September 2008 – ¡Vámonos!

Month: September 2008

Last Friday 26th September was European Day of Languages and, after very successful celebrations last year, Whitehouse Common decided to celebrate once more!

Not content with one day, we had a week of activities with each class doing at least one language based activity during the week, assemblies focussing on awareness of other languages and special attention being paid to intercultural understanding. We invited parents to volunteer their language skills – 9 parents / grandparents volunteered with others saying they would’ve done but it was not a good time.. So we had visits from relatives to tell various classes about Punjabi, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Basque. Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay for any of them – I’m particularly peeved about the Basque as I still only know one word – goodbye! However, the pupils were buzzing about it. And the lovely thing for me was that the children whose parents had come in are all usually quite timid and having their languages celebrated brought them out of their shells – one teacher siad that a particular child was ‘glowing’ – that, for me, is what it’s all about.

The week culminated on Friday with special assemblies at which each class presented what they had done during the week. We had Reception spelling out the school name in hieroglyphics, Year 1 singing in Spanish, one Year 2 class singing in German and the other counting to ten in Japanese and conducting an exacting Spanish quiz! Year 3 celebrated the languages spoken by the families of pupils in the class by greeting us in their languages, and the other class counted to 10 in Punjabi, Urdu, Gujerati, Chinese German and Spanish. Year 4 had used my bookmarks (at last someone has listened to me!!!) and found the wonderful Italian song written by Mark Pentleton which they sang with great gusto. The Year 5 classes had researched different languages and the countries that spoke them.

Year 6 rounded off our assemblies (we had two – A and B team) with lusty song! 6VH had researched Chinese characters and written their names in Chinese script with their classteacher, but felt that this was not enough so had begged me to teach them a song to go with it. So what did I teach them? what do you think!! La Vaca Lola! We made up actions that involved 70s disco dancing, Makaton and bum wiggling – and it was a hit (not easy to do in a Sevillanas dress I can tell you!) 6JF concluded the other assembly with an unusual choice of language, but one of which I have only myself to blame! When I sent links for EDL to staff, I suggested, tongue in cheek, that someone might like to learn to talk like a pirate. So they did! And sang like pirates too!

We had so much fun that there was almost no time to judge the international fancy dress contest! We had lots of footballers, some Greeks and Romans, countless mini flamenco dancers – christened the ‘MiniMes’ as they wee all dressed like me in miniature! – and a couple of bullfighters, some Italian icecream and pizza salemen, a Chinese dragon, Big Ben, an English rose, Japanese girls, Russian cossacks, a Scottish lassie complete with bagpipes, Carmen Miranda and a Dutch boy in clogs. (Did you know that there are little hole sin the side of clogs to allow the sweat to drain away?!) So hard to judge – I felt really mean, but everyone got a sticker and a round of applause.

I love EDL – so much that I went in on my day off. I see my job as PLL coordinator as being more than teaching Spanish, but as one of encouraging the school family to celebrate and share the languages they know, and to enable them to learn more. I always learn so much from the pupils on such days, and I’ve yet to find a child who has not experienced great delight at trying to teach me words in their language only to find that I can’t immediately or consistently get it right!

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Karen aka Spanishblog has, for the second time in a week, pointed me in the direction of an interesting Spanish resource – this time,

Based in Barcelona, uses its own situation comedy ‘5 y acción’ to teach useful phrases through short – and usually rather amusing – episodes featuring Paco, Sandro, Eva, Michael and Agatha. There are three different levels offered – Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced – with titles like ¿Dónde está mi bikini? (where’s my bikini?), Mi primer novio (my first boyfriend)and Espiando a Agatha (spying on Agatha).

I’ve watched several of the episodes, and a key feature seems to be the quirky ending or sting in the tail. See the latest example.

Each clip has subtitles in Spanish.
On the site there is a transcript of the dialogue.
At the click of a button, the dialogue is translated into English.
There are grammar notes pertinent to the episode, with an audio recording of the phrase / expression in question.
The clips are searchable by topic, objective and skill, as well as level.

