Learning Spanish in Granada

Apprender Espanól en Granada

Preparation and Motivation

Preparación y Razón

I've been working at Google for 7 years now, so it's about time I took my two month sabbatical. I'm taking Spanish language courses in Granada in Southern Spain. Since I believe in starting to gather telemetry as early as possible, I'm going to try to keep track of my progress by translating this journal into Spanish as I write it. I'm using the word "translate" loosely since I can't even claim to now Spanglish yet, and so I'm going to have to make up words as I go ; I'll write in Spanglish+Mike, Manglish, until I know enough to graduate to Spanglish. If you're thinking of using this in a dual-language translation corpus, don't, because I don't know what I'm talking about.

Ahora, trabajo a Google para siete años, pues es tiempo tomo mi sabatico de dos mezes. Porque creo es bueno tener mucho telemetrio de dia uno, probo seguir mi progresso por reescribir este librito a Español durante escribo. Uso la palabra, "reescribir" no estrecha, porque no puedo desir sé Ingléspañol, pues haco mi palabras; escribo en Ingléspañol mas Miguel, Manglish, hasta sé bastante suber a Ingléspañol. Si ustedes creeis usar este librito en un corpus de dos idiomas por reescribir, no usais, porque no sé que deso.

Before the course, I tried using Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish but couldn't keep it up. It did a good job of introducing vocabulary though, and having both written and spoken Spanish in the same package helped with pronunciation since Spanish has very regular spelling. I didn't find the speech training useful since I had trouble getting it working. I had better luck with "Learn in your car — Spanish" — I didn't need to break out a laptop to use it, I could easily use it to fill otherwise unproductive downtime. It comes with booklets with spelling guides, but those are useless since I never had them handy when I wanted to know a words spelling. Ideally, I'd have a button on my car's steering wheel that would let me flash up a spelling for the last spoken word (my kingdom for a scriptable car dashboard). Since I didn't have the spelling, I failed to make some useful connections — I thought the verb to see was spelled "ber" instead of ver which is much easier to associate with the French voir once you know the spelling, and my girlfriend utterly failed to translate my babblings since I spelled vuelo with a 'b'. Finally, I have "Spanish Demystified", a Kindle book by Jenny Petrow which explains grammatical rules well, and since the Kindle allows searching, it's good for looking up irregular verb conjugations which dictionaries don't have.

Antes de la clase, probo usar Rosetta Stone para apprender Español pero no puedo hoy. Es beuno para explicar nuevas palabras y porque el mismo corso tiene Español escrito y dijo, pronuncia la pronunciación facil porque escrito Español es mas regular. No uso el corso de desir porque no funciona. Tengo suerte mejor con "Learn in your car — Spanish" — no necesito tenir un computadorito porque para hacer mas in el mismo tiempo. Vene con libretas que explican como deletrear las palabres, pero no son útil porque no tengo ellos dónde necesito. Idealmente, tengo un buton a delante de mi coche que explica el palabra ultima (mis todos para un computador de coche que puedo cambiar). Porque no sé como deletrear unas palabras, no hoy algunas conexións, por ejamplo creo el verbo ver deletrea "ber" para que no miro "var" es similar a la palabra francés voir, y mi novia no comprenda me porque deletreo "vuelo" con la letra be. Finalmente, tengo "Spanish Demystified", una libra de Kindel para Jenny Petrow que explica bien las reglas grammaticas y porque puedo buscar a mi kindel, es facil buscar para los conjugationes de verbos irregular que los diccionarios omiten.

I chose Granada because it has both interesting history and topography, and I want to learn in Spain instead of Latin-America because I have family in France I've never met, and some friends are wandering through Europe around the same time. The Don Quijote group of language schools was well recommended by a few co-workers but none had gone to Granada.

Eligo Granada porque tiene historia y topogrofia, y quiero apprender en España porque tengo familia en Francia que no conozco y unos amigos viajen alrededor Europa durante mi sabatico. Unos trabajadores en la misma empresa quieren Don Quijote, un grupo de escuelas idiomas, pero ninguno asisten la escuela en Granada.

