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tashby


Jun 5, 2013, 6:08 PM

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Is it futile?

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Ugh.

I have been diligently working at learning Spanish since having moved here five (!) years ago. At this stage, I'd put myself somewhere in that enormous pond labeled "intermediate". I can almost always communicate my desires, and can even hold a conversation that includes more complex ideas, but that's generally a one-on-one situation with someone who knows me, and is patient enough to endure the shortcomings that exist. I get complimented by Mexicans a lot, and my Spanish teacher insists I'm more advanced than I give myself credit for, but I think they're just being kind and generous. Having said that....

Last night I was at a small gathering of people, all Mexicans, to watch the soccer match. They are all very close friends who have known each other for decades. The conversation was so rapid-fire, filled with colloquialisms, modismos, jokes etc., that I understood very little of it. I think most of the problem was la velocidad. (And yes, I understand that's the nature of conversations in groups, and if I were with a handful of my close English-speaking friends, it would be the same.)

After thinking I was finally getting somewhere with Spanish, it was pretty depressing. Like I said, "Ugh."

Being able to participate in a social setting like the one I describe above is exactly my biggest motivation for learning Spanish. I want to be the same "me" I am in English, just a Spanish version of it.

Is this goal simply unrealistic? Is it futile? If not, do any of you who have worked to become fluent in Spanish have any insights that might help me at my stage? What do you feel helped you most?

I long ago recognized that this would be a marathon, not a sprint, and I'm not giving up. And this may also just be my impatient nature needing to vent. So sorry for the long post. But if there's anybody out there who's reached fluency and remembers this stage, any suggestions are very welcome. Thanks.


(This post was edited by tashby on Jun 5, 2013, 7:00 PM)



esperanza

Jun 5, 2013, 7:20 PM

Post #2 of 18 (19508 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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It's not futile. You are doing great. The big "BUT" is that you have hit a plateau--and it's really discouraging. The good news is that it's really common. You WILL get past it. For example, I remember struggling for five full years trying to understand the subjunctive and how the heck it is used. Useless, I just couldn't do it. And as you know, the subjunctive in Spanish is used every other sentence. Then one day I was riding in the back seat of a car with a close Mexican friend and two other people up front. All of a sudden, apropos of nothing in our conversation, the light went on. AHA! From that day forward I could subjuntivate with the best of 'em. It just took that long to get the current going to the right brain cells.

If it eases your pain at all, when Judy and I bought the movie "El Infierno" (about 18 months ago), we had to invite Fabiola--you remember Fabiola--to come watch it with us and translate all the outlandish narco slang and modismos for us. We'd watch it, hear something totally confusing, pause it, she'd explain it, and then we'd move forward for another two minutes.

Remember that there is so so so much word play and euphemisms and triple-meaning stuff in Spanish that it takes a very long time to sort it out. But you will, look how far you have come already!

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









cbviajero

Jun 6, 2013, 10:07 AM

Post #3 of 18 (19477 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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Don't give up,following and engaging in a conversation with a group of Mexicans who have been friends for years is challenging but not impossible,that said you'll probably never be able to express yourself in Spanish as well as you can in English,I've found that watching movies like El Infierno,La Ley de Herodes,Amores Perros etc.help a great deal with learning colloquialisms and slang.
Cuando puedas Cantinflear ya la hiciste!
Speaking of movies,there's a new one out,(Nosotros los Nobles) that's worth watching.
Esperanza,I'm kind of surprised that you needed a translator to follow the dialogue in the movie El Infierno,I didn't.:)


(This post was edited by cbviajero on Jun 6, 2013, 10:44 AM)


CozICan

Jun 6, 2013, 10:07 AM

Post #4 of 18 (19472 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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Tashby... I also have been living in Mexico for 5 years and it sounds like your proficiency in the Spanish language is at exactly the same level as mine.

One on one I can do fine but I groups I am completely lost. Many of my Gringo friends think I am quite fluent with Spanish but I know that I am for from it. Quite often I find myself translating for friends. I can communicate quite well but I know that I am far from speaking Spanish correctly. For some reason I can speak it much better than I hear it. When I speak I can choose the words that I know so it works out pretty good but when Mexicans speak to me they use a lot of words that I do not know. The Spanish that I do know I can also spell quite well, better than many of the Mexicans I know so I am able to TEXT on the cell phone, that works well for me.

My biggest help was to have a Mexican girlfriend who did not speak English living with me for 1 1/2 years, I was forced to learn and use a lot of Spanish. Also you need to try and have fun with it, if you make mistakes and are corrected just laugh at it and learn from your errors, that will be the Spanish you remember the best. lol

I am still waiting for the day that I wake up and it all clicks in. I try to use my limited Spanish every day whenever possible, you have to use it or loose it !!!

Don't give up.


(This post was edited by CozICan on Jun 6, 2013, 10:10 AM)


esperanza

Jun 6, 2013, 11:12 AM

Post #5 of 18 (19459 views)

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Re: [cbviajero] Is it futile?

