My son Raisin has expressed an interest in learning Spanish. Although this interest comes and goes, I’ve decided to embrace his interest as much as I can. I studied Spanish extensively in college and spent a few months in South America, but in the past decade, I’m sorry to say I’ve let my Spanish usage and training lag. I am a long way from where I used to be. Language learning is not like learning to ride a bicycle: if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Enter: Play and Learn Spanish by Ana Lomba (McGraw Hill 2011), a audiobook/textbook combination providing a series of conversations full of vocabulary that children really use. My son and I loved the songs, and after listening to some of the conversations a few times, I find it much easier to incorporate Spanish in to my daily conversations with my children.
In the reviews of the program, there were some complaints about how it seems impossible to “learn Spanish” by using this product, so I feel it’s necessary to re-emphasize the author’s instructions for how it works. This is not a program that works by handing it to a child and saying “go for it.” This is a program for a parent to use if he or she is interested in providing a child with an immerse experience in a second language. In other words, the parent needs to learn Spanish along with the child as they listen to the dialogues together.
The accompanying book has the Spanish and English translations written for the parent (I do not believe the book is as helpful for the child, although the pages are bright and interesting, and my son always wanted to turn pages along with the CD). As the parent learns the phrases, he or she should then begin using said phrases in daily conversation with the child. I found the CD to be very successful in helping with pronunciation (reminders in my case, since I was at one point familiar with it). Ms Lomba speaks with an accent from Spain; my previous Spanish had been South American. After listening to the CD a few times, I found myself pronouncing the s‘s and z‘s as “th” as they do in Spain. It was interesting to me how, even with my previous training, listening to vocabulary repeatedly gave me a subtle change in my own pronunciation. (more…)
Pablo Neruda’s early poetry (specifically, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair) does not have much to do with Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. Neruda was a Chilean who wrote love poetry (in Spanish) in the early 1900s at the age of 20. Hispanic-American Sandra Cisneros wrote in the 1980s a short volume (in English) of connected short stories about a Hispanic girl in Chicago. But I read both these works in Spanish (the Cisneros in translation) this month, and so the tenuous relationship between them is the language I read them in. (more…)
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is almost a genre by itself. The traditional Mexican recipes are provided in a novel format as it tells the story of Tita, Tita’s overbearing mother, and Tita’s lover, Pedro, who marries her sister. And yet, it’s not a cook book, and I don’t think it’s not an ordinary novel.
The title comes from the state of water just before it’s ready for hot chocolate: the water is simmering and the bubbles are about to burst on the surface.
Such a near eruption is Tita’s state throughout her life. From her childhood, Tita has been in the kitchen, and she longs to live a life of her own and to feel the passions that she is forbidden. As the third daughter, Tita is forced to care for her aging mother for the rest of her life, rather than to love and experience life. As much as Tita longs to escape, she is constantly trapped preparing the traditional dishes that only she knows how to prepare. These dishes, and the memories and emotions that stem from them, capture the sorrows of her life.
I loved reading this book. It was part novel. It was part romance. It was part magic. It was part cook book (although I’d never attempt to create the meals, given the long-winded, unclear instructions that start with plucking feathers and so forth). Certainly, Like Water for Chocolate had it faults in that it is short and all people in it were caricatures. And yet, I didn’t care. It was a fun book.
I liked it so much that I’d like to share it with a reader of Rebecca Reads. I’m giving away my lightly used copy.
Ficcciones by Jorge Luis Borges is about 170 pages in Spanish; the English translation of the same book is about 120 pages (within Borges’ Collected Fictions). Why, then, has this me taken weeks to get through?
Borges’ writing style is powerful. In some sense, I’m glad I struggled through Borges just to get a feel for his different style. But unlike Nabokov’s powerfully written stories, Borges’ well-written stories are weird. I seriously can’t think of any other word to describe them. I overall did not like them, and I will never read more Borges. (more…)