Monthly Archives: June 2009

¡Por fin aquí estamos! Finally We Are Here!

De la corazón del mundo españa y hispano america – BIENVENIDOS A LA CASA ROJAS – the magazine ………..!   www.lacasarojas.com 

Saludos,  Joan y Luis

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Yo recibí este mensaje esta mañana desde Honduras – el golpe en primera persona

Hola Joan les quiero que tengas algnas fotos que tome hoy Domingo 28 jun de la crisis a raiz del Golpe de Estado y apresamiento del presidente en mi pais  aver que les parecen…

Todas tomadas en Tegucigalpa, la Capital, en el frente de la CasaPresidencial, tengo la historia si la queres,me avisas…

Atentamente

Alvaro Morales Molina

Periodista

Alvaro sent 4 fotos that he had taken during the government overthrow yesterday and the imprisonment of the president with his offer to write about it from his perspective.  Of course I responded a resounding “Sí, por favor¨.  La Casa Rojas – the magazine, is not about up to the minute news….there are news outlets for that.  We are about showing the human interest side of a story.  “What is it like living in your country.”  And at times, this will involve an overshadowing crisis in progress….this is one of those for Honduras. 

And so, contrary to my entry of yesterday, I guess we will be introduced to Honduras through “del Gole de Estado y apresamiento del presidente”.     Cuidense bien.     -Joan  Editor en Chief de La Casa Rojas – the magazine

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Lo de Honduras afecta aún nuestra revista humilde … All That’s Going On with Honduras Even Affects Our Humble Magazine

We are due out with a new editionof our on-line magazine, La Casa Rojas on July 1st.  As you know, we publish a whole new group of articles on the 1st and 15th of each month.  This one due on the 1st was to have a new writer from Honduras … but my most recent unsuccessful attempts to reach him … seem to foreshadow that representation from this country will be delayed. 

I will be interested however in hearing what is happening there from his perspective and so perhaps our introduction to this country through La Casa Rojas will not highlight festivals or favorite foods or things on the lighter side, perhaps we will gain our first glimpse of this country through the tug-o-war that seems to be in full swing.  If not this edition, hopefully the next and if not the next, this enthused writer will be in touch with us as soon as he can, I know.

You can hear what’s happening through the newspapers and radio . . . but what is it about a personal and  first person  account of the life one is living?  There is nothing that compares to that, nothing.    -Joan, Editor in Chief of La Casa Rojas

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“How did you learn Spanish?”

I get this question all the time…..even from my native Spanish speaking clients at the MH clinic where I put in a few hours a week.  “How or where did you learn Spanish?” 

Now when I tell people (if they didn’t already know) that my husband is Peruvian and a Spanish Language Instructor, they immediately go ……….¡Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, por eso!   and to be honest, I use this answer a lot because the real one takes too much time to explain.  Not because it´s complicated, more because it´s not a reason that is easily absorbed on the first or even the 15th telling. 

I don´t blame people who dismiss my abilites to speak Spanish as something that came easily and somehow seamlessly comingled in the words “I do.”  I let them, even my native speaking clients and friends and associates go on believing that this is a conjugal perk.  

The people that don´t fall so easily into this fantasy are those that are dating or married to a native Spanish speaker and can´t somehow get that osmosis thing to kick in.  I´m being sarcastic here…. because of course any fantasy they had evaporated within a week of dating.  There is that moment when suddenly it becomes apparent that speaking Spanish is not going to come any easier through sharing a bathroom.  Those university students that live in the “Spanish House” or those that travel to exotic ports-of-call to “study abroad”, also get that eating together, sleeping in proximity and squeezing the same tube of paste does not equate to “speak Spanish”.

I’m rather known for my long introductions, so let me get to the meat of things here.  What is the real answer to “How did you learn Spanish?” 

Well, I can´t deny that I used Luis as a resource.  I did.  But I can count the number of classes I took from him on a hand and a half over the 7 years we have known one another.  The truth is simple and complicated at the same time; I exposed myself to the language through print and through audio.  I am not talking about the Learn Spanish textbooks or those silly ‘listen while going to work tapes’ that have made a company or two wildly wealthy …. you know, fantasy sells….those were a bust.  I even tried studying in a Spanish speaking country, hoping that proximity or the water would do the trick … that also was a bust.

No, I read Spanish language newspapers, magazines and I listened to Spanish language talk shows on the radio and on TV.  When I had a question, when I just couldn’t even with the help of my on-line dictionary make sense of something, I would bring it to Luis and say….”what the h?”  When I had no other way to hear how it would sound if it were spoken, I asked Luis to read to me while I followed along.  That’s what I mean, Luis has been more my walking talking reference tool that I access on demand rather than the person from which all knowledge flowed into my empty eager vessel. 

