Friday, February 20, 2009

Reading and Watching Spanish

In our first month here in Mexico, I bought a copy of the newspaper La Jornada because a friend said that it would be a really helpful way to learn colloquial Spanish. It didn't take me long to realize that nothing on the page was comprehensible to me and that newspaper writing, especially the titles, used odd tenses, like the passive or inversive voice. (i.e. "Man's eyes gouged out by sharp object as he walks on street" instead of the usual active voice of "Sharp object gouges out man's eyes." True story, by the way, from the newspaper. If only you could see the picture!) It was so discouraging (not to mention disgusting) to me that I haven't bought a newspaper since. 

However, recently, in an effort to get connected with what the mainstream is reading and watching, and because I have a better grasp on the language, I started watching the Spanish news and reading online Spanish newspapers (like just two or three weeks ago). Actually, it was by accident that I started watching the Spanish news. I was at the airport in the American Express lounge, and they had Channel 11 news on. Without knowing it, I had my eyes on the screen, understanding almost everything they were saying. The move from avoiding the Spanish channels to now looking for the news, I think I've hit a big milestone in learning Spanish. The first 200 channels on my TV were once unknown to me, but I'm slowly learning which stations here are the comparable ABCs, NBCs, and CBSs of Mexico. I know it seems kooky to have avoided 200 stations for so long, but in this day and age, when you can watch almost any US TV program here, there is little holding me back from those channels and a lot of mental resistance to watching the Spanish channels. I still have to use Google Translate and the dictionary on occasional words, but with this new addition to my Spanish life, I think I have overcome the beginner's slump.

Just one really quick observation about the news here. I've been watching some of the online videos on El Univeral, supposedly a more reputable news source here, and the narco videos all seem to have movie-like music in the background. This country is already skeptical of Calderón's efforts to stamp out the violence--I don't think movie music helps the public understand the gravity of the situation. A school was taken hostage this week in Reynosa, and there's movie music to entertain us as we watch!

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