Here there be dragons...

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

Weird things I've learned about my brain while trying to learn Spanish

So I've been mildly amused to discover completely random things about how my brain functions as a result of going so completely out of my comfort zone to try and learn Spanish.

The first is that I *really* struggle to focus on audio alone.  So listening to a track of people speaking - very hard for me to tune in more than a few seconds.  Listening to that exact same track if I can see the talking heads?  No problem.  For language learning, that kinda makes sense, but it struck me that it explains why I can't handle podcasts (in English I mean) - even ones that I'm theoretically fascinated by the topic and very much *want* to enjoy.  Can't do it.   Same with audio books.  And both I've tried SO many times because of the amount of my life spent driving.   

The related piece is if somebody reads something to me in English that they have written and want my opinion on (eg positioning, writing, etc) I will 100% of the time tell them to just let me read it.  Which is safer anyways since native speakers, esp if they were also the author of the document, will often subconsciously correct errors as they speak.  But - that was never the primary driver, the primary driver was that I could offer a high level opinion for sure, but I couldn't say with any confidence that the specific details were right unless I read it to myself - again, even if I am actively listening and care passionately about the subject.   Whereas a couple people I work closely with, I would guess are the opposite.  Because if they give me something they think is solid and I read it back to them, they can usually hear the issue, but they generally won't see it.

Then on a slightly different note, which may or may not be related, is that in Spanish, I can read words aloud OR I can read for comprehension.  But not both.  I realised this *very* early, because one of the recommended learning techniques is to read aloud because of the connection it makes in your brain between sounds and words.   Which is good in itself, but I also need a connection between words and meanings lol.   I realise logically this makes sense in a new language because I still have to think about the process of saying the word - so the mental power that would be aligned to translating is used up by speaking.   

Now - follow me down this rabbit hole that I fell into literally as I was writing this.   

So as a test, I - just now - picked up the closest book (in English) at hand and randomly opened to a page past the bookmark.  This particular book is a collection of short stories, so makes it even more valid as there's no context from one to the next.  All good.  And, as expected, no problem to read aloud AND understand.

Except - I realised what I'm *actually* doing is reading silently several words ahead of what I'm saying.  So I've already read and understood before I'm ever vocalising.  In Spanish, I can't read and understand fast enough for that technique to be effective.   

So then I tried another document in English and covered it up and only uncovered each word at a time as I read it (side note - this is remarkably hard to do for people who read ridiculously fast - I had to literally uncover one letter at a time to slow it down enough to get the word aloud before my brain read it silently).   And what I found was I absolutely CAN read aloud and understand the word at the same time (*phew* - that should NOT have been as much of a question mark as I'd momentarily feared); HOWEVER, doing it one word at a time makes me lose the flow of the sentence.  So I definitely get what each word means, but if it's adult-level writing, I have to pause and put together what the sentence means (literally a fraction of a second - but it doesn't happen at all if I can read ahead).  This has now clarified why when we had to read aloud in class in grade school I would count forward the number of students to pre-read "my" piece before I had to read it aloud.  Here I always just thought I was shy and hated public speaking.  I also am very aware I am not the only one who did this ;)

So then, going back to Spanish, I wondered what would happen if I *could* read ahead and translate (or literally not need to translate, just *know* what the word meant) effectively enough that I could APPEAR to read aloud and understand at the same time.  How to test that?  Well - clearly I needed easier material.  😂 I googled "A1 Spanish Story Sample" and the first site I clicked on gave me perfect material (   Squirrel Note: A1 from the CEFR language skills scale  is the barely above the level of Spanish you absorb if you walk past a Spanish-speaking person.  lol.  It is the "See Spot Run" level.  So it turns out, when the text is easy enough, I do in Spanish *exactly* what I do in English and it works just fine thankyouverymuch.   So theoretically, some day, I should be able to read aloud and understand in Spanish exactly as I do in English.  Although why on Earth I'd ever want to, I have absolutely no idea ;). 

So that's my completely random story.  I'm somewhat shocked you're still reading this lol.   Oh - one more!   The other thing I discovered, when reading aoud in English, I'd either forget to keep speaking and switch to the voice in my head narrating (which for me is not QUITE the same as reading silently, but is also not actually aloud - it's more my editing voice) OR I found myself zoning out the same way I do in podcasts.  I was reading it myself but the rhythm of the speech made the words mean nothing after the first few seconds.  Wild.  I have no idea what that's about and I can't imagine any single instance it would ever matter.   But it amused me to realise it.  

