March 28th, 2008

grammar crisis room

Advice on independent study of Spanish

I've been wanting a text that would give me a lot of practice with written Spanish (hopefully remedying my atrocious spelling), and which would also explain some of the grammar so that I could understand it intellectually, because I know I learn better that way. I picked the Living Language: Ultimate Spanish, Beginner-Intermediate because my experience with the Living Language text for Japanese was that it had too little actual practice in the language, but provided extremely good conceptual frameworks, and I thought that if this did the same for Spanish, it would be a good complement to my audiobook.

Aaaaaannnd - I am having the absolutely predictable problem: the Spanish of the two different texts doesn't entirely match.

Although my written text claims to teach Latin American Spanish more than Castillan Spanish, it doesn't seem as rigorously colloquial and regional as my audiobook claims (and seems) to be.

It's not just that it includes the vosotros form - the classic example, I know. It's a collection of all kinds of things which don't quite match up - each of them very insignificant, but adding up to a low but present degree of cognitive dissonance: the written text suggests that "Mi nombre es--" is a fine way of introducing oneself and is the only one they teach to start with, while my audiobook barely mentioned that and was firm about "Me llamo--". In my written texts, at least in the first few chapters, questions are all constructed identically to statements, in terms of word order, just with question marks, while most of what I've been learning from the audio book is verb-subject-object, or even, in some cases, verb-object-subject.*

And, yes, I can ask you all, but the point of getting a book was to be able to learn for myself most of the time, and save the questions for when I really need them.

Of course, some of the dissonance is probably a result of the fact that I'm on chapter 24 in my audiobook, and just starting the written book. But that's not all of it.

So my question is really for people who have also independently studied languages, especially Spanish. Inevitably, one ends up with some superficially or initially contradictory instruction. What has been your experience about the best way to deal with this, for your own learning process? Do you try to stick to one source until you're really comfortable with it? Do you blitz yourself with lots of different approaches and try to absorb everything without struggling too much to reconcile them, figuring if you can hold them all loosely in your head, they will eventually fall into place with each other? Do you fight each apparent contradiction methodically until you can understand why one source says X and another says Y?**

I didn't run into this as much, teaching myself Japanese (after I got past the fact that Living Languages uses a different set of rules for its romaji from those used by anyone else), but the big problem with my study of Japanese is that it was so isolated that I learned to read and speak much better than I learned to write or understand. I'm trying to avoid that kind of discrepancy this time around.

So. Apparently contradictory sources at intro levels of self-teaching a language: what course of action (which doesn't involve, "take a class," because that's not an option right now) do you recommend?

* Actually, that's a good example of why it matters, because I'd love to get an analytical explanation of how to identify situations/questions/words with which V-O-S is more appropriate than V-S-O; I haven't been able to deduce it at all. "¿Se cepillan los dientes el niños todos los días?" and "¿Han desaunado huevos fritos tus primos?" (I learned the 'haber ...-ado' construction! But I don't know what it's called, or how to actually conjugate 'haber' yet! Because this is what audiobooks are like! Okay, enough exclamation points.) But, "¿Manejas-tu un carro rojo?"

** There can be so many reasons. Something can be traditionally "correct" but no longer frequently used. Things can belong to different dialects. Things can be more formal vs more casual - my audiobook is explicit about teaching casual spoken Spanish, so a different phrase might be just as authentically Mexican, just more formal. Some things may just be wrong. And so forth.

ETA: YARGH. Sorry about the failure to close italics.
  • dadi

All the happiness in the world :)

I have a Swedish friend who, when writing in English, always writes "I went very happy about this", describing the fact that she was glad about something. Which in English, as far as I know, can be expressed only indirectly: "I experienced great joy about this" or "I felt very pleased about this".

This brought me to think about the way various, even related, languages express the fact of a)being happy once of a sudden about something, and also b) looking forward to something.

Most languages don't have expressions for both these "events". In German, for example, the "looking forward" part is translatable into "sich auf etwas freuen", and this is the only language I know where actually the verb describing happiness is part of the wording also for the "advance pleasure". The "experiencing joy" part is also expressed by the verb "sich freuen": "Ich habe mich sehr gefreut" (I was very pleased/happy about this). However, if you want to describe the "process" of going from indifferent to happy, you still would use the passive "Das machte mich sehr glücklich" (this made me very happy).

In Italian, the first concept does not have an own expression. The looking forward part is not something you say, at the most "Non vedo l'ora di.." (I can't wait until...) but this does not contain the "happy" part. There is however a word for the "continuing happiness": gioire. "Ho gioito" means "I was happy, I had fun, I enjoyed, I was pleased". Also, there is "godere", which is even more intense, mostly for experiencing joy of the senses, from food to sex, but in the popular language can also mean the process of experiencing joy over something: "Quando ho sentito che la mia squadra ha vinto, ho goduto come uno scemo" (when I heard that my team won, I went crazy with joy"). There is an expression for the inverse process ("sono rimasto male", I felt unhappy about) the "from indifferent to happy" part in the more formal language becomes passive, induced from the outside, like in German "questo mi ha reso felice" (this made me happy").

From what I know about Romanian, there too the "looking forward part" is expressed by the "can't wait until.." term: "Abia aştept să...". Like in Italian, there is a verb for the experience of pleasure: "Mă bucur" (I am happy, I am glad, I am pleased). "M-am bucurat foarte mult pentru.." (I experienced great joy/pleasure about/because of). As far as I know, the passive expression "Asta m-a făcut să mă bucur" (This made me feel happy) is less used than in German and Italian.

So, how do your languages deal with happiness? And do you see a connection with other characteristics of the people who use those languages? It makes me think that in some languages the process of "becoming happy" is something expressed by an own action, in others it seems a lot more induced from outside. Why, for example, will an Italian actively "become unhappy" but "become happy" only via external influence?

(x-posted to my own journal)
  • Current Mood
    curious curious

Latin Help!

This wonderful community was suggested to me by one of your members, as she believes someone here could be just the help I need.

I coach high school debate for a Catholic school and the kids want to make sweatshirts. Long story short, we want a phrase on the back in Latin, but I'm not convinced this is important enough to bother the campus priest with :).

So, can any of you translate this phrase into Latin for me?

This is how we roll.

Since I don't speak, read, or write Latin, I'm not sure if context is important, but if it is, feel free to ask and I can explain. Thank you!
  • bonsly

English to Latin

How would you say the following in Latin

"They/He left a permament scar in my heart. And they/he don't/doesn't even know it."

"Whatever your excuse is. I don't want to hear it."

"Me, likey"