The flight

El vuelo

I flew out of SFO with my bike in a hard-case, my clothes rolled around an old suit hanger, a saddle bag full of bike tools and spare parts, and all my electronics and toiletries wrapped in dry bags in a bike messenger bag. The American Airlines lady did not charge extra for the bike even though I admitted it was a bike and I had a domestic leg.

Tomo un vuelo de SFO con mi bicicleta en un caja fuerte; y mi ropa doble sobre una percha; y una bolsa de la bicleta porta pedasos adicional de bicletas; y todos mi electronicos y mi cepillo de dientes in mi bolsa. La empleada de American Airlines no pruganta me pagar para mi bicicleta aunque de ella sabe que él es y tengo una conexíon a los Estados Unidos.

I had a stopover in Madrid and I decided to pick up an Orange phone card. Lesson 1, with the G-1 phone, you have to go to settings/wireless to tell it to look for a carrier, because putting a carrier's SIM card in the phone is not enough. I spent a while thinking that the G-1 didn't pick up the local bands until I realized that it couldn't be missing all of them, and started digging.

Durante mi parada en Madrid, compro una tarjeta de teléfono móvil de Orange. Lección uno, el teléfono G-1 no busca un network móvil para el mismo ; necesitas ir a configuración/móvil y convences lo, porque si no es bastante poner una tarjeta SIM en tu teléfono. Para algun tiempo, creo que el G-1 no funciona en España, hasta apprendo que uno o mas de los networkes funcionan y emprezo buscar.

Waiting to buy the SIM card, I was standing behind a well-dressed African woman who spoke English with an accent that hints at voice-training. She held a picture frame containing a bunch of cut-out pictures, presumably of her family, and she smiled as she moved them around in the picture frame. When she got to the front, she asked about buying the latest greatest cell phone for her son ; money was no object she explained. She did not seem to believe that the young lady selling the phones was selling her an unlocked phone. She decided to buy the phone, and without ever sounding less than calm and collected she said "Even if it costs me a million Euros," in that coached voice, "I will come back here and kill you. Do you understand?" "No" said the saleswoman somewhat amused. "It is not the money you understand," never with less than perfect diction, "it is the principle o f it." Having been true to her principles, she paid and left.

Durante espero comprar la tarjeta de SIM, estoy detras de una mujer africana y arreglade bien quien dese Inglés con un accente de voz formacion. Ella tiene el cuadro sin una foto pero con pedasos de fotos, cualos creo son de su familia. Ella esta feliz durante mira a las. Cuando ella va a la mostrador, pregunta comprar el mas neuvo teléfono móvil para su hijo ; explica no creer de dinero. No cree que la dependienta bende un teléfono con llaves. Elige comprar el teléfono, y sin habla una palabra enfada, dese "Sí cuesta me un millon euros," en que mismo voz, "veno aqui y muerto tú. ¿Comprendas?" "No" dese la dependienta y sonree. "No ésta el dinero, comprendas, es el principio." Paga y sale.

Arriving

Llegar

I arrived in Granada on Saturday afternoon, and managed to get all my luggage but never found my pickup who was supposed to deliver keys. I took a bus to the city center for 3€, and the driver who seemed to know all the little streets in Granada, helped me and a number of other passengers find their destinations. I pronounced the street name "Azhuma", as "Ashuma" instead of the local pronunciation "Athuma" and the bus driver knew what I was talking about, but when I asked, using the same pronunciation, others who worked one street away, they had no idea what I was talking about until I showed one the spelling and he corrected my pronunciation. Driving through Granada, I saw an inordinate number of autoescuelas so either I'm wrong about that word, or there are a lot of people in Granada who need to learn to drive. They seem to be in the dodgier parts (not the Ghetto since Ghetto is an upscale store) of town — give me a map and a list of driving schools and banks, and I think I could tell you pretty accurately relative property values. Perhaps having escuela on the brain makes me notice them more than others, but there sure do seem to be a lot.