And - just now, looking for an image to support this post.  OMG the amount of stuff written about reading aloud.   Apparently I'm not the only one who finds it mildly interesting.  Although the vast majority seem to think reading out loud is a great thing to do.  This one, in particular, made me laugh: "Reading out loud is a better method if you are reading for higher comprehension" lol hard no on that for me - in any language! 

I would also like to add that this post was all silliness that evolved before writing the post that I actually turned on the computer to write.   But I feel like going to bed is probably a good life choice, so that can wait for another day ;)

I'll stop now ;). Night!

I need to clone myself to learn everything I want to learn...


Sooo the miscellaneous hobbies...   It's been an insane few months so figured I'd give a quick update...

Piano.  Poor piano was the sacrifice hobby.  But I still follow all the things on socials and am still sad I didn't get good enough to just play cause it's fun once in a while.  Some day.  I decided back in May when I wanted to really drive Spanish that I wouldn't be able to do both *and* fitness and made the intentional decision to put a hold on learning that until after the Spanish exam.   

Which...  Was *supposed* to be November.   But then I overcommitted to commuting to work for a while (2-3h one way is *not* sustainable) and work itself got incredibly busy and and and eventually I decided that stressing myself out to meet an arbitrary deadline was not a good life choice.  I *really* struggled with delaying that one - especially AFTER having stopped piano.  But it was absolutely the right thing to do.  I'm still targeting the B2 exam, but likely spring (schedule isn't posted yet -- I'll have to go to Ottawa to take it anywhere "near" here).  I'm on a pretty ambitious schedule that fits with my life as it is these days and should still get me there about the right time ;).  I have one teacher who thinks I'd pass with no problem, but the one who's a certified examiner is not so sure so I think I'll wait.

That being said - StoryLearning started their first "advanced" class (theoretically B2/C1 level) so I'm on week 3 of that (10 week program).  It's definitely a stretch for me, but I'm pulling it off and learning a lot just need, as per always, more time ;)

And then we have fitness - the handstand practice got me stronger than I've ever been.  I am both shocked and thrilled by that.  Except - then I hurt myself (completely unrelated to handstands) and took pretty much a solid month to recover.  I just started back this week and am *appalled* by how much strength I've lost in that time, BUT - I have high hopes I'll get it back comparatively quickly.  Today was day 2 or 3 back at handstand practice and for the first time ever I was able to adjust my balance when I started to lose it (the program I'm doing calls it "heel pulls" and has exercises to teach it, but even when I've tried, I've never felt it).   Anyways - was a complete accident and dramatically ungraceful 😂.  BUT I really got it?!?!   As in I could replicate it the next two times I tried.  And then my back screamed at me and I figured I should stop.  Tomorrow me will pay for sure.  But it's amazing how the tiniest things are so revitalising. 

Gratuitous handstand pic cause I Did A Thing!

And speaking of tomorrow - that's dance night :). Which has started again and is *significantly* more advanced this time around and I am absolutely loving it!  And completely hopeless at it, but I can evolve my skills while brushing my teeth, so sometimes it helps to be *really* beginner -- there's nowhere to go but up!

Happy are those who can laugh at themselves because they'll never cease to be amused ;)

Okay so I need to write about today’s adventure cause I’m still chuckling about it and I think it will amuse horse people, dance people, and particularly the intersection of both ;).   And anyone else who enjoys physical comedy ;-P

What happens when you take a very confused beginner dancer with a lifetime of riding exp (particularly jumping - it’s relevant here), and try to incl a “booty roll” into the choreography?  

TLDR: a ridiculous mess that with the aid of that nasty little gremlin Hindsight, makes perfect sense.

Long version:

So - this class is definitely beyond my current capabilities.  And, those of you who’ve been here more than a heartbeat, will have guessed that I’m loving it ;).   Hey - at least in this activity, I’m unlikely to die from trying something beyond my abilities!  We’re gonna call that an adulting win and move on.

The first one part I was confuzled about (squirrel: you wouldn’t believe how hard I had to fight w autocorrect in TWO languages to allow me to make up my own word there - but it’s the perfect one so it’s worth the fight).  Anyways - the first one was a half turn.  I love turns, and usually not a problem, but what I hadn’t realized was this was a lazy turn.  😂.  The right foot had to stay in place and the left did all the moving.  I kept trying to move both and, suffice to say, that had me off by a beat every timel.   But once I learned to “leave the right foot behind” I never missed that one again.   Win.   That, to me, is a normal dance learning curve.  Maybe not?!?!  😂 I don’t have enough exp to judge that.  But it logically makes sense and the instructions for how to fix it were very clear and problem solved quickly.  All good.

