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Sunday, July 31, 2011

¡Hasta La Victoria...Nunca!

The bottom line is that I won’t be satisfied with my Spanish until I speak it as well as I speak English. This means with a nearly-perfect grasp of the grammar and without a discernable accent.  This means that I will never be satisfied. Lately I have been trying to work extra diligently toward this impossible goal, mainly by reading a lot and as much as possible reading out loud. I have been paying closer attention about  how to form questions properly, especially in writing. I think that my writing isn’t horrible in Spanish but it needs plenty of work. My Spanish friends always comment that mine are the only text messages they receive that carry all of the proper accents—I don’t use any shortcuts in my texts in English, French, or Spanish. The main burden, the main obstacle in my path to reaching my unattainable goal is still vocabulary. I tell everyone that the online language dictionary, www.wordreference.com,  is my best friend here in Spain.

My latest reading venture is tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities which I found in translation for 1€ at a pawn shop. La Hoguera de las Vanidades is pretty easy for me since I know it practically by heart in English. At this stage of the game most of the new words that I learn are simply other ways of saying things that I already know how to say, synonyms and synonymous expressions. As I skim through the 200 some pages of the book that I have made it through in Spanish I see that I have underlined (always in red ink) few words that I needed to look up. Some were words that I have looked up before that I sort of knew from the context but I just don’t have much occasion to use the word for mahogany in Spanish (caoba). I knew it was a type of tree.  Perhaps now that I have written it down it will stick in my memory.

How do you get all of these damn words to stick in the memory? Damned if I know. Constant repetition and constant reading are about the only answers I have come up with.  I keep threatening to write more in Spanish which I know would help my overall understanding of the language. I know lots of people here who speak the language well but can’t write it at all.  

Hacer Acopio – to muster
Deparar – bring, offer, provide
Señoría – your honor
Amilanarse – to be daunted
Enconado – heated, passionate (sus enconados discursos)

And this little word that I can never remember:

Cochambroso – filthy, squalid.  "sus cochambrosas zapatillas deportistas" and again a few pagesw later "una cochamborasa torre modernista de los años veinte"  I think that this word means other things and I’m waiting for a reply on the wordreference forum.

There were a lot more words I had to look up but that isn’t your problem.


  1. We used to have language laboratories at school. You would record yourself and then hear yourself through earphones. It helped tighten up my French accent at least. Another thing - write some stories for local Spanish magazines - tell them to fix as necessary (!).

  2. I'm not sure I'd try learning Spanish through translations of Engilsh novels. Unless you're absolutely sure of the quality. I've seen a lot of chapuzas, even in novels by famous writers by Hemingway, etc.

  3. I usually alternate between originals and translations. It's not like translations are horrible inept and ungrammatical, and I think that I've already learned Spanish, at least a great deal. I'm reading a translation of The Bonfire of the Vanities*, not El Patito Feo.

    My next book will be Don Quijote, no shit. This has always been my goal in Spanish. Wish me luck.

    *If you haven't read this book yet you should get on it soon. I think it's the best American novel. Period.

  4. I recommend Paco Ibanez singing the poems of Lorca, Gongora, Neruda, Jimenez, Hernandez and so on. Great words, great rhythm! (I'm struggling too, and I can't even speak "football")


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