Learning Intermediate Spanish From DVDs Makes a Bit Futurama Uneven

If you are in school, you can pick up a language in class.  Of course you have that pressure of having to make the grades.

Not everyone is up to that, but if I remember right, everyone had to have a language in High School.  Some folks can’t pull it together to learn a second language.

I got out of High School and then learned a stack of languages, all for programming computers.  I still am learning some, but for the most part they tend to be a variation on a given theme.  All for the Web at some level.

Right now, I’m teaching myself Spanish.  Partly with TV and Partly with Computer Based Training.  Getting to a basic level of comprehension is not too tough.  There are some excellent websites out there to get you the basics.

The Apple Is Red.

The Socks are here.

What Is Your Question?

You can go pretty far with the basics.  Once you get past that, it does get more difficult.   Remember back to your own childhood and how you learned.  It was random words, then built basic constructs, and you got feedback on how badly you spoke.  Your family, friends, and neighbors would correct you and you would get better.

That may be the problem here.  I’m doing it in isolation.  I used Duolingo.com to get myself past the basics, listen to Spanish language radio and watch TV on my own.  After a while, the TV Programs get repetitive, so you change one series out for others, and move on.

I got bold. I started watching movies dubbed in Spanish, and always the Closed Captioning helped.  I am fairly dependent on closed captions.  When you are older, or merely an adult, you read better than you speak.  When you are younger, you speak better than you read.

Or so I have been told.

I got to the point where I was watching Plaza Sesamo, which is Spanish Sesame Street, and can quote dialogue on some of those sketches because I have seen them too many times.  It’s time to try other things.

One day I started looking at my DVD collection and wondered about some of the shows I liked watching.  Are They Dubbed?

It turns out that some of them are.  “Disponible es Español” it says.   Available in Spanish.

That’s it!  I was thinking about watching Futurama again, why not in Spanish?

Fry’s first glimpse of New New York

Futurama picture from wikipedia.com

Put in the disc, got to the menu, chose Spanish Language and Closed Captions in Spanish.  Play!

I watched as Fry was playing a Donkey Kong knock off in a Pizza Parlor in New York City on December 31, 1999 and quickly realized the problem.

Voices were wrong.  Not only wrong, but they didn’t match the closed captioning.

That’s kind of a problem folks!

I’ve seen Futurama a couple times through.  That first episode I probably saw as many as five or more times.   It isn’t that I am obsessed with it, I watched the series with my programmer at work during lunch.  My office was the one that had all the laughing coming from it because we’d be watching comedy TV while stuffing our faces.

Now, mind you, while English to Spanish translations are fairly faithful, each language has its quirks and a Literal Word By Word translation is never completely correct.  Idioms don’t always sound right when literally translated.

But…

This was just weird.  It was as if someone said “Lets mess with them”.

There are a number of ways to say one specific thing.  Something can be a plant or a bush or a shrub and they are all correct.  Add context and calling something a plant when it is obvious that a cactus is more appropriate became glaring.

Any given language has phrases where certain thoughts are said multiple ways.  The concept of truth can be said as “De Verdad” or “Claro” but translated slightly differently when brought back into English.

Whoever did Futurama did it wrong.  They had the script, chose the words, spoke the first set but used the closed captioning for the second.

Try reading along with that one on your own.

The other mind warp that happened?  The voices are just wrong.

Fry, Leela, and Bender on a buggy on the Moon

Futurama picture from wikipedia.com

Leela is a “standard New World Spanish” accent.  Not Spain Spanish, probably a Mexican Standard or perhaps Colombian.  In English, she’s got Katie Sagal’s voice, a fairly unaccented woman with a powerful voice.  Pleasant.  We like Leela, Leela’s a babe.

Ok, they got that right.  But…

Hermes went from being Jamaican to being Standard.

Fry went from a slight NYC accent to being Standard.

Bender went from being a thick working class NYC accent to being Standard.

Picking up on a trend there?

Yeah, it is like they scrubbed the entire “character” out of the voice character.

I guess it’s like when you go to another country for the first time and turn on the TV and watch I Love Lucy dubbed into French.  Ricky swearing in French just doesn’t have the same impact.