Llego en Granada a la tarde de s´bado, y descubro todos de mi equipaje, pero jamás conozco la taxista quien tiene mi llaves. Tomo un autobús al centro para tres euros. El qutobusador sabe todos las calles de Granada y él asiste me y otros con direcciones. Pronuncio el nombre de la calle Azhuma como "Ashuma" en lugar de la pronunciación local, y the autobusador sabe que quiero desir, pero los otros a quienes hablo, no comprenden hasta deletreo la palabra. En el autobús, voy muchas autoescuelas asi no sé significar de "autoescuela" o muchas chicos en Granada necesitan apprender conducir. Estan en la menos caro pedasos de la ciudad — sí tengo un mapa y un listo de las autoescuelas y los bancos, en ese caso sé sí una area es cara o barata. Creo mucho de escuela, asi es posible que noticio escuelas muoy facilmente.

I found the school without too much trouble but it was locked and I couldn't reach anyone by phone, so I decided to try and find a hotel. All told, I spent an hour or two schlepping my bike in hard case plus tools and baggage around sunny Granada until on the third try I found a hotel with a vacancy. I called the school, and got through this time, got the keys, and then jet lag caught up with me and I slept.

Descubro la escuela facilmente pero necesito las llaves y no puerdo llamarse, eligo buscar un hotel. Para unas horas, camino con mis equipajes alrededor Granada debajo del sol, hasta el tercer hotel tiene un vacante. Llamo el escuela y este bez, hoy una conexión, y recibo las llaves. Después, porque las nuevas zones de tiempo, duermo.

I checked out about 10am and lugged all my luggage to the school and found my apartment on the fourth floor (my commute to class is downstairs all the way), but I couldn't get the door open. Eventually I hit the doorbell and a very sleepy girl opened the door. She showed me how doors work and went back to sleep. I started getting my stuff together, and put my bike back together without any trouble. Everything survived the trip but there are a few new scratches which will need paint when I get back, and there is a large scratch through the primer on the chainstay just rear of the bottom bracket shell — If I had a bottom bracket tool and a crank puller I could move the bottom bracket right to get proper chain alignment, but in the meantime, I don't have a working small chainring. I also forgot to bring a table of recommended torques so even though I have a torque wrench, I had to tighten the stem by feel.

Salgo el hotel a las dez y tiro todos de mi equipaje a la escuela y descubro mi piso a la planta quatro (para ir la clase, voy debajo), pero no puedo abrir el puerto. Después de un poco, empujo la campana y una chica cansada abre el puerto. Me mostra como los puertos functionan y se acosta. TODO

The girl I woke up, really woke up, and her name is Georgia and she's a student too from a Greek family transplanted in Zurich. She doesn't speak English, but knows more Spanish than me and is very expressive with face and hands.

I spent the rest of the day walking around the city, and it seems a pretty city. I tried my usual tack of picking a direction towards larger buildings (the Alhambra in this case) and taking a side route whenever I saw large groups of people down an alley. I don't know quite where I went, but Granada is easy to walk around and has a lot of nice squares with outside cafes and restaurants. The drivers are well behaved, and the really long traffic signals seem to cause traffic to gather in clumps, so that if you're on the side streets its nice and quiet most of the time, with the calm occasionally punctuated by a whole group of cars that pass as quickly as they appear.

I wandered around the older Albaicin and Realejo districts through narrow alleys and under arches, past doors within doors.

There seems to be graffiti everywhere except on the Alhambra. Most of it is political but some of it isn't bad. Most of the stuff I could understand seemed to be focused on competitions between different spellings of "anarchist" or on Middle Eastern politics. The consensus among the graffiti artists seems to be that Jews are Nazis, or perhaps vice versa.

From the Realejo I headed uphill towards the Alhambra to try and get a view of the city. The Alhambra district will take some time to explore so I'm going to leave that for another day.

First day of classes

El primer dia de clases

I woke up at 6:30 or so and got a bit of study in for the slotting exam at 8. I met a bunch of the other students. There were maybe 8 of us: one other American from Boston with a few years of Spanish under his belt; a few from Holland & Belgium; an Italian journalist who said that everyone assumes that all Italians can just speak Spanish but though she had no trouble understanding, she needed at least a week or two to get the language; a Swiss schoolteacher from Geneva who has had a few years of Spanish classes; and one of my flatmates, a Czech law student.

