Friday, January 9, 2009

¿Se Habla Español?

Soon, I hope I can answer that question with a Si, hablo Español. I am learning Spanish. Yes! I, for as long as I can remember have wanted to learn a foreign language. French would have been my first choice. I just think it feels like silk and velvet on your ears. It’s just so beautiful to listen to. But it’s impractical. At least where I live. Spanish is spoken fairly widely here- there are TV channels and radio stations, not to mention actual people who speak in Spanish everywhere I turn. So, Spanish it is.

With a job and a killer commute and a young child, taking time to go to a local college for classes would not have worked out. Plus I want to do things at my own pace. Enjoy the ride, you know. So when a friend told me of the Radio Lingua Network on iTunes has free podcasts for learning Spanish, I jumped. Not really hoping much, because, well, if it’s free, how good can it be? But I am blown away with Coffee Break Spanish. I listen to it on my uber long commute or when I jump on the treadmill. Suddenly the boring commute and the even more boring treadmill has a purpose. To enable me to learn Spanish. The lessons are 30 minute podcasts and I have covered the first 10. Several times. Listened to them for 2 weeks now. They are encouraging and enjoyable. Never thought it would be this much fun. Of course, I am at a point where I have graduated from – “Hey this is not too difficult” to “I am so damn confused.” And that is a good thing, I think.

I know three and a half languages, half because I can only speak a smattering of Kannada, not read or write it and am not terribly fluent either, but I can understand and will be able to get by in Kannada-only town. And of course I speak, read and write Hindi, Marathi and the Queen’s language. But all these languages were learnt before I was eight. I did not study their grammar while learning and it was mostly a hit-and-miss, learn as you go kinda experience. Just the way Chip is picking up Marathi and English (and a smattering of Spanish too in school) now. Which brings me to the point of how different is to learn a language in your adulthood. You are more mindful looking for patterns, you want to learn the rules and you are conscious and embarrassed to a certain extent to speak it to a native.

In the last two weeks, I have learnt something about learning a language in your adulthood. And the most important point I think I have learned is to stop translating from English or Marathi into Spanish. It just doesn’t work. At best, it is ridiculous, at worst disastrous. Take for example a very common English phrase, ‘See you later’. Try to translate that word for word in Marathi - Tula nantar baghoo, which sounds ridiculous and in Hindi – Dekhenge tumhe baad me, which is disastrous. Yesterday, I replied to a friend’s email (who is supposed to be my Spanish language buddy) with a Spanish literal translation of “see you soon’ – Veremos te pronto. I have no idea if it sounds ridiculous in Spanish especially in the context in which I said it. The correct phrase probably should have been Hasta pronto, which literally means until soon, a phrase you would not use in English at all. So, for me to get a true fluency I really need to think in Spanish. I don’t know if I will ever reach that stage. I hope to. Until then, I’ll work at those verb conjugations and tenses and idioms and listen to those podcasts every week for several hours. So, wish me ¡Bueno Suerto!


rayshma said...

hehehee... i dunno how to say this in hindi or marathi.. but "all the best!!!"
i started learning espanol... then ran off to random countries... disturbing and abandoning the language. this year, i tell myself! :D

and btw, wanted to ask... will half of multiple languages add up and make a whole???

DotThoughts said...

raush: be my language buddy pliss. you can say all the best in spanis :) bueno suerto :)

And i don't think 2 half languages can make a whole, although I would like to :)

Anonymous said...

As I was reading, I thought you went and spent a ton of money on one of those useless cd programmes.. like Rosetta Stone or something :)

Back when I had one child, I took Spanish classes at a local cc. It was fun though I didnt learn much.

I speak 4 languages.. I read/write English and Malay. And I speak Mandarin and Hindi(although my hindi is bad, I dont know the whole gender thing. poori fulti hai, mausam achi hai are some the mistakes I made.

Was thinking up of taking up conversational Mandarin at the local cc here.. will see.
Good luck!

PS:Most of your posts evoke almost a post like comment from me.. :)

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Bueno suerto bella senorita!

And I agree that to truly master a language you have to think in that language. It'll come, don't you worry. Flip on the TV every now and then, it'll help.

noon said...

Good luck dots - hope you learn Spanish and feel comfortable speaking in it - what joy that must be! They have podcasts for all/many languages?

Mark Pentleton said...

Wishing you well in your studies of Spanish and we're delighted that you're enjoying learning with our show.

By the way, 'hasta pronto' is spot on. As you say, it literally means "until soon", even though we wouldn't say that in English. You could also say 'nos vemos pronto' - literally "us we see soon".

Best wishes and saludos desde Escocia.

PG said...

keep it up! Looking forward to your reports of progress!
I once did a course in Italian, but somehow I have dropped the idea of continueing. Time not really my big problem. my brain wouldn't just cooperate I know. In the beginnig when i startd learning German, I used to try translating English into German, a number of times wrongly. I th beginning it as tough but, then came a phase where I found myself translating German into English! :D
You are making good progress, that is how it is supposed to be. You are at the brink of it. Keep it up! I would think that you can watch some Spanish channels on TV there. It wil surely help.

Parul said...

That's awesome! Learning Spanish while working the this is a clear case of two birds with one stone - you will be talking in Spanish and looking like Penelope Cruz doing it.

Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

ooh, groovy!! very very cool... i've always loved languages! and i'd like to think i learn them fast... i picked up a lotta Marathi in my final year of college (Thanks to my room-mate).
You know very well how much I remember now!!!!!
Learned a whole bunch of phrases of Nyanja/Bemba (two local languages of Zambia) - All I remember now - 11 years later - is "Muli shani?" or "Shani ba [name]?" (How are you? and the same with respect).

I guess if you have the aptitude, you can do it! But the key is to keep using it! And you picked the right one to learn in this part of the world!
And what a wonderful way to commute!!
You GO Girl!!

Mama - Mia said...

awesome! i can never get myself to learn on my own!

i learnt French at Alliance Franciase and had such a rollicking time, got meself a husbanmd and cant speak a word now! :( but yes, its is a beautiful language!

the trick to mastering and yet the most difficult bit is to condition ourselves to THINK in that language rather than translate your thoughts!

happy learning!! and have fun! and floor em with your spanish!! :D



K3 said...


This seems like fun way to learn the language, thanks for the link, will look it up, maybe I can get back to it and this time actually be able to converse.

Buena suerte.

DotThoughts said...

asaan: that's a lot of languages :) Have you tried Rosetta Stone?

m4: thanks for the encouragement m4!

noon: they do, you shoudl check em out and thanks!

mark: I can't believe I got a comment from you! Thanks so much. I am enjoying the podcasts a LOT. I am on lesson 16 now :)

PG: Do spanish PG, then we can be be buddies :) I hope to get some degree of fluency i spanish. that ofcourse will take years!

Parul: I will remember that everytime I get on the treadmill :) only you can come up with gems like these!!!!

GND: thanks GND!

Mama mia: you said! Right now I am flooring people with spanish.. but they drop to floor in mirth rather than awe :)

K3: it will be fun!

choxbox said...

nice post as usual. LOLed at the see you soon in hindi. good luck!

rayshma said...

hehe... i thought so!
bueno suerto!
i would LOVE to be ur language buddy!!! :D

bird's eye view said...

You're so right, you can't translate, you have to learn to think in the other language. Otherwise it becomes too much of a pain. BTW, did not know that neevu Kannada maatadthiri