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Old May 07, 2008, 01:40 AM
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gatitoverde gatitoverde is offline
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Carolina del Norte, EEUU
Posts: 152
Native Language: InglÚs estadounidense
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Post Unos pensamientos en aprender los idiomas (cont.)

Fourth, listen very closely. College students learning Spanish are often guilty of several pronunciation errors. Number one, their consanants are often too close in sound to their English equivalents. Take the word "felicidad," meaning "happiness." The "d" on the end is neither like the sometimes aspirated "-d" on the end of "had," nor like the unaspirated "-d" on the end of "dad." It's much closer to the "-the" on the end of "bathe," (though that isn't completely accurate . . . but I'm shooting from the hip here, folks.) Likewise, English speakers tend to pronounce their vowels much more distinctly than do Spanish speakers. Take the words "the event." Three syllables, right?. Were the phrase Spanish however, it would be two syllables-- more or less, "thevent." Wherever two identical vowel sounds meet, they become one sound in rapidly spoken Spanish. Take the phrase "va a hablar," "he's going to talk." The way many native Spanish speakers would pronounce that would sound much closer to "vablar" than "va-a-ablar." Another example would be "me he equivocado," "I messed up/I was wrong." It sounds much closer to "mequivocado" than "me-he-equivocado." Anyway, I could go on talking about how soft the Spanish "g" is in "agua" or nearly imperceptible the Spanish "s" can be in some dialects when it falls before a consonant, but I simply mean to make the following point: if you pay attention, and don't try and port over what you know from English into another language, you'll find things a lot easier to pick up, especially when . . .

Reading, number five. Do it a lot, whether just the few phrases you know or, later on, larger texts. And do it while approximating a native speaker's accent as best as you can . . . aloud. By doing so, you'll be getting used to using your jaw, tongue, and lips to produce sounds in ways they've never had to before. One of the things French really sank in with me, and Chinese has reinforced, is that there are a million subtle variations to the posture in which one can hold their mouth and its component parts, and certain sounds are impossible to produce unless you've practiced holding your jaw, tongue, etc. in the correct position. In French, if you don't squoosh your mouth posture up, if you will, and get used to holding your mouth in a way that's very unnatural for a native English speaker, it's not only impossible to produce a true uvular "r," (something many French learners fight with) but it's also impossible to accurately emulate all the nuanced vowels in the French language. And if you're not accurately producing the sounds, your ears are going to get accustomed to hearing your own crude version of a language, and not the real thing. And that greatly diminishes the comprehension benefits of reading aloud. As far as Spanish goes, you'll find yourself becoming more intimately familiar with the slight distance between the tips of your top front teeth and the gums just behind them than has ever been necessary as an English speaker. It is there that you will produce, or partially produce, the sounds corresponding to the letters l, n, s ,t ,d, and r, letters produced over a greater surface area, and with less precision, in English.

And sixth and last. You don't have to understand everything you hear or in fact memorize. Memorizing trusted sentences that you don't grasp completely is an excellent way to push past comprehension boundaries. Once it's in your skull, then you're giving the back of your brain, the greatest problem solver on the face of the earth, a go at figuring it out. And that bad-boy ("cerebro" is masculine) works on things 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, come rain or shine or sleep or sex or whatever. Your subconsious is incredibly powerful. Likewise, with music, movies, and T.V., just because you're not catching a whole lot of phrases at the moment doesn't mean it's not worth listening. There are so many subtle processes going on in the back of your brain when you listen to a foreign language. And even after you stop trying, that gray matter keeps working at it, feeding on the vital input you've allowed it. As I've mentioned, I study several languages, and one of the most thrilling experiences for me is returning to a language after taking something of a hiatus from intensely studying it. About 3 or 4 months ago, I took ten days off from work and just worked on French. No Spanish, no English even, just French. I memorized newspaper articles and lyrics, read along silently with books on tape (Jules Verne), watched movies, etc. etc. Then, when my vacation was over, I started bouncing back and forth between German and Spanish, and put the French on the back burner again. Then, maybe a month later, while tinkering with my iTunes, I haplessly ended up playing a French song I'd never really understood very well to hear it. And oh my goodness. I was blown away with how incredibly well I could understand what was being said. Just a month before, in the middle of intense study of French, it had defied me, but there I was comprehending what Francis Cabrel was singing-- almost as well as if it were English. And that's what I'm talking about: the back of your brain is so much more powerful than you may believe. Just allow it to and it will do an immense amount of work for you.

Alright, I need to work tomorrow and I've gone on for some time, so I'm calling it quits. Chew on what I said. Take from it what you can. Dismiss what you think is rubbish. Good luck. Hasta.

Last edited by gatitoverde; May 10, 2008 at 01:28 AM.
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