So after that half turn, we logically need another half turn to be facing back where we started (in some worlds, this would be facing our partner - but this is a women-only styling class so my lack of dance partner isn’t such an issue ;).   Okay so half turn w lazy right leg cha-cha our way over a bit (that part’s easy and logical from the rest of the dance to this point), but then the next half turn is a booty roll?!?!

😂 I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of that and was absolutely sure I had no idea how to do it.  While some people make it look graceful and/or sexy, I was (and still am) pretty convinced my version would look somewhat like an intoxicated robot.

I feel like this might actually be
*better* than my version

Fortunately - while pretty much everyone in the class has more dance exp than I do (and, plausibly, more natural talent), there wasn’t a lot of confidence w this one, so our fearless instructor broke it down.   And, conveniently, the woman next to me has belly dancing exp and suffice to say, nailed it on the first try.   Which gave me an example to work from ;)

So the standing still version I could do.  I mean - it felt awkward af, and I’m pretty sure when I try it later in the bathroom mirror, it’ll look just as awkward as I imagine.  But conceptually- my booty went out behind me and the rest of my body stayed pretty much where it should be.  (In related news - this requires the back to arch.  Today was the first workout since hurting myself a few weeks ago.  My back flexibility is currently in negative numbers.  Ow.)

Okay but then when we tried it w the turn?!?!  I did NOT fall.  For the record.  Cause a lifetime of balancing.  😂 But wow.  Upper body was forward, booty was NOT rolling anywhere, and there seemed no way to make it move and turn at the same time.

“Keep your shoulders up - you shouldn’t be leaning forward” 😂 yup thanks.  Got it - but WHY am I leaning forward.  What on earth triggered in my brain that when my hips go back, my shoulders go forward?   And why would that *stop* them from moving sideways?  Anybody??? ;-P

Ladies and gentlemen (and any other interested parties), might I introduce you to the 2-pt position.   Where survival is based on your ability to absorb a lot of motion by folding your hips.  And generally keeping a straight line is important if one wants to keep the horse between oneself and the ground.  And the shoulders come forward just enough to counterbalance the hips - so if the horse were photoshopped out, the rider should land, in balance, on the ground.

Those who know me know why it pains me to use this photo;
however, erase the horse and it's a great example of the position I ended up in on the dance floor ;)
PC: Horse Journals

Huh.  So, now we know why those two pieces are connected, but why could I do it correctly standing still and not moving?   I figured it out watching my classmate who excelled at it (and huge thanks to her for her patience!   She’s new too, so couldn’t slow it down, but could do it naturally and allowed me to stare at her multiple times while I figured it out.  She may be on the other side of the studio next week ;-P).   Anyways -  lightbulb moment: she had her legs straight - almost locked.  When moving, mine were bent - absorbing the jump as it were.  When standing, they were straight.   As soon as I tried it w legs straight, it worked.

But omg what a journey to get there 😂. All the help and instructions that were technically correct and likely the ones 98% of people learning need, but not the one piece I needed for my little brain to put it together.  Those who’ve been around for a while will know that’s status quo, but always interesting when learning a new thing from people who don’t know me.  It takes a while for the lateral thinking to kick in ;)

Anyways - it was a riot.   I’ll put some time in over the week and hopefully be less bad next week.   And I really am just shooting for “less bad” lol  today was technically correct but horribly bad (and still hands free of course!).   Baby steps ;).  But so much fun on the way.

Even the smallest thing can be an adventure with a curious cat

It turns out my excellent but large and old(er) photo printer is now very difficult and very expensive to buy ink for.   Boo.

So I made the executive decision that I’d buy a new, significantly cheaper AND smaller version that is supposed to be more reasonable about ink usage.  It has all kinds of limitations for sure and is nowhere near as nice as my lovely old one but it has one big advantage: it works. 

Printer w Nola, paper feeder, and plug for scale ;)

I hooked it all up - rather impressed that it actually connected hassle free - and hit print.  All good.   Starts printing…

…. And the whole thing is yellow?!?!   Like vibrant yellow.  While I’m trying to figure out what I could possibly have done wrong, it steals the photo back!   

Lol and photo starts coming through again - this time w blue…

Yup - sure enough it repeats 4 or 5 times until photo comes out and looks honestly much better than I’d expected.

Enola is fascinated by printers to begin with,
but one that teases her with the paper going in and out of both sides?!?!

Except - Enola saw it going back and forth and went into curious hunter mode.  Which continued long after the photo was finished.  Lol which means I’ll wait to print the photo I was actually after until she’s not ready to protect me ;)

Life’s little amusements.

With her bounty ;-P