Improvement Creeps

One of the more interesting things that’s been happening to me while learning Spanish is noticing when improvement creeps up on me.  There are lots of times when improvement is very noticeable, especially in the early-going.  Going back to El Principito after a couple of books and being able to blow through it was obvious, and at least in hindsight unsurprising, as the steps taken between the first and second read were all aiming towards an increase in reading ability.  What’s less obvious is in the smaller, day-to-day stuff, when I’ve juggled around the things I’m working on a little and notice that something’s smoothed over considerably with very little time or focus put into it.

I rather like the YouTube channel Daniel San GMR for a number of reasons outside of my using it as a Spanish-learning source.  I can’t claim to be much of a gamer particularly (who has time for video games when you have a job, spend two to three hours a day working on a foreign language, and also write fiction and blogs?), but gaming content on YouTube is a big part of my relaxation time.  Daniel San GMR feels right at home with a number of other channels I watch, and I’d go so far as to say his writing and delivery is some of the best out there.  It’s been enjoyable to watch, but frustrating, too, because there’s been a real struggle with comprehension on a metatextual level for me.

One of the annoyances with language-learning on Netflix is that the subtitles are not really set up for the purpose of helping someone learn a language.  Simply put, the subtitles don’t match the dialogue.  This isn’t an oversight or anything, the purposes of the subtitles and dialogue are slightly at odds, which leads to the mismatch between them.  When it comes to writing subtitles for a show, the main objective is simply to convey what’s being said in the source language as accurately as possible, while a dub is trying to do a few other things.  The big one obviously is working to keep lip-flaps on point and have statements match the ‘length of time to say’ as closely as possible without changing the meaning, but it goes beyond that a little, too, because it changes the verisimilitude of the world from one language to another, which comes along with necessary changes that aren’t going to be present in subtitles.

The most obvious example of that I could name would be a throwaway joke in an early episode of Bojack Horseman, when Diane goes to visit her family.  Bojack comes into Diane’s family’s house and asks them (all of whom are of Vietnamese descent) if anyone there speaks English.  Bojack being casually racist aside, that line gets delivered in the Spanish subtitles as meaning ‘does anyone speak English,’ and delivered in the dub as ‘does anyone speak Spanish.’  Other than ruining the joke quite a bit, considering asking a Bostonian family of Vietnamese-Americans if they spoke Spanish becomes a whole lot less condescending, it does an interesting thing to the ‘world’ of the show, presenting a sort of Alternate Reality version of the US where Spanish is the dominant language.  I’d probably feel more weird about that if I wasn’t so used to Anime bombarding me with Alternate Reality Japan full of English-speakers.

Anyway, this all results in a mismatch of the subtitles and the dub, when what I was really hoping for in the early going was a dub and closed captioning, which I could use as a tool for harrowing my way through Spanish spoken at speed and try to train my ear for more readily recognizing and associating Spanish phonemes with the written language.

YouTube videos, on the other hand, aren’t typically subtitled, but rather closed captioned, at least on content like Daniel San that was in Spanish originally.  Turning them on and watching his shows gives me exactly the arrangement I had been looking for.  It was unfortunate then that at that point I really didn’t want them.

As time has gone on with my listening practice, it became very apparent that my use of subtitles, perfect or imperfect, had moved from being less of a tool and more of a crutch.  Possibly related to last week’s subject of tuning out foreign languages as white noise, I’m rather predisposed to tuning out all dialogue in favor of subtitles.  As with most of the world’s problems, this can probably be blamed on Anime.  I watched all of Bojack Horseman and a several other shows and movies, but a growing suspicion in my mind felt like I ought to have classed those things as reading practice instead.

In trying to work on correcting this, my first reaction was to just go guns-blazing on repetition with Daniel San, taking a pass on videos with training wheels and then without, which wasn’t seeming to get me much in the way of returns.  Second reaction was to try and expand my options a bit and work with stuff that I could already follow without subtitles.  In the last week and a half, I mostly focused on that.

So where does the creeping up work in?  Well, I’ve started trying to watch Daniel San without subtitles at all, and have been pleasantly surprised to find it getting easier faster than it was when I was watching with and then without.  It’s still probably the hardest listening I do regularly, as he talks, like, real fast a lot of the time.  And while his videos are rather polished and professional for YouTube, it would be unfair to expect him to have the same level of polish as a television show would have (though in saying that, he does sound better than a number of professional dubs I’ve come across).  But despite that challenge, I’m fairly comfortable listening to him with no training wheels now.  There’s quite a bit of that “tolerating unknown things” skill I talked about last month with him, as I end up missing quite a bit, but I’m still feeling pretty good about things.  I’ve more or less banned myself from subtitles at this point outside of rewinds to catch something I missed.  Perhaps I should make that ban a more official rule in my head.

Now then, onto this week’s numbers.

Tuesday 11/06

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 4 chapters of Matar a un Ruiseñor, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Castlevania, 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Aggretsuko ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 11/07

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 6 chapters of Matar a un Ruiseñor, ~110 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Castlevania, 1 episode of Aggretsuko, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 11/08

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: La Lotería en Babilonia, 1 chapter of American Gods, ~100 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 4 episodes of Aggretsuko, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 11/09

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 2 chapters of American Gods, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Aggretsuko, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 11/10

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 3 chapters of American Gods, ~100 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Castlevania, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 11/11

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 2 chapters of American Gods, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Aggretsuko, 1 episode of Disenchantment, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 11/12

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 1 chapter of American Gods, ~70 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Aggretsuko, 1 episode of Castlevania, 1 episode of Magic School Bus, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Anki: 420 cards reviewed, 70 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 1400 XP, 210 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 20 tv episodes and 2 YouTube episodes watched, 420 minutes
  • Total reading: 19 chapters and 1 short story read, 640 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 22 hours 20 minutes

A nice and solid week, with pretty damn high reading numbers alongside a “perfect” listening week.  Obviously I’m not limiting myself to an hour of listening per day, but it’s what I try and aim for, so the fact that I got it is definitely good.  As I said in the main body of this one, the extra focus seems to be paying off.

I finished out Matar a un Ruiseñor and went back to the Borges Esencial collection I have for another short story.  I must admit that those stories are significantly more difficult to follow than any of the other stuff I’ve been reading, including 1984.  They’re followable, so I don’t feel like I’m smashing my brains against the wall trying to read those stories, but they are definitely above my comfortable reading level.  I had hoped that the gap between reading Las Ruinas Circulares and trying again would net a level up in my reading level that would make La Lotería en Babilonia an easier time, but unfortunately no.  Or at least not enough to where it’s comfortable to read yet.

American Gods is treating me a lot more gently.  I’d read the book in English a number of years ago and remembered liking it quite a bit, though I admit that it didn’t stay with me very well.  I’m a little over a third of the way through it as of Monday, and after I finish it I’ll be out of books on hand with nothing specifically in mind for what to read next.  I’ll need to be doing some book shopping in the next few days.

That ought to do for this week.  TTFN.

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