Thursday, June 14, 2007

Opportunities to Practice Spanish

Practicing Spanish while spending a week in Las Vegas might not be everyone's idea of fun. Since it is the closest city to where we live, we spend a good amount of time there and I probably don't associate "travel destination" with Vegas as much as people who live in other parts of the world.

I choose not to watch TV at home, so staying at a hotel gives me the opportunity to dive into pop culture every so often. This time, it also allowed me to flip through the Spanish-speaking channels and find out how much I could actually understand.

Telemundo seemed to have the most programs that I could grasp. I started out with "Laura Sin Censura" and realized that my listening comprehension skills were not ready for this level of interaction quite yet... It's a talk-show where people come to discuss their issues with each other in front of an audience and get very emotional. Being emotional usually accelerates the speed of delivery when people talk, and I found it impossible to follow.

What didn't help either is that they used a high percentage of curse words which kept being bleeped out, so that I was left with only parts of sentences, mostly delivered in tears. That didn't work. I was quite amazed that the opponents had to be held back by guards to not get at each others' throats - oh my!

I switched to another show, similar in its structure, but much more civilized, "Caso Cerrado con la Dra. Ana MarĂ­a Polo." Although the topics discussed were not uplifting, at least I could understand what was going on. I got used to Dra. Polo's pronunciation and very much appreciated the summaries that she gave before and after each break. I found that it was easier for me to understand women than men, I am not sure why. Maybe they articulated more. I would guess my level of comprehension was at about 70% - not bad, I thought!

Commercials are great to watch as well - I pretty much knew what they would be saying, plus they are repeated a few times. I think these were the easiest to grasp.

Meanwhile, I got to have a conversation with the housekeeping lady who didn't speak any English. She was very patient with me and made an effort to try to understand what I was saying, which I was very grateful for. This was one of the best situations - if I wanted her to understand me, I had to come out of my shell and speak. We were able to agree that I didn't need to leave the room for her to make it up and shared a little small talk.

The next opportunity arose at a restaurant where I was waiting for the food. A young Hispanic couple sat at the table next to ours and the lady was wearing maternity clothes. I asked her when she was expecting her baby and got to show my own growing tummy. There will never be a lack of topics to discuss among expecting mothers, that's for sure! It was very pleasant and we understood each other just fine.