Sunday, May 03, 2009

una vez que sobre un tiempo

I love words.

I have for as long as I can remember.

Thanks to my mother and her mother, I started reading at an early age. Like the wise women that are and were, they simply read to me at first. Catching the rhythm of their love for words and the music of language, I sought out books to read on my own.

They stoked that passion. I remember going to our small town library to check out as many books as I could. The topic did not matter. The words did.

Writing stories soon followed.

I suspect that is one reason I feel the pain of not being able to communicate in Spanish in the same manner I can in English.

Intellectually, I know I never will. Even if I learn the technical skills of the language, I will never have the cultural skills that will allow me to communicate as a Mexican.

But that is no excuse to not learn the basics.

I had a very encouraging conversation with Marta, the maid, this morning. I had a story to tell her. I had spent part of the evening reconnoitering through my Spanish dictionary foraging for a few choice words -- hoping she would understand my little performance.

She did. I was rewarded with a delightful laugh. But once the curtain came down on my little play, we were back to minimal communication.

That is my incentive to learn. To be able to communicate with the people I see daily. When my brother leaves in two weeks, my closest contacts are going to be people who speak only Spanish.

With that in mind, I pulled out the Spanish resources I brought from Oregon. I have already started working my way through the Learnables program.

But I had another program that I liked the last time I looked at it. I tried to load it on to my computer, and discovered that it is 32-bit. My 64-bit new computer will not accept the software. Apparently, Bill Gates frowns on virtual miscegenation.

That may be just as well. I had not planned on taking a Spanish class until I got settled. But I need to start learning -- and a structured program is best for procastinators like Señor Cotton. The schedule for formal schooling may have just moved up.

I certainly will have no trouble finding places to use my new-found knowledge.

Maybe I can return the reading favor to my mother by reading her tales in Español.


Felipe said...

If one lives here, there is nothing more important than learning Spanish. Nothing. Alas, most of our paisanos do not do it or, if they do, it is marginal.

If you avoid Gringo company for, say, a year it would help immensely, but I doubt a guy like you will want to do that. Buena suerte.

Anonymous said...

Taking classes will get you there - in about ten years. If you don't get a tutor and spend at least a few hours a day studying, you might as well forget it and enjoy life. As Felipe points out, every hour you spend meeting with bloggers, blogging, posting, answering posts etc. will set you back an hour and a half in the pursuit of spanish. If it's important to you, trade that pastime for the serious study of spanish for a year. If it's not, don't.


Constantino said...

The story unfolds on your language lessons now......we shall see you commitment level while laying in a hammock....
Perfect reason to downgrade your computer to XP or better yet, to say adios to Mr Gate and staff. Check out Linux almost looks the same desktop wise, takes a little work to start, but once you do, your MS addiction is over. Tons of software, most of it free.....besides you have the time now to tackle a project, right?

mic said...

Maybe these sites will work on your laptop.

Buena suerte


Laurie said...

As soon as I was able, I re-read favorite books that were translated in Spanish. I confess to having a weakness for mysteries. So I read Agatha Christie in Spanish! Then I read a book by James Dobson. Lately, I am reading the Gospels in Spanish. Don't be discouraged. And use your aptitude for reading to encourage your learning. Reading Spanish is pleasurable once you have masatered a few basic lessons.

glorv1 said...

Well I believe that you can do anything you want to do Steve, including learning Spanish. You have to learn the alphabet first just like in English. Learn the pronounciation of the alphabet and I bet Marta would be more than happy to help you and this way you could still be around with Jiggs.
My step-mom from Guadalajara taught me the Spanish alphabet and it's very easy. Just listen to it on the internet. Just tell Marta:

"Marta, puedes enseniar me como decir la alphabet en espanol."

I don't know if I spelled that right but just ask her. Marta, can you show me how to say the alphabet in Spanish?
I pretty much left a lot of
my Spanish at home but I can talk, read, write sort of, and get by very well. You might say, I'm bi-lingual. ::clearing throat:: :DDD
Just a suggestion Steve. Trust me, she would be honored to help you. Jiggs might pick up SI y No Y comida.Take care.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is relatively tech-savvy, I'd be surprised if the reason your program doesn't work is that it's 32 bit. It's hard to imagine that the 64 bit systems haven't been engineered to run the older stuff. Otherwise hardly anything would run, as there's very little native 64 bit software out there. You might try to dig harder for the reason as you can likely address it if you figure out what it is.

As for Spanish, I agree with Felipe, though as someone who has mastered conversational Spanish (through the dint of hard work and persistence), I don't think that most conversation with Mexicans requires a terribly deep cultural understanding, though that will help.

But learning Spanish is like learning a musical instrument. Currently, you have mastered the English equivalent of "Flight of the Bumblebee." But in Spanish, you're just going to have to chug through "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," before you can do something more exciting. But those are steps along the path. And as with learning a musical instrument, practice will make perfect over time.

The good news? Mexicans, unlike their North American neighbors, seem to be pretty patient about listening to foreigners stumble through Spanish.

And because you write English so well, and are well-educated, you can certainly master Spanish. It's a much easier language than English, believe it or not!


