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Achieving Competence...

Spanish language acquisition communicating

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#1 lencho

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 11:35 AM

Hey, y'all--

I was going to try a poll on this, but decided it'd be too constricting. Question(s):

1) How many folks here, have enough Spanish so you feel competent in most situations where that's the only language spoken?

2) If you don't, what's the principal obstacle to getting there?


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#2 Theresa

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 01:06 PM

It depends upon the day and the subject.  I can talk about tomatoes and cilantro all day long, physics and philosophy are another story altogether.



#3 lencho

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 01:55 PM

It depends upon the day and the subject.  I can talk about tomatoes and cilantro all day long, physics and philosophy are another story altogether.

 

 

Whaat?  From your bio, I assumed you'd grown up speaking Spanish...?



#4 Dave_in_Ont

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 05:32 PM

I completely understood Theresa's reply. Competency in speaking any language implies some knowledge of the topic being discussed.

 

I feel that I can speak competently, in English, on many topics that I am comfortable with but I just shut up when topics arise that I know little about. Like Theresa, Philosophy is also one that I know little about. (Other than my own philosophy on how I choose to live).

 

As far as the actual "Spanish language competency" is concerned. I feel that I am at about kindergarten level. Again, some conversation topics are easier and some are more difficult. Face to face it easier but telephone is hopeless for me.

 

My obstacle/excuse is old age. But I don't know if that is really it either. I always had the lowest grades, in high school, in French AND even English. My best grades were in the sciences and mathematics. Science and math are more "objective and sensible" to me and languages are way too "subjective and variable".


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#5 whazzoo

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 05:55 PM

I can understand a lot, but again I need to know the subject matter. The biggest hinderance is age, they grey matter is not as absorbent as it once was and I just can't think of the words fast enough (if I know them) to make a proper response.


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#6 Theresa

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 07:32 PM

Whaat?  From your bio, I assumed you'd grown up speaking Spanish...?

------

I grew up hearing Spanish, but my mom was told that her kids would be held back educationally unless we spoke  just English at home (it was the 50s). So she stopped speaking Spanish to us. Though when my paternal grandfather came to live with us, he didn't speak English. Also I grew up in California in a white middle class suburb, since my family is white middle class that makes total sense. The only hispanics I really knew were my immediate family. 

I came here thinking that I was bi-lingual. When my mom said,"No, you really aren't." I was offended. I spent the first year saying, "Entiendo todas las palabras pero no tengo la menor idea que me dijiste".  Plus, they use different words here, for example quimbombó is called something like anju not that I eat okra voluntarily, and they say contacto instead of enchufe... Anyway, I called her up and said,"Mom, you were right." and she just laughed.

My ability to read and write Spanish has always been good since I made an effort in college to make sure that I was literate...

 

I've lived here ten years, I speak Spanish all the time. However, most of my conversations  with my neighbors are very basic-because that is the nature of our relationships. My Mexican friends speak English and like to practice, though we sometimes switch back and forth. Just like in English, I am always adding vocab. Basically, I was functional in Spanish when I came here, I wasn't really fluent. I am fluent but not at the same level as I am in English.

 

So I stand by my original statement. 



#7 Joanne

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 07:39 PM

Speaking any other language as a second language makes learning a third language easier.  I have German as my first language, English as a close second. Learning Spanish was a little confusing at first as the German kept coming out from some deep recess of my mind.  (I haven't spoken German in many many years.) I would say that I am functional but not fluent in Spanish. Great terminology Theresa, I like that:  functional.  Like Dave I am stronger in math and sciences and my whole career was in laboratory science so language skills are more difficult for me.  Having two languages made the difference for me.  Plus I was 49 years old when we moved here and it's easier to pick up the language at that age than at say, 65.


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#8 Theresa

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 08:01 PM

The first year here, I spent a lot of time confused.

Take the word siempre, for example. To me, it means always, except here they use it to mean still, where I would use todavía So you can imagine my confusion when someone asked me,"¿Siempre vas a la feria?" Which I took to mean,"Are you always going to the fair?" I think we both walked away from that conversation shaking our heads.

 

Or demasiado which means too much, except here they use it to mean a lot. I had a Mexican friend say to me, "Tienes demasiado libros." What do you reply when someone tells you that you have too many books? He meant, that I have a lot of books. 

