Friday, May 13, 2011

The School Year is Half Over! Get the Right Tools for Success.

Whether you're a high school or college student, the academic year is about half over. If you are a teacher or professor, you have probably identified the students who have problems with grammar and know what those problems are. Either way, there isn't enough time in a typical class (nor enough material in a textbook) to sufficiently cover the typical aspects of Spanish that cause problems for beginners, or even for advanced students. If you're a native speaker of Spanish and are teaching English speakers, you may often wonder why your students don't "get" many of the grammatical concepts or why some are so difficult to grasp. 

If you want to get good grades, or want to be more effective as a teacher, you will benefit greatly from my intensive grammar reviews.  

Whatever the reason for your confusion about Spanish grammar, these books will help you straighten out the mess, remove the cobwebs from your mind, or your students' mind and achieve real proficiency in spoken and written Spanish, as well as improve comprehension of what is heard and read.

So, this very short blog posting will put you ahead of the game or get you on track now.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Live Spanish Practice Online

It's time to intensify your language-learning experience by actually using what you are exposed to in traditional language classes. If you have a high-speed internet connection, and have a Skype account, you and I can converse in real time, face-to-face, so you aren't merely studying Spanish, but learning it by using it. 

I learned my teaching methods while I was a professor of international business communication at Thunderbird: The American Graduate School of International Business. It was the model for intenstive, even customized language instruction for 50 years.

So, consider the advantages:

No more commuting to a classroom where you'll sit in yet another row of seats where most of the class is probably just interested in getting academic credit for filling in blanks correctly on a publisher-prepared quiz, listening to canned audio-video recordings.

If you have a friend, Skype now has group audio-video! And I only allow a maximum of four students per hour. Talk about small class size!

If you are as busy as most people and yet are serious about really learning to speak and use Spanish, this is for you.

If you have professional reasons for studying Spanish, this is exactly what you need. I customize the content to correspond to your line of work: finance, law, medicine, telecommunications, you name it.

The cost? Only $50 per hour, per person, payable by PayPal, in advance. Sign up by e-mailing me:

I look forward to "seeing you" soon, wherever you are!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Alchemy of Translation

I had the good fortune to undertake the serious study of translation as part of my graduate studies in Spanish literature under the direction of Dr. Margaret Sayers Peden. Any reader who has read the novels of Isabel Allende will recognize Dr. Peden's name as the translator of every one of Allende's novels with the exception of her first novel, The House of the Spirits.

Dr. Peden’s classes on translation were a combination of “workshop” plus "theory" (an unfortunate word, since in the true scientific sense, there are no theories about translation. She often said that translation is about doing, that it is not something for talking about much. Naturally, everyone had to be bilingual in order to register for them. Any language combination was fine. In order to make the translator's mental processes more palpable, Dr. Peden introduced the notion of translation by way of analogy.

If you are a translator and wish to explain your work to a monolingual person, this analogy is often helpful. If you are a technical translator and your client is monolingual, you will probably be able to educate him or her quickly by using it. Explaining what it is like to be bilingual or to translate to a monolingual person is much like telling a color-blind person what a color looks like.

Let's follow a text from one language to another, imagining that instead of words on a page, the words are frozen, ice in a vase of a certain size, specific to the message at hand -- thus the vase is filled to capacity. The shape of any vase in any particular language will be the same, even though sizes will vary per message or text in that language. The vase represents the language and its rules, its shape is unique. The vase representing French has one shape -- coming in different sizes for each text in that language. Spanish has another, as do English, Russian, Chinese, etc.

The translator performs his work like an alchemist, in which his head is the alembic. There, he melts the text in that sealed environment, then boils it, breaking it down. The text, converted into steam, is conducted by a tube to another vase -- where it condenses and once cooled, chilled until it freezes – in reality, typed, where the alchemical result can be seen by the new audience. However, the vase is of a different shape and its volume, as it turns out for mysterious reasons, can never be precisely the same as the vase it came from. Sometimes when it refreezes, the ice will not quite come to the top, other times it will protrude slightly from the top. A few droplets of water also condense in the tubing and don't make it to the second vase. Now imagine that all this melting, boiling, transferring, condensing, chilling and re-freezing happens in a translator's mind. In fact, Dr. Peden proposed that arguably (yet convincingly to anyone who experiences translation), only when the message is in its "steam" state is it fully comprehended by the translator -- in fact, better comprehended by the translator than it ever was or will be again. The analogy is also a confession of sorts. No language can perfectly render an identical text -- translation is an exacting art and a creative science. A translation is a new creation, particularly where literature is concerned.