I’ll have to find I Love Lucy and see if I can understand Ricky’s swearing.  Might pick up a few words here and there!

I’m sure some of the dubbing on other series will be better.   After all, the kids shows I watch, plus the Nature Documentaries that I catch are all captioned correctly.  If the voice on the TV says a word, the text comes out correctly based on the spoken word.

That may be my problem.  The Crutch of Closed Captioning has reached its end of use.  I need to set it aside.

The last episode of Futurama I saw I watched in Spanish with English subs.  Easier, but I may as well watch it in full English.

I’ll leave the captions off instead.

Who knows, it may help me get better at things.  Until then I’ll stick with watching my DVDs in Spanish and annoying myself with bad captioning.

“En serio?”

“Sí”, it gives me an excuse to watch the stuff, right?

Advertisements

The Flu – or how I lost a week and a half and gained a yard of flowers

I think that the flu is one of those things we’re all expected to get through.

That is to say, it is more like the closest thing to death that we’ll get through and everyone will just shrug and go on.

Having a cold, you seem to think “Hmm, I feel off” and you muddle through.

The Flu?  Each time I have had it, and I can only think of three times, it has been the same.

10:24AM – Yay, feel great, lets go do stuff!
10:25AM – Hmm, This isn’t quite right.

10:26AM – A cold?  Is this a cold?

10:27AM – I had better check the fridge, are there enough supplies, this isn’t normal.

It always is a Fast Onset like that.  Bang, you’re down.

The last two times I had it it I thought, Ok, well it’s going to be four days of down, plus a few days of the wobblies, but no worries.

Hah.  Just Hah.

That particular morning, I had a memorial service I wanted to go to.  A good friend had died and I was told about a month before that there would be a get together and I was specifically invited.   He knew that he wasn’t going to make it and wanted to make certain that I could get there and visit with family and friends.

Sorry, Emilio, but someone somewhere decided that I was going to have the flu that particular day.

I say it that way because it was a friend of a friend who went to work with the flu and inoculated her entire office.  I am collateral damage.

Being one of those people who never can just sit down and be sick, I got started on some projects.  Things that I knew I wanted to do but didn’t want to do until I was in the right frame of mind.  I had some sewing that needed doing because I went past the Stitch In Time and it needed about 100 stitches.  I had a laptop that had to be completely disassembled and put back together.

Laptops are usually one of those “Clear The Deck” things.  You never want to do that in a rush.  This one took me through lunch time and it worked.  In fact, the original owner, happy with having the data recovered, told me to keep the machine.

Oh no, please take it, I don’t need another machine, please, oh please.

It’s still here.  Along with another one.

Oh well.

Day two was full on Flu.  We laid in supplies and thought that it would be a total of another four days.  Blown weekend and all.

And then it hit like a tornado.  Around day five I realized that I was scheduling a trip out back to the yard.  As in “I have to walk the 30 feet to the back of the yard to pour a half cup of water into some bamboo I am trying to clone, will I make it” schedule.

I made it.  That day was day four.  It was not fun.

There are things that the world would expect you to keep doing.  If you look at tasks that you do, you realize that you have them on a schedule.  Every single day like OCD.

Mine is Spanish.
I log into a website called duolingo.com and practice with some basic Spanish quizzes.  I set my goal very low so that all I had to do was one quiz in case I got tied up.  See, I was thinking.  Be able to do it in case I got busy and was traveling.

Good thing that I did that.

I had been doing 30 questions a day for a very long time.  Duolingo has a graph on it.  When you hit a point where you skip, the graph dips.

Duolingo told me when the depth of the Flu was.  It was mid week, day 6 of a four day flu.  It took me all morning to get one quiz done.  It usually takes me about 10 minutes for all three.  By the end of the day when I passed out shivering in the cold, I had only completed two quizzes.

I think that day, my bamboo didn’t get watered either.  In the stand of bamboo out back that is about 10 feet across, about 5 feet off the ground there are two plastic bags tied to the stalk.  In the bags is a small handful of soil that I was keeping moist.

Luckily on Day 7, the soil was still slightly moist.

I walked out back, watered it, walked back in.

By Day 8 the coughing started.  I walked out to the bamboo, and the dog followed me.  I thought to myself, “How did Rack get walked last week”.