I give an answer when pushed but the truth is fluency is a rather vaporous term.  Never-the-less when someone presses….”Well, how long did it take?”  “Huh? How long did what take?”, I mock back in my stall technique intended to dodge the question.  “How long did it take for you to ‘become fluent’?”  (“Become fluent”….that’s the subject of another post….)  “Well under two years,”  I venture and then wait for the reaction.  Those that have been studying typically say…”Oh my gosh, you’re one of those people to whom language comes easily, that’s amazing.”  Those that haven’t begun to learn yet tend to say something along the line of, “Wow, it takes that long?”     

Now I am not saying ‘under two years’  is lightening speed….there are those that truly do have the ‘gift of language’ and seem to pick up the math a lot quicker than I did.  And there is that pesky little detail about the exact definition of “fluent”.  I have heard some say that they are fluent and it is true that there are really, lots of levels of fluency.  Can you order dinner and understand what you are being prompted to respond by the waiter?  If you can, I suppose you could consider yourself fluent in ordering dinner….and on up the hierarchy of situational fluency, you get the idea.  Maybe you can understand a Peruvian from Lima 60% of the time but not a Chilean from Santiago de Chile.  Maybe you can ‘understand more that you can speak’,  yeah, we can slice this flan in a million ways.

But back to how did I learn and let me now add, how much do I know?  I learned by exposing myself to the language every single day (yes every single day) with INTENTION TO LEARN, a critical qualification.  That is, armed with my online dictionary, I would read and look up, read and look up, read and see if I could deduce and then I would look up word, after word, after word.  I started withNews because I knew when I listened that same day to a Spanish language news channel, I would be hearing the same news items.  Being already familiar with the story, I’d be in a better position to recognize it when I heard it….well accompanied by the visual cues and it pushed me forward because I was hearing what I had read earlier, sounds in the mouth of a native speaker.  I could hear how a particular phrase is used and enunciated and inflected.  All of these nuances helped me enormously in assimilating the ‘language perspective’.  As you know, when we read another language, we tend to read it as it would sound in our own language and so leaping from reading or writing to understanding and speaking can be quite the long jump.  We just simply don’t recognize it in sound they way we can in print.

I won’t lie to you.  Learn at first was tedious, it was beyond hard, it took dedication and Luis remembers (poor thing) even better than I how crabby it made me sometimes.   I wanted so much to just speak and to just understand…but one doesn’t find ones self summitting without the climb.

So that’s how it would go, day after day after day…which by the way, continues today.  I have graduated though, I have gone from News, which tends to be rather formulaic, to more creative epressions of the language.  But short of reading a novel or a gossip magazine, I was hard pressed to find articles that interested me, much less articles that came from a variety of people and places, much less an article that I could read and listen to.  It was taking more and more work to find material that captured me and kept me developing and growing in the language and in my knowledge of the various cultures where Spanish is spoken.  I also wanted to listen to a variety of accents and ‘ways of speaking’.  I didn’t want to find myself able to understand a Mexican from Mexico City, but not a Spañard from Barcelona.  Like I said, I INTENDED TO learn Spanish and so I knew that my exposure to the language would have to inlcude as many of it´s variations that I could get my hands on.

Oh, and the answer to the other question….”….how much do I know?” 

Never as much as I want to know is the best answer to that question.  There always seems to be a new turn of phrase or word or cultural nuance or custom or historical influence or policatical reality or cuisine or…gosh, you name it.  It’s endless.  It’s wonderful.

So how am I going about keep pushing myself forward in a way that interests me and challenges me?  Well, I came up with this idea of developing an online magazine.  I thought well, it would be easily accessible, I am always on or near my computer.  And if Icould get people from a variety of walks of life representing every single corner of every single Spanish speaking country writing for me and recording their article in downloadable audio files so that I could take the time to look up what I didn’t get while reading the article, and then take it with me in audio so that I could listen to it again and again to familiarize myself with the accent and cadence and way of speaking…..if I could ask these writers to talk about real stuff, stuff that I wouldn’t find in even a travel magazine …. I thought, yeah, that’ll do it.  Yeah, I think I will start a magazine…………           – Joan, Editor in Chief,  La Casa Rojas – the magazine

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We ask your understanding and indugence, maybe even your forgiveness…

………for how we appear in our introduction video for our new on-line magazine, La Casa Rojas – It’s pretty obvious that we are not professional talking heads or pitchmen.  We are two people, happily married, blessed to share a passion for the Spanish Language and the cultures from which it grew who want to share our passion (the part about Spanish) with the world.

