Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Adult Language Learning -- Take 2.

So as disappointed as I was by the last attempt at Spanish, I sucked it up and tried again tonight and it was awesome.  What a contrast!   Short version ends here.  Looooong version (that took way longer to type than to live ;) below.

I was targeting the "instant tutoring" again, which limits your choice of instructors to those online at that moment; in my case, there were seven, one of whom was the one I spoke with the previous time.   Two of the six remaining options were designated "professional teachers" -- the main difference being certification (although to put this in perspective, by their rules I qualify as a professional teacher too -- thanks CELTA ;) -- there's nothing about actual experience required...

Regardless, I figured I could use pro help and while prices are more, they're still significantly less than I'd expect to pay for qualified teaching around here (convenient as I can't currently afford said qualified teaching here -- AND I'd have to leave my lovely office to get it.  All bad really.)  So that narrowed my choice to two.  Took a quick look at both profiles.  One had significantly more experience and a higher degree of English, so I started there.  Looking at his availability though (since I do actually want to find a coach I can work with for a bit) was a bit off-putting as he didn't have any times in his schedule that would work for me.  Booo.  But he was online, so I fired off a message asking if this was a normal time for him to be on and the schedule was maybe out of date?

While waiting for a response I went to the other guy's page -- his video really caught my attention.  For one thing, he put some effort into it -- it had a real introduction rather than just a talking head.  Second thing that appealed to me, he spoke both in Spanish and English on the video, AND the Spanish was slow enough that much of it I could understand, and that that was beyond me at least was enunciated clearly enough that I could pick up individual words.  The English was also entirely reasonable.  Could've been reading a script of course, but worth a try.   So still having not heard back from guy one (and by this time way more interested in the second one) I looked at his teaching schedule -- and it's basically every weekday evening from 6pm-1am and on Sundays during the day.  Ummm perfect.

With that in mind I sent him an instant lesson request and explained as I had last time that the entirety of my experience was due to DuoLingo and online training and that I really wanted to learn to speak but was starting pretty much from scratch.  First obvious change - lesson request was accepted within seconds and we were connected.  Second obvious change -- he had his video turned on rather than just a picture.  Much as I don't love video, I've learned from work how helpful it can be in certain situations so I appreciated it.

So we did the "hi, how are you?" part of the conversation and then he sent me a file with a lesson plan.  On first glance it looked like it might be a little basic even for me, but figured I'd go along with it and see.  But it was actually awesome.  He walked me through some basics (that I actually already knew but no worries) with useful phrases.  I had a pretty good clue here that he actually *is*  a teacher and not someone who collects certifications *cough* in that his phrases included both the correct pronunciation and what you'd actually hear.  It was something I'd never considered until I was taught to teach English but we do, indeed, regularly drop syllables in speech that we include in writing.   When was the last time you pronounced all of "Wednesday" (wendsday) or even "business" (biznes)?   Similarly we slur multiple words together all the time.  "Have" is one of the worst for those -- I'd've, she'd've.   Or change them all together:  want to = wanna.  If you're just learning, that's really hard to deal with.  And in my little cheat sheet, it was called out for me -- both the correct version as you'd see written or in formal speech and what you'd actually hear in normal conversation.

So this simple but impressive intro was followed with two scripted conversations which we read.  This was actually super helpful as it allowed me to focus on pronunciation and flow rather than trying to think of words.  And one of the conversations I knew what I was saying but the other one I didn't have a clue *g*   Fortunately he also included translations of both.  Then we moved on to unscripted conversation where he helped me fill in blanks that were beyond me.   His English was solid and he was easily able to translate the things I asked (incl everything the other guy couldn't the other day) so that was super helpful.   The other thing he did that I appreciated was he spoke to me consistently in Spanish.  Slow (and presumably simplified) Spanish to be sure, and he would translate for me if I really didn't get it, but he at least gave me a shot at figuring it out on my own.  Which is kinda the whole point of this exercise.  So I was happy about that.

While my last lesson I was constantly watching the clock waiting for it to be over; this one I didn't even notice we'd run out of time till he told me.  I figure that's a good sign :)   So I think I'll keep working with this one for a bit; try to get some sort of regular cadence going to lessons.  I figure an indoor challenge is a good idea for winter ;-P   Doesn't help the fitness issue at all, but should help keep my little mind busy.