We met Antonio, the headmaster, introduced himself and gave us a test to determine our Spanish proficiency. I knew between a third and a half of the non-connector words on the test. Most of the exam was multiple choice questions about, I presume, number and gender agreement, and proper use of prepositions and verbs. Of this, the latter half used tenses that I didn't know. There was also a writing portion for which I regurgitated something that looked like it originally contained bits of Spanish. After the test, each of us students took turns meeting with Antonio who chatted briefly and made notes, before assigning us all to classes.

Mondays are apparently scheduled differently for new students, so we had a break before the first class so I walked around and got some lunch. In class we covered the present tense, and the basics of gender and number agreement, and started on verbs that are irregular in the present. After class, I tried to buy some stuff I was missing. The secretary helpfully pointed me at a supermarket where I found toiletries, and a news stand that has a halfway decent map, though they can't quite bring themselves to make a map of Granada that has North at the top instead of the Alhambra. I didn't pack a towel, but I managed to find something that looks an awful lot like a towel for a giant, and which can double as a cape in a pinch. Whether or not it was meant to be a towel, it is now, and I know where it is so I am once again a froopy dude.

Day two of classes

El segundo dia de clases

Spanish has many fine regular verbs but they're never used for anything. We spent a lot of time talking about our various countries of origin and what languages we speak.

The first class of the day (9am-10:45) is taught by Ana who is good at speaking slowly and restricting herself to the set of tenses and forms that we've learned, but who has trouble explaining what to do when multiple rules apply. The second class (11:15-1) is taught by Santiago (Santi) who is a more experienced teacher, and has a very emphatic speaking style which makes it easy to learn pronunciation and emphasis. He seems to introduce most of the harder grammatical constructs.

Day three of classes

El tercer dia de clases

I found a dictionary and maps of the hills in Corte Ingles, a mini department store, which has a bookstore with travel guides in various languages, and I got a Czech language dictionary for my flatmate. I walked around the city again checking out restaurants.

Day four of classes

El dia numero quatro de clases

We learned to talk about time. After class, I met Suni at the bus-stop near the Palacio de Congresos. Yay! The bus from Malaga doesn't stop there, so she had to find something from Granada's main station. We spent the afternoon walking around the Albaicin and the Alhambra districts, and had dinner at a really mediocre restaurant near the stream.

Day five of classes

El dia numero cinco de clases

An easy day. More time and questions about time. Santi gave us advice about local beaches and getting to the various national parks. Flying to Barcelona with Suni. Bus to airport leaves from Gran Via Colon every hour on the hour but is usually 15 min late.

Weekend — Barcelona

El fin de semana en Barcelona

I'd booked tickets to Barcelona before I knew my school schedule, so I booked the latest possible Friday night flight in the hope that we could have dinner before flying out. We grabbed a bite, and decided to head to the airport early on the off chance that we could switch to an earlier flight. There was no such luck to be had, so we sat in the airport 3 hours working, reading, and making up stories about our fellow travelers. Despite our long stay, we had to rush to get on the plane since we mistook a long line of boarders for another gate as waiting to get on our plane until an announcement convinced us to take another look.

Barcelona is a pretty city and very tourist friendly. Lots of parks, cafes, and things to see. Many of the street signs are in Catalan which seems an odd mix of French and Spanish, but most everyone speaks Spanish.

The Sagrada Familia is worth seeing as is the Parque Guell?. Didn't find any memorable tapas places or restaurants. We saw the Art museum and the park surrounding it. The museum building is very pretty, but the museum itself isn't very good. You can't get around the city efficiently just walking but the metro is well run and easy to use.

Barcelona seems to have a pretty good system for short use rental bikes with bike depots scattered around the city and bike lanes in some of the most heavily trafficked parts. There aren't many places to buy the rental cards though.

Day 6 - Day 10

Los dias numeros seis a diez

I went to classes during the day and Suni and I walked the city and explored tapas joints a night. We toured many of the windy narrow streets around the Albaicin, the Realejo, and near the Cathedral, and visited the Cathedral, the Alhambra and the Generalife. The last two are definitely worth seeing. Granada's Cathedral is only exceptional in being the only cathedral in Granada. They do have electric candles that the faithful can light by depositing a coin which is really tacky but I suppose it keeps waxy deposits from collecting on the artwork.