When we made that video, we had not slept much the previous 5 weeks…much meaning,  3 to 5 hours a night for me and 0 to 4 hours a night for Luis.  My eyes were dark and I had to over animate to break through my fatigue and Luis looks almost like he’s sleeping with his eyes open.  We are reluctant public figures and so we ask you to forgive us for not being polished and flawless. 

We also want you to hold us accountable for the value of the information we offer you.  Teaching  language and culture comes with a responsibility to present it with respect and in it’s authentic context.  Language after all is how we express who we are in our very depths and there is not one of us on this planet that don’t value almost above all else, being heard, being understood.  We want our uniqueness, our self hood acknowledged. 

So as you watch our intro video, please look past our humanness, no wait, on second thought go ahead and look closely at our humanness and see in it the authenticity of our work.  If we are to really know one another, we must be okay with allowing ourselves to be known.  Each article that you will read in La Casa Rojas is real piece of life offered to you by real people.  They are not slicking things up for you, they are telling you like it is, from their perspective.  If you want to know us, know them, know their cultures, know their language, you have the information before you, all you have to do is receive it with an open mind.   Bienvenidos a nuestra casa,  La Casa Rojas,   Joan y Luis

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HEMOS LANZADO – LA CASA ROJAS – LA REVISTA – BIENVENIDOS

We are so excited – and exhausted!  But we are up and out and open for business…..please come on over and meet your new best friends and personal guides from all over Hispano America and Spain.  They are truly very excited to have this forum and opportunity to share what life is truly like for them as natives in their country.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that what is offered in La Casa Rojas – the magazine….. is not available anywhere else.   See you there!  Joan and Luis

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Para ponerles al tanto – To Update You

The reason for the the delay in the real launch of La Casa Rojas – the magazine is fascinating from a cross-cultural perspective…. and if all goes well and as we suspect….our programmers will have it all sewed up by tomorrow.

The delay from the programming perspective is not as a result of any problem, rather it has to do with the complexity of programming, period.  And in order to get this programming to result in the vision that Luis and I have prescribed we have had to strattle at least three distinct reference systems or worlds, if you will.  Here’s how it goes….

Luis and programmer are talking – on speaker phone, in English  (or this could happen through email, in English as well)….programmer says something for which I can make out the words, but not the meaning.   Luis turns to me and says;  “Tell me what he said, I think I understand, but I want to make sure.”

(Now, just a footnote here….I speak English and Spanish….I DO NOT, NOR DO I HAVE ANY INTEREST in speaking ‘programming’…..particularly since there seems to be many ‘dialects’ of this language.)

So, I repeat back to Luis (pretty much verbatim) what the programmer said to him.  Usually this does it, but once in a while he’ll ask me what a ‘term’ means…..one that comes to mind in this moment is “slug”.  Well, geeze, “slug” in programmingland is likely to mean something altogether different than in normalpeopleland.  (no offense meant to those brilliant individuals who seem to have some kind of computer juice running through their veins rather than blood).  “Slug”, I say.  “Hmmmm, well….”, I get up and flatten and expand my body as much as I can and start to, well, waddle in exaggerated slow motion toward him.  “It’s this lavea type stage of various insects.  It’s typically really ugly, slimey and moves incredibly slow.  It leaves a sticky trail in it’s wake.”

Now I can’t imagine how that could possibly be helpful in the highly technical conversation Luis is having with this tech guy…..but I watch his face brighten as I pantomine a slug and then his head begins to nod and he is back on the phone with the tech guy saying,  “Okay, I got it.  Great.  Okay, what else?”

On my gosh!  So that in a nut shell is what has delayed the launch of our magazine.  It’s this translation thing that is happening between English, Spanish and Programming, supported by a few pantomines.  We are almost there and if I had to venture a guess exactly when you’ll be able to subscribe…. I could feel good about….(Luis says today)….saying tomorrow.  If all things move forward as they seem to be today….we will not only be up….but be up with a couple more articles that are not even available in the ‘sneak peek’  version.

So thanks everyone for writing to ask how and when can you subscribe, thanks for the bottle of wine Eleena! all the way from Spain to toast our birth…thanks for hanging in there everyone!  We are here working hard and long, ready to pop at any moment.  Just keep an eye on this Blog as I will make the announcement here and on Twitter that we are open for business.  Un gran abrazo a todos,    Joan

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