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Esperanza,I'm kind of surprised that you needed a translator to follow the dialogue in the movie El Infierno,I didn't.:)

And you understood all of the albures, all of the DF slang, all of the noreteño slang, all of the narco slang? I am truly impressed.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









johanson


Jun 6, 2013, 11:48 AM

Post #6 of 18 (19452 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Is it futile?

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I'm learning more and more Spanish and getting pretty good at not sounding too much like a foreigner. The trouble is :), the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn.

Just keep on trying. Sure sometimes you think you can learn no more or that because of your(our) age, for every word you learn, you forget another.

I just know that it seems that I'm not learning much anymore. But when I run across someone I haven't seen for several years, often they remark that my Spanish is much better And I am sure they would say the same about most all of us who are trying

It's that there is so much more that I (we all) have to learn :)


cbviajero

Jun 6, 2013, 12:00 PM

Post #7 of 18 (19447 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Is it futile?

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Esperanza,I'm kind of surprised that you needed a translator to follow the dialogue in the movie El Infierno,I didn't.:)

And you understood all of the albures, all of the DF slang, all of the noreteño slang, all of the narco slang? I am truly impressed.

Soy un alburero de primera and I'm very familiar with chilango,norteño and narco slang,I love learning the language while at the same time understanding that I'll never speak it like a native.


(This post was edited by cbviajero on Jun 6, 2013, 12:09 PM)


tashby


Jun 6, 2013, 5:08 PM

Post #8 of 18 (19417 views)

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Re: [cbviajero] Is it futile?

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Thanks for the words of encouragement kids. No worries. I am not going to give up. (I must have sounded a lot more discouraged in my op than I meant to convey. Maybe I need to work on my English. Jajajaja.)

I think it's just that the other night I was slapped in the face with that double-barrel "the more you learn, the more there is to learn" idea in combination with what cbviajero mentioned, that I'll "never be as articulate in Spanish as I am in English".

I probably need to resign myself to the latter. Even so, I may not ever be able to be the "me" in Spanish that I am in English, but I can get a lot closer.

As far as ideas go that could help at this stage, I'm certain it is about consistent, daily, intimate and deep exposure to the language. (Like what CozlCan said.) Unfortunately, I live in Ajijic, and English is everywhere. That is not an excuse, just a reality that means I have to work a little harder to create my own opportunities to engage in Spanish.

Thanks again for the encouraging and sympathetic words. Onward and upward!

P.S. Re the films. Funny the Estrada stuff came up. I was really looking forward to watching El Infierno - of course I remember Fabiola! - after loving La Ley de Herodes (with subtitulos....I cheated). But when I noticed El Infierno had no subtitles, I yanked it from the player during the first scene between Bennie and his mother. That dialogue is so rich, I didn't want to miss ALL of it. Maybe I'll take that DVD to my class - since I'm the only one in it - and I can watch it piecemeal with my teacher.

A friend also recommended Nosotros Los Nobles to me this week. Funny premise!


(This post was edited by tashby on Jun 6, 2013, 5:14 PM)


Vichil

Jun 6, 2013, 8:06 PM

Post #9 of 18 (19401 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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Is the movie Heli out yet? It made a big splash at the Cannes Festival. I vove El Infierno, I do not get sick of watching it, it has some great dialogues and scenes, Estrada has Mexico down pat.


eyePad

Jun 7, 2013, 5:06 PM

Post #10 of 18 (19366 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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Hi Tashby, I have gone through plateaus over the years and were you are at is THE MOST FRUSTRATING because of you are so close and it lasts so long. I think you are probably at the first stage of advanced, not intermediate. That is were I hit a plateau for a long time. I really believe there will be a quantum leap that will happen all of a sudden. The scenario you described in your OP can be difficult for a native speaker so that is a worst case scenario. (If the TV is blaring and they are consuming beers, and they are talking somewhat indistinctly, using colloquial or even terms only used in their friend group, etc). Mexicans speak Spanish very well but by instinct. They are not all well educated and no one seems to care about the language.


tashby


Jun 10, 2013, 6:09 PM

Post #11 of 18 (19269 views)

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Re: [eyePad] Is it futile?

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Thanks eyePad. Comforting to know that this is THE MOST FRUSTRATING stage and that it "lasts for a long time". Jajaja. Oh well.....just have to keep plugging away and hope and wait for that "click"/quantum leap that everybody refers to, and that seems so elusive. I talked to my Spanish teacher about my experience, and he understood completely. (And I learned the phrase "chistes locales", which I hadn't heard before and took to mean "inside jokes".)

Also noticed the following on the Spanishdict.com website today. Spanishdict.com a great site for learners by the way, and I highly recommend it. The definition of "albures" below refers to "lower-class" and usually "sexcually-related" albures, and I think may be too narrow. Still, the overall message about a tendency to play with language among friends is relevant.

