Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Boo, Spanish.

I had my first Spanish exam yesterday, and our instructor already had our tests graded to give back to us this morning. I got an 81.5. I wasn't surprised. Most of the exam was based on an audio recording of two people speaking at a normal conversational speed in two different accents (one Mexican, the other Colombian). We heard it twice. I could understand about 15% of it.

I have a hard time listening to poor-quality audio amplified in large rooms, because I have a slight hearing impairment. It's never been diagnosed, but what happens is some frequencies just turn into noise, like analog distortion. I can hear things, but I can't always understand the words. The impairment is subtle enough that it hasn't affected my life much -- though it does affect the lives of my friends, who have to put up with me constantly saying, "What?"

But I can't completely blame it on my hearing. The speakers were talking fast, and they sounded very different from anyone I've ever heard speaking Spanish. The woman totally swallowed her S's. S is kind of an important letter to leave out, I think.

The second part of the exam consisted of a synopsis of a movie in Spanish, mostly in words and syntax we haven't studied yet, and then questions about it. The idea -- this is a technique that's used a lot in our textbook -- is to skim the text for cognates (words that are similar in English) and then try to guess the general sense of the paragraph. This part was a little easier, though most of the class objected to a few of the questions, which were tricky considering we've only been studying this language for 5 weeks.

I'm frustrated. It's not like Biology where the material is just difficult and complex, but I know if I study like a maniac I can get it. A foreign language is difficult and complex, too, but I'm doing well with the written stuff. I know the grammar. But listening comprehension is an intangible skill. I don't know how to study it. We don't do much listening in class. Not even in lab, which I think is supposed to be for that. Lab is a waste of time. We'd be much better going to a Mexican restaurant and ordering in Spanish, or watching a Spanish TV show, or anything where we could be listening to people actually speaking the language.

I'm going to get some tutoring.


Dagon said...

Telenovellas are a great way to pick up Spanish. They're awful camp and they're usually on 4-5 nights a week...
The sucky think about learning languages is how rapidly your ability to acquire new ones drops off after about age 20...not something fully-formed brains like to do apparently...

Mike M said...

Dang, I didn't even read this post and he dun stole the idea right out from under me...Heh.

Just be afraid of the Cuban rapidity. For a taste, check out Christina, the Oprah of the Latin community.

Right on D.

Papagayo said...

One thing that helped me learn Spanish and Portuguese was finding music i liked, getting the lyrics online, and listening while reading along. I don't necessarily translate, but just try to understand, and look up words I don't know. In the long run, this has really helped me with my comprehension and pronunciation.

Steven said...

Thanks guys. I will try both suggestions.

I have a record I'm totally in love with by a Mexican pop singer named Chetes, but I haven't listened to it since I started taking Spanish. I downloaded it so I don't have the lyrics, but maybe I can find them on line.