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Thursday, September 28, 2006

My vocabulary, and Textbooks.

I sometimes find myself saying random words in English, in the middle of my talking in Spanish.  It's a weird accidental automatic response.  It doesn't happen when I'm trying to say big words or hard words or words I don't know.  It happens most often for little words that I say all the time and that I know just as well in Spanish as I know in English.  Words like "so" or "or" or "now".  I will have spoken, said something that probably made a lot more sense in my head than it did out loud, and I'll realize that I said some little nearly insignificant word in English.

I also find myself oddly not self-conscious when I'm talking in Spanish.  When I am at school, in the US, I am always, always self-conscious when I talk in Spanish.  I feel like everyone is judging me for my bad grammar and my probably incorrect use of key words. When I'm talking in Spanish here though, I know I sound strange.  I sound strange, I look different, and I'm this weird anomaly in the school.  In one school (each department has its own school, scattered throughout the city) I am the only foreign student.  In the other, I am one of two.  I stand out.  When I speak, I sound like someone with a flimsy grasp of the grammar, and the vocabulary of an oddly academic 4-year-old.  There are endless amounts of basic vocabulary that I don't know, yet at the same time, I can attempt to talk as an academic college student, and I have quite a bit of vocabulary to do that.

Following that train of thought, a lot of the things I read here for school are translated from US English.  This means two things: 

1) The sentence structure and the way of writing, though translated into Spanish, still very much carry a US English feeling.  I can read texts/articles that are translated from US English without a dictionary, and without any trouble.

2) They talk about the US and North America in all of these texts.  They talk about cultural events/phenomena/people from the US.  This seems odd to me, in a way.  These texts are used throughout Latin America, countries very, very different than the US.  And yet, the people reading the books are forced to see things from a US perspective.  They are forced to understand US cultural quirks and be aware of many US cultural issues.  At least, they must do so if they want to understand their textbooks.

In the US, in my education classes, we always talk about the importance of making the texts the students read important to the students.  It's important to introduce the students to various cultures, but to also allow them to see the value and importance of their own cultural backgrounds.  I get excited when I read about things that are familiar to me in these texts, but I'm thinking that the Mexican students here probably don't have that same reaction.  I guess the fact that the US is so present in their text books only mimics the presence of US TV shows, movies, food chains, clothing brands, and English slogans on clothes and notebooks.  But at the same time, there also are Mexican TV shows, food chains, and clothing brands.  They have an option when it comes to those things.  For their academics though, they are forced to study using materials that focus on a country very different from their own in so many ways.  They aren't able to learn using examples from their own country and their own cultures.  I just wonder how that affects things here.  I wonder how it would be different if there were more textbooks written by people of the country for people of the country.  In some of the things I have read, they don't even change phrases such as "In our country…" to "In the US…"  It just remains as "In our country…" but in Spanish.  And that's feels strange to me.


Blogger Polski3 said...

Sounds like you are having a good experience being "immersed" in a different culture.

Mixing Spanish and English....we get that alot here along the border. It is called "Spanglish".

"..... we always talk about the importance of making the texts the students read important to the students." Here in the US., there is a belief that this is important. From what I have read, this is not necessarily so in most other countries. Students are in school to learn and to value what they have to learn. Student feelings are irrevelent. And, many countries don't have the money to candy coat their curriculum.

I have a couple of Mexican Government produced geography texts (the paperbound editions) and they seem to focus mostly on Mexico. In fact, they seem to make Mexico out to be a super place to be and one with a fantastic culture and a country that is blessed with abundant natural resources. Quite the patriotic slant.

Enjoy your Experience !

8:57 PM  

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