I've been in Los Angeles at the California Association of Bilingual Educators and am driving back to Oregon through a beautifully green California. Sheila is actually driving. Don't worry. It was a great conference. Such passion for true bilingual education! There does, however, seem to be a divide between the bilingual educators and the world language educators that is unnecessary and damaging to the common cause that we share of expanding the number of Americans who speak English and a second language. I want to help to change that.
Continuing my search for real Spanish content to listen to online, I stumbled on Radio Ambulante, which was recently acquired by NPR. It is a series of ~20 to 30 minute newsy segments on things like a comparison of Maine to Lima, Peru, or moving to Buenos Aires and getting a job. It is great for me because it is real language, not dumbed down or slowed down, it is the perfect length to listen to when I go for my three mile run, and it has great support on the website. There I can get the transcription in Spanish and the translation into English. So I cut and paste the Spanish into a Word Doc and type in the English for the words I don't know in CAPS next to the Spanish.
Looking at the word order I see just how different the syntax is from English. ¿Tengo que decir el apellido también? Do I have to say my last name too? I can also see how tricky relying on cognates can be. I was talking with my old partner, Carl Falsgraf last week, talking about the comparison of learning Japanese (the language both Carl and I speak) and Spanish. I was relating that my experience in studying Spanish so far had been humbling. I thought it would be very easy compared to learning Japanese, but I have found the syntax challenges greater than I had expected. Carl added, "yeah, and all the false cognates will really confuse you". And he's right. Like the word "Nombre" that popped up in the Radio Ambulante story about Buenos Aires. Thinking it meant "Number" I was confused until I read the English translation and found out that it meant "First name".
Listening to the stories I catch a few words and fewer phrases. Little victories. When I catch a word that I haven't caught before I grab it and chew on it to try to make it mine, and disconnect from the stream of words for a few seconds. I may understand 10% or 15% now, but I can see that I am growing and catching more. It's uneven. Some days I catch more than others so it's alternatively thrilling and depressing. But I can feel a new world opening up to me, and I love it.