We liked the tea shops North of Gran Via Colon — third right past Plaza Isabel Catolica. Our favorite tapas joint by mutual agreement is a Moroccan tapas place between Veronica de la Magdelena and San Miguel Alto on Calle Jarjines between the San Anton district and the city center.

We spent a lot of time in class talking about particular topics as a way to introduce vocabulary and idioms. We spent a number of days looking at maps of Spain and Latin America and at the royal family. The royals look uniformly gormless which I suppose is good in a country that so recently had a civil war. All the maps of Spain I've seen take pains to show every little blip where a Spanish flag flies, including two cities carved out of Morocco, but ignore blips missing, like Gibraltar. The exercises were useful though, and they managed to introduce not just Geography, but vocabulary for topics like personality traits, political inclinations, foods and common goods, transportation, etc. Santi used a travel brochure from Bogotá in class, and immediately after told us not to vacation in Bogotá because of crime.

I've always been confused by how prepositions are used in different languages. There must be many ways to partition the set of relationships between objects and verbs by prepositions, and each language I've tried to learn seems to use a completely different one ; so much so that, with the exception of a few basic concepts like possession, it might be easier to abandon all hope of translating a prepositional phrase by itself from one language to another and always pair a preposition with the verb it modifies when trying to translate.

Ana and Santi both insist that there is a non-idiomatic distinction between the two forms of the verb ser and estar. The way they describe it, ser describes intrinsic attributes, and estar extrinsic ones, though they don't use those precise words — I think they talk about whether things change. Let's take a look at some examples of uses of ser and estar. These are examples I ran across in class so it's not just me cherrypicking.
AttributeVerbExamplePeriod of change
The current timeser¿Que hora es?unity
Location of personestar¿Donde estamos?Short
Location of Asiaestar¿Donde está Asia?Geologic
PossessionserEs miyo.For coins, frequently
StudenthoodserSoy esudiante.2-12 years
ReligionserSoy Catolico.~30 years / person in the US
If the Spanish inquisition has their way, see dead.
ShortnessestarEstoy bajo.frequently early on, later never
Alivenessser¿Soy vivo?exactly once / person =~ 70 years
OldnessestarEstoy viejo.at most once / person or frequently until
DeadnessestarEstá muerto.Never (though see religion)

Santi and Ana have fine reasons for these inconsistencies, e.g. the word for dead is a participle which always goes with estar but these frequent structural exceptions just prove the weakness of the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction. And the most frequently changing extrinsic attributes seem to be used with tener: I am cold, hot, thirsty, hungry. And the verb haber steals even more of estars thunder since a form of it, hay provides a handy way of asserting existence: e.g. there is a . There do seem to be a few rules that hold though:

The intrinsic/extrinsic distinction, though muddled, has some value. There are some attributes that work with either, but with different meanings. Suni insisted I teach her some Spanish, so I taught her ¡Mi novio es loco! (My boyfriend is crazy!) which she can interject helpfully when I'm trying to explain something that is clearly beyond my halting Spanish. It uses the intrinsic form, so noone who hears it is going to mistake it for a temporary condition: ¡Mi novio está loco!.

Second Weekend — Sevilla

El segundo fin de semana en Sevilla

Suni is leaving at the end of this weekend and it looks like getting to Lisbon is going to be a pain, and getting back in time would be dicy, so we decided to take a train to Sevilla instead. Stricken by indecision, we failed to buy tickets during the week, so we schlepped Suni's luggage to the line of bus stops on Gran Via near the Plaza Isabel and found a bus to the station. The third or fourth stop after Gran Via turns into Avenida de la Constitution is within easy walking distance of the train station. We got there about 3 hoping to catch a 4:30 train, but the display in the ticket office said the 4:30 was full, so we had to take the 7:00 instead. There are plenty of cafés around the train station, so it wasn't a huge hardship. Both trains take 3 hours between Granada and Sevilla as did our return trains. TODO: kitten box.

We thought we might have trouble booking a hotel at the last minute, especially with holy week looming, but we looked in a guide-book I'd bought from Corte Inglés and found Hotel Dona Blanca which was cheap and located near the city center on Plaza Padre Jeronimo de Córdoba. Granada's news-stands don't carry maps of other cities, and the guide-book's map only gave the vaguest hints as to where the train station was relative to the touristy parts, so we took a cab. I checked after I found a proper map, and it would've been an easy walk if Suni hadn't had all her luggage along.

