Tag Archives: speak spanish

Viája a Nicaragua con Jessica – Travel to Nicaragua with Jessica

Today I am going to do something a little different and really fun for me.  I am going to introduce you to a student of ours that became a friend and now is more a friend than a student but that doesn´t mean that she has stopped studying with us, only that we could lose her as a student and still be okay, because you know, sometimes students move on and well,  that´s understandable and something we have to live with, but to have a friend move on? – well that would fall into a catagory all together different called ‘really sad’  so I hope it won´t happen, at least for a very long time if it happens at all.  We love it when our students become dear friends! 

JessJessica in Kayakica  runs a business called Un Buen Viaje and the second I can get away I’m taking one of her trips without a doubt.  In fact she’s got some coming up in the fall, and I may find myself on one of them……so anyway everybody…….. Heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre’s Jessica!

Joan:  Jessica, tell us about Un Buen Viaje.

Jessica:  ¡Un Buen Viaje! is my way of giving back to the country that has given me so much. After four years of research and a continuously vivid dream, I launched www.ToursToNicaragua.com. Together with two dependable local guides we are a small group travel company leading tours in Nicaragua. We take individuaP5170637ls, couples, families, photographers, birders, kayakers, hikers, history buffs, coffee lovers, foodies, really anyone who is adventurous enough to step out of their comfort zone and into this colorful, big-hearted country.

Our focus is on being responsible travelers. We emphasize this by engaging our guests in the communities in which we travel and encouraging active involvement. Our travelers learn about Nicaragua from the inside out, through the voices of its people, its complex history, and rich culture. It’s more than just a ‘place’ to visit or a ‘thing’ to do. It’s about treading lightly in our host’s backyard and showing thanks for their invitation to visit. Como la gente dice siempre, “a la orden.”

Joan:  HikingWhy Nicaragua?  What attracts you to this country in particular?

Jessica:  Nicaragua chose me, in a way. In 2002 Peace Corps sent me to the largest country in Central America as a sustainable agriculture volunteer, introducing me to a land of lakes, volcanoes, cloud forests, beaches, curious creatures, and vibrant and socially active gente with a complicated past. While I did not remain in Peace Corps, Nicaragua remained in my heart. It’s the incredible beauty, diversity, and perseverance of the people that keeps me going back for more. I can’t imagine ever running out of things to explore.

Joan:  Tell us about your experience in creating a Business in a country that has a language different than yours? P5070292

Jessica:  Most of the ‘business’ takes place here in my Minneapolis office. Starting a small international travel company is a lot like starting any other small business. Same hoops. Same hurdles. Getting to travel in Nicaragua is the reward for the hard work.

When I use P5150577my Spanish here in Minneapolis it’s mainly to connect with Nicaraguan businesses, organizations and individuals to ask for information or advice in their area of expertise. A lot of this communication is done via e-mail so I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my written skills.

Of course, once we touch down in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, it’s all Spanish. Bilingual Nicaraguans are in the minority and English is practically non-existent outside of the capital city and Granada, Nicaragua’s hotbed for expats. In-country is where I’m most challenged and when the practice (Spanish class with Luis, e-mails, Twitter, surfing Spanish language websites) pays off. There are taxis to be called, reservations to be made, friends to visit, drinks to be ordered! I love nothing more than being in the moment, making it all happen with my second language.

Joan:  What if I don’t know Spanish and have no interest in learning it, can I still enjoy a trip with Un Buen Viaje?

The awesome thing about communication is that it is so much bigger than words. Imagine a handshake, a wink, a wrinkle of the nose or the forehead, a smile, a laugh, an “Ah ha!” I sometimes think those with a lesser understanding of the Spanish language than me often have an easier time communicating as it comes more from the heart than the head. Anyone with an open mind is sure to enjoy traveling with us.P5190693

Joan:  What if I am passionate about the Spanish language and culture, what in particular, does your trip have to offer someone like me?

Jessica:  Because only a minority of Nicaraguans speak English you are likely to find yourself immersed in the language and culture the moment you step foot in the land of lakes and volcanoes (and poets!). Our tours our designed to highlight Nicaragua’s diverse landscape, annual festivities, and musical and theatrical expression throughout the country. We create itineraries around these special occasions ensuring the opportunity for our guests to get a glimpse of life as it is lived by the people. One of our most favorite events in all of Nicaragua is Diriamba’s patron saint festival, which celebrates San Sebastian and takes place at the end of January. During the festivities, El Güegüense (Macho Raton), a satirical drama well known throughout Nicaragua, is performed in the city streets. It’s a synthesis of Indigenous and Spanish cultures combining theater, dance and music, and is considered one of Latin America’s most distinctive colonial-era expressions.

