Don’t let the 14yr old try to learn Spanish with you

24 Jan

Well really, it’s probably better to let him, but it sure makes it trickier!

I’m back from migraineville, my second home since falling in the hall at the school I was teaching ESL in over the summer.

Guess what is not good to try to do while lying in bed in the dark with searing pain going through your head, yea, listening to Spanish pronunciation drills on CD.  I wanted to keep up with my listening, not fall behind.  It was a bad plan that I put into place without the ability to stop it.  -The player was on the other side of the room and I just couldn’t move.  46 tracks, each interrupted with a slightly louder, non-Spanish-lilting, voice saying “Pronunciation Drills /i/ and /o/ in contrast under weak stress”, or the next tracks equivalent.  oh god.

So, I’m trying to up my listening time with the CD’s because I lost 5 days.  I’m listening in the car now.  Before, I was only listening to them at my desk, on the computer, so that I could read the book and get an idea of what I’m listening to.  The book doesn’t have the correct spellings, they are phonetical spellings, but they give me an idea of whether or not it’s one word or 5.   The funny thing about not having the book in front of me is that sometimes I hear what they are saying and I can visualize the written words, making it easier for me to “repeat in the pauses provided”.  But sometimes, that does not work out 🙂  There are lots of times that I have no idea what syllables, sounds, or words are being said.  It sounds like baby babble.

I try really hard to listen carefully but I butcher listening, you can imagine how I butcher the talking.

It’s getting easier.  So there I am, listening to “Exercises on minimal stress contrast” or something, when I pick up my son from school.  -Now, here I should mention that my CD player is permanently stuck in random mode.  For the life of me I cannot listen to any CD from track 1 to track 2 to track 3 and so on.  I get track 7, then track 43, then track 2, then track 14.  This is *slightly* frustrating.   Enter my son, the CD is saying pronunciation drills in complete sentences.  (these are the drills I especially get stuck on because I haven’t learned all the tracks up to this point, at this point we’re on like track 42 and I just finished my third round of track 6 because random sometimes mean repeat)

Remember that I do not have any written words, I’m in my car, I don’t know  these words yet, and I hear,(I don’t know how to put the accents in, sorry) “Donde esta la Embajada Americana, ahi a la izquierda, perdon come dice usted, deme la pluma”  Right now I can write what I was hearing then because I have the book in front of me and I can look it up, but I didn’t then and each sentence rolled together like one long word.

It sounded pretty, but I couldn’t distinguish enough to tell what sounds were separate words or not… izquierda, is a really pretty word by the way.  I tried anyway to “repeat in the pauses provided”.  After 3 times of this, my son decides he’s going to too.   Like it wasn’t hard enough already.

My son has even less Spanish knowledge than I do.  I do at least have Spanish 101 under my belt, I may not have learned much and it may have been 6 years ago, but I have some rudimentary idea of what sounds are at least possible.  He does not.  He was mispronouncing everything in trying to say it faster than me!

I am learning why it was so hard for me in Spanish 101.  I was not wired to hear many of the Spanish sounds.  It’s like my brain just doesn’t pick them up.  His doesn’t either; and hearing him threw me off so bad!   He got a little offended when I said, “Hey stop trying to learn with me, I can’t learn when you are”!  Ok, at least I acknowledged that he was trying to learn, not just saying something like, “Hey stop babbling while I’m trying to decipher this already”!

He kept trying to say the phrase faster than me….oooo the little bugger.  Then the next track was “/e/ and /u/ in contrast under weak stress”.  HA, I’m getting pretty good at these rolling ‘r’s.  I out did him for that whole track because almost every word combo they put together had an r in it, Muahahahahahahaha.  Some of those r’s still get me though, there are certain places where one gets put that my tongue just gets stuck.

We were pretty even when the track skipped to “minimal vowel contrasts under weak stress”.  We were saying the same sounds twice, just putting the stress in different places.  It felt a lot like that game where you say a sentence and stress each word differently.  “Are you going to take the trash out?””Are you going to take the trash out?””Are you going to take the trash out?””Are you going to take the trash out?””Are you going to take the trash out?””Are you going to take the trash out?”

What a goofball this son of mine is!  He would give the second time a special voice to go along with the different stress placement….. how am I supposed to learn this way I ask you?

It’s amazing how a difference in where the stress of the same sounds makes a whole new word.   We had an exchange student from Taiwan stay with us for 6 months last year.  His parents came for a short visit and his mother was teaching me some words in Mandarin.  Or trying to.  That didn’t take at all, I really tried, but I think I have to start a little easier then, maybe I can learn Mandarin too.

Off topic, head shake, I’m back, so, she was teaching me the way to say “belly dance” in Mandarin.  I would say the sounds and she would laugh a little and say “no no, that means …, say it like this…”  I didn’t get it so I asked her to explain.  She used her hands to show the up and down of the voice as each sound was made.  When she was saying “belly dance” her voice would go up and then down.  When I said the same sounds my voice would stay flat then go up (as we Americans do when we are questioning what we are saying)  Apparently that slight change in my voice staying flat then lifting, instead of lifting then dropping, changed the entire meaning of the word. Like saying Tuba instead of sandwich.

So now CD 2 is in my car and CD 1 is in the computer again.  This way I can start to see what it is I’ve listened to for the last couple of days; while listening to a new set, while doing my driving.  Hmmm, this might be a good system.   Still waiting on the Rosetta stone program from my friend.  I think she’s waiting for me to call her again, I don’t call often enough!

Language is an incredible thing.  My “Education” classes this term are about literacy and writing.  Oddly I’m also taking Western Civ too.  I think it will be an interesting combination to see how writing began at all, and then study how different cultures address literacy and writing.  I didn’t pick it that way on purpose but it seems that there is a purpose in it.

My son says he can’t wait til I pick him up from school on Monday.  I’m trying to decide if its better to listen to Spanish with him or the stuff he calls music all the way home…..

Hasta Luego

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Posted by on 24/01/2010 in Learning Spanish


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