Does everyone remember Caster Semanya? She dominated the 800 m during the Olympics, but her gender was called into question. IAAF (the international athletics governing body) subjected her to a whole bunch of tests and then dithered for about a year before finally announcing she can compete – if she’s treated with drugs for her gender issues. Basically, she now takes a bunch of drugs to make her more womanly. Surprise, surprise, she hasn’t been remotely successful since she started taking the drugs. There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start, so maybe I should just leave it.
I’ve started listening to Pimsleur Spanish in the car lately. It’s great. I’m really enjoying it. It makes the time pass, and I feel like I’m learning something. Pimsleur has a pretty good Spanish program – 120 lessons or 60 hours in total. I imagine it’s equivalent to High School Spanish I or a semester or college Spanish. That’s my theory anyway. I remember studying French in college (3 semesters), and while our professor was French, we didn’t spend a lot of time listening to native French speakers. Our professor, despite saying she would speak only French, actually spoke a lot of English, and we used to practice conversations with each other, and of course, our pronunciation wasn’t very good. Anyway, while you don’t get any feedback using Pimsleur, you do hear native speakers exclusively, which is good.
So far, Spanish is SO MUCH EASIER than Japanese. I actually find this a bit surprising. When I was doing Pimsleur Japanese and people would ask me if it was hard, I would say No, Japanese is not a hard language. Other than the L / R / D problem, it’s not hard to pronounce. The verbs are not conjugated (though they obviously change with tense). The language, at least at the beginning level, makes limited use of pronouns. Nouns don’t decline. However, what I’ve realized is that all of this doesn’t matter when weighed against the total lack of cognates. Every single Japanese word was, for me, a collection of completely random syllables to be memorized. I would typically make up a sentence in English to help me remember almost every single word I learned in Japanese. That’s a lot of memorization. In addition, Japanese words tended to have lots of syllables.
It seems on the other hand that every word in Spanish is a cognate either of some English word – often an obscure one – or of a Latin word I vaguely remember from my 5 years of Latin. This has made the beginning lessons infinitely easier. The way Pimsleur works is that you are supposed to repeat the 30 minute lesson until you get 75% of it correct. In theory, you should only have to listen to it once. With the Japanese, once I got to lesson 3 or 4, I was having to listen to every lesson at least twice and often 3 times at 100% concentration. So far, I haven’t had to listen to any of the Spanish lessons more than once, and I’m on Lesson 16.
However, my goals are definitely different. With the Japanese, I just wanted to familiarize myself with the language and be able to use a little bit of it on my vacation in English-friendly Japan. In Spanish, on the other hand, I’d really like to get to level of where I was in French after three semesters in college – to be able to get by in the language.