Wednesday, April 9, 2008

SpeakEZ Spanish I Course

It's been many months now since the birth of baby Catherine, and I'm finally getting back to updating our blog.

Apart from learning how to be a Mommy, I've been putting a lot of time into the details of our Spanish I course. The dialogs were written by MarĂ­a del Carmen Muley, who has become a good friend of mine in the process. She has extensive experience in using the Birkenbihl Approach teaching Spanish in Germany, and was recently asked to lead a teacher training at the FH Coburg, a university in Germany. That's great news!

So for the past few months, in between her teaching and my playing with Catherine, we were on the phone discussing decoding from Spanish to English. If you are unfamiliar with "decoding," it means translating word by word into your native language.

Decoding the main vocabulary is straightforward, and I learned a great deal just doing that. Since I knew the content of the dialogs, it was easy to guess the meaning of words I didn't know yet. The tricky part is decoding expressions that just don't have an exact equivalent in English, such as "tengo que" (I need to/I have to) - it doesn't make any sense if you translate literally.

We found ways around it that work. What's interesting, too, is that new trouble spots come up with each different language pair. Since Carmen was used to decode from Spanish to German, some of the questions that came up were new to her as well.

I can only encourage you to decode all you can. I see it as an intellectual challenge that takes me deeply into the structure of the language and leads me to ask the right questions. If you are a beginner, you'd want to start by using texts that were decoded for you. The grammar will seem so clear right from the beginning that you won't experience the typical "grammar fog" I've seen on so many students' faces over the years.

Later on, though, you'll learn a lot by trying to find out what exactly a phrase like "hoy tengo ganas de ir al restaurante italiano" means and how it's put together.

We plan on publishing the course within the next month - we'll keep you posted!

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