[Note from Ann Abbott: As an extra project, one of the "Spanish in the Community" students watched the videos that accompany Comunidades: Más allá del aula and has blogged about several topics that emerged for her. You can see the videos yourself:
- click on this link for Comunidades: Más allá del aula
- By "Welcome," choose "Unidad 1" from the dropdown menu
- Hit the "Go" button
- Click on "Videos" in the left navigation column]
by Haley Dwyer
Throughout watching these videos, the one thing that I believe challenged my Spanish the most is the varying accents that I heard. Because most of my Spanish language learning has been spent in a classroom and not traveling the world, I have only been exposed to a few different accents. Listening to the different accents was both frustrating and enjoyable. Not only did the accents make what the speakers were saying easier or difficult to understand but I also noticed that the way in which they spoke made a huge difference in my comprehension levels. Whether they used their voice to emphasize certain words, where they put the stress, and even whether or not they used hand gestures played a very large part in my comprehension level.
After watching the videos, I realized that I really hadn’t heard a large variety of Spanish accents and it left me wanting to learn more. I was the most comfortable with the different Mexican accents, which is probably because I have had the most experience with them. There were a few accents that I heard that I actually had a hard time understanding, which I was surprised about. Watching these videos, made me realize the extreme difference in Spanish and Argentinean accents. Although I have had a TA from both of these countries, watching these videos made me realize that they really do change their accent in class so that we can understand them better. I was honestly shocked when I heard the Argentinean accent because it was so different to what I was used, to the point where I almost could not understand what was being said.
Although some of the accents left me stumped, I found hand gestures and vocal inflections very helpful. I learned that hand gestures are not common in all Spanish speakers, which I found strange. Instead, I now think of them as almost cultural. In the past, every Spanish speaker that I have met likes to use their hands to talk; in fact they are almost vital to any conversation. After watching these videos, I noticed a stark difference in whether or not hand gestures were used. In fact, I noticed that the use of hand gestures actually helped with my comprehension levels. For example, I had the hardest time understanding Leticia Fonseca, who is from Honduras, at first. The first time that Leticia appeared on film, I had to watch the video a couple of times to fully understand what she was talking about. Luckily Leticia liked to use hand gestures and a lot of vocal inflection when she was telling a story. This helped to fill in the large gap that sometimes appeared because of her accent or my lack of vocabulary. After watching Leticia multiple times, I actually grew accustomed to her and by the end I could understand exactly what she was saying without relying on her hand gestures.
Hearing and seeing these native speakers speak made me want to go and explore the world even more than I already do. It showed me that I am not aware in the variance in language that can occur from one country to the next. The stark contrast that I saw in some of the accents taught me really how to listen to a native Spanish speaker in an attempt to fully understand what they are saying. I think that the videos helped me to look practice looking past accents that I am unfamiliar with and instead focus on the content that the speaker is attempting to get across. Ultimately, I was not only challenged by the accents but also the range of topics that were discussed, which I will talk about in my next posting.