When I was a lad growing up in Chicago in the 1950's I attended a Catholic grammar school named "Our Lady of Grace School". We learned English grammar and writing from a series of books called "Voyages in English" published by the Lepanto Press. I am pleased to report that Our Lady of Grace is still going strong and Voyages in English is still being published by the people at Loyola Press. Hooray for our side...there are still some nice things that haven't gone away.
I really enjoyed my voyages in English and now I am enjoying my voyage in Spanish. I was joined by a new crew member today. Bliss of the blog "1st Mate" has joined me on this voyage and apropos of her blog title she will be 1st mate on this ship also. We are on a mission to encourage others to study Spanish if they are English speakers and to study English if they are Spanish speakers. The more that we learn to communicate with each other the more understanding there will be, at least in our little corners of the world. Not wanting to be a "Captain Go-and Do" instead of a "Captain Come-on-Let's" I pledge to lead by example and strive to do better and better, every day and in every way. I know that sounds like a mix of "Romper Room" and the positive affirmations of Émile Coué (Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux) but that's the was it is. It is going to be a fun trip and the destination is success...even if it takes a lifetime.
Bliss said to me "There are so many techniques we can use to improve our Spanish, it doesn't have to get boring. Everything from flashcards to newspapers to novelas to getting acquainted with neighbors, vendors at the mercado, the mechanic who works on your car…etc." She is absolutely right. Learning doesn't have to be boring even though learning a language requires a long period of consistent study and practice. It can actually be fun if you mix it up a little and use various sources for input. One of the things she said struck a chord with me. She mentioned "novelas". I remember that back in the last three months of 1998 when I was preparing to move to Mexico there was a program called "Destinos" on public television. I took advantage of that program as much as I could and I remember that not only was it entertaining and enjoyable but it also gave my beginning efforts in Spanish a little boost.
There are fifty two (each) one half hour segments in the program which was created by Bill VanPatten, who was a Professor of Spanish and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Illinois. The program uses a "soap opera" format to immerse students in everyday situations with native speakers and introduces the cultures, accents, and dialects of Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Puerto Rico. It is divided into two parts, Part I programs 1-26, and Part II programs 27-52. You can buy the program on DVD or video cassette. Now, here is the good part...you can also access the program for free on the Destinos website by clicking on this link. All that you need is a good broadband Internet connection. You won't be able to download it but you can watch all of the episodes on streaming video. Just click on the little icons that say "VOD" (video on demand) next to each lesson. The lessons go over vocabulary and pronunciation and there are simple verbal quizzes for review. Believe me, if you have the time, you can't go wrong with this. You will still have to study using your regular methods but this series is like an "apapacho", a nice hug and a squeeze. Speaking of a hug and a squeeze, I even developed quite a fondness for the main character, Raquel, played by Liliana Abud but shhhhhh, please don't tell Gina :)
Oh, and one other thing. We are looking for more members to fill out the crew on our Voyage in Spanish. The only requirements are persistence and determination and a spirit of good will. It brings to my mind the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson from his poem Ulysses:
“Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.”
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