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The Gist, but Just The Gist

August 13, 2013

Aside from everything else I’ve been doing of late, I’ve been trying to find time to get more extemporaneous practice with my Spanish, since the DELE is already on the horizon.

Last night, after we hit the hay (mostly because the Orioles blew a lead for the second time and we were getting tired of watching it), I flipped over to the Univision local news and followed it through to the national news.  I don’t often watch Spanish television – Univision is the only station we get on our cable package – and it’s been a very long time since I was watching telenovelas to try to recover any proficiency before my trips to Guadalajara on business.

So, okay, this was following the general rules for what “works” in my head when trying to practice comprehension skills:

  • Use something where I vaguely know the content
  • Use something that is going to stretch my ability to comprehend and infer the meanings of unfamiliar words
  • Try to acclimate to accents (when it’s a listening activity)

Complicating this was the fact that I had the wife with me.  My wife is a wonderful, intelligent, vibrant person.  Pero tambien, ella no habla español. Ni una palabra de la lengua.  She made the “mistake” (my words, in teasing, given how far we are from any decent body of French speakers) of learning French in school, and has since forgotten all of it from lack of use.

(Now, I may or may not have mentioned the incident a couple months back, during the World Baseball Classic, when I managed to squeeze in an evening of watching Puerto Rico hosting the Dominican Republic on ESPN.  Because of the countries involved… ESPN carried the feed straight from “ESPN Deportes”, meaning that every last piece of play-by-play and color commentary was in Spanish, except for baseball-specific terms.  The looks she was giving me, due to my watching this, did not entail a fun evening.)

So the news was a good choice, in my mind.  It didn’t matter what language it was in, right?  It’s still the news.  And most nights, we watch the local news anyway.

Now, between my laughing at the commercials (known brands doing very similar campaigns in Spanish as their English campaigns, mostly), she was more patient this time, but wanted me to translate what was being said.  There’s the problem – as a few folks have said in the Esperanto Learners’ group on Google+, trying to translate real time is really hard.  I’m listening to the broadcast and trying to both listen and talk at the same time…

Once I dumbed it down to the gist of it (and with some help from Wikipedia for items in stories that I didn’t know – factual information, like who the FMLN is, or trying to explain more fully what Sendero Luminoso is…) it got easier.  And, according to her, it at least sounded coherent without my sounding like I was grasping too much for the context.

Course, I need more than the gist to get by with my goal in sight…

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One Comment
  1. I hear you on the interpreting. I have no problems understanding an English newscast, but live translating like that is nearly impossible for me.

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