Posts Tagged 'Spanish'

Spanish Technology

The dog days of August signal the end of Summer School, and a short pause before the madness of another ‘real’ semester.

But every learning exercise has its own reality, with moments of tension and drama, and Spanish 102 is no different. Today was the day for my ‘oral presentation’; my three minutes in front of the class, alone but for my powerpoint presentation, an opportunity to declaim on a subject of our own choosing.

Yes, not only did I have to memorize about 381 words, but I had also to present audio-visual support! No big deal for you corporate warriors, or you students who have been doing slides since you were old enough to mash keys. For those of us in a certain age range and career skill sets, PowerPoint has always been something to be afraid of.

In the end, of course, it wasn’t that bad. Office 2007 makes PP fairly straightforward, and, well, I have been a fairly big boy in the corporate sense, so putting together a presentation isn’t a totally new concept. I was slightly pleased to see that, for all of its horrors, my business life did help me put together something with a little more, ahem, polish that some of my classmates.

There was, naturally, one student who did not bring a thumb drive with his slides; no, he went to his website and linked to a presentation that include complex graphical manipulations. But, you know, it was about food in Peru. The only thing missing was the music……

On a side note, I went to the bookstore to pick up the last book needed for my fall classes. While there, I couldn’t help but look at a business statistics textbook for a class that I will likely take in a semester or two. Not like any statistics textbook I have thus far encountered; no calculus, no integrals or derivatives, just a CD with Excel and many, many sets of statistical problems that will have to solved using Excel and, yes, PowerPoint.


The Lowering of the Larynx

I love my small school. Here’s another reason: My professor for the second semester of Spanish also teaches linguistics. If I took this class during the regular school year I would not have a snowball’s chance in hell of having her as my teacher. She only teaches Spanish majors taking high level courses, who have an interest in linguistics.

So today, while explaining the past imperfect indicative, or simply, the imperfect tense, and walking us through the conjugation of the various forms, one of the students had some trouble with pronunciation. Or to be clear, your scribe stumbled badly while trying to say trabajábamos (we used to work… kidding!).

This led to a brief explanation about the role of the larynx in speech; who knew that the human larynx drops as we age, and that the dropping creates our ability to speak. And who knew that until the larynx drops, at a young age, the baby cannot choke…..the raised larynx acts to block food and water from the windpipe.

The details of this fascinating bit of infovoration* can be found here. A teaser:

The larynx works like a valve, opening and closing to let air pass. When it is shut, food can pass into the esophagus at no risk to the lungs. The best place for such a seal is right at the top of the trachea so that no food or drink accidentally goes even a little ways down it, but humans have a second use for the valve. We work it like a musical instrument shaping the sounds made by passing air as we speak. The musical valve works best if we pull it a bit down into the trachea so that the air wave shaped by the larynx can resonate before leaving the mouth.

At birth the human larynx is in the normal, animal location, enabling babies to nurse without risk of choking. The larynx typically begins to move lower at about three months of age and reaches its final position by age four. People familiar with children’s speech will notice that the start of the relocation is also when infants start to coo. The end is about the time the children finally become clearly intelligible to well-meaning strangers. The lowered larynx lets humans produce a much wider variety of sounds, particularly vowel sounds, than apes can generate.

I’m not sure I would have picked up that bit tasty morsel during the regular semester when my professor would be trying to teach 4 sections of unruly, disinterested freshman the rudiments of Espanol.

*Infovoration – Product which is consumed by an infovore

The Nuclear Familia in Spanish

French, when I was taught it lo those many years ago, had a straight-forward vocabulary that described the family unit. The list of words was short, matched my American concepts, and was learned without any great strain.

Modern Spanish seems to reflect the new reality, and it is interesting to see how my book handles the changes.

A partial list of the English equivalents:





step-brother and sister

half-brother and sister

step-father and mother

single father and mother


Seems like my new language has kept up with the times……..

“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
The term informavore (also spelled informivore) characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food. George A. Miller [1] coined the term in 1983 as an analogy to how organisms survive by consuming negative entropy (as suggested by Erwin Schrödinger [2]). Miller states, "Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy, so the mind survives by ingesting information. In a very general sense, all higher organisms are informavores." - Wikipedia

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