Where the Kids Books Are

I’ve been studying Spanish for a few months. I’d focused exclusively on speaking until about a month ago, when I noticed myself struggling to remember certain words because I couldn’t visualize them. At times, I wasn’t even sure I was hearing words right.

I picked up an easy Spanish reader. I worked through the first twenty or so short reads there before getting bored with its content. To mix things up, I picked up some kids books in Spanish.

The first chapter book I picked up was then too difficult for me; I had to look up its every third word. Every fifth or sixth word is fine, but every third, maddening! This led me to seek out easier reads.

I found the enchanting Isadora Moon in Spanish: “Su mamá es un hada, su papá es un vampiro y ella tiene un poquito de los dos.” I’ve read the first three books of the series and have preordered the fifth and sixth (out end of month, woo-hoo!).

I’ve read a National Geographic book on what different animal parents teach their babies. I also read Stink, el increíble Niño Menguante, another perfect read for my current reading level. I got the gist without having to look up words, but looked up some to expand my Spanish vocabulary.

When I look up a word while reading these books, I write the translation under the word in the book. I then go through and transfer those words to a notebook before making flash cards of them. Thus grows my Spanish vocabulary, and my prospect for eventually reading more complicated books!

Yesterday, I stopped by a new-to-me bookstore to check out its selection of kids books in Spanish. I found The Tales of Beedle Bard, which I set back on the shelf. There was no way I’d be able to read it! Still, with nothing else jumping out at me, I grabbed it for later reading. Continue reading “Where the Kids Books Are”


Knowledge to do good enough

In Antifragile, Nassim Taleb distinguishes “nerdified” classroom learning from the kind done in the real world. So-called nerdified learning leans the learner toward perceiving the world as more stable than it really is, and seeking academic perfection versus success in the more complex real world.

In one or two paragraphs, he talks about how this relates to learning languages. Does he learn from a program or textbook, by learning the rules and then attempting to apply them? No, he learns by trial and error.

Thus it was that when I walked into a store this morning, I was thrilled to (mostly) understand what the clerks were saying in Spanish. I was disappointed in myself for not trying to interject, but reassured myself there’s only so much that can be learned from 32 half-hour Pimsleur lessons on disc.

Outside, an old lady sat in a wheelchair. She didn’t have a sign, so I walked right past her. A few feet past her, I paused and backtracked.

“Do you need money?” I asked.

“Habla espanol?” she asked in turn.

“Solo un poco,” I replied.

“Poquito!” she said with a smile.

“Si, un poquito.”

She said something really fast. I replayed it in my brain to see if I could make sense of it.

I couldn’t. “No entiendo.” I paused, trying to remember the right verb form, before continuing, “necessita dinero?”

“Poquito,” she replied.

I handed her a couple of dollars. She thanked me, to which I replied, “De nada! Buenos dias!”

As I got back in my car, I was fairly well beaming. I hadn’t said much, and I’d probably made mistakes anyway, but I’d had a conversation that couldn’t have happened in English. Did I need to use the right verb forms this conversation to get the point across? Not so much.

I’ll aim for getting it right, to be sure. I just won’t let fear of not getting it right stop me when I have enough knowledge to do good enough.