I still don’t know.

Coming back to the house, I noticed that there were orchids blooming that hadn’t bloomed before.  The Milkweed was in flower.  The Mango tree on the corner was in full flower.  My podocarpus cuttings were either dying or rooting, depending on the Gods of the Garden.

I had very little idea what caused it all.  Things just “happen” in a garden, whether you want them to or not.  Blink and it all goes wild.  I had had carrots, onions, green onions, and a rogue rutabaga planted back there.  It’s all under a layer of clover now.  Have to find that stuff, quick.

Long past a blink, this was an 8 day black out.

Spanish on Day 9 was all about medical terminology.  Enfermedad – sickness.   Muerte – death.

I was finally coming out of it enough to enjoy the irony.   The little laptop was telling me “Estoy amando tus labios” and I was thinking it was creepy that the machine that I breathed life back into was saying “I am loving your lips”.

You know you are finally coming back when you are thinking of all of the times when some fool said that Flu Shots don’t work.  Funny thing about that, I don’t remember getting one this year.  I will remember the flu.

And those lips that my laptop seems to like.

Learning Spanish From The Big Green Chair

When my nephew was a toddler, say about 2 years old, I had a surprise.  One weekend I came to visit and he sat down with a book and started reading.  I asked my sister and she told me that he memorized the book, and he still can’t read.

I’m rather a bit past that with Spanish now.

I don’t skip over the Spanish Stations on the radio when channel surfing.  I have noticed that “Love Songs” are becoming more clear to me and I can actually follow them along … somewhat.  I can watch kids TV and follow the discussion and actually get the jokes most of the times.

I mean, after all, we’re talking kid’s shows.  Plaza Sesamo and Franny and her demented feet.  At least in what I jokingly call “Native Spanish”.  Franny is a Canadian Production and the first time I heard it in English, they all had bad British accents.  It sounds better in Spanish to me.

I challenge myself with the animal documentaries because of the slower pace of the dialogue.  I have always enjoyed documentaries, even when I was a wee brat.  Watching a documentary on the forests of Madagascar in English is something I’d do normally, let alone En Espanol.

Sorry, I don’t have the “enya” key.  You know, English Speakers, the n with the funny squiggle over top.  Oh, and the accents En Espanol mean something.  I never figured them out in French, but in Spanish it is a “stress” mark.  You stress that syllable.  Very logical system of spelling, everything means something, and it has been rationalized and normalized to be predictable.  Unlike English where Ghoti could be pronounced as Fish.

I’ve heard people do this all the time.  When learning a language, they will seek out media of that language, and pay attention to it.  Many people have said that they watched Telenovelas to learn Spanish, Cartoons for English, and so on.  I’m doing nothing new here.  I am certainly not splitting the atom.

Although, when I’m sitting in bed listening to the shortwave radio at night, and I find myself listening to a broadcast, I’m not exactly expecting to be switching back and forth between Radio Marti and Radio Reloj.  That particular programming shift is about as broad a shift as you can get, other than perhaps switching back and forth between South Korean and North Korean broadcasting.

They are, however, very easy to find here in South Florida.

Specifically, Radio Marti is the US Government’s programming that is “designed” for Cuba.  I suspect it has an intended effect of being designed as a knock on effect for Venezuela.  Whether it is effective or not, I will let others decide.

Radio Reloj is literally “Clock Radio”.  It’s out of Havana, Cuba, and I can hear it here on the AM radio even if I don’t try too hard.  Being a Cuban National Broadcast, it’s probably as balanced as any Cuban broadcast, which is to say about as balanced as Fox News or Radio Marti.

I’m listening to things specifically to learn the language, not for “information”.  I will say both services are less “shouty” and “strident” than they had been in the Cold War.

For the most part, it’s better to stick to Plaza Sesamo, Franny and her weird feet, and the documentaries.  Political Intrigue and Propaganda are a bit much when your level of comprehension is about 1/2 the way there.

More importantly though, it does one interesting thing.  It opens up a whole new world. Actually a continent and about a half, but it does open it all up.

If my learning methods are up to the task, that is.  After all, if you can’t learn Spanish in South Florida, you can’t learn Spanish anywhere.

