Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Claudette in Death Valley

Here are a few pictures of our annual SpeakEZ meeting in Death Valley National Park. A great break from the winter of NYC for Claudette, and wonderful company for Nathalie! Little Catherine was in charge of entertainment. As always, she made a full time job out of it... for everybody :)

We went to Badwater, the lowest point in the continental U.S. Another day, we had a picnic on the Sand Dunes with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Our food had a little gritty texture to it after Catherine had dumped it into the sand... Part of the outdoors experience!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Watching Bolivia

To tell you the truth, I didn't make it through the movie. I stopped it after about 45 minutes. Too depressing!

Here's the plot: A portrait of Argentina as seen through the eyes of Bolivian immigrant Freddy. Working as the cook at a Buenos Aires grill, Freddy must deal with everyday discrimination from his boss and customers, while struggling to earn a meager living.

I thought the Spanish was hard to understand, and although I'm all about being conscious of the troubles of this world, I don't think delving in them will help change poverty, racism and associated evils. I'd rather pick a more uplifting story to learn Spanish!

On a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a 1 rating.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nathalie interviewed by Miles Mead on WUST

Nathalie talked to Miles about Vera Birkenbihl and her best-selling programs, the importance of self-confidence in language learning and, of course, the use of smart language learning strategies.

That's really the bottom line to successful language learning--think about the old adage "if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get the same results you've always got."

It's not through memorizing more grammar rules and 500 more vocabulary words that you'll suddenly start speaking, but rather after setting up your brain to soak up those grammar rules and instantly understand the words someone's using WITHOUT translating back to English, or whatever your native language is.

Listen to the interview here:

MP3 File

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mike McConnell talks to Nathalie Fairbanks on WLW

It became quite obvious during this conversation that I don't play golf! Glad it was Mike that was laughed at for trying to speak golf-Spanish rather than me, because I would have made the same mistake (plus a few more golf-related ones, I'm sure...)

Being laughed at is part of the game of learning a language. Sometimes, we just say things that sound hilarious to a native speaker! I've been on both sides of this one, the laugher and the laughee, so to speak :)

Click this link to listen to the interview:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sam Greenfield and Nathalie talk on WVNJ

Sam wanted to know if the audio-lingual method is effective. My experience teaching for Berlitz allowed me to put this method in its place. I do like it, but not as the ONLY strategy to get a student fluent!

MP3 File

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Michel Thomas Spanish Course: Report 2

I'm now at the end of CD 5 of the Michel Thomas Spanish for Beginners course.

One of the things I love is how he focuses FIRST on what I'll need most in a regular conversation.

For example, to teach present tense conjugations, he starts first by teaching me how to say "I want to do something" and "you want to do something," as opposed to presenting the endings of ALL the persons.

How often do we use "we" and "they," compared to "I" and "you" in everyday conversation? Not all that often! So why not learn the forms we'll use most, derive the principles, and only then start looking at the other forms? It makes all the sense in the world!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Watching AzĂșcar Amarga (Bitter Sugar)

My Spanish movie for the week!

Here's the plot from IMDB (internet movie database):

"Gustavo is a young Havana Communist who believes in the revolution; he hopes for a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering in Prague. But his faith in the new Cuba is tested: his father, a psychiatrist, can make four times as much playing piano at a hotel for foreigners; his sweetheart, Yolanda, wants a career as a dancer and longs for the riches of Miami; his younger brother Bobby simply wants to play rock music, and as a result is in constant trouble with the authorities. When Bobby takes a shocking step of revolt and Gustavo is refused service at a foreigners-only bar, the contradictions in his resolve to become a "new man" push him to the breaking point." Written by {}

Although not exactly uplifting, the movie plays in beautiful modern Havana. The story is compelling (and true!) and gives a good picture of life in Cuba. Lots of dialog.

Easiest to understand: Dad, then Gustavo, then Yolanda. It's a little stretch to grasp everything they're saying, as articulation is not very clear, but hey, that's how they speak. I watched it once with English subtitles, then without. Knowing the story line and the content of the dialogs helps tremendously!

On a scale from 1-10 for Spanish learning, I'd give it a 7.