Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Secret of My Success*

One of the most revolutionary advances in my attempt to master Spanish cost me exactly 1.25€ at a mini Chinese Wal-Mart. I bought a pair of cheap ear bud headphones with a five meter cord that I can plug into the television in my new apartment. The TV in my old place didn’t have the jack for headphones. The sound quality on TVs without some sort of surround sound system isn’t very good and I had a hard time understanding programs and movies. I go to the neighborhood movie house to watch movies because the sound quality allows me to understand the Spanish a lot better than when I watch stuff at home. It was startling for me when I first plugged in my new headphones; it was like my Spanish had instantly improved by about 35% percent or so. My life will never be the same.

Watching television recently I have been a little disappointed in my ability to understand. I simply avoided a lot of shows simply because I understood so little that I didn’t think that watching them was a good use of my time. I have always been very satisfied with my reading ability in Spanish and also with my conversational level. I don’t have too many problems in either following or contributing to a discussion. Television was always my weak side, my lado flaco. As it turns out, I didn’t have a language problem; I had a hearing problem.

My new apartment also has cable TV which means that I have at least a few more viewing options including two channels in French. With the headphones I can also watch French television without too much straining. I am actually amazed at how well I understand this language that I have left to languish as I have worked so hard to improve my Spanish. I suppose that learning French is just collateral damage from improving greatly in another Romance Language. I’ll take all the help I can get, especially if it means I don’t have to do anything.

I have always known that I hear movies better through headphones. I’ve noticed this when I watch a Spanish movie on my computer—I just never had the ability to use headphones with a television before. I am going to make a statement which few people would admit and even fewer would be proud of: excluding football, I have watched more television in the past few days than I have in the past two years or so. I am watching shows that used to really kick my ass, linguistically speaking. I have always had a hard time following some of the Spanish sit-coms. I used to understand only about 60%, if I had to estimate. Now I am watching Aquí no Hoy Quien Viva and La Familia Mata and even dubbed American series while understanding almost as if they were in English.

For the past few months I have felt like my Spanish has been languishing in a sort of purgatory of my own inability to focus on doing what I know it takes to improve. With my two recent moves in the sweltering heat of August it’s possible that I wasn’t working on my Spanish as diligently as usual, but it seems that I haven’t been spinning my wheels as much as I thought. Now if I can only figure out a way to plug in a set of headphones when I go to a bar to watch football!

*I use “success” very subjectively in this case. What I consider to be a success is probably someone else’s definition of an abject failure.