James29's Spanish and French Log

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James29
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 11:32 pm

Thank you for your compliments, but I must confess that I purposely set my goals too easy with the intent that I'll finish them well before the end of the year. I was not too sure about the 1,000,000 word goal, but that turned out to be fairly easy once I got into some good books.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Sep 13, 2015 3:07 pm

Well, I'm just chugging along with my "fun" Spanish resources. I watched several episodes of Lost Miserables. I really like the show and am amazed they can develop the plot they way they do without making it seem silly. I think I'm about at episode 53 now. I'd really like to finish all of the 119 episodes before the end of the year.

I just started John Grisham's Sycamore Row translated into Spanish. I have never been a big fiction book reader, but I usually enjoy Grisham books so I figured I'd go for it. Also, I think it is something that may come in helpful eventually for French as there is a full audio book in French available on audible.

I had a few really nice conversations with my exchange partner. I asked for open/honest input on my Spanish and I received a valuable response. It hurt somewhat because usually people are overly polite and just say "oh, your Spanish is wonderful and I cannot think of anything you need to practice..." and stuff like that. This time, however, I really learned that I do need to improve on a number of things. I still make a lot of mistakes on using reflexive verbs. I just won't use the "extra" pronoun when I need to. I understand the grammar fine, but I just don't do it. I also need to begin to think more like a Spanish speaker and use idiomatic expressions. There are certain "ways" things are said in Spanish that I need to get more used to. I'll say things in a way that are more of a direct translation of the English and I will be perfectly well understood, but there is a much more appropriate way to say what I mean in Spanish. On the positive side of things, I conjugate verbs very well and rarely make mistakes with regular grammar. I also, apparently, have a pretty impressive vocabulary according to my partner. Personally, I feel like I need/want to improve my listening and understanding. My goal is to communicate as well as possible. Right now, my speaking is certainly not perfect (as my partner pointed out), but it is my understanding of native speaking that is the biggest impediment to my communication with natives. Reading novels and watching telenovelas is really helping very much.

After really thinking about it, I really need to work on improving my Spanish more before I do anything else. I really do need to push things to the next level. It is totally amazing to me how much time and effort goes into improvement at the upper-intermediate level. I have been in the B2-ish range for years now.

I am starting to get an itch for traveling again. We are coming up on the time of year that it is much easier for me to travel. I have a few opportunities over the next few months to travel for work so we'll see if I can make that work.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Sep 20, 2015 1:26 pm

Not too much new going on. I'm still working through Los Miserables. I'm on something like episode 57 or 58 now... almost half way through.

I'm learning that I really prefer to read than watch TV. It is usually more enjoyable to sit down and read a good book than sit in front of a screen.

I started John Grisham's Sycamore Row and read the first three chapters... then some punk stole my Kindle. I've ordered a new one, but I'll have to wait for a bit to get it.

I decided to put Sycamore Row aside while I wait for my new Kindle and read a Perry Mason novel translated into Spanish. I bought it on the street in Mexico City for the equivalent of $0.30 so I am pretty excited to read it. I've read the first four or five chapters now and must say that it is quite easy to read. Most translated novels are pretty easy to read, but this is noticeably easier. The book is pretty short too so I think I'll be able to whiz through it quickly. So far I really like it. I wish it was easier to find more Perry Mason translations.

I still listen to the news every morning and don't really think about it as Spanish time... it is just me listening to the news in the morning as I like to.

I did a couple meetups. One was when I was traveling so it was a new group of people.

I've been thinking very much about what my skype partner told me... I need to take some time and pick up the most common idioms and "ways of saying things" in Spanish. I have a good book on common idioms, but it has WAY too much material to be useful. I need to find the most common 100 or 200 idioms that are used everywhere in the Spanish speaking world instead of 5000 idioms many of which are very obscure.

I'm thinking about taking a trip again. This fall would be a good time for me. I have a few opportunities that I could combine a Spanish trip with some work opportunities. We'll see.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby iguanamon » Sun Sep 20, 2015 3:18 pm

James29, I love that you are enjoying reading so much. I also like that listening to the news in Spanish for you is just listening to the news. It's a wonderful feeling, I often can't remember in which language I have heard something because I get my news in four languages other than English, except for local news.

My advice on picking up natural Spanish idioms(and I, myself, still have a long way to go), without reading books originally written in Spanish, is to try this:

Write down what you hear on Los Miserables. Try to take an episode and go through it intensively with the Spanish subtitles, taking notes and watching it again without the subtitles. Of course, this means spending more time with an episode than usual. These episodes are chock full of natural speech and have a heck of a lot of idioms. You just need to notice them more. Once you start noticing, you'll see them everywhere.