So turn on the TV, turn on the closed captioning, and put on some kid’s programming.  The Closed Captioning make it much easier to grasp since you are reading at the same time as hearing the words.  The simplified sentence structure and subject matter will help as well since there are fewer Big Words.

I’ll try to remember to leave the politics behind.  After all, I’m not quite ready for that, although a nice documentary about a lizard habitat would be rather enjoyable today.

But if you are considering learning another language, and are just starting out, try Duolingo.com and pick your language.  The simple lessons get gradually more complex, and you can set your goals as low or as complex as you like.

Pineapple Coconut Tapioca – Or Learning Spanish I Got A Completely Different Recipe Than The Chef Intended

The story goes, I’m learning Spanish.  Duolingo is a great way to get a basis in a language, so I have been practicing.  But once you get a basis, you want to stretch out a bit.

I thought if it worked for kids here in English, why not try Sesame Street?  Ok, so it’s Plaza Sesamo and it worked quite well.  I can follow along Plaza Sesamo well enough that I’m smiling my way through it.

I picked up a cartoon called Franny’s Feet, or what translates to the Magical Feet of Franny on V-Me (PBS) and I’m following it fairly well.  It is for a slightly older audience than my current level but that’s how you learn.

And no matter what someone says about it, I still think it’s a bit weird to have a kid try on other people’s shoes, fall into a wormhole, then have a trippy adventure and come home only to find she “kept” something from the journey.  Sounds like something someone described on an acid trip to me, but it helps with my Spanish.

I thought I would try a cooking show.  I am a good cook, some of my dishes are excellent.  Just search this blog for some fascinating recipes.  Chef Laura is on a network called HITN which is out of Brooklyn, NY.  It does PBS one better since there are no damn commercials!

I watched Chef Laura Rosa Lopez make a Pineapple Coconut Tapioca dessert.  It looked like a “Drink” you might have, since when she ladled it out into the parfait glass it was still liquid.  It was still warm then so that may explain it.

But since my own Plaza Sesamo level Spanish got in the way, I found myself watching the recipe being prepared about 30 times on the DVR and then making mental notes.

I am sure what I did was something different than what Chef Laura did.  She folded Whipped Cream into the Tapioca to make it ‘lighter’ at the end.  After doing a lot of research, I came to the conclusion that if you are in a Hispanic family, you probably have your own recipe.

Therefore, here is mine.  I will give the Spanish recipe complete with my notes, then I will clean it all up and add the recipe I made.  My own heavily adapted recipe made a pleasant tapioca pudding with a virgin Pina Colada taste.

Since I still have the recipe as Chef Laura prepared it, I will definitely revisit her method.  It looked interesting, and I rather like the challenge – both of preparing it and of learning Spanish.

Next time I make this recipe, I will change the process.  I’ll be soaking the tapioca in the juice from the pineapple and add in water to get to 1 1/2 cups.  Then cook the whole lot together.  It will add extra pineapple flavor to the recipe and bring it into a more tart balance since the coconut was rather sweet from the sugar that they use to process it.

Recipe In Spanish:

  • 1/3 taza de tapioca
  • 1 1/2 taza de agua
  • 1/2 taza de azucar
  • 1/4 de taza de coco rallado – grated coconut
  • 1 taza de pina fresca picada – pineapple chunks
  • 1 lata de leche evaporada – 1 can
  • 1 cda. de vainilla – scant tablespoon

Recipe in English:

  • 1/3 cup Tapioca Pearls
  • 1 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup grated coconut
  • 1 cup Pineapple Chunks in juice
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla

Preparation:

  • Soak the tapioca pearls in 1 1/2 cup of hot from the tap water (125F) for an hour, stirring gently every 15 minutes or so.
  • Cook at medium heat the tapioca pearls in the water with coconut and sugar until tapioca is transparent.
  • Add the pineapple chunks without the juice, and can of Evaporated Milk and reduce heat to medium low.
  • Add and mix in a Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract.
  • Pour the dessert into parfait cups and garnish.
  • Optional – For extra lightness, fold two cups whipped cream into the tapioca pudding.
  • Chill before serving.

Learning Spanish With Franny’s Feet – A Little Girl Who Has A Weird Thing For Shoes

About 2 years ago, I signed up for Duolingo.