 

My husband got frustrated in Fernandez once when I didn't know the word for a pipe hanger. He said,"I thought you spoke Spanish" my answer,"I speak Spanish, but I don't speak plumber!".   I had asked for colgador de tubería and they had no idea what I meant. Finally, we figured out that they call it a hugger not a hanger, un abrasodor, which as far as my dictionary is concerned, is not a word. 
 



#9 lencho

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 08:32 PM

Face to face it easier but telephone is hopeless for me.
 
My obstacle/excuse is old age.


=====================

That's (stereo)typical; as many, I learn particles of information more slowly than before. And hearing can become a factor. But I would love to experiment with some older folks seriously interested in language acquisition; I have an idea that it's possible to (re)activate the language acquisition machine we were born with in a way that would hasten the process for those of us who have been away so long.
 

> Science and math are more "objective and sensible" to me and languages are way too "subjective and variable".


============

This intrigues me. I agree about the subjectivity, but there's a logical and systemic arrangement to language that makes it closer to math than some folks claim. I don't think they're exclusive.

Another thing I've noted; over the years I've programmed in a number of computer languages, and for me the acquisition process of those is similar to that of a spoken language. As with spoken language, one reaches critical mass where ideas flow from the mind through the keyboard into the program without being conscious of individual "words" being manipulated. It's gratifying to pass the point of critical mass, but takes huge amounts of time with any language. More (time) than I think many retirees are willing to invest...

#10 lencho

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 08:42 PM

> The first year here, I spent a lot of time confused.


=========

This was good, no? Means you were growing. :)


> Or demasiado which means too much,

I can think of almost no situation where "demasiado" has the same problem connotations of "too much," and I cannot understand why it keeps getting translated that way.  What are those dictionary writers thinking?

> Finally, we figured out that they call it a hugger not a hanger, un abrasodor, which as far as my dictionary is concerned, is not a word.

I'd call that "una abrazadera," is that possibly what they're saying?

 

abrazadera-cable-cable-tubos-metal-5551-



#11 Dave_in_Ont

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 11:18 PM

 

 there's a logical and systemic arrangement to language that makes it closer to math than some folks claim

 

I can't agree...

 

There is a lot that is illogical and non-systematic about languages, whereas mathematics is an absolute science.

 

In our commonly used decimal numerical system, 2+2=4. And in the binary numerical system 10+10=100. (Same thing) Even Roman numerals have a logical sequence. There is logic involved, once you wrap your mind around the system.

 

There is nothing logical about the conjugation of many verbs in many languages, and I include English in that statement. There is nothing logical about the same word having different meanings depending on context. Even spoken and written "numbers" are often totally illogical, compared to the actual numerals.

 

My humble opinion is that learning a language is a "rote" process rather than a logical process. Repeat and remember and repeat and remember until you get all of the variables correct. I do have to say that Spanish does have some logical structure. All letters have a normal, singular pronunciation unless a double letter like LL is involved or a ~ . And the accented syllable is always the penultimate unless affected by an accent.

 

As Whazzoo alluded to, my brain "bucket" is pretty full at age 70 too.

 

With Mathematics and Science, you learn the basics and everything else is built upon those basics, but there are no "variations".

 

All that to say that, yes, I find learning Spanish more difficult than I would have 30-40 years ago....But I do learn new words, terms and phrases daily. Do I have the "time" to become completely fluent? Hell no! It took me 70 years to become this fluent in English and the last 25 of those years to learn how to type without having to search, with one finger, for each letter I want to type!!!! By the way, programming computer language is also very logical. The term "color" is color...not "colour" there are strict and absolute conventions that must be followed. :D :D :D


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#12 lencho

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 01:33 AM

> There is a lot that is illogical and non-systematic about languages, whereas mathematics is an absolute science.


===========

I agree on that, in part. I look at Spanish, for example, as an elegantly logical construct with... a lot of fuzz around the edges. Kinda like a pyramid covered with growth. :D



#13 Theresa

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 11:06 AM

> Finally, we figured out that they call it a hugger not a hanger, un abrasodor, which as far as my dictionary is concerned, is not a word.

I'd call that "una abrazadera," is that possibly what they're saying?

