The Two Spanish Languages

If life was more like a cartoon, it would be easier. And there'd be more anvils.

(This blog is the English translation of this week’s primary blog, which was originally written in Spanish.)

A few months ago, almost a year, I wrote a blog about how difficult it is to listen to a new language instead of reading it. I’ve improved a lot since then. At that time, I watched kids cartoons like My Little Pony and The Magic Schoolbus, or Disney movies, and I couldn’t understand them fully. I could follow them, and I’d watched almost every episode or movie beforehand, so they had no surprises for me, but there were a lot sentences and words I didn’t know. My reading comprehension was better than my listening comprehension (which is still true), and there were movies and TV shows I couldn’t understand, but I was getting better, and I could enjoy things in Spanish.

What I couldn’t do, in any way, was understand native speakers.

I live in Denver, Colorado, a city in the United States that has a lot of Latino people. Spanish is the second most spoken language here and there are people all over the place speaking Spanish together. When I was a kid, my best friend spoke Spanish at home with his parents. I have had a lot of Spanish around me for most of my life. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to learn Spanish, because I’ve been close to the language and I’ve heard it a lot. It’s a beautiful language and it would be useful here, and I’ve always wanted to understand the people of my home.

But I noticed in that previous entry that there is a big difference between a voice actor and a native speaker. It isn’t just because cartoon voice actors usually record simple sentences or say things slowly, although that’s true, because I’m still having problems now. A show like Breaking Bad is not for children and has complex vocabulary, but I can understand it almost perfectly. There are some phrases here and there that I don’t understand and some words that I miss, I’m not perfect, but it is clear. And then I try to watch something like Daniel San GMR or La Zona Cero on YouTube, and I see the distance that I still have to go. Spanish sounds different between a professional voice actor speaking into a microphone and someone chatting with his camera. Geeze, even series originally in Spanish like La Casa de Las Flores or Club de Cuervos are completely different. The first one has narration and I can understand that better than the characters.

Part of this is volume and speed. Voice actors tend to speak slower, and are very close to the microphone, while actors speak naturally, with microphones above the frame and other sounds on the scene, etc. It’s not the easiest situation to hear anything. But it also shouldn’t be impossible. I can understand English in those and worse situations, you know? Another part is the accents. Many voice actors use very neutral accents for recordings, while actors speak however they want most of the time. But, again, it shouldn’t be impossible.

It feels like there is a tangible difference between the two ways of speaking, almost as if I’m learning two different languages. The first is the language that I read, is used in cartoons, and when they dub a series, and the other is the language used by the people who really speak Spanish. I like both languages, really, but I want the second one to be easier than it is.

I know I need more time and practice, and someday I’ll be able to understand almost anything. I can understand much more than I could when I wrote that old blog, and the series that give me problems are easier than they were a short while ago. A few months ago I could barely follow a Daniel San video and I needed to watch them at least two or three times before understanding all the ideas, but now they’re just a little more confusing than something like Breaking Bad. Everything keeps getting easier.

But if everyone talked like the characters in My Little Pony, I would have fewer problems. And the world would be friendlier, probably.

OK, let’s see the numbers for the week.

Tuesday 6/11

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of El Quinto Elefante, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 6/12

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of El Quinto Elefante, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of La Zona Cero, ~15 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 6/13

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of La Verdad, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 6/14

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/10 of La Verdad, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, 1 episode of La Casa de Las Flores, 3 episodes of Aggretsuko, ~95 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 6/15

  • Duolingo: 24 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/10 of La Verdad, ~90 minutes
  • Writing: ~1400 words written, ~150 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 6/16

  • Duolingo: 24 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of La Verdad, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Aggretsuko, ~15 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 6/17

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of La Verdad, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of La Zona Cero, ~15 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 150 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1 and 1/5 books, 1080 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 4 youtube episodes and 5 tv episodes watched, 140 minutes
  • Total writing: 1400 words written, 150 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 22 hours 50 minutes

Goodnesss, what a normal week. Well, okay, it isn’t entirely normal, I had a day for practicing my listening comprehension, and the day for writing this entry, but it’s almost normal. I read, I watched, I wrote, and then a week had passed. It’s like magic!

I read the rest of El Quinto Elefante this week, and it’s my favorite book in the Discworld series so far. I like books in the city watch subseries, and El Quinto Elefante was the best book of that subseries. The city watch books are mysteries, which is one of my favorite genres, and this one had interesting characters and a well-developed story. There was an emotional part that made me sad, enough that I was surprised. When I want to read the series again, I think I’ll want to read this book more than most of the others.

The next book was La Verdad, and I’m almost finished with it. It isn’t one about the city watch, but it takes place in Ankh-Morpork and some city watch characters are in the book. After Carpe Jugulum, I’ve been happy that these books have been good.

I watched a lot of things on Friday. A new episode of Daniel San GMR came out on Friday, so I watched that one with pleasure, and another because the first one was a bit short. I also started a new series on Netflix called La Casa De Las Flores. The difficulty is about the same as Club de Cuervos for me, but Club episodes are long. The first episode was a little dramatic, it feels like a soap opera, but I think I’ll watch more before deciding anything. It was interesting to see a show written with both Spanish and English dialogue.

But the most important news is that there are more episodes of Aggretsuko. Aggretusko was my favorite series from last year and I’ve been wanting more for months. I wanted to watch everything immediately, but I am forcing myself to take my time and enjoy it slowly. I’ll be out of it soon, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

I continued responding to questions about English in the Duolingo forums this week, and I think it’s getting easier to write for me. I am thinking in Spanish more than before, and I have to form ideas and sentences in Spanish more often. I’m sure a lot of my writing sounds like a child and probably has mistakes, but I am feeling more comfortable every day. If I can improve my listening comprehension, I think I can try talking to other people soon.

Speaking of Duolingo, they’ve added more stories this week. They’re all for lower levels and I can’t learn much from them, but I can’t learn much from the rest of the Duolingo anyway. They’re fast and easy at least, and aren’t boring. I’ll read all of them soon, and then I’ll go back to normal lessons.

Okay, that’s enough for this blog. Until next time, TTFN.

2 thoughts on “The Two Spanish Languages

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s