While NicP5210754aragua is not Peru nor Guatemala with their prevalent indigenous populations, massive ruins, and woven handbags, Nicaragua IS full of action. Nicaraguans always seem to be moving and shaking to their own rhythm, and they are more than happy to have you join in. Ya, estoy lista para ir!

Joan:  When is your next trip and when do I need to be in touch with you in order to travel with you?

Jessica:  We have several upcoming affordable tours and it’s not too late to make your travel plans with us. If you are looking for a custom itinerary or would like to choose your own travel dates, feel free to contact us to discuss the options. Vamanos!

October 24-November 4, 2009 (12 days)
November 21-29, 2009 (9 days)
December 2-13, 2009 (12 days)
December 16-27, 2009 (12 days) CHRISTMAS IN NICARAGUA!

Joan:  Thanks Jessica.  I’m thinking December 2 – 13….. hey, by-the-way, you and Michael wanna come over for dinner sometime next week?  Jessica?  Jessica?  Hey Jessica…..I guess she had to run…..

So anyway, there you have it!  My friend Jessica and her tour company Un Buen Viaje.  Here are some additional links that will connect you to all the action!   www.ToursToNicaragua.com www.ToursToNicaragua.wordpress.com (blog)  http://www.twitter.com/NicaGuide  ¡Un Buen Viaje! on Facebook                        Aquí estamos,  Joan

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En Voz Alta…

So I was in a class the other day, yes Spanish class of course!, and I jumped in to make my comment and oh my gosh!  Who was that talking with my mouth?  They did NOT say what I had so neatly and precisely accented in my head!  It is like this other creature residing in my skin takes over my tongue and lips and puts my teeth in another configuration and then steps back and watches me with evil glee as I try unsuccessfully to negociate a simple message. 

What is that?  It can be so perfect in my head and then the second I open my mouth it’s a disaster!  It’s maddening and as much as I try to have control over this phenomenon, I don’t seem to be able to call up an Oscar winning performance on command.

So what do I do?  Well, I listen to a lot of Spanish news through Internet radio, through TV, I go through the videos in our Online Video Program and I listen and repeat the audio files designed for this purpose, again and again.  This exercisese is not about understanding or absorbing….this exercise is about getting my tongue familiar with new movements.  I put on music and I sing the lyrics.  Luis and I read together….he reads first and I read the same thing after him.  Just like one runs each day to train for a race coming up, I listen and repeat what I’ve heard in Spanish until I get as close to the rhythm and cadence and accent as I can. We train and exercise our muscles for strength and flexibility.  There is no break through science here.  And maybe I find myself repeating after someone who is speaking in a way that I would not prefer to sound like in Spanish when I am simply expressing myself, but to be able to mimic flexibly what I hear, only helps me choose how I want to sound.

As I am pondering this recurrent issue (remember what they say about exercise, 36 hours without it and our muscules begin to atrophy to their previous state) we recieved this message from Everett from our Rojas Spanish Community .

A mí me gusta la literatura, especialmente la poesía. Como ya he continuar aprendiendo español, espero que yo conoceré a algunos de los grandes poetas de América Latina un poco mejor, como Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, Nicolás Guillén, Luís Palés Matos-, etc, etc.

En este momento me siento muy la suerte de tener un maravilloso amigo, Marvin. Él está ayudándome a aprender español por los poemas de Pablo Neruda. Marvin es originalmente de Guatemala. Hemos comenzado un nuevo método de estudio esta semana: todos los días, mientras que tenemos que estar trabajando en la YMCA, nos sentamos con unos poemas de Neruda. Nuestro pequeño master class se lleva a cabo completamente en español, ¡no importa cómo estoy frustrado! Primero él lee un poema en voz alta, luego lo leo en voz alta. Entonces él me pregunta si hay alguna palabra que no entiendo. Después él lee el mismo poema otra vez. Entonces él me pregunta lo que creo que está pasando en el poema. O más bien, ¿por qué Neruda escribió este poema? Entonces le pregunto lo que él piensa acerca del poema. De esta manera leemos dos o tres poemas todos los días en el lugar de trabajo. Aprendo español mientras que él…que él…pues, bueno, a él le encanta Neruda, por lo que él puede obtener algo fuera de la discusión también. Creo que vale la pena leer la poesía una y otra vez, sobre todo en voz alta.

Everett reads in “voz alta” again and again and he works with his friend to help him fine tune the accent.  Yes!  This is the way… we have to get it OUT of our head and on to the track.  We have to get it running through our mouths…without this exercise we can not expect to be able to sound they way we want.  So turn on the tunes, get out the poetry book, grab your Spanish speaking friend, fire up the Internet….do what is most comfortable and convenient for you to get access to those sound bites that you can hear and say, hear and say, again and again until no one would know you from the person you are mimicking.  It’s the only way guys.  Hasta el próximo,  -Joan

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