Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Antes de que me duerma...

Before I fall asleep...

The Spanish Language Meetup Group that I am a part of here is genial (awesome). Monthly, on a Tuesday night, a bunch of hispanohablantes (Spanish speakers) and hispanohablante-wannabees (i.e. gringos) gather together to help the less skilled of us piece together the intricacies of this beautiful language or, at the very least, attempt not to brutally massacre it. For me, anyway, it is interesting to realize the difference in fluidity that occurs within the span of a couple of hours. Upon arrival, the switch-over is anything but seamless. All of a sudden, I'm trying to say things like, "Nice to meet you, but wait, let me hang up my jacket first... " in Spanish, but the words don't come to me in these crucial beginning moments and I stand there saying things like, "Bueno, uh... encantada de conocerte, pero... necesito [gesture towards general coat area]... uh... mi... coat... uh... chaqueta... "

Like charades.

Then, not even a full hour later, I turn to my friend Danilo and tell him in rapid-fire Spanish, "Dude, it's incredible how much easier it is to speak now than it was when I first got here... " To which he replies, "Oh yeah! No kidding!" or something roughly equivalent.

This really fascinates me. I've tried to record a sample audio clip of myself in a monologue before meetup groups and then right after, to compare the speed of the speech that leaves my mouth. The problem with this approach, however, is that I have nothing to talk about when I have no speaking partner, and so I find myself pausing much more for thought and words than I normally do in a fluid conversation. What I really need to do someday, is to do this with a friend's help. Maybe best-case scenario would also include me not practicing any Spanish for an entire week prior. I could then start recording from the beginning of my conversation with this person, record some more in the middle of our conversation, and then, of course, finish off with a sample of the end of it as well. Ideally, I would be speaking with this person for a solid hour or more, so that I would really get into the flow of things.

It would be hard not to alter the data, though, as I would want to try to talk more quickly at the end to prove how much I had improved. It's a well-known fact that anything you observe is altered slightly by the fact that you observe it. That is, the act of observation itself changes what is under the microscope, so to speak.

This experiment could be done just as easily with a study of results obtained before and after an alcoholic beverage. This is the adult language learner's best friend, as it turns out. Excellent word-extraction tool.

I continue to study French. My friend at work today was teaching me some useful sayings and words, and will hopefully continue this tomorrow. This is in addition to the most unexpectedly hilarious of my co-workers always giving me mini Portuguese lessons, my Chinese-speaking co-worker welcoming me with an enthusiastic Zao shang hao! every morning, and a dozen or so Spanish-speakers that I work with who all have their own ways of greeting me with an assault of palabras upon seeing me. I am a lucky woman.

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