Thursday, January 26, 2012

ABC, Simple as...

Last week, I was asked to do something that I found extremely difficult. No, not punish someone, not correct homework even. I was asked to write the English alphabet for some 7-year-olds.

Ha, you say, that's easy!

You're right, sounds easy. Except I had to write it complete with an example of how you would phonetically spell the pronunciation of each letter in Spanish, on the spot, in front of said 7-year-olds.

Now you say that I'm just a wimp. By now I must know enough Spanish to be able to spell the pronunciation of the English alphabet, right?

I thought so too. I started out confidently.

...and here's where I had to stop. G? In Spanish, there's a hard g in front of some vowels (like in gato (GAH-toe), and there's a g that sounds like an h in front of others (like in gente, HEN-tay), but no g that sounds like a j. I looked to the real teacher, confused, and she suggested I write "lli" (as in allí, ah-GEE). Then she also said that there was a problem with A. "You need an i too, it's not just e," she said. I thought about it, and she was right. It's aaaayeeee, not ehhhh (I'm not using phonetic transcription because of the extremely small percentage of people who would actually be able to read it). I added the i, making it A-ei, and continued.


H...should be ech, right? Or so I thought anyway. No, there's another dipthong there! (A dipthong is when there are two adjacent vowel sounds in the same syllable) It's aaayeeeech, not ehhhch  So...

I-ai (I was getting the hang of it now, English vowels are mostly dipthongs!)
J-llei (Another complicated one...I had to confirm this one with the teacher as well.)

K...should be que, everyone knows "que" in Spanish sounds like the letter K! Right? But no, fooled again, the teacher told me that once again there was a dipthong. It's kai, not keh. So I continued on, starting to wonder if I was really the best person to be doing this task after all...


(At this point, all the kids asked "Where's the ñ???" And of course I had to tell them it doesn't exist for us. They were sad about it.)


Q...once again, stumped. How do you make a y sound in Spanish if ll is j? Too complicated for me! The teacher had to step in again. "Write kiu," she said. I had to think about it for a minute and say that to myself a few times before realizing what she said made sense. Yikes.

V-vi (on a roll again, or so I thought...)

W...oh god. Such a complicated letter. So long. Double you? Spell that in Spanish phonetics, GO. Real teacher to the rescue! "Dabl iu," she said. Phew.

W-dable iu
Y-uai (I was pretty proud of thinking of that one. It's more than a dipthong, it's a tripthong. Pretty complex, huh?)

And now the real kicker. Z? Z doesn't exist here. Because of ceceo (the part of pronunciation in Spain which makes them sound like they have a lisp--they pronounce words with c and z with a "th" sound), if I wrote "zi," they would say "theeeee." And I had already used "si" for the letter C. What to do? The teacher, being indoctrinated into the ways of British English, said I should just write "sed" (they say zed in Britain, in case you were unaware). I complied, not entirely pleased with that but glad to have the task over with.


And then, then we sang the alphabet song. Finally, something easy! ...Except now that we had used zed, the song didn't work! "W, X, Y and zed, next time won't you sing" Totally screwed that one up. So then I just ended up confusing the kids by singing it the regular American way in consequent tries.

Boy oh boy, who knew the alphabet could be so complicated??

Completely unrelated image of a pretty beach

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Few Busy Weeks

I've only been back in Vigo two weeks, but I've done so many things already! I'm pretty proud of myself for kicking homesickness in the kiester. Who says you can't go home for Christmas and come back and get rejuvenated to see more things? I've been having such a good time that I'm considering reapplying for next year, something I originally wasn't going to do. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, here's what I've been up to.

My first weekend back, some friends and I went down to Braga, Portugal, because this year it is the European Youth Capital of Culture (or something similar to that), and so they were having a celebration. We went exploring around the town before the celebrations started, and ate a bit and that sort of thing. Then we went down to listen to this concert, which was the main reason we were there, but it was raining and the music was frankly pretty weird. And we couldn't see the light show that went with it because it was so crowded! So we pretty quickly abandoned the idea of watching and went to eat dinner with a large group of Couchsurfers.

Couchsurfing, in case you didn't know, is a website where people can request to sleep on other people's couches in cities that they are visiting. And because I know that the idea of me doing that will scare my parents to death, I will inform you that I haven't actually surfed anywhere (yet); I've just been meeting new people at Couchsurfing meetings and stuff.

Anyway. That was pretty fun, and we had a meal for really cheap (yay cheap food in Portugal!), but I got really sleepy towards the end of the several-hour dinner, and so most of my group who came in the same car together decided to head home after that. Here are some pictures of our day in Braga:
Here is a picture of a beautiful square in Braga.

These weird things were part of the celebration, and they would come up behind unsuspecting people and peck them. Very strange.

Then this past weekend, we went on a little trip to Guimarães, Portugal, which is one of this year's European Capitals of Culture. The first thing we did there was to check out this cool old castle, which apparently is where the Portuguese won their independence, so they say that Guimarães is "where Portugal was born."  