I like Spanish cities. If one arrives at 10pm on a train, hungry, one still has no trouble finding food. We wandered from our hotel and found a tapas joint, Bar Ajo Blanco, on Calle Alhondiga, with pictures of posters for Sevilla Jazz shows (and some Santana posters). The food was good enough that we came back again the next night.

We spent Saturday hitting most of the touristy parts of the city. We started walking North, and ran into a main street, Calle Recaredo, where I found a bookshop with a 1/10,000 map of Seville (Michelin #74). After coffee cleared our heads, we decided to try and do a bit of the Santa Cruz district and the various sights surrounding it. The Santa Cruz district is a pretty but very touristy neighborhood full of shops all selling the same overpriced stuff to tourists. To the NorthEast is a pretty set of gardens, to the South an impressive Cathedral and the Real Alcazar, a fortress with very pretty gardens. We saw the Cathedral which is worth visiting, and then wandered around the gardens and then cut South towards the river where we almost interrupted a group of kids involved in a heated Pokémon battle. The walk along the river is nice even if the parks are full of litter, but we cut our walk short when we saw dark clouds and headed North to the shopping district where we could duck into a shop or café should rain threaten.

We did some window shopping and Suni decided to try and find me some sneakers since she's skeptical that my boots are good for long walking. After the sixth or so shoe store we narrowed me down to shoe size 48, and found that most Spanish stores top out at 45. Someone pointed us to Corte Inglés. Apparently there are four such stores within a kilometer radius of one another each selling different things. It started to rain a bit as we ran around trying to find the right one, and Suni, who borrowed her sister's purse, wore my rain slick over it. I told her she looked pregnant, and she had a lot of fun walking around complaining about her back and demanding pickles and ice cream. We found the right Corte Inglés and found that they did indeed have larger sizes: a dozen odd pairs of size 47 shoes. One, with a particularly rounded toe almost fit, so I got those. It was getting late, so we wandered around the square near the hotel looking for food.

The next day we started with the Real Alcazar which is worth seeing. It's an old fortress that seems to have been through a few changes of hands with pretty detail work on tiles, ceilings, and doors, and some very nice gardens that have Peacocks (in Spanish, literally Royal Turkeys) wandering about. The style in parts is very similar to the Alhambra, though although the decorative tiles in the Alhambra work Arabic words into their design, this fortress seemed to have many similar motifs but the curvy lines, to my untrained eyes, don't actually seem to be writing.

We turned North to check out the Plaza España which is a pretty if new square with frescoes for each large Spanish city, and moats noticably devoid of alligators or even water. Across from the plaza is a park (Parque de Maria Luisa) where we rented a two person four wheeled pedal powered cart and whizzed around looking like dorks and enjoying it. Suni enjoyed having her own, non-functional, steering wheel. After we were done with that, we headed South across the bridge to check out the Parque de los Pricipes. It was a bit of a hike and it was getting plenty warm, and there was nothing in the park worth seeing, with the possible exception of a stand of bamboo shaped somewhat like a shaggy dog, but we did find banana ice-cream on the way so it was worth the hike to be able to check that off our list. We hiked back a different way taking Avenida Republica Argentina towards the tower of gold. The tower of gold isn't really gold, but isn't a bad looking tower and there seem to be a bunch of cafés near it along the river. We ate dinner at a number of tapas joints including one a bit South of Plaza Cristo de Burgos which had a Marx brothers theme, kung-fu movies playing, and some good tapas.

Monday morning, we got up at 5am after precious little sleep and headed to the train station and got there early enough to be first in line when the coffee stand opened. We said our goodbyes in a scene that's probably been replayed countless times in similar settings and Suni got on the high-speed 6:55 train to Málaga and I took the regular speed 7:00 to Granada and schlepped to the school getting to class at 10:35 about 10 minutes before the end of the first session much to the amusement of the teacher and a bunch of new students.

Second Week of classes

La segunda semana de clases

We learned pronouns in the nominative and the accusative and how they interact with reflexive verbs. We learned a number of auxiliary verbs (ir, pensar, and querer) that help express near future events, and we spent an inordinate amount of time on gustar and other unconjugated verbs. We also learned the imperative.

