Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Go learn something

I highly recommend "continuing education" if you have the time. It's a pleasure to spend a morning with adult learners. They've paid their own money, of their own free will, for many reasons of their own, but primarily to exercise their brains.

Rey, a Chicano whose people have been living in Texas since long before the gringos, presides over my Spanish conversation class on Wednesday mornings. Spanish was his first language but he wasn't schooled in it, so we don't do a lot of written work.

That's good for us - we are mostly over-educated people who quibble over the conditional and the subjunctive while botching things four-year-old children know. We should just be - out there talking.

There are usually 8-12 of us in class. Sometimes students prepare "show-and-tell" about something interesting in their lives. We had a bee-keeper bring in twenty kinds of honey and describe the life of his hive; we had a jeweler bring in her tools and her work in progress; we had a gardener bring in enough samples of an invasive plant for each of us to take one home and compare it to our own weeds! A woman described her passion for racing antique cars.

Sometimes we try to discuss the world and current events. Last week one woman, typical of Chapel Hill denizens (like me) whom Jesse Helms wanted to fence in lieu of going to the expense of building a zoo, took on a retired Iranian chemistry professor, a widow who has traveled to just about every continent since we met, on the subject of whether or not global warming and other mega-disasters are real. The Iranian said, "they've been saying for centuries that everything is going to hell and we're still here!"

I used to write up anything I wanted to say before I went to class but now I'm trying to extemporize and it's going better and better. My goal is to reduce my fear and embarrassment so I can talk to the Hispanics around here without blushing and needing to sit down afterwards.

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At 9:47 AM, Blogger Miguel said...


a bit of un-interesting trivia i've learned since moving to this country:

Replublicans use "hispanic." Democrats use "latino/a"

Older folk use "hispanic." Younger folk use "latino/a"

Most something-americans whose ancestry comes from south of the Rio Grande will not hyphenate; they are colombian, venezuelan, mexican. Very few actually use the "-american," except in print--even when they were born here. That is, unless they say "american" and renounce anything else thye might be (lots of those, too.)

Chicanos never use mexican to refer to themselves. Most of them have been American longer than anybody west of the Mississippi. Neither do they use latino, hispanic, or anything other than chicano.

In a recent study of original-language-retention upon moving to the United States, it was found that latinos/hispanics/spanish-speakers lost the native language on the first generation, while Japanese and Italians kept it for four generations.

Go figure!

Have fun in class...

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Pearl said...

Intersting. I took a couple Spanish courses too. It's true what you say, you can learn all the grammar in the world and still not be functional. Conversation is better.

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Badaunt said...

I'm all for the conversation, too. My students have six years of grammar (or something - I'm not entirely sure what) and can't put a sentence together.

My favourite student so far this year is a woman in her 50s who is in a university class (unusual here, still). She told us she'd been at university for 6 years, so most of her university friends had graduated already. I asked her why she was taking so long, and she said, "I don't NEED to graduate! And I don't WANT to."


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