A picture of the castle

Another picture of the castle--can you tell that visiting an old castle was extremely satisfying to my inner history nerd?

View from the ramparts

Me at said castle

This is one of many gigantic rocks I saw that day, which I found extremely impressive.

Later, after a small picnic on the castle lawn, we took a funicular up this hill to see a church. We didn't get to go inside, but the views were impressive (but they look less so on my camera, so no pictures). 

Then we met more Couchsurfers for dinner and then went to the show. The show was...strange. They had this robot marionette horse, and then robot marionette man, which took up most of the show just standing up and walking around. Kind of cool, but not worth the amount of time it took. Then the other part of the show was on this wall of balconies, which they had made a 3D image of and then they played around with the 3D image, making it look like the wall was shattering and stretching and stuff. Kind of cool! Then there were some small fireworks, which I always enjoy, although I wish there had been more and that they had been bigger. The real problem with the show, though, was that there were thousands of us squashed into this medium-sized square, and so you couldn't move at all, and it took probably 45 minutes to get out of there, all the time feeling like part of a herd of cattle. 

Then, the worst part, as soon as we got out of the crowd and into a bar, my friend realized that her wallet had been stolen! So terrible. So then we hightailed it to the police to report it, and that put a bit of a damper on the rest of the evening. Despite the bad ending though, it was a nice day. 

Then the next day, back in Vigo, we made some plans to meet up with a girl we had met the night before, who was on her way back to Asturias. We went down to the beach and walked around for a while in the beautiful 20-degree (Celsius, 70-ish Fahrenheit) weather. It was so warm that I was out in a t-shirt for a while! I amused myself for awhile imagining everyone I know back home in the snow and me in Spain in my t-shirt in the sun at the beach. Ahhhh, what a life. 

Then later, after the girl from Asturias left, we went over to a nearby town called Baiona, which is very pretty. It's also, I learned, the place where the first of Christopher Columbus's boats returned to, making it the first place in Europe to hear about the discovery of the New World! Pretty cool, I thought. I guess they do a reenactment of this in March, and I can't wait to go see it.

Another castle, this time in Baiona (I will never stop loving how many castles there are in Europe!)

A model of the Pinta, the first of Columbus's ships to come back from the New World

The ocean, being beautiful as usual

A sign that says the stuff about the Pinta coming back from America

So that was the past two weekends. Perhaps you're now saying to yourself, wait a minute, you give us 3 pictures of London and Amsterdam and a million of these tiny places near where you live that we've never heard of. What gives? Well, sometimes I like discovering tiny towns better than seeing big famous ones. It feels more intimate, like you get a real feel for the place. And you also feel a little bit like an explorer, because you're seeing places that haven't been seen by a million people before you.

So that's that. Until next time, make the most out of the little things in life.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Short Spanish Lesson: Some Favorite Abbreviations

This is a short Spanish lesson about abbreviations, brought to you by the letter A! (OK, just kidding, but I felt like I was on Sesame Street for a minute there)

Abbreviations in a foreign language are one of my favorite things to learn, because it means that you're really getting the version of the language that actual people use! Here are some of my favorites and/or the ones I could think of off the top of my head, probably because I hear them about a thousand times a day:

tele, short for televisión: television, TV
peli, short for película: movie
bici, short for bicicleta: bicycle, bike
cole, short for colegio: school
finde, short for fin de semana: weekend
seño, short for señor(it)(a): Mr., Mrs., Miss (what the students often call their teachers)
profe, short for profesor: professor
porfa, short for por favor: please

Do you have any favorite Spanish abbreviations? Or favorite abbreviations in another language?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


What? It's been over a month since I last posted, you say? You thought I'd given up blogging altogether? No, not the case...I was just too busy going back to the USA and enjoying time spent with my lovely family! 
My entire immediate family, finally all together!

I won't bore you all with too much detail about that, after all you probably already know what Christmas in the US is like if you're reading this. It was so nice to go home though, and I'm really more sad than happy to be back in Spain at the moment, unfortunately. I have a feeling I'm going to spend a lot of the rest of my time here being very homesick.

Before that, I went on a trip to London and Amsterdam, which was absolutely fantastic. I've been to London twice before and Amsterdam once, so neither was entirely new to me, but I still found lots to see. And my affirmation that London is the best city in the world was simply re-confirmed!

Stratford-Upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born (a side trip we took, and well worth the time because it was so quaint there!)

Trafalgar Square at Christmastime!

Bikes and canals, or a quick summary of Amsterdam

My friends and I having fun with the I Amsterdam sign (can you spot us?)

An American/British goods store we found in Amsterdam. There were so many things I hadn't seen in such a long time! I bought some Reese's Pieces for 2€ (about $3) and they were so. worth. it.

A beautiful Christmas tree in a mall in Amsterdam. There were so many more decorations on display there than in Vigo! I'm guessing that has something to do with the crisis here in Spain.

That's all for now, but hopefully I'll be back soon with more things to report. Until then, I hope everyone had safe and happy holidays!