While there are plenty of Spanish idiom books out there, the problem with committing such a book to memory is the lack of context. The other problem is that many idioms can be very regional and most of the Spanish idiom books are international. My kids are English. When they were with me this summer, we ran up on this a lot. There were English idioms, Northern English (Lancashire) idioms, general American idioms, my Southern Appalachian idioms and Caribbean idioms. For example, take the word directly- I'll get to it directly. Where I'm from originally, directly usually means not right away but soon. Depending on the person directly can mean not soon at all and mean whenever one gets around to doing it :). My kids expected it to mean straight away- immediately. They know the difference now :lol: . Here, in the Caribbean, the words to use for the equivalent to directly are soon come- which has no meaning in the rest of the English-speaking world outside the region. When we say good evening here we say good night, which means I am going to bed now in the rest of the English-speaking world. A common response here to the question How are you? is Everyting safe. Everyting safe is also how one may be greeted and the response is often just Everyting safe repeated. If you get a book with the most common idioms- make sure that it provides plenty of context.

I have a neighbor from Chile. When it is very hot here, hotter than the Fourth of July, (a phrase which has no meaning to my English kids) he says- Se hace tanto calor que están cayendo patos asados del cielo. Of course, this is easily understandable and I have incorporated it into my Spanish, but I've never heard it from anyone but chilenos.

Idioms and idiomatic speech are one of the hardest things to get right in a second language. Many learners fail with them because in order to use them appropriately- context is absolutely necessary. Idioms and idiomatic speech are also the hardest things to get right in translation. Idioms are what give flavor to a language and many of our native English idioms just don't come out well in translation. Idioms and idiomatic speech are a huge part of what gets "lost in translation" and when they are used appropriately they often are what polishes a language.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby Stelle » Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:29 pm

I picked up an expression from a Spanish comedy show ("un position de por favor", from the TV show Aquí no hay quien viva). When I used it with my tutor, she burst out laughing. It turns out that the expression only exists on the TV show. It was invented for/by the character. I still use it all the time with her, if only because it makes us both laugh.

The moral of the story is: be careful with idioms, because poorly used with the wrong person, they may make you sound like an idiot! Ha!
Last edited by Stelle on Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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James29
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:11 pm

iguanamon wrote:Write down what you hear on Los Miserables. Try to take an episode and go through it intensively with the Spanish subtitles, taking notes and watching it again without the subtitles. Of course, this means spending more time with an episode than usual. These episodes are chock full of natural speech and have a heck of a lot of idioms. You just need to notice them more. Once you start noticing, you'll see them everywhere.


This is an awesome idea! I don't ever watch things with subtitles because they distract me too much, but I did check them out on Los Miserables and they are extremely accurate. In a way I can kind of tell that there are parts in Los Miserables that I don't understand the words, but I understand the conext, etc. I'm sure if I actually took some time and read/copied the subtitles I'd be able to figure it out. I must say that Los Miserables is really great and I would not mind watching each episode a few times.

Idioms are interesting beasts... you do notice them everywhere once you know them, but it seems that if you don't learn it somewhere on your own you'll never just pick it up from context. As both of you point out, they are so particular it can be difficult. The ones I know and feel comfortable using are mostly from Assimil and they often do not go over too well with the Latin Americans I speak with.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Fri Sep 25, 2015 8:10 pm

Well, I finished the Perry Mason book this morning. I really enjoyed it. It was VERY easy to read. It was definitely easier than most of the books for kids I read (Alex Rider, Harry Potter, etc.). I'd say it was roughly on par with the Theodore Boone series. I really liked the way it was just a straightforward story. I wish I could find a ton of these (there are 80+ in the series), but, unfortunately, they are very difficult to come by here in the US and they are not available on kindle. I did pick up a second one when I was in Mexico City so I have that one I can read. They are short and a very fast read. The whole time I was thinking of Stelle's "on easy reading" theory.

So, I'm starting to feel like I am at a transition point. I need to decide what to do now. I am definitely going to finish Los Miserables. I have 60 episodes left. But, other than that, I don't really know what to work on. Watching a telenovela as my primary resource just does not seem to really work too well. It is perfect for watching 3 or 4 episodes a week when I have time in the evening, but I don't really like using my morning study time for a telenovela.

I have been thinking of doing the C1 Gramatica del Uso book. I reviewed a few random lessons. I am familiar with all of the content, but certainly don't use the grammar in every day active use. I could certainly do the book at this level and I think it would be great to go through it. I will definitely do it sometime. I'm just not sure I want to do it now or anytime in the near future. I really like reading and am thinking of just pounding through as many books as possible in the next year or so. Reading on the kindle just seems so valuable.

I also go back and forth with going into French. This is where my character flaws come in. I just see no productive reason for me to learn French. It is totally just a personal interest and that bothers me for some reason. I "want" to know French for personal reasons, but simply cannot seem to justify it because I see no real useful way I'd use it. All of my French speaking relatives speak English better than French. I'd love to travel to Quebec and/or the French Caribbean islands, but something like that does not really justify learning the language. I love learning Spanish and, eventually, I really do think it will help me professionally. I have a limited amount of time and it seems so hard to justify taking time away from improving my Spanish.

