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?

Intermediate Spanish on Aisle Five

Intermediate Spanish on Aisle Five

I took up Spanish on my own.

Mind you, living in South Florida, there are some obvious benefits that would not happen if you lived in some less diverse area.

I had five years of French in Junior High School and Senior High School. It has been long enough that most of that is long gone, save the pronunciation of certain Spanish words. I use that Back of The Throat R that the French do, and my Spanish “Ere” are no where near a trill like you would hear on the streets of Ciudad de Mexíco or Buenos Aires.

After the year or so of using Duolingo, watching Spanish Language TV, and listening to Spanish Language radio, I’m firmly ensconced in the Intermediate Spanish realm.

That is to say I speak good Plaza Sésamo. Get too complex and I am happy to look itup.

I’m lucky though. The friends I have that are not Bilingual are willing to help by giving me things to listen to and to read.

I’m also highly “Project Driven” as would be expected from a Project Manager.

We have a lot of little projects to finish here at the little house on the quirky little island known as Wilton Manors, Florida.

Quite a few projects actually. Way too many.

Recently we took on wiring the yard with low voltage lights.

Being who we are, those low voltage lights have to be LED lights. Have to be as in It Is Under Pain Of Death That We Are Green And Use LED Lights.

Truly. Over the top.

But the nice thing is that they use practically no power to do what the security lights that are there do with old fashioned Incandescent bulbs.

The existing bulbs are 110 Volt, 40 Watt. Two of them. On full, that is 80 watts. The equivalent is running at 1/10th the voltage and 1/4th of the wattage – a total of 1/40th of the current to make the same light.

If my math is correct.

But first, we have to get the things. That means a trip to The Big Box Home Improvement Store of your choice.

We did hit both. Bought the gear we thought we needed.
The transformer was already here. That was found online. Light bulbs and fixtures were at the big box stores along with the wire we needed.

One of the things I’m doing to learn Spanish is watch some kid’s shows. Ones for a pre-teen audience. Why? Because the sentence structure is just about where my own Spanish is at. Never mind that the songs that they put in these shows with all those flashing lights and images are guaranteed to be an ear-worm to be stuck in your head to come out at inappropriate moments.

So here I am, all 6 Foot 4 of me, walking down the aisles of the big box store quoting lines from a song that an elementary school kid would recite.

Vamos Herramientas! Lets Go Tools!

I spot the hand tool aisle. We could use some parts to the electric drill…

I’m told I have lost my mind…

Brinco Salto, Si Vamonos!

No Hay Que Tardar!
De Prisa!
A Trabajar!

Y a Reparar!

Leap Hop, Yes we go!

There is no delay!

Hurry!
To work!
And to repair!

And I am trotting through the big store with this song on a loop inside my head as I go past the paint, ceiling fans, sprinkler parts and find the low voltage lighting.

And I realize that I’m stuck in a silly song that doesn’t quite sound right in my native English.

Then again I have never seen that TV show, Handy Manny, in English. There are some shows that I have never seen in English, only in Spanish.

Who can resist a story where a sarcastic blue hammer is telling a baby blue whale to go back into the sea?

We grab more treasures to be buried in the yard.

Some black wire for low voltage use only.

Another two lamps that promise to light my palm tree.

A “straight hoe” that brings some childish giggles at the name.

Everything gets into the cart as I stand there like a toddler reading the words off the box out loud. After all everyone would want to hear a child say their new words, why not a full grown adult with a new toy of a new language?

“Contenido del paquete! That means Package Contents!”
I hear a quiet groan, then, “Great, can you grab this?”

“Sí! Voy a ayudar! Yes, I am going to help!”

“Here, have the instructions. They’re in Spanish too!”

So I’m now being distracted with a parts explosion and installation instructions on how to install a post lamp in the yard. Pretty simple actually.

But it gives me a new world of words to learn.

Cable de la lampara – Fixture Wire

Advertencia – Warning

Precaución – Caution

As strange as it sounds, reading the words off of the wall helps a lot, and those boring installation instructions that we gloss over turn out to be a trove of new Palabras – Words.

I find myself reading the Spanish on the shelves first for the challenge promising myself I won’t read the English.

We go through checkout and get home. As we’re relaxing and cooling down for the afternoon, I pick up another piece of reading and dig down deep. It’s the instructions for how to assemble, mount, and install a ceiling fan!

How exciting, huh?

Take the learning where you can. If you don’t have anyone nearby who can help you with your new language, don’t be afraid to look in unorthodox places. After all, Radio Martí broadcasts news from the US Government all in Spanish, and while propaganda is never balanced, it can help you learn, especially when you have a live link here.

Ahora, donde está mis instrucciónes?

Now, Where are my instructions?

 

Oh!  And that blue whale?  Of course the 10 hand tools and the people of the little beach town made a thing out of available fabric and sticks and were able to save the baby whale by walking it down the beach to the sea.  Because that is how things end in a happy little kid’s show in Spanish.

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.