The site offers advice on how to use the videos and also has a blog – the latest post talks about the benefits of second language acquistion.

I think it’s a good way of making a good start at learning some phrases at the same time as being entertained. I particularly like the use of more colloquial (and sometimes colourful!) language that can be missed in some other learning tools. Looking forward to seeing more episodes!! I’ll leave you with another episode – this one’s for beginners.

El Rap de GUSTA

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A Tweet from Spanishblog advised me to check out Profeland, la web para el profesor de español. And, as I’m an obedient girlie, off I popped to see what it was about. I must admit that i haven’t had time to look at it in depth and much of it seems to be great for older learners with comprehensions and reviews, but not much for Primary pupils…

…apart from


In a similar vein to Conjugations Back and Cry me a verb, Gusta uses rap to teach a grammar point in Spanish, in this case, the verb GUSTAR. It’s very catchy and some of the things that you’re asked about are quite amusing – tight trousers and big moustaches included!

As the blurb says –
An “instructional” video teaching the use of the verb “Gustar”. Can you find the errors???

Now there’s a challenge ;o)

Originally courtesy of Lifehacker, and then various tweets throughout the day, I found out today about a new site called Busuu.

Busuu is a language learning site with an element of social networking. You can choose modules that you wish to ‘study’ in a wide variety of languages and add them to your area, learning the vocabulary with a series of tasks including audio and written composition. And you can also offer help to others in the language (or languages) that you already know by commenting on and helping others with their tasks. So you have the opportunity of studying whenever you fancy, and receive prompt feedback from native and / or experienced speakers.

I’ve signed up to study German (beginners) French (intermediate as I’m out of practice!!) and Basque (beginners) – there are exercises etc for the first two (indicated by the trees) but Basque is represented in my garden by a lovely red plant, so I’ll have to learn via chat and interaction with other users who speak Basque. I wonder how that’ll go???
And I must say that I’m disturbed by how much I’m enjoying correcting mistajkes and offering advice when I hate marking so much!

Go on a video tour of the site and find out for yourself!

At the moment the site is in Beta so everyone is enjoying Premium membership – there will be free Basic membership once Beta is finished according to the subscription section.

PS I know that the German tree is labelled English – no idea why!!

Estigiu preparats!

The notes accompanying the video say:

Hi, I was looking for something interesting at and I found your (lonebanana)short film ‘What to do in a zombie attack’. I have to say that I found it terrific, i was laughing out loud the first time i was watching it! I’m a high school teacher in Barcelona (Spain) and I was thinking to translate it into catalan (a language we talk in Catalunya, in the north of Spain and south of France) to show it to my pupils. Also I was thinking about giving a translated copy to a couple of friends who work in horror festivals to see if they can be interested in showing your short film. Great film!!”

Fun idea – you never know when you’ll be be attacked by zombies ;o)

It’s been over a week since my last post on Es Repte Català (Catalan Challenge) and although haven’t been idle, I haven’t done as much as I would’ve liked to have done.

One way I’ve found that helps me ‘revise’ is to listen to the language and to see how much I can understand. I usually find this encouraging as I understand more than I think. It also brings back to my mind phrases that I know and love – for example – com vulguis – as you like!
And if the listening is accompanied by viewing, visual clues add to understanding.
What’s more, if the listening / viewing is of something that is already familiar or known to you in some other form, you’re on to a winner.

So –

Here’s a challenge for you! Courtesy of Lynne Horn (marvellous blogger from Tobermory – the real ‘Miss Hoolie’) – here’s Fawlty Towers in Catalan. Can you follow the story? Which episode is it? Can you pick out any key words?

And what about some Si primer ministre – Sir Humphrey and Bernard show how the results of questionnaires and statistics can be manipulated to say whatever you want! Can you follow the gist? This is trickier as Sir Humphrey is an expert at bamboozling in English so in another language, wel…)

And if all that is too tricky – why not have a go at the tonguetwister challenge on One brave soul has had a go! There’ll be another one coming up soon.