Like most people, I picked a language and promptly dropped it.

There went those dreams of speaking Spanish.  Now, I have always said “If you can’t learn Spanish in South Florida, you aren’t trying hard enough”, so I eventually went back to it.

Duolingo will teach you the language you select in a game format.  You answer simple questions, get clues, and have a goal.  By the time you finished today, you have learned a little of your selected language, and can come back tomorrow to do it again.  I selected a low goal because I didn’t want to be playing games all day, even if it did help me get better at my goal of speaking Spanish.

According to Duolingo, I am currently 50% fluent in Spanish.  I’m finding that I’m picking up snippets of conversation in public, getting some of the words in songs, and even able to watch TV in Spanish with the Spanish Closed Captioning Turned on.

I guess I’m about a year and a half old again.  When I watch Sesame Street, make that Plaza Sesamo, I can follow it just about completely.  Simple Spanish sentences help me learn too, not just your toddlers and preschool kids.

I branched into watching some Spanish language TV when I realized that listening to the talk shows was quite a bit too advanced.  Plaza Sesamo was a good choice and it emboldened me to instead look into something geared to a slightly older audience.

Slightly.

I was channel surfing after taking Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) out for his romp around the yard one morning.  There is a small TV in the back room and I was looking at the over the air channels.  I stumbled onto a little girl with a high squeaky voice speaking to me in Spanish about some adventures she was on.

Mind you that wasn’t what my mind was translating.  I did say I was only 50% fluent in Spanish, right?

The show called Franny’s Feet was about a little girl named Franny.  She lived in a shoe repair shop with her grandfather.

Great!  Just up my alley!  She spoke slowly and clearly, so did abuelo or grandfather, and I could follow along.

But it got weird.

She would be chatting until the doorbell rang and in came a client.  They would invariably drop off some old shoes to be repaired.  I knew they were old because they always were discolored and had holes in the soles. 

Normal for a cobbler’s shop, but I did say it got weird.

Franny’s job was to put the shoes away in a box to be worked on later.  That’s pretty easy except next she’d get this weird shoe fetish thing going on.  She’d set the stranger’s ratty shoes on the ground and then …

Step inside the shoes.

That’s pretty gross to me, an adult who didn’t really completely understand the action.  It must have been pretty gross to her because at this point she’d start to hallucinate.

The screen would spin around and she’d fall through a wormhole and appear in a magical world.

I did say that it was a wormhole.  There must have been something truly strange in those shoes the client brought in. 

She would have adventures with cartoon animals that all talked and told a story.  There was a light plot, after all it was about teaching children how to speak in which ever language it was dubbed in – It originally was an English Language cartoon from Canada.

At the end, everything was wrapped up in a nice bow.  The goats were reunited with their mom, the flamingoes became friends with the peacock and peahen, and there’s one about a moose I’m looking forward to seeing simply because well, this is www.ramblingmoose.com after all!

I’m thinking what ever hallucinogen was in the shoes would then wear off and she’d fall back through the wormhole to the cobbler’s shop.  Looking back inside the trippy shoes, she’d find something that came back from the other realm.  A feather or an old sweat band from the shoes would be placed in her shoe box of treasures after she put the old shoes in the work box.

It really seemed that it is like one of those old cartoons that a kid would watch and be entertained, and an adult would sit there and wonder what on earth was going on?

None the less, I haven’t grown out of the show since I can actually follow along with the dialogue.   It’s a little more advanced than Plaza Sesamo, and it’s helping me learn.

Isn’t that the point?

When I described this I was told I was reading way too much into it and got an email back with a sentence in Spanish:

a veces un cigarro es sólo un cigarro
Sometimes a Cigar is only a Cigar.

A rather famous quote from Freud.  A very nice touch by a friend.

In other words, maybe I am reading too much into the little girl’s cartoon adventures, but I will say that this weird trippy view of the children’s show is helping me stay interested enough to practice my Spanish in a safe and non-confrontational way.

We all hate confrontation.

So enjoy your cigars safe in the fact that they’re just cigars, and that the Acid Trip that the little girl is taking is all in your head. 

Meanwhile, make sure you have good clean socks.  They’re Calcetines you know!