Oh and I now have four songs on my Spanish playlist -- hahaha moving up in the world ;)   I'm finding it fascinating how my brain interprets.  When I really don't know what's going on, it substitutes English words that sound vaguely like what's being said in Spanish.  Once it was actually right *g*  But that was only cause in that case the Spanish words were nearly identical to the same in English.   Have to get lucky occasionally :)   And the other thing that's really cool, is what was just a fast jumble of incomprehensible words is starting to slow down in my head so I can pick out individual words (whether or not I know what they mean is a different challenge).  It amuses me when my brain finally figures out where to insert spaces so that we have actual words ratherthanjustamumbledjumbleofsounds.

Todavía no hablo español... Pero he intentado!

So last night was my first attempt at a conversation in Spanish.  I ventured into the world of italki which connects people who want to speak one-another's languages.  When you sign up you define which languages you speak and your fluency with each.  Then you can either chat with random people who are fluent in the language you want while trying to learn the one you speak (free), or connect with either a tutor or a teacher -- both of which are paid.  Full disclosure -- if you do decide it's something you're interested in, please use that link cause I'll get credits :)

Being a native English speaker is definitely a plus in this environment as a disproportionate number of people are looking to improve their English, which ups the pool of people to talk to significantly.  And while I'm actually super over-qualified to be in this pool (and have zero inclination to be in the paid category) I figure that might help balance out the patience required to speak with somebody who is brand new to the language.

Since going into this, my sole Spanish conversation to this point had included "hello", "please", "thank you", and asking for a drink, I decided that perhaps I should start in the paid category, preferably with someone who works with beginners.  For tutors and teachers there are options to either book a lesson or to just chat now.  So I found someone who was online at the moment, claimed a high fluency in English, and whose profile had several references to patience and went with that.  When you ask to connect, you can include a message -- so I included that I had been using DuoLingo but had never spoken Spanish at all.  Complete beginner.  He said that was fine and could start in two minutes.

Sweet.  Or not.  As those who know me IRL will be aware, small talk is far from my favourite thing.  I am also not particularly patient with myself when I'm learning something new.   All the patience in the world for students and animals; applying it to myself? More of a challenge!  At work the latest thing is to "fail fast" in order to improve.  I'm all kinds of good at supporting it there.  Less in developing my own skills.  I want to be good at it *now*.  Sheesh.  But then I read something in the multitude of language learning stuff I've come across in the last little while that made this point (paraphrasing cause I've long since lost the article but this stuck with me): "you have to let yourself be that guy.  Be the one who says "me happy" and "I go school" because the ones who are willing to start there, are the ones who will learn to speak fluently.  And several articles that say start talking on day one.  Literally.  As soon as you can possibly put together a few words.  Those two together pushed me into this.

And you know what?  I am, theoretically, okay with being that person.  As long as the person I'm talking to knows what they're getting into ;)   Hence the intro.  So we connect and after we get past hi, how are you (yeah, I know that one!) he tells me he'll ask the question in Spanish, I should answer in English, and then he'll tell me how to say my answer in Spanish.   Ummmm ok...  I guess.  But I was so disappointed.  The whole point was for me to figure out how to say it myself.   So we did this a bit and it was okay -- less good than it could've been as his English was not as brilliant as advertised and several times he was unable to provide the Spanish translation.

And as we're doing this he told me I shouldn't do any of the chats, I just sign up for lessons.  And I should be sure to tell them I was brand new.  Awesome. So positive.  And I'm pretty sure I word for word did that.  And the whole point is I want to learn to chat.  I'm enrolled in one online uni course and play with DuoLingo daily -- my reading comprehension is way beyond my listening and my vocabulary is growing rapidly but I can't actually speak it.  (Squirrel! - anybody who's bored and likes to learn stuff:  Future Learn Open University -  eclectic combination of free university level courses)

Anyways - I did eventually convince him to let me try some sentences myself and quickly learned a few things.  While I'm *theoretically* okay with being brand new at something, I'm not actually okay with butchering somebody's language in front of a native speaker, even one who is being paid to help me.  I'd get half way through a sentence and actually have to force myself to continue.  Less fun.  Also, it is So. Pain-fully. Slow.   You know how choppy that sentence was when you read it in your head?  Multiply by 100.  By the time I figure out what I want to say, how I'm going to say it with the words in my limited vocabulary, and then what order to put those words in, there are very long pauses between said words while I'm speaking.  My mitigation plan for that for next time will be to have a bunch of random small-talk type phrases written out ahead of time that I can use as need be ;)   And worst of all, even when all the stars align and unicorns fart glitter and I do manage to get all the words out in the right order, I'm still not understood.  How do I know this?  Because when he wrote back to me what I "should have said" it was exactly what I'd been trying to say.   So I had everything right but was either too choppy or my pronunciation was too horrible to be understood.  As negative as it sounds though, that part was actually encouraging to me.  It shows I *am* learning through my other channels, and clearly have a need for this one too.  Since, well, the whole goal is conversational Spanish and last I checked speaking was a key component of that *g*   But perhaps with a different tutor ;)

The one thing this tutor did do that I liked was kept a text chat window open as well and when I didn't understand something he said or when he was trying to get me to repeat something back to him, he'd type it.  Since my reading skills currently far surpass either my listening or my writing skills, this was all kinds of useful for clarification.

