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Old 05-25-2012, 12:28 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
The first thing I did when I first went to Sweden was buy an ice cream cone. I thought I had the numbers down cold, but I had no clue what the vendor said. I had to do the foreigner thing of put some currency down (I probably put down $7,000), and hope for the correct change.

I did the Pimsleur conversational CDs (borrowed from the library) prior to my trip to Italy two years ago.

Little did I know, but in some venues there it seemed to be a 'sport' to try to rip-off tourists. One example: I asked at a train station how much the fare would be for 2 to Pompeii. He stated a price. I handed him some money (in bills) in excess of the fare, knowing what change I should be getting back. He tried shorting me something like 10 euros. When I pointed this out, he just shrugged his shoulders and handed me the missing amount.

(To be fair, a very similar thing recently happened to me here in the U.S.)

Fortunately, honest people seem to be in the majority.


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Old 05-25-2012, 01:32 PM   #42
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My everyday Spanish improved considerably when I started watching Spanish language telenovelas on a regular basis. I already had the basic grammar and some vocab, so I didn't start from scratch. Turning on the Spanish captions was really useful so I could see how a word was spelled if i didnt know it or missed what was said. Initially, my vocabulary grew considerably, but then I noticed my heard comprehension take a huge leap, and finally, I have heard the common verbs conjugated some many times in real sentences, that I don't even have to think how to conjugate in any tense, and subjunctive use comes readily.

My husband was more the beginner. He hadn't studied Spanish since high school briefly, long ago, and he was not interested in book learning for grammar, etc. but he also has progressed tremendously. His comprehension is pretty good now. He mostly reads the Spanish captions, but understands them well. He'd be able to speak beyond common phrases and basic sentences if he cracked a basic grammar book for sentence structure, but we might travel to an immersion course in a nice exotic location instead.

I participate regularly on an English website blog that is devoted to "recapping" episodes of popular telenovelas as soon as they are broadcast (mostly Univision prime time shows). Many of the folks got involved because they were trying to learn or improve their Spanish. Getting involved in a story is very motivational in terms of learning a language. Some folks use English captions, others Spanish. The English recaps help folks pick up details they might have missed and help beginners follow along. Oh, and the volunteer recapper has considerable license in how they write and embelish the recap and most of them are very witty and talented. Often the recap is far more entertaining than the original show. Those of us watching also get to share opinions in an active and lively comment section. It's been a lot of fun. Search on Caray, Caray! and you'll find us. Here it is: Caray, Caray! I'm currently serving as a recapper for one of the shows.


Well, I thought I was retired. But it seems that now I'm working as a travel agent instead!
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Old 06-01-2012, 02:20 PM   #43
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I used "Coffee Break French" to relearn French after a 25 year hiatus from speaking it. On itunes there is 3 years worth of weekly 10-15 minute lessons free from very basic to fairly advanced. When I went through it I wished I had it when I learned the first time. There is also "Coffee Break Spanish" which I suspect is just as good. I used Rosetta Stone for German, and got through the first 3 levels. Problem was we went to rural Bavaria where my wife's family spoke a totally different German, but at least I could put together sentences and they would understand me (at least I think they did).
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Old 06-01-2012, 03:42 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by lightspeed View Post
Problem was we went to rural Bavaria where my wife's family spoke a totally different German, but at least I could put together sentences and they would understand me (at least I think they did).
Don't worry too much about this. Bavaria is regarded as hillbilly country by most Germans. I speak moderately comprehensible German; in most of Northern Germany, when they don't get me, they willl say "Kommen Sie aus Bayern?" ("Do you come from Bavaria?").
Age 55, retired July 1, 2012; DW is 59 and working for 4 more years. Current portfolio is 1950K split 50 stocks/20 bonds/30 cash. Renting house, no debts.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:30 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by BigNick View Post
Bavaria is regarded as hillbilly country by most Germans.
I'm always reminded of one of my father's family stories along those lines.

They lived in a very rural part of Iowa with a heavily German population. The grandfather was from northern Germany (near Cologne) his wife's family was from southern Germany (Franconia which is an out of the way part of Bavaria).

Between themselves over the years, they gradually developed their own compromise dialect, which had the advantage of allowing them to talk privately in front of the children, but the disadvantage of being fairly incomprehensible to their friends and neighbors.
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Old 06-03-2012, 04:26 PM   #46
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Learned Spanish in high school - did an immersion in Ecuador 20 years later for a month with a family and daily 8 hours of classes, one-on-one and *repeat* immersion. Lived in Germany and took German classes through German American friendship club and MWR and then the German version of ESL training for people who were immigrants to Germany. Also, took a French class from a German through MWR. What have I found: my Spanish is the most entrenched, even though it is not the most recent language nor place I have lived. I even understand French and Italian better than when I listen to German and yet I've probably had more exposure to the German. I've also learned that there are dialects in all languages and those dialects can sometimes be 50% different from the 'official' language you may have learned. For example, when I listen to Radio Regenbogen near Baden-Baden in Germany, I understand up to 80% of the German - when in Stuttgart, which is more Schwabia, I understood maybe 50%. For the French, which was de rigeur in Alsace, I understood up to 75% - go's the romantic language tie - I also could read it quite well.

So, learn it early and ways to make it happen-and be prepared to be a bit disoriented and not as good as you thought you might be when/if you visit and try to understand. Also, do not be afraid to try and practice your language skills - i.e. speaking - that makes a huge difference as it forces you to think in that language structure and respond to's not scripted, so you have to exercise your grasp of the language. Most people are very grateful when you try to speak with them in your language and will help you with your grammar or pronunciation. Sometimes, you will find they want to practice their English, so they will speak in English while you speak in their language. That can be disconcerting as you do wish to practice your skills, but it can verify if you are conveying the right information (like: where is the bathroom versus where is your sister or something like that).

Lastly, your brain can hurt while doing this - it definitely exercises other pathways if you haven't done it before.

Deserat aka Bridget
“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” - George Orwell/Winston Churchill
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