The Toilet, The New Private BYOD Office, and Learning Spanish

Reading as much as I do, I noticed something that tech guys have to be aware of.  Your own personal phone.

That and your tablets and all the other “stuff” you carry.  It’s called “BYOD” or Bring Your Own Device.

They’ve got to worry about what you’re surfing, whether you’re doing “nefarious” activities, and whether you are ever actually going to come out of that rest room.

All this was going through my mind the other day.  I realized I was doing that too. 

The particular school of thought was bemoaning that people are sitting at work, getting paid, and playing things like Angry Birds in their offices, restrooms, and other places.

I never installed Angry Birds.  Wasn’t my style.  I’m normally using a laptop or two at any given moment, virtual machines up and running, playing around with VMWare and pretending to Be Productive.

Yes, in Capital Letters.  Stay Motivated.  Be Productive. 

Blah.

So I tried playing games when I used the bathroom.  Really I did, but it just seemed, oh I don’t know, an annoyance. 

Annoyance as in “Damnit I missed that bubble!” annoyance.  Yelling in the bathroom with the door closed about a bubble?  That’s just too weird for me.

Life is annoying enough, and it just felt futile.  What was playing a game in the toilet going to give me anyway?

Don’t answer that question, I meant it in a G Rated way anyway.

So after years of saying that I had a language tutor called Duolingo parked on my phone, I finally, actually did something with it.

I created a profile and began doing the course on Spanish.

I had had Spanish back in Junior High School.  Having been exposed to French in Montreal as a brat on vacation and also when listening to CBC on Shortwave, I took the courses in that language instead.  In retrospect, Spanish is more “useful” in this day and age where I am.  Unless I am going down to Dania Beach for a soft serve ice cream, my French is limited to hearing an occasional snippet of Creole from a Haitian.  I can usually get the feeling of what they’re saying but it’s truly been too many years.

I set rules for myself.  Goals were set at the lowest possible setting.  I didn’t want it to Be A Thing that I HAD to do even if I did do it once or twice in the car.  Enjoy the experience.  Repeat each “chapter” until I got it completely correct.  Repeat the “mid-terms” until I got it completely correct.

The results are that progress is slow and steady.  It’s more important to get this down and not sound the fool when I eventually get enough Spanish under my belt to be able to speak it to someone else.

At this point, I’m limited.   I am learning how to say useful phrases like “Los Elefantes bebe La Leche” or “La Tortuga bebe La Leche”.

You never knew that drinking milk was so important to an Elephant or a Turtle, did you?

I’m also second guessing my sentences in Spanish there but at this stage I would.

I find myself arguing back at the program, Duolingo, when the thing tells me I am wrong for using correct English.  This gamification of learning has actually had me yelling at the phone saying “That doesn’t make sense in English!”.

*sigh* but it is the correct meaning.  Tap on the little bubble and it puts you into a browser that gives you the social discussion behind it.  Oh THAT’S what they mean by that!

*GRRRR!*

Oh well, take the bullet and do the same chapter tomorrow.

I’m three months into it.  I’m still watching Spiders drink Milk, Turtles eat Apples, The Women read Newspapers. 

I swear once it was a dog writing a letter.

So while it is strictly speaking, correct, it doesn’t make sense all the time.  A bit literal.

After I flush, and come back to what I was doing earlier, I check the headlines on two Spanish Language news sites and challenge myself to read what the front page is telling me.  The BBC Mundo page is helpful because BBC in English is my main source of news.  Something called EFE USA helps as well.  Both are in supposedly basic Spanish. 

I get it.  I’m purposely hobbling my progress, but that’s fine.  I want to be correct. 

I should probably start watching Plaza Sesame, er, Sesame Street in Spanish again.

There used to be a TV show produced on the Miami PBS Station called Que Pasa USA.  It featured a blended Hispanic and Anglo family.  Some spoke both English and Spanish, others only one language.   I’ll keep an eye out for that and maybe set a watch filter on the DVR.  After all, when did you hear anything on a Sit-Com that was really deep and complex?

Leave The Simpsons out of this.  They’re more subtle than you think, I think. 

Ok maybe not, but for now, I’m having fun challenging my mind, even if it is in the bathroom and therefore a bit weird.

Got any milk, Mr Turtle?