*******************

 

 

Thank you! I will have to write that down a couple of times to embed it in long term memory. As you can see, I still don't speak plumber.  

Sometimes English has more ways to say something than Spanish does, and sometimes Spanish does. For example, the word corner- in Spanish we have rincon and esquina. An inside corner (or a nook, a nice old fashioned word) and an outside corner.  In English we have roof and ceiling while in Spanish we only have techo. All this makes learning a language more challenging.

As for the translation of demasiado;  a lot and too much are almost the same thing, but the shading of the word is on the side of excess for me. I grew up hearing demasiado said in that context.  I didn't read it in a dictionary. One of the things about growing up hearing Spanish is that I don't translate into English first when I speak.  When I was told that there was too much of a mess in my room, or that we were making too much noise, the word used was demasiado.

 

It's been an interesting conversation, but I think I may have hijacked your thread.

 

regards,

Theresa



#14 Joanne

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 02:15 PM

There may be a certain logic to language structure, but the problem lies in language learning.  Most language teachers do not approach the subject in a logical, scientific manner.  I wanted charts to learn verbs and my teacher could not comprehend what I needed.  In fact, he could not MAKE a chart.


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#15 lencho

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 05:39 PM

> When I was told that there was too much of a mess in my room, or that we were making too much noise, the word used was demasiado.


========

It is subtle. What originally put me to doubting, was the frequency which native Spanish speakers use "too" meaning "very", with no intended implication of "excessively" (which is almost always there in the English). It still startles me, and has made me realize there's a basic difference that often gets confused in the translation.



#16 lencho

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 05:45 PM

> I wanted charts to learn verbs and my teacher could not comprehend what I needed.  In fact, he could not MAKE a chart.

 

==============

 

Surprising, if this was a formal school; what was the background of this teacher?  And in spite of the dearth of charts, how was your overall experience? :)



#17 dugin

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 05:46 PM

Theresa -- here in Yucatán I've heard (and used) "plafón'' for ceiling-- it has a slightly different meaning in the RAE dictionary, but I think this is a fairly common Latin American usage.



#18 HenryVG

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 08:33 PM

My experience has been that at age 50, I picked up quite a bit of language ability in 8-10 weeks. Now, having not been required to use it daily, I've lost a lot of vocabulary and 'flow' in the last 10 years. Trying to get that back now is a LOT harder. 

 

*I* might be 'stereotypical' also, but damn, I'm getting too old to learn fast. 

 

That said, I'm a constant source of amusement to our Mexican neighbors with my 'whatever language he thinks he's speaking'. Even when they decide to play 'screw with Enrique' and switch to Yucatecan in the middle of conversations, I can typically follow along, since they are demonstrative folks and the spoken language only counts for about 20% of 'communication'. (and obviously, I think that at least 5% consists of apostrophes......), but on a telephone, I'm sunk. 


OK, I really just wanted to get that "other" topic off the front page.


#19 Jardinero

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 10:07 PM

For me, getting around in Spanish is probably like the transposition down here of what Dean Martin would have said up there. "It all depends on how many Bloody Caesars (Canada's unofficial official drink) I had".

 

Actually, each time someone starts speaking Spanish, I plunge in deep instead of waiting for the moment I'd be able to perfectly grammatically or phonetically express myself. That's how I learned the local way of speaking Spanish which I found to be quite different from Cuban, Costa Rican or Spain's Spanish. The better I get, the harder it becomes, those surrounding me assuming I'm 'prolific''. Sometimes, the other guy just machine-guns every word coming out of his mind in a 20 page monologue starting with the keyword "Pero..." or "Entonces.." leaving me with the only possible dumb-ass smiling response, "I lost you after the word 'pero' or 'entonces'".

 

Of course,I also do my own Spanish homework including learning 'How to quickly get in trouble in Mexico', 'The worst Spanish insults'(http://chromlea.com/...rds-extreme.php), ... well you know, the basics.


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#20 lencho

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 10:18 PM

Of course,I also do my own Spanish homework including learning 'How to quickly get in trouble in Mexico'


============

I tell my friends who are learning Spanish, that those lovely swearwords that can get you in trouble are best left till one has enough of the other stuff to get out of trouble. :wacko:







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