Spanish seems to have a number of triplets of words that seem related vaguely:

AquiAhiAlli
EsteEseAquel

I don't know whether these form a one/few/many distinction. The first is relative to the speaker, so is always endophoric. The way the second and third are translated implies they could be, respectively, endophoric but independent of the speaker and exophoric.

I think that the main barrier to further learning is vocab, since I can get the gist of most of the class exercises quickly except for the ones that contain more than a few words I don't know. I wrote a flashcard application to help reinforce vocab, and I wanted to make sure new vocab doesn't get drowned out by masses of stuff I've already learned so I decided to try out the database APIs that Ian Hickson and the Google Gears guys were so keen to see added to browsers. I did most of the design, and the first implementation of offline Google Calendar, so I saw a number of revisions of database APIs for browsers, and the HTML5 APIs, as much of them as I had to use, are an improvement. It was really easy to knock something together and get it running. Granted, my app is so small that it doesn't need to worry about multiple interacting origins, or schema versioning since none of the data is critical; but it is nice to know that the APIs make simple things simple.

Third weekend

El tercer fin de semana

Hamed was going to rent a second car but couldn't find one. Biked up to the Alhambra. It was hot, but not bad riding. Middle chainring since small one is too close to the bottom bracket shell for it to work without the chain rubbing the chainstays. Continued up and found a route that climbs into the hills along a route that has an offroad section that's not at all technical followed by a steady shallow climb along a paved road with a few potholes. At the top is a parking lot, and there are signs to what I assume is a campground somewhere, and a road that I think continues down away from Granada. On the way back, I got stuck behind a motorcycle on the dirt section. He was going really slowly, so I pulled over a bit later to check my rims. They were uncomfortably hot to the touch — probably a combination of the heat, and me riding the brakes down that last steepish section. I've been taking regular stops on the downhill to let my rims cool since I don't want a blowout, especially with all these buses around, though it does seem perverse to be charging the uphills and taking breaks on the downhills.

Monday

Lunes

Learned the present perfect tense and spent a bit of time talking about prepositions. Santi wants us all to give a talk on a subject that's accessible to other students. I have to go next Monday. I went to the gym, and managed to damage myself a bit. Afterwards I met up with a couple people in a park a few blocks West of the gym, which seems to be frequented by teenagers practicing choreographed dances. We all met up later for food, but we were late getting a start since new people kept arriving and the first tapas joint that I led people to was too full to accommodate all of us, so we continued to D'Cuardo which has decent food but nothing special. Afterwards we wandered around drinking and dancing until early morning.

Tuesday

Martes

A number of people missed class because of the night before, but I only wished I had. Today was mostly drill in old subjects. Peter gave a talk on the history of the Alhambra. I got out of class and decided to take a little nap which turned out to be far longer than I'd planned.

Wednesday

Miercoles

More work on choosing appropriate prepositions. I have no idea how I'm going to learn them except perhaps by reading them over and over again. I'll have to try to pay close attention to prepositions as I'm reading. We also learned the pretérito indefinido tense which I don't understand, and which seems to have a whole slew of irregularities, so it's probably frightfully commonly used.

Wednesday

Miercoles

More drill on the two past tenses. Hamed gave a talk on laws around Euthanasia. I booked tickets to Tours for the weekend after next.

Thursday

Jovenes

I think I'm adjusting a bit to the temperature. More recent arrivals seem to be feeling it more than me which is unusual since I usually have such a poor tolerance for heat. In class, we reviewed various subjects, and Matthieu gave a well-intentioned but rather incoherent talk on a slew of seemingly unrelated environmental issues. I took exception with his lumping them all together and may have derailed any subsequent discussions.

Friday

Viernes

We had a quiz on the pretérito indefinido which I'd studied with the flashcard app. I got 13/16 which is mediocre but not bad for a few hours of cramming. We drilled on when to use the pretérito indefinido and when to use the perfect tense, and on expressions that denote time. Gerard gave a talk related to his work as a filmmaker but I didn't follow large portions of it.

