have to learn it in college either.

Now as a Spanish teacher myself, I find this truly amazing since there are more than forty million Spanish speakers who use the vosotros form. If you’ve ever watched Penelope Cruz movies, surely you’ve noticed that her character always calls her friends and acquaintances vosotros. So for the sake of Spanish cinema fans, I always teach the vosotros form even if the students won’t be tested on it. Every Spanish student should at least recognize the vosotros form when they hear or read it so they’re not totally lost. Like I was in the days of my youth.

When I was a boy, our family often went to mass in Spanish. Jesus, Jesucristo in Spanish, always spoke to his apostles using the vosotros form. I was puzzled by what he was saying when he did. For example, Jesus told his apostles, “No penséis que he venido para traer paz a la tierra” on one occasion, and on another, “Id por todo el mundo y predicad el evangelio a toda criatura,” which confused me. I asked my father what Jesus had told his apostles and my father explained to me that in Spain they used the vosotros form. I found it hard to believe that Jesus had ever been to Spain! But I didn’t dare question my father.

So what exactly does vosotros mean? It means “you” plural. When you translate “you” into Spanish, you choose from tú, vos, vosotros, vosotras, usted, or ustedes. In Spanish, you must also choose between the formal and the familiar. If you are speaking to someone you don’t know personally or they are in a position of authority over you, you must call him, her, or them usted or ustedes. Family members, friends, or acquaintances whom you know well you call . If there are more than one , you are supposed to use vosotros or vosotras. However, in the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, everyone uses ustedes instead of vosotros(as). So, if I’m speaking to my cousins or my friends, I call them ustedes instead of vosotros, as they would do in Spain.

So, ustedes could be used for both formal and familiar situations. Sometimes, this results in absurd situations. For example, people who own a cat will call it . If they own more than one cat, they call them ustedes when vosotros would be more appropriate in this situation. Someone from Spain will laugh if they hear you calling your pets ustedes!

Why study Spanish?

I’ve been teaching college Spanish for twelve years now every student has his or her own reason for studying Spanish.  Most college students take Spanish because of the foreign language requirement. I remember one of these students who barely passed the course. When I returned her first exam, I felt bad for her because she only earned a D. When she saw her exam grade, she shouted, “Yes!” I was worried that perhaps I had given her the wrong grade. The entire class turned to look at her. She then shouted, “Yes, I got a D!” She was so proud of herself. She went through this ritual after every exam. I gave her a final grade of D for the course. The next semester, I saw her in the hallway and I was hoping she wouldn’t see me because I thought she was unhappy about her grade. But alas, she saw me and approached. Suddenly, she smiled and said, “Thanks for the grade you gave me!” And she was genuinely happy about it. Then, she added, “I had a lot of fun in your class.” I was shocked by all this, but I must admit that it was all very rewarding.

So I was thinking of other reasons that my students took Spanish. Here are some:

  1. I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish.
  2. My wife speaks Spanish.
  3. My husband speaks Spanish.
  4. It’s a beautiful language.
  5. I want to go to Mexico on vacation.
  6. Most of my customers speak Spanish.
  7. My parishioners speak Spanish.
  8. I want to move to Mexico.
  9. I want to go to a Mexican restaurant and order food in Spanish.
  10. I want to see Penelope Cruz movies in Spanish.
  11. There are so many Mexicans here, we’re all going to have to learn Spanish anyway.
  12. I want a sexy Mexican girlfriend.
  13. I’m Mexican and I can’t speak Spanish.
  14. I think the cooks in the kitchen are talking about me.

Are you sure you're not talking about me?


Dr. D. on the road in Mexico.

Have you seen the new movie Bandidas? Have you even heard of the movie Bandidas? You haven’t? But it premiered in France on January 18, 2006, and in Spain on August 4, 2006. This movie stars Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz! What do you mean you haven’t heard of Bandidas?

Actually, I’d be surprised if you had heard of Bandidas. I almost didn’t hear of it myself. In the direct to DVD phenomenon of movie magic for profit, I read about the Bandidas DVD release couple of months back in Hoy, the Spanish newspaper I get delivered to my house for free. I looked to buy the movie at the usual places where I buy DVDs, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. And I also thought it would be in Spanish because I read about the movie in Spanish in a Spanish newspaper, but not in any of the newspapers printed in English! Well, I couldn’t find the movie in theaters or at the store, and once I did find it, I was disappointed because it was English! I found the movie when I bought hard drive for my home network that was bundled with three free movies that I could download as part of a trial service for home movies. One of the free movies that I downloaded was Bandidas, since I wanted to see it after reading about it. I hate to say this, but I am sure glad I didn’t pay for it.

Hayek and Cruz are great actresses who wanted to make a movie together for the longest time, hence Bandidas. However, this certainly was not one of their best acting performances. Hayek was much better as Frida Kahlo. And Cruz, well, I will never forget her incredible performance as a pregnant nun with AIDS!

Anyway, the movie is set in Mexico in the 1880s or thereabouts. Hayek plays Sara Sandoval, a spoiled, European-educated Mexican woman, and Cruz plays María Álvarez, a poor Mexican peasant. I was disappointed that the movie was in English, but relieved that Cruz spoke English with a Mexican accent, rather than her usual English with a Spanish accent that sounds as if she’s from Spain, which she is, by the way. An evil American railroad magnate decides to buy the land in the path of their new railroad line by whatever means possible, including killing landowners who refuse to sell. The attempted murder of Álvarez’s father and the the murder of Sandoval’s father sets the contrived plot in motion, which reminded me of those made-for-TV movies from the 1970s. So Álvarez and Sandoval learn to rob banks and save the day by stopping the evil American. Where you expecting a better ending? Actually, so was I.

I loved the panoramic Mexican scenery as Sandoval and Álvarez traveled across Mexico. Those Mexican mountains are quite beautiful! However, they were no match for the mountainous cleavage of Hayek and Cruz. What mountain climber could resist scaling those peaks? Talk about gratuitous cleavage scenes! Of course, it’s a well-known fact that the quality of a movie is directly proportional to the amount of cleavage shown. But deep down inside, I know that their cleavage was necessary for plot development. Otherwise, they would have never gotten the help they needed by enticing their male partner Quentin Cooke to join their bank-robbing spree.

The movie does portray Mexicans in a realistic light, including the social and class distinctions. There are good politicians who care for the general welfare of their people and bad politicians who are greedy and assist the evil American railroad magnate. But as far as Mexican realism, I preferred Nacho Libre because it pulled no punches describing Mexican poverty. I’m not sure I can recommend Bandidas. If you happen to run across it–but don’t go out of your way to find it–go ahead and watch it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!