Thursday, July 30, 2009

Los Ah, Beh, Ceh's

Por fin, por fin, por fin tengo una maestra de español! (Finally, finally, finally I have a Spanish teacher!)

After almost six years of living in Mexico and learning Spanish on my own, I am thrilled to have started classes with a real teacher. My first private lesson was on Monday with a lovely American woman who has been living in Mexico for more than 30 years. She used to work with me at the English school and we always got along well, I knew she would be a great choice. She's a grammar and pronunciation taskmaster but kind and funny which takes away some of the pain.

Having always communicated with each other in English, the first couple of classes have been about evaluating my level of Spanish and finding my bad habits. We're starting from scratch, working our way through a text book, first step being general pronunciation and lists and lists and lists of vocabulary which I must repeat. We've discovered my problem areas and I am busting my jaw trying to break free of years of mispronouncing the letter "i". No one has ever corrected me, I am astonished I got away with it for so long. My face actually hurts with all the pronunciation exercises, the mouth takes a very different shape with the Spanish vowels and the "new" muscles are getting a work out. I feel like I am back in kindergarten, but it's a good feeling, who didn't love kindergarten?

While I am capable of carrying on conversations in Spanish, I know that without any formal classes I am making mistakes. If I don't know the correct way to phrase what I want to say, I cheat or I mumble. And I have been allowed to do this. Everyone says "Hablas bien, te entiendo!" ("You speak well, I understand you!"). I think what they are really saying is "You make a lot of mistakes, but we get your point". That's alright, it is communication and I can get what I need or share my ideas, but I am at the point where I should be speaking like a high school student, not a 5 year old.

And so it begins, with the "Ah, Beh, Ceh's", fix the bad pronunciation habits first then move on to my ugly grammar. My teacher has assured me that in a very short time I will be that much closer to fluency. I have all the words, my vocabulary is pretty extensive, but now it's time to put it all in order and make me sound like a grown up when I speak.

I feel really good about this, not only am I moving ahead with my secondary language development, but I am doing something that is just for ME. Any of you parents out there know how difficult it is to find time and money for things not related to the kids, the house, the job, etc, etc, so having a couple of hours a week that are solely for Canucka is a dream. It's really the first time since Max was born that I am doing something for myself and it feels divine, I'm invigorated and excited and grateful for the opportunity.

Ok, off to do some homework, I'll have Max check it when he gets home. He's such a stickler for perfection! And your homework for the day is to learn the vowels in Spanish, here's a little video to help you out.....


Amanda said...

Good for you! I also agree with your teacher - it should only take a short time before you get closer to fluency. :)

Gaelyn said...

You go girl. Before you know it you'll be fluent. I remember the different vowel sounds were hard to get used to, but they actually make more sense than Enlish. I'm sure Max makes a good teacher too.

Unknown said...

Wow, great post about speaking spanish on a higher level. You must be reading my mail! I too want to start back at the beginning and correct ongoing misconceptions and quit the baby talk. I would never accept the same level of English grammar or pronunciation for myself. I want the same high standard for my Spanish. Hope you continue to blog your progress. Greetings from Houston TX, land of immigrants.

Leslie Harris (de Limon) said...

Felicidades! I think what you're doing is great. You'll be sounding like one of the locals in no time. Buena suerte con el español!

Jonna said...

It must be the season to go back to school. I started classes this week too. I need to extend my vocabulary and learn more grammar and tenses. I'm tired of only living in the present or the world of acabo de or voy a.

Now I'm wondering about the i. I watched the sesame street Lola you posted and it was cute, still i is e no?

Anonymous said...

Hey Canucka! That's great. I have been working on my grammar on and off for years. I usually only stay in Mexico for 2 to 4 weeks at a time so I always get good at the end of the trips, but as usual it's 2 steps forward 1 step back. I try to speak Spanish as much as possible here in LA but usually the Spanish speaking people here want to better their English so I'll talk in Spanish and they reply in English and usually the conversation just 'degrades' to English, LOL!