ALBURES Albures are a distinctive feature of male Mexican lower-class speech. They are rapid-fire puns, chiefly of a sexual nature, which can be stretched into extensive exchanges as each participant tries to top the last speaker's remark. Non-native speakers, no matter how fluent their Spanish, are unlikely to make much sense of an exchange of albures, let alone be able to participate. Indeed, they can be largely incomprehensible even to many Mexicans.

The guys I was with were by no means "lower-class", and most were highly educated, but I know word-play and language games, etc., exist everywhere here.


(This post was edited by tashby on Jun 10, 2013, 6:26 PM)


esperanza

Jun 10, 2013, 10:18 PM

Post #12 of 18 (19246 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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I also think that definition is far too narrow. There are millions of albures that are highly sophisticated wordplay that require a tremendous degree of knowledge of literature, politics, and all the other facets of Mexican life. Sure, there are also millions that are sexual in nature, but that doesn't make them lower class. In fact, I don't know anyone more adept at albures than the aforementioned Fabiola, who is far from lower class.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









GringoCArlos

Jun 11, 2013, 7:30 PM

Post #13 of 18 (19205 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Is it futile?

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When I occasionally get together with buddies I used to work with, the conversation gets faster as the tequila bottle gets emptier. Slang and others are different by location, but they all seem to understand stuff from DF, other cities/regions or el campo even though they are all different.

If something flies by me, I just tell them I didn't get it, and they explain it, and end up laughing again, And they understand that I will probably never understand most of their albures.

There is a Mexican slang list dictionary available, not always accurate, but better than nothing. You can find it by using Google search terms Mexican slang Mexico Guru. Good for learning but be wary of opening your mouth and using anything from there in a group setting. Contexts are not provided but a good friend who won't be offended by your attempts can tell you if you use them correctly.


(This post was edited by GringoCArlos on Jun 11, 2013, 7:31 PM)


rayitodeluna

Jun 26, 2013, 12:11 PM

Post #14 of 18 (19002 views)

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Some DF slang

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I found this blog interesting, and despite the title it isnt all about swearing ;)

http://swearindf.blogspot.mx/

They dont post anymore but as an archive it is fun to browse!

~~~~~~ Enjoying life in northern D.F. with our family of Americans and chilangos.
Family and expat blog here : http://threecurlygirlys.blogspot.mx/ ~~~~~~


tashby


Jul 7, 2013, 3:33 PM

Post #15 of 18 (18852 views)

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Re: [rayitodeluna] Some DF slang

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Fun blog, thanks for the link!


mevale

Jul 25, 2013, 7:48 AM

Post #16 of 18 (18586 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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After thinking I was finally getting somewhere with Spanish, it was pretty depressing. Like I said, "Ugh."

Is this goal simply unrealistic? Is it futile? If not, do any of you who have worked to become fluent in Spanish have any insights that might help me at my stage? What do you feel helped you most?


What you're going through is very common.

Here's the typical scenario: A person moves here and decides to ''learn'' Spanish. They hire a tutor for an hour a week and maybe do an hour of homework a week. The real motivated ones will do maybe 3 or 4 hours of self-study. They spend one or two or even three years diligently trying to improve, and then realize after three years they can't really even hold a meaningful social conversation at a party in the local language. At this point, most will just pretty much give up, and that's it. I've seen it a hundred times.

But think for a minute what we are talking about here. The diligent person (the one who puts in 5 hours a week), has only spent roughly 750 or so hours being exposed to Spanish after 3 years (if they are the typical retiree and watch TV in English, hang around with English speaking friends, etc...). Let's contrast that with the kid who comes with their parents from NOB, goes to school, and hangs out with Mexican children his own age. The child will have about 10,000 hours of exposure after 3 years. And people marvel at the kid's ability to learn Spanish ''so quickly''. Well, it's pretty obvious, given that the child has a more facile mind, and about 9,000 hours more exposure!

Most people who move here think you can ''learn'' a language. This is just not true. In the beginning stages, maybe yes. But after that you ''absorb'' the language, you don't ''learn'' it. Most of it is going on at the subconscious level. Like Esperanza said, one day she just ''got it'', in regards to the subjunctive. That came from repeated exposure and time. And sadly, most expats seriously underestimate the time needed to become proficient in the language (unless you're a language genius, which I am not).

Try an experiment if you are able. For the next year, do as the hypothetical child does and try to get about 10 hours a day of exposure, whether it be reading, watching TV, listening to music, talking with your neighbors etc. Then come back here one year from today and tell us how much of your friends' conversation you are understanding. I think you'll be shocked.


citlali

Jul 25, 2013, 8:34 AM

Post #17 of 18 (18579 views)

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Re: [mevale] Is it futile?

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Yes of course you are right and being in a place where you cannot communicate other than by the language you are learning and hear it 10 hours a day without escape is an exhausting proposition. I remember being in Germany as a teenager and disconnecting and getting headaches from the tension. You really have to be motivated to go through that or have no choice.


Lorraine84

Jan 10, 2015, 11:07 AM

Post #18 of 18 (11744 views)

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Re: [tashby] Is it futile?

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You said it yourself: it's a marathon, not a spring. Trust the process & keep getting better!
 
 
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