Thursday, February 26, 2009

Old dogs and new tricks

After over 30 years of teaching, Pam and I are not too old to learn different ways to get your lesson across.

Eduardo, our Spanish teacher brings in articles that he finds in the local newspapers for us to read. This means that, not only are we expanding our Spanish, but we are learning something of the local culture as well.

Once we have read the articles to ourselves, Eduardo then goes around the class asking us to read a paragraph each. He checks our pronunciation and corrects us where necessary.

In Spanish, as you may well know, there is only one accented syllable in any word. As Eduardo explains, putting the stress in the right place is essential if you want to be understood. It is also important to get the various consonant - vowel combinations right - something which we need to practice a lot.

Having got us to read it, Eduardo writes some of the words that we have found in the passage on the board and asks us to describe what they mean in Spanish by finding suitable synonyms. That is the challenging part of the work because, although we may understand the words he has chosen, explaining their meaning in Spanish takes some thought.

After all that hard work he then gave us this story to read:

El Cuento de la Lechera

Habia una vez una niña que vendía leche. Un día, camino del mercado, iba pensando: "Con el dinero que saque hoy de la leche me compraré una gallina, la cuidaré, pondrá huevos y tendrá pollitos. Venderé los huevos y los pollitos y, con el dinero que gave, compraré un cerdo. Le daré mucha comida, engordará, lo venderé a buen precio y me compraré un hermoso traje nuevo. Iré a la ciudad, conoceré a un hombre rico, me casaré con él y seré la envidia de mi pueblo..." Pero, distraída con sus pensamientos, tropezó con una piedra, se le rompió el cántaro de leche y todos sus proyectos se convirtieron en nada.

The story is about a young girl who sells milk. One day on the way to the market she decides to sell the milk and buy a hen which if she takes care of will lay eggs which will hatch into chickens. She will then sell the eggs and the chickens and buy a pig. Once she has fattened the pig up she can sell it for a good price and buy a beautiful new suit. She will then go to the city and find a rich man who she can marry which will make her the envy of her town.

Unfortunately, distracted by her thoughts she tripped over a stone and broke the jug of milk and so all of her plans came to nothing.

There is a parallel here for many towns in Spain that have made great plans for the future which may come to nothing because of the credit crisis. Sometimes life deals you a reality check or as Pam succinctly put it, "s*** happens".

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