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we are all rooting for you.P.S. The above notwithstanding (that must be an appealing phrase to an ex-lawyer), I am certainly still frustrated at my own inability to speak eloquently in Spanish. I often find myself having to say things in a far plainer fashion than I might in English. But I intend to overcome this some day.

Steve Cotton said...

Felipe -- I fully agree that learning Spanish is the key to successfully living the adventure in Mexico. And I live the truth of that every day. I just returned from a walk with Jiggs. All sorts of young Mexican tourists stopped to talk with me about my large hairy dog. I would run out of things to say by the second exchange. They were all interested to help me -- and I staggered through several phrases. However, I am no more capable of avoiding Gringo company than I am of avoiding Mexican company. I will simply have to find a way to make it all work. Because everything turns out well.

Muycontento -- Despite what some of my writings may indicate, I am not very obsessive. I doubt there is anything on this planet that I would spend 4 or 5 hours doing at a sit. My general limit at most anything is 20 minutes, and then I need a change. But I can be quite productive in that 20 minutes. And with several 20 minute stints over the course of a day, I will be able to get in my Spanish studies. Is Spanish more imortant than relationships with friends new and old? Of course not.

Constantino -- I was laughing with my brother about the "leisure" of retirement life. I spent almost all day trying to get one computer program to work. I suspect I will have a full plate to deal with over the next year or so. My archaeology hobby has quickly taken a back seat to everyhthing else.

Thanks, Mic. I have used the site in the past. I will get back to it.

Laurie -- I am trying to read the Psalms in Spanish. My Bible software puts both lamguages side by side. But I like your ideas, as well.

Gloria -- Thanks for your confidence and ideas.

Kim -- Now that I am in the midst of a true need to learn Spanish, my incentinves to show some tenacity are quite evident. And I am ready to do my scales and chords. It will be just like violin, accordian, piano, and saxophone lessons all over again.

Anonymous said...

As a postscript, I'm going to stick with my earlier advice. You need to find a Mexican love interest. There is NO GREATER MOTIVATION.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we have learned well through the same method. And it doesn't hurt that he's a Spanish Lit teacher, either.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- You are not alone in your advice. A fellow in my Sunday school class learned Spanish to woo his current wife. Their first child arrives this month. He speaks fluent Spanish -- and has never been out of Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Kim's comment about Mary Had a Little Lamb reminded me one of the most effective ways of increasing your vocabulary and learning the most used phrases in Spanish. Read children's books. Read them outloud to Jiggs - he will love them!

And in them you will find the correct translation of "Once Upon A Time"...hint; it starts with "Había...." As with the way children learn, repetition is the key!


Anonymous said...

hi steve,

the word for alphabet in spanish is ah-beh-seh-dah-rio-that's the phonetic spelling of course with the accent being on the dah part. the o sound in spanish is like that at the beginning of oreo or oregon for that matter, not a very common sound in english. people often pronounce it as oh but that is not correct. i know that once you set your mind to it, you will do great in learning the language. you just have to be consistent, like with anything else, if you want to get good at it, you have to practice, practice, practice and don't be embarrassed by your mistakes, the folks down there will really appreciate your effort.

que tengas una buena semana.

tu amiga,

Hollito said...

Steve, that software MUST run on your PC. Right-click on it´s icon and chose "Properties" and then the tab "compatibility", there you can set in which "environment" the program should run.
Not shure about the exact names, as my OS ist in German.
Later, Hollito

Steve Cotton said...

Alee' -- Starting at the basics is not a problem. I just need some structure at the moment.

Teresa -- The trick for me is getting started. As an example, I had one thing set for this morning. I have now done five others and I am late getting to the one I had to do. But order always comes from chaos -- except when chaos comes from chaos.

Hollito -- Gave it a try. It turns out the software is 16 bit software with a v32 bit workaround. My brother and I will try to find a way to make it work.

1st Mate said...

Steve - If you love language, now you get to really mix it up, with lovely new Spanish words. If you're like me and care about pronouncing them correctly you'll have a lot of fun wrapping your tongue around those double R's and whispering those soft G's. Have fun with it! Know what my favorite fun Spanish word is? "Albondigas!" Means meatballs.

Anonymous said...


Here's one of those e-mails that gets circulated endlessly, but it's worth posting here.

There is nothing comparably difficult in Spanish. Trust me. F was horrified when I read this aloud to him. I suggested he use it as punishment for his high-school students if they got out of line. They'd have to read it aloud in front of the class. It's not easy, even if you are a native speaker.


Kim G
Boston, MA

Why is English the lingua franca
Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters near Paris found English to be an easy language ... until they tried to pronounce it. To help them discard an array of accents, the verses below were devised. After trying them, a Frenchman said he'd prefer six months at hard labour to reading six lines aloud. Try them yourself.


Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

-- Author Unknown

Leslie Limon said...

As they say in Spanish..."La practica hace al maestro" (practice makes perfect). The more you talk to the locals in spanish, the more you will learn and the easier it will get. In the meantime, if you have specific questions you want to ask someone, feel free to ask me. I'm fluent in both languages.