Monday, June 15, 2009

Good podcasts and blog

If you go to the above site and type in a keyword from another language, the search engine will pick up podcasts in that language (provided, of course, that the language you choose can be expressed using the roman alphabet). Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to download these because I have a Mac and that makes everything way harder sometimes. Sometimes, but not always.

This site is excellent if you want Spanish podcasts from Washington D.C. It's a good way for me to keep up with politics. Killing two birds with one stone (man, I hate the mental picture that saying drudges up).

ALSO: I like this guy's blog. A lot. Spanish Only. I don't always agree with him 100 percent (and what fun would that be if I did?), but I love his dedication to the sport: Screw Grammar.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Language guilt

Now, if there's anyone who can tell you about guilt, it's a former Catholic. I won't go messing that topic in with the subject of language learning other than to say that I have noticed in myself and in others a very real shame, embarrassment, and apology-inducing guilt that seems to accompany learning a new language. There are, of course, people who don't feel this way at all, but continue about their way, unabashedly speaking out (grammatically correct or otherwise), and not giving a hoot about who hears them make mistakes or not. I envy these people.

For many of us, however (myself included), not being able to express ourselves as we would like in our second languages can become a frustrating ordeal fraught with disclaimers, self-put-downs, and "I'm-sorry"s. How many times, for example, have you heard someone tell you, "I very sorry, my English not so good." Why are we so sorry?

Last weekend, after a very long trip to Maine and back, I could barely manage to keep myself awake, but I had to buy groceries to be prepared for the coming week. I went into Trader Joe's and, in the process of talking to many of my native Spanish-speaking co-workers, I found myself flailing and failing hopelessly to tell them about my trip. I didn't know the words for "canoe," "paddle," "oar," and a few others. Furthermore, words in Spanish were simply not coming quickly enough to my brain. I was caught in a sea of ahhhs, uuuuuuhs and ummms that washed over my speech repeatedly, like water lapping up over someone's face as they struggle to tread water. My friends are always nice, patient, and helpful, but a few of them kind of chuckled at my fight with the language. One even asked me what happened to my Spanish. Que te paso, Kristy? No has estado practicando? ("What happened to you, Kristy? You haven't been practicing?")

But I have. I told him. I've been practicing everyday. Reading, writing, listening, speaking... all of it. I had no good answer for him, except for apologies and self-degrading words about my declining abilities to express myself. One guy even tried to tell me something three times, and I couldn't tell if he was making a statement or asking me a question. I finally had to tell him to give up what he wanted to tell me because my brain wasn't processing Spanish very well.

I felt stupid, verbally clumsy, and, worst of all, personally responsible for my utter failure.

When I stopped to realize all that I can do, all that I can say in Spanish, and all of the friendships and interactions I have been a part of because of knowing all that I know, it seemed stupid to feel stupid. It's not my first language, for goodness sake! All of a sudden, I became acutely aware of this phenomenon. It is so strange to really think that the trials of language learning so often take on a weight of personal responsibility.

To illustrate further, I had one teacher in college who used to remark after we came to class late or didn't do our homework, "Y'all may not think I take it personal... but it's personal." He felt personally hurt when we didn't put in our effort into his class. Perhaps he thought it reflected on his teaching. To me, it seemed very clear that it wasn't his problem, but belonged to the people who didn't make a point to be on-time or ready for class.

And perhaps we shouldn't be taking it personally either when we don't conjugate a word correctly; when our native accents tarnish our attempts at pronunciation, when we can't think of anything else to say except, "good, thanks"; when we fail to remember the word for a ordinary, everyday object; or, heck, when we never knew that word in the first place. Could I maybe have studied more, practiced more, sought out more interaction? Sure, I'll bet I could have. But... life is too short to feel bad about things like that. It really is.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I feel bad calling myself a Polyglot...

... before it is even true. Especially when I see this dude's page: Omniglot blog.

Humbling. Very humbling.

I feel more like a poly-not.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sabes, me muero de ganas de volver a Madrid...

That reads: "You know, I'm dying to go back to Madrid..."

I am.

I just wrote an email to a friend, which certainly is language practice, although I would be lying horrifically if I told you that I didn't spend too long on it. I spend as much energy crafting a letter in Spanish as it would have taken me to fix up a cover letter for a school district that I'm applying for. I guess we all pick what's important to us, don't we?

At any rate, I also would like to report that I became absolutely fixated with belting out this Juanes song at the top of my lungs all the way to and from work today. I just discovered it on my iPod, and I'm not sure how it got there, although I have my guesses. It taught me two new words. Hoorah!

And, if you've ever even had like, two classes of Spanish in your lifetime, you will enjoy this video: Qué Hora Es?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Podcasts en español

I am right now listening to some podcasts on this lovely website (I am listening to el Bloguipodio) and am pretty happy to report that I really can understand nearly everything, save a few words. In fact, I am typing and listening at the same time, and still getting a lot of it. Multi-tasking! That must be a good sign.

I decided to follow the advice of one of the blogs that I have been reading, which is to get more input in Spanish. Of course, I am not getting any better if I am talking to myself in the car. I can only improve the fluidity with which I speak the words, phrases, grammatical structures that I already know, but I can't add anything to that, to my skills, without input from native speakers. And, hey, if I'm not getting enough of that in real life, then I need to find it elsewhere. This seems like a fun way to get my news and keep me up-to-date with things that are happening in the world, while at the same time, becoming exposed to some really rich and topic-specific vocabulary.