I can relate about speaking like a 5 year old. The last Quinceañera I attended being asked by a child about Max's age: "Porque te hablas como nino" LOL! I guess I better keep working on it!

The way that you're going about it in the sense of doing it for yourself is great. I totally look at it as an 'investment' in myself when I study the grammar or expand my vocabulary. I usually try to memorize one new word a day.

As usual Canucka! It's great reading your blog! I noticed you have been getting writing assignments, as well. Good for you and keep up the wonderful work.

Cuidate Amiga,
John in LA

Alex said...

Felicidades!!! it is great you are doing something for yourself and on top of that, something useful that you enjoy! what else can we ask for? You will be a super pro in no time!

Sara said...

I was taking classes too. That is, until my profe up and quit :( . I completely understand. I have been "learning" Spanish since I was 15, but it seems like years of bad gringo profes and not enough practice have left me rusty on basic rules of grammar even though I live in Chile. Well, Chileans are exactly models of perfect speakers, either.

Sue said...

Well, I didn't realize I was talking like a child, even though I knew my grammar was horrible. I sort of thought I might have sounded like people who try to speak English - at least that's what I was hoping. I too want to improve and get past the stage where I'm told how well I speak (knowing it isn't really true and they really mean how well they are able to understand me). I have the Rosetta Stone series but not the time to commit to it. One day it too will be my focus. Good for you! Have fun!

Heather said...

Thats sweet, glad you found something just for you and she sounds like a great lady! I have people tell me the same thing when is peak in portuguese and i know they are just trying to be nice.

CancunCanuck said...

Amanda- I don't think it will take too long for me to feel a whole lot better about my Spanish, we're breaking the bad habits and have fixed a lot of things already. She's a fantastic teacher.

Gaelyn- Max is actually not too happy that I am studying Spanish! I tried to sit down with Hubby to practice and go over some exercises and Max freaked out. "No Spanish Mommy!". He interrupted over and over again, I could not accomplish anything with him in the room. Not much help, lol!

DanaJ- Hola! I think this is the best method for me, no use learning complicated verb structures if I am making silly little mistakes, better to start from the beginning, go quickly through the stuff that is easy and make sure I have it right first. I'll continue to blog the progress for sure, saludos a Houston!

Leslie Limon- Thanks chica, I'll settle for sounding like a gringa who made an effort, lol, don't need to sound local. I'd have to learn more Maya. ;-)

Jonna- I'm with you, "hoy, hoy, hoy!" or "la semana pasado voy al....", just using a time reference with the wrong verb. Good for you for going back! My brain logically knows that "i" is "eee", but when I start pronouncing words, it still comes out "ih" like "if". For instance, the word "iniciativo". I say it like "initiative" just adding the "o". Now I can say "ee-nee-cee-ah-tee-vo". And I am....over and over and over and over....

dwntwnlft- Hola John! Unfortunately here in Cancun so many people want to practice their English with me that it puts me in the same position as you are in L.A.. I think it's great that you are studying, so many valuable reasons to have a second language! (Nice to see you round these parts, thanks for stopping in.)

Ale- I've got the best of all worlds, something for me, something useful and I enjoy it. I needed a challenge and I got it! Thanks amiga!

Sara- It's interesting that while studying we keep saying "But they don't use that here", meaning, Mexicans often use sloppy Spanish. In much the same way that we use sloppy English of course! Sorry your profe quit, hope you find someone fab soon!

Sue- I reached the point where I couldn't "self-teach" anymore, I needed an outside ear to help me. I think I probably speak like a child because I have a child. I read his books, I talk to other kids and therefore I take on a lot of kids mistakes without realizing it. Can't trust a four year old, haha!

Heather- Nothing wrong with people being nice, I just wish sometimes they would stop being nice and correct me! KWIM? :) I'm envious of your 3 languages!

Arielle said...

Good for you! You should definitely try SpanishDict for practicing Spanish in your spare time between classes. They've got great Spanish translation, and other good, free stuff. Good luck to you and the rest of my fellow Spanish learners!

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