Bona sort avec es repte ;o)

As I said in an earlier post, I began learning Catalan at Sheffield University in the 90s as part of my degree in Hispanic Studies. Given the choice between Portuguese and Catalan, my decision was influenced by three things.
Firstly, I thought it would useful if I wanted to go to Barcelona (which I did!)
The second reason was more frivolous; a rather charming young solicitor from Barcelona called Chema lodged around the corner from us at home and he spoke Catalan as well as Spanish. The third reason was that I looked at who would teach us, and decided that the Catalan prof looked rather fun!

Professor Alan Yates
was – and no doubt still is!- a unique, enigmatic individual who exuded a love of life that was rather inspiring. And boy did he love Catalan! As I am proving, I wasn’t the greatest student of Catalan – I tried hard though!- but some of my most vivid memories of the Hispanic Studies Dept took place in n’Alan’s office where our motley group had tutorials. I recall a large rubber plant, mountains of books on all the chairs that you had to move to sit down, and, most of all, that all tutorials were accompanied by pipe smoke. I’m sure it wasn’t allowed but n’Alan puffed away on his pipe throughout, and tough if we didn’t like it! I was normally OK but as I am allergic to smoke, it was tough going when I had a cold!

Professor Alan Yates wrote *the* guide to learning Catalan – Teach yourself Catalan. There are others now no doubt but at the time it was the only one I believe! – and as I look at now, trying to recapture my ability to put indirect and direct object pronouns in the correct order, and use the subjunctive effectively, I am once more struck by the uniqueness of the man – it’s him through and through!

I mean, how many teach yourself guides include such marvellous, improbable phrases?

Era l’últim dia de l’any i tota la mà obra, fora dels paletes, va plegar d’hora
It was the last day of the year and the entire workforce, apart from the bricklayers, finished work early.

L’han disfressada de monja.
They have disguised her as a nun.

Demà anirem a caçar ànecs, Tant de bo que no plogui.
Tomorrow we are going duck hunting. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain.

No sé si és boig però ho sembla.
I don’t know if he’s mad, but he looks it!

How could you fail to make friends and influence people with such phrases at your fingertips? Here are a few more – but you really should get your hands on a copy of the book to see the full range. I joke – but it is a really good textbook that does teach you all that you need to know to speak and write coherent Catalan.

Quina boca més grossa que tens!
What a big mouth you’ve got!

No puc tombar la clau al pany i no vull trucar a la porta, de por de despertar la meva dona. A veure si és posible entrar per una finestra?
I couldn’t turn the key in the lock and I don’t want to knock the door for fear of waking my wife. I wonder if it is possible to get in through the window.

Estic disposat a sortejar la cabra.
I’m prepared to raffle the goat.

Vés a buscar-me el tornavís – Per què el vols? -Fes el que et dic. Aquests cargols són rovellats i vull canviar-los.
Fetch me the screwdriver. what do you want it for? – Do as I tell you. These screws are rusty and I want to change them.

De tot això ja fa molts anys … però encara m’agrada el català
All that was many years ago…. but I still love Catalan.

Graciès n’Alan xx

I couldn’t resist sharing this video with you. In my befuddled bunged up state, I thought it was a interesting take on Star Wars, made by those who want Catalan to be given more prominence and power, and feel aggrieved by its treatment by Spanish authorities.

En una galàxia molt, però molt fatxa….

Estic constipada :o(

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Avui, estic molt constipada. No puc respirar bé. Tampoc puc pensar – a l’anglès i encara menys a català.

Per això, un conte bonic que m’agrada – i també coneixo molt bé :o)

Les tres ossos i la Rinxols d’or

[PS – In case you’re puzzled, I have a cold. As José Picardo kindly explained when I tweeted my condition yesterday, it’s English that is scatalogical ;o)]

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