Tutor profile: Nicolette F.
How do you know when to use the preterite tense versus the imperfect tense?
This is one of the most challenging aspects of learning Spanish for English speakers as well do not have have a distinction between the preterite and the imperfect in our language. There are many ways to explain the difference between these two tenses. For example, most Spanish tutors state that the preterite tense is used to describe completed actions with a definitive beginning and end, whereas the imperfect is used to describe habitual actions that have no definite end point and serve as background information about the past. However, I would argue that the best "test" to run in order to determine if you should use preterite or imperfect is this: if you would say the sentence using "used to" or "was _____ing," then you should use the imperfect. For example, if you want to say "I used to play soccer" in Spanish, you need to use the imperfect: "Yo jugaba fútbol." If you want to say, "I was playing the guitar" in Spanish, you need to use the imperfect: "Yo tocaba la guitarra" or "Yo estaba tocando la guitarra." If applying "used to" or "was ______ing" to your past tense verb does not make sense, it should more than likely be the preterite (e.g., "I opened the door" would be "Yo abrí la puerta."
What are some active reading strategies that can help a student focus during the reading section of the SAT?
Many of the most effective active reading strategies fall under one simple rule: read with your pencil. If you are struggling to stay focused during a particularly boring passage in the SAT reading section, it is imperative that you have your pencil in hand and are actively engaging with the text by marking it up as you read. "Reading with your pencil" can take many different forms; it can include underlining, circling, boxing, annotating, drawing symbols, or taking notes. I find it best to have a system for what each of these actions indicates. Personally, I like to underline important facts, circle trigger words that indicate mood or tone, and box information that I do not understand or feel confused about. Additionally, depending on your interest in the text, you can amp up or scale back your active reading strategies. For example, if it is a passage of which you have a lot of prior knowledge and you find relatively interesting, you can employ less active reading strategies than you would with a passage with which you have no experience and in which you have no interest. I like to think of taking notes as the most aggressive form of active reading and underlining as the most passive--you can alter your approach depending on your interest/understanding of the passage.
How do dialects, or language varieties, of American English differ from standardized English and what rules do they follow?
Language varieties from coast to coast, such as African American English (AAE), Latino English, and Appalachian English, have been researched and identified as rule-governed linguistic structures (Wolfram & Ward, 2006). For example, a stigmatized vernacular feature of AAE called habitual be (e.g., “He be playing basketball”) is specifically used to denote a recurring action; therefore, the sentence “He be playing basketball right now” violates the grammatical rule of the linguistic feature and is, consequently, not used by AAE speakers (Rickford, 1999). Similarly, Appalachian English speakers can be heard saying phrases like “She was a-coming down the stairs,” which is a grammatical pattern called a-prefixing, and there are three linguistic constraints that govern its use (Wolfram, 1993b). The a- prefix can only occur 1) with verb complements, not –ing participles that act as nouns or adjectives (e.g., “They went a-hunting,” not “The man likes a-hunting” or “The film was a-captivating”); 2) when –ing is not followed by a preposition (e.g., “They were a-catching fish,” not “He earns money by a-catching fish”); and 3) with verbs that have a stressed initial syllable, not an unstressed first syllable (e.g., “The man was a-hóllering at the hunters,” not “The man was a-recálling what happened that night”). Accordingly, a linguistic understanding of vernacular dialects reveals that their structure is patterned and complex, not arbitrary and elementary; furthermore, it demonstrates that they are not flawed approximations of standardized English—they are simply governed by a different set of rules.
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