So yeah, I currently have a fairly high level of anxiety about trying it again.  But anxiety and excitement are closely related and I suspect if I can connect with the right tutor it could easily switch and be an interesting challenge.  Would ideally like to get to the point where I can hold enough of a conversation to flip to the free area :)   But lessons are not at all expensive (ranging from about $2-$20 an hour -- and the top end of that is for actual qualified professional language teachers).   Individuals set their own rates and they're all posted and paid through italki so all good there.

Ah well -- webinar tomorrow about learning through music, which I'm currently *really* enjoying -- far more than I expected.  So maybe try the speaking idea again on Friday...

In completely unrelated news -- had *so* much fun at dinner with the girls last weekend.  Dinner that was about six hours of chatting.  Came home so relaxed and happy.  I feel that should happen more often :)   Really looking forward to the Royal now!

Finding brilliance in every day products

So in last night's Spanish lesson I learned that "contigo" means "with you" -- meaning my favourite travel mugs are far more intelligently named than I'd ever imagined.  Makes me wonder what other products in my life have names that have really relevant meanings in other languages.  You always hear of the opposite -- warning to check any product name in other languages to make sure when it takes off you're not accidentally offending an entire population.  But somehow it never occurred to me to wonder about the reverse.

My new favourite youtube language learning is people who post both Spanish and English lyrics to a song.  Seriously fast-forwarding at least my interest if not my actual knowledge ;)   This isn't the Contigo one, which was also fun, but it's better done :)   And having read some atrocious translations, I have a new serious appreciation for those who can create good ones.

In other news, I'm now at the point where I actively despise running.  Fail.  Going to stick it out till I run the half marathon just cause, but after that I need a new hobby.  Clearly don't know what to do with myself without a horse to occupy my time.  The three hours of commuting every day certainly eats a chunk of it, but the rest...   Would like to try indoor climbing for a couple months, but that requires a buddy. Anybody in the Burlington area bored and want to try it for a few months? ;)   We'll see - maybe time to go make climbing friends *g*

Five weeks left (not that I'm counting)...

So let me set the scene for you.   It's Sunday.  Chris is working, so I have the house to myself.  It's cold out and pouring rain.  The perfect day for a hot mug of hot chocolate (I even have whipped cream!) and curling up in my comfy chair with a blanket, a dog, and a book.  Sounds amazing right?

So why, what possible reason, did I sacrifice all that to go for a run.   Seriously.

Sash got all excited when she saw me getting ready, bounced out the door full of enthusiasm.  Stopped abruptly when she saw the rain and looked back over her shoulder at me with "you've got to be kidding right?"

You know what?  The world would be a better place if people listened to their animals.  Instead, I convinced her to hop in the car.  "oh car?  okay!  Car is dry and could go somewhere fun!"   We drove to where I usually start to run and she's all excited cause she knows this place.  I open the door, she sticks her head out then scrunches back with this *look* on her face.   Snowstorms?  No problem.  But rain?  Rain is not in her contract.

Anyways, she deigned to come along and the first km or so was really funny to watch as she kept trying to shake the rain off while she was running.  Our first km was the fastest since I've started back at this whole running thing.  Still not nearly as fast as I was in 2014 (according to watch data) but def better than before.  Apparently I don't like rain either.  Sadly though I paid for it in that it was unsustainable for me and I felt pretty miserable the rest of the run.   At least at one point the sun came out -- so that part was lovely.  I do wish the weather network had deigned to tell me that was in the plans, cause I def could have waited *g*   Ah well, unlike the last run, at least this one I wasn't freezing.  A plus.

And at the end, while I was done -- as in meat is scorched, smoke alarms are screaming, kind of done -- Sasha was bouncing around trying to get me to throw rocks for her so she could jump high and run more.  Sheesh.  Ah well, family dinner tonight so she can go play with Bailey :)