Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Me Gusta Aprender Espanol

I like learning Spanish. Si, si, I do.

I started on a Basic Spanish course at a language school at Peninsula Plaza 2 years before embarking on this trip. My reason then for choosing Spanish was that unlike Japanese or Korean, it is a language widely spoken throughout most of South America and in some parts of Europe, and thus would be a useful third-language to master for future travels. And I believe that it's much easier to grasp than frilly French and unpronounceable German words.

My first Spanish teacher, Alejandra, was from Colombia. She's still staying in Singapore with her lovely husband and beautiful baby and we're planning to meet again in January 2010, when she tours northern Colombia with her family. Isn't she muy bonita? :)

With Alejandra at her apartment in Singapore and classmates Mario and Ilyana, and my very strangely coloured hairdo from early 2007.

My second teacher, for Intermediate Spanish, was Italian. She spoke muy rapido and everything she taught was totally lost on me. I stopped classes then, cos I felt ill-equipped to continue with Advance Spanish without re-taking the Intermediate course.

It didn't help that Spanish is spoken differently in Latin America and Spain. Sometimes it's in the choice of words (like vosotros, meaning "you all" only exists in the European version), but more obviously, it's in the pronunciation of certain letters in the Spanish alphabet:

- ll (double 'l): pronounced as a 'y' (yerh) in Europe but as a soft 'j' (jerh) in Latin America
- y: pronounced as per the English alphabet, but as 'j' (jerh) in Latin America

For the longest time, I was wondering why Alejandra looked at me expectantly every time she called upon this non-existent student named "Jee Lin", and why my classmates were asking me if my name was Gillian. My second teacher solved the problem by christianing me "Elena" (yee-lay-nah) - the Spanish name most similar to mine. Since she hailed from Europe, we had to reprogramme our brains to pronounce "ll" and "y" the European way. If anyone in class pronounced them otherwise, she would lament "Ah! Muy Latino, muy muy Latino!"

We thought that it would be really useful (not to mention necessary) to learn Spanish while in Bogota before taking on the rest of South America. We decided on a 27-hour course spanning 2 weeks costing COP 500,000 (US$250) for both of us in total. Maybe the real reason for a 2-week course was because my MacBook had been sent for servicing in Bogota and would only be ready for collection in 10 days time. Just maybe. We had 3 hours of class on weekdays, stretching from 10.30am to 1.30pm. The teacher came to the hostel, so all we had to do was to wake up, grab some breakfast and our books, and head to the reading room for class (in our PJs!)

We were assigned to Juliana (pronounced "huliana"), who speaks good English and some Mandarin which she spent a year in Beijing studying. After 2 weeks of conversing in Spanish and if necessary, in English, we forgot about her competency in Chinese...until Dannie muttered "chou zui ba" (foul mouth) in reference to something I said about his homework and Juliana burst out laughing. See, she's good!

With Juliana in the classroom at Posoda Del Sol. I get the prettiest Colombians as my Spanish teachers!

Here are some ways in which Spanish is more difficult to grasp than English:


Similar to French, all nouns in Spanish are either masculine or feminine. There are some guidelines as to how to tell the gender of the noun but these aren't fixed, so it helps to memorise the name of the noun in Spanish together with the article. Por exjiomple:
- a/the table: una/la mesa
- a/the book: un/el libro

When used in the plural, the articles change to:
- some/the tables: unas/las mesas
- some/the books: unos/los libros


All adjectives have to change according to the gender of the noun:
- a beautiful house: una casa bonita
- a beautiful car: un carro bonito


Unlike verbs in English, verbs in Spanish have to be individually conjugated according to the pronoun. Por exjiomple, using the verb "entiender", meaning "to understand":

In English, the verb only changes slightly when used with 'he' or 'she':
- I understand
- You/You All understand
- He/She understands
- We understand
- They understand

Compare this with Spanish:
- Yo (I) entiendo
- Tu (You, informal) entiendes
- Usted (You, formal)/El (He)/Ella (She) entiende
- Nosotros (We) entiendemos
- Vosotros (You all, used in Europe only) entiendeis
- Ustedes (You all, used in Latin America)/Ellos/Ellas entienderon

All verbs in Spanish end in "ar", "er" or "ir". While there is a fixed rule in conjugating some verbs (called regular verbs), it does not apply to irregular verbs. There is no way around irregular verbs but to memorise exactly how it is used with each pronoun. Por exjiomple, "tener" meaning "to have" also ends in "er" but it doesn't follow the pattern above:

- Yo tengo
- Tu tienes
- Ustd/El/Ella tiene
- Nosotros tenemos
- Vosotros teneis
- Ustds/Ellos/Ellas tienen

So then, the same complex process applies to all verbs in the past (simple past, imperfect past), present continuous, future and past participle tenses.

