Thursday, March 01, 2007

Revolutionary Spanish

Hola compañeros, well it looks like it finally may actually happen - the Cambridge Revolutionary Spanish Group may soon become a reality for all those keen on learning Spanish in order to aid the overthrow of the oligarchy, Yankee imperialism and racismo.

My previous attempts at learning Spanish have been hampered by my nascent laziness and skinflintitude. But this time will be different and I've already covered my part of the barracks in little post-it notes informing me that the door is a puerta that soldados are not to be trusted because they are homicidas and the like.

One of the difficulties I had at school with learning languages, apart from the fact I was simply *at school*, was we never learned to say anything I could remotely imagine myself ever *wanting* to say.

M. B may be the pater, his wife the mater, his son the garçon and Toto est la chien but apart from reinforcing an inherently unequal patriarchal nuclear family, where the son is only one step up from the dog, who cares? I also did Latin (I know) where Caecilius est pater, Metella's the Mum, Quintus the son followed in quick succession by Cerberus. Perhaps they both ate their dinner off the floor, who knows.

I gave up French when I was 14 (although, surprisingly, I remembered a fair bit of it the last time I was in France being able to order sausage and wine and ask for the way to the social center) and I achieved a memorable "Grade U" at Latin, which apparently means I got less than 5%. I mean how did that happen? I knew I was crap at it, but less than 5%!?! I mean, I came out of the exam and told my mate Neil "I think I did alright at that." Anyway, I digress.

So the theory is that we get hold of a job lot of the Venezuelan Constitution and similar documents to learn Spanish through investigating and talking about things we are actually interested in. The theory holds true for others too I guess. It would be great to see the local hairdressers set up "The Latin Fringe", and the neighbourhood polyamorist enclave launch "Spanish for Lovers" but that will be their responsibility to make that happen, not mine.

We've yet to firm up all the details but we already have willing students, potential tutors and a copy of "Viva La Quince Brigada" to start us off. Any Spanish dictionaries, textbooks or just Spanish language papers and novels would be gratefully accepted to help kick start the group.


moll said...

"Caecilius est pater, Metella's the Mum, Quintus the son followed in quick succession by Cerberus"

I think you'll find that Cerberus the dog was followed by Melissa the slave girl. I have some very bad memories of that book, despite the fact it was probably responsible for me becoming an archaeologist. Not that I know any latin, or knew any after 4 years of following the exciting lives of Caecilius, Melissea, and co.

I think I'm just terrible at spanish though. Its been nearly 5 years now, and I still have a lot of trouble with it. I'm doing my first round of field work in Chile this summer as well, so its becoming a critical issue. I would recommend watching all your films with Spanish subtitles on, setting your home page to a spanish news site so at least you read the headlines every morning in Spanish, and reading children's books that you know well already. That way the language is simpler and because you know the story you are likely to be able to follow.

buena suerte!

rich said...

cool! My attempts at learning spanish have failed thus far. Giving the whole thing a nice revolutionary angle might just keep me interested. Count me in...


Jim Jay said...

I'd forgotten the slave girl, but as soon as you put Mellissa it all came flooding back... it just gets worse doesn't it?

Good advice Moll, gracias.

Rich first session this Sunday 4 - 6 anyone else email me for more details

moll said...

canother tip, this site here is really handy, esp for the grammer sections. My newly Linuxed laptop has a practice spanish grammer program built into it which looks great, but unfortunately the instructions appear to have been mangled through Babel Fish a few too many times and I have no idea how to make it work....

It can be very hard to keep motivated through the most painful period of not being able to say anything other than "Hola. Mi nombre es moll. ¿Dónde está la estación de tren?". (Though in your case perhaps it will be "Hola. Mi nombre es Jim. ¿De dónde los guerrillas están entrenamiento?") But I think if there is a good group of you and you have something you really do want to read it will be a lot easier!

Its true that most language classes never teach you anything you would actually want to say. A good friend of mine swears the only way to make the average class bearable is to try and make every naff exercise into a cheesy love ballard. Ie: "Describe typical gifts given in your country for holidays." "On St. Valentines day it is traditional to take your lover to Paris, the most romantic city in the world, stew his bed with rose petals, feed him oysters and red wine then cover him in chocolate sauce and make passionate love all night long till the birds wake you in the morning with their sweet songs." or "Describe what you did last weekend." "Last weekend I was seduced by a girl with eyes like stars who stole my heart with a single glance. She was the girl of my dreams, my angel, with raven black hair and libs like roses. but she left me - alone." and so on. I can imagine that "Last weekend I was crushed by the evil capitalist pigs, but next weekend I will rise up with my brothers to fight the repression inherent in the system." would have a similar effect on the average po-faced middle aged Spanish teacher....