Well, one of the great things about my Spanish journey is that I have always just done "whatever I want." It will be interesting to see what I do tomorrow morning.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby iguanamon » Fri Sep 25, 2015 9:40 pm

James, perhaps, you may be interested in a MOOC in Spanish.

mooc.es wrote:¿Qué es un Mooc?

Mooc es el acrónimo en inglés de Massive Online Open Courses ( ó Cursos online masivos y abiertos ). Los cursos masivos no han sido otra cosa que la evolución de la educación abierta en internet. ...

...Desde una concepción conectivista, donde la creación del conocimiento se basa en el establecimiento de conexiones, está claro que cuanto mayor sea el número de nodos, más posibilidades de aprendizaje hay en un curso determinado. Por lo tanto, el cambio desde las plataformas educativas cerradas a entornos de aprendizaje abiertos ha supuesto la posibilidad de que miles de personas de todo el mundo sigan diferentes iniciativas educativas....

...A esto se ha unido la gran incorporación de la plataforma en español de MiriadaX, impulsada por Telefónica y Universia (quien integra a 1.232 universidades de 23 países de Iberoamérica).

Las características de un Mooc son:

No tener limitación en las matriculaciones.
Poder ser seguido online.
De carácter abierto y gratuito. Con materiales accesibles de forma gratuita


I've noticed a course that may dovetail nicely with your workbook Instrucción Gramatical y Virtual ELE

This course is offered in 3 levels A2, B2 and C1. There's a video explaining the course (with accurate subtitles for those whose level of Spanish may not allow them to understand everything spoken). It is offered by La Universidad de La Laguna en Tenerife (Islas Canarias) España. For those around A1-2 this could also be quite useful.

Just a suggestion. Also, there are other courses offered on the Mooc.es courses directory page that include economics and business, in which you may be interested.

I thought I might sign up for the C1 course but had trouble registering on the link I gave you, try the partner site-MiriadaX. The course goes for 5 weeks starting Tuesday- all in Spanish, with Spanish subtitles.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Sep 27, 2015 12:15 pm

Thanks, I don't think I've ever seen MOOC before. I have seen coursera and have thought about taking some courses in Spanish. There is a course listed on both MOOC and coursera about family businesses and it looks like it might be worthwhile. One of the early things I did in Spanish was watch a series of economics classes in Spanish at ufm.edu and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm not sure why I have not done anything like a MOOC or Coursera course yet. In some strange way my Spanish time is time to get away from the world for a while and take a mini-vacation every day and participating in a course just seems like "work" to me. I do appreciate the suggestions you make, Iguanamon, as one of the most rewarding things I have done so far in my Spanish journey is work through the Spanish grammar book you recommended. I am really looking forward to doing the C level grammar book too.

I don't really have too much new since the last post I made. I've been reading more of John Grisham's Sycamore Row. It is a fairly long book and I am now about 12% done. I re-read the last chapter I read before my Kindle got stolen. I cannot rave enough about how great it is to read with a Kindle. It has this feature where it tells you how many minutes you have until you finish the chapter. It is amazingly accurate. This removes one of the big annoyances I always had with reading... I am always on a pretty tight schedule and when a certain time comes in the morning I just have to go and don't have any flexibility. With my Kindle I always know if I can start another chapter or not. One minor annoyance about Grisham is that he uses chapters that are a bit longer than most currently popular writers. No big deal, but it would be nice to have 15 minute chapters to work through.

I do think I am going to take a trip sometime this fall or early winter. I am in the process of searching for some good ways to combine using my Spanish with doing research/development/brainstorming for my business.

One thing I have never really done at all is pay for a tutor. I read many logs and people use them quite often. I'm not really sure why I don't like the idea, but I don't. If I compare the cost of a good grammar book with exercises (roughly $20) with the cost of a tutor it just does not seem worth it. I understand this is not really the greatest way to look at it because if I compare the cost of a good grammar book with a trip to Mexico the book looks like even a better deal.

I must say, however, that my current skype partner is not bashful about correcting my mistakes and I notice that I really do make little mistakes quite often that have always gone unnoticed. Anyway, maybe some day I will do a super intensive push with a tutor and try to get my Spanish bumped up a level. I saw a decent looking school in Guatemala that had one on one lessons for $8 and a super deal on all inclusive meals and lodging with a local family. Maybe I'll just go there for a couple weeks.

I can say that my Spanish is on auto pilot now. I just listen to my VOA news every morning, read from a book with my coffee, go to a weekly meetup and do skype exchanges and watch telenovela episodes whenever I have free time in the afternoon or evening. It is a very good balance and other than somehow working in the C level grammar book I'm just going to keep flying along on auto pilot just like this for a while.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby Serpent » Sun Sep 27, 2015 1:30 pm

Well, a MOOC just stands for massive open online course. Coursera is simply one of the many mooc sites.

I've signed up for the course iguanamon mentioned. Just to check it out really, not sure if I'll do it.
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