Spanish can be easier than English

In Spanish, because the verbs are so specifically conjugated for each pronoun, the pronoun becomes redundant and can be dropped altogether. Por exjiomple, if I just say "entiendemos", you would know straight away that I mean "we understand" and not "I/you/he/she/they understand".

Also, in English, the order of the words in a sentence have to be rearranged depending on whether it is a statement or a question. Spanish saves you the trouble of doing so.
Por exjiomple:

- Statement: I can pay now.
- Question: Can I pay now?

- Statement: Puedo pagar ahora.
- Question: ¿Pudeo pagar ahora?
(yeah, question marks and exclamation marks have to appear upside-down at the start of a question or exclamation)

We did it!

Nevertheless, after groaning every night over this, especially for the irregular verbs, struggling through worksheets and tests, we managed to put together some short pieces in Spanish. These are writing samples from our daily tarea (homework assignments).

Orraciones (sentences)

1. El esta durmiendo con la esposa de amigo. El Cabron! (He is sleeping with his friend's wife. The bastard!)

2. ¿Tu pones el papel higienico? (Do you have toilet paper?)

3. Tu esposa es la mas gordo. (Your wife is the fattest.)

4. El baile de Elena es el mas caliente. (Yi Lin's dancing is the hottest.)

5. Mis ojos son los mes pequenos. (My eyes are the smallest.)

6. Yo estoy encontrando carne en mi sopa de pollo. (I am finding beef in my chicken soup.)

All written by Dani. Obviously.

For the following writing samples, you can use our blog's language translator widget and convert it all to English yah?

Como Yo Encontre Mi Marido (How I Met My Husband, by Elena)
(showing the use of the Simple Past and Imperfect Past Tenses)

Hace cinco anos, yo trabajaba en una agencia de viaja. Un dia, un representante de la linea aerea de Sri Lanka vino a mi oficina para una reunion. El llego muy tarde. Era las dos y media de la targe y yo tenia mucha hambre. Nosotros planeabamos viajar a Sri Lanka. Ibamos a Colombo, Galle, Bentota y Hikkaduwa a trabajar durante una semana. en Sri Lanka, cuando comiamos y reiamos con nuestros amigos nuevos, me di cuenta de Dani era muy divertido y interesante. Despues, nosotros empezamos a encontramos mas a menudo. Nos casamos en 2005.

The One With No Title In Spanish (A Tribute to Michael Jackson, by Dani)
(showing the use of the Simple Past and Imperfect Past Tenses)

Michael Jackson tenia cincuenta anos cuendo morio. El canto y bailo con sus hermanos cuando era joven. Cuendo yo era joven, yo compraba muchas canciones de Michael, y yo imitaba su baile todas las veces. Michael cumplio in Singapur en 1993, y era asombroso. Me gusta Michael Jackson aunque el abuso sexualmente ninos jovenes.

Nuestros Viajes En Suramerica (Our Travels In South America, by Elena)
(showing the use of the Future Tense)

El sabado, yo saldre de Bogota con mi marido Dani. Yo recordare mis amigos aqui, especialmente los Coreanos y mi profesora de espanol, Juliana. Nosotros iremos a San Gil, donde remaremos en una balsa en el rio grande. Despues, viajaremos a Barichara. Barichara es un pueblo muy lindo. Tomaremos muchas fotos alli. A menos que cambiamos nuestros opiniones, probaremos las hormigas culonas - una delecia de Santander. Luego, tomaremos un bus a Villa de Leyva. Nos quedaremos alli por dos noches. Yo creo que una habitacion en Villa de Leyva es mas cara que una cuerto en este hostal en Bogota, y tendremos que pagar mas dinero por un cuerto. El 10 de Agosto, volveremos a Bogota y continuaremos para Cali, Popoyan e Ipiales. Siguiente, nos encontraremos con nuestros amigos en Ecuador y viajaremos en Ecuador con ellos por un mes. Partiremos con nuestros amigos en Septiembre e iremos a Peru. En Peru, subiremos las montanas en las Cordilleras Blancas y estan cerca de Cusco. Despues, seremos muy pobres!

Chao! Hasta luego!


Tracy Su said...

Any chance of a translation? *hopeful*

Yi Lin said...

I was about to just ask you to use Babelfish, but realised that the translation is terrible! Check out my next post and laugh your ass off!

But even from the bad translation, I think you can still pretty much gather what we wrote in Spanish.

Yeepster said...

Did Dan wrote he was abused by MJ in 1993?

Dannie said...

Yeepster: Haha... another reason why the next post was so important!

Forever Living

Forever Living
Read about the products, then contact our wellness sponsor!
Related Posts with Thumbnails