Since it was Gerard's last day in Granada, we took him out for dinner. A few of us met at the Puerta Real and grabbed a few drinks before heading West towards a Sushi place near Pintor Lomez Mezquita and Pedro Antonio. We had some decent sushi, but I'm starting to suspect that Sushi in Europe really sucks because the Europeans think this sushi is really good. About midnight we headed towards Camborio in the Sacromonte which has a few dance floors and great views of the Alhambra which more than make up for their lack of a decent DJ. Around 4 in the morning I said goodbye to Gerard and wandered home.

The fourth weekend

El fin de semana cuatro

Relaxing and biking. Not much studying, but spent a large chunk of Sunday putting together a talk for the afternoon class on the differences between human languages and programming languages.

Monday

Lunes

Class started with us talking about the news using our various past tenses. We also learned the negative imperative which is quite a mess. I keep running into the cleaning lady when I'm trying to get my bike up and down the four flights of stairs today and she seems to feel bad since she effectively disables the elevator while cleaning. Usually we joke about the heat, and me getting more exercise schlepping the bike up stairs, but today she said "Always with the bicycle. Are you a famous cyclist?"

As all of us flatmates were wandering out for food, we ran into a new student trying to get into the building, a retired college lecturer. We redirected him to his residence but it looks like students arrive with even less idea of where they need to go or whom to call than I did.

Tuesday

Martes

We learned the imperfect tense which seems to correspond to the auxiliary verbs "would" and "could" in English, and the future simple tense. After class, Georgia, her Swiss/Greek friend, Marta, and I went out for food. We wandered into the Albaicin and found a restaurant staffed by a single very harried waiter. The place was nice but the food was crap, and we amused ourselves trying animal noises in our various languages on each other. It's amazing how much more language you learn after everyone has had a few drinks to loosen their tongues. Afterwards we started climbing stairs until we arrived at the Plaza San Nicolas which has a great view of the city and hung out there until a bit after midnight.

Wednesday

Miercoles

Learned the future conditional tense in class, and a girl from Leeds gave a talk on the death penalty. Europeans usually seem to get very righteous about the death penalty, but I tried to separate the death penalty during wartime (to forestall a route that would endanger everyone on the line or for a duly convicted criminal whom armed gangs keep trying to free) from that of civilians, and none seemed to have any strong objections to the wartime uses of the death penalty.

Thursday

Jovenes

In class we did more drill on the correct use of the various past tenses. Most of the class, myself included, don't seem to be making much progress. Ana has given us one set of rules, and Santi another. I didn't understand a few, and so I asked which of the rules she'd given (I won't transcribe them since they're worthless) took precedence when two apply. I thought it a simple enough question, but she asserted that there is no algorithm for deciding which rule applies in that circumstance. I agreed that she didn't know the algorithm and tried to tease it out of her with questions, but I don't think my Spanish was good enough and it became awkward ; the Belgians, unnecessarily conflict-averse on a good day, went into full panic mode. At the end, my question was still unanswered, and my opinion of Ana's teaching ability is lower.

Santi's rules, as best I can remember and transcribe form a decision tree like the below:

                                          Past
                                            |
                                Action +----+----+ Description
                                       |         | 
                                       |     Imperfect
                                       |
                             Near Past | Interrupted
 Thinking or Feeling +-----------+-----+-----+----------+ Else
                     |           |           |          |
                 Imperfect     Pres.      Imperfect     |
                              Perfect                   |
                                                        |
          Habitual, more than once, or Continuing +-----+-----+ Other
                                                  |           |
                                                Pres.     Indefinite
                                               Perfect

The action and description dichotomy wasn't all that clear to me or the rest of the class. In particular, we had trouble determining whether verbs such as poder (to be able to) or probar (to try) which take infinitives are actions or descriptions based on the infinitives. The "interrupted" action distinction seems important, but I had trouble with it ; when a sentence describes a long action and a brief interruption, one is imperfect and the other indefinite : e.g. While I cycled, I drank water.

Friday and the Weekend

El viernes y el fin de semana

I skipped class except for the morning so I could make it to Tours by evening. I left at 10:50am and arrived in Tours about 10:45pm. I took a bus from Gran Via Colón to the bus station, and a bus from there to Málaga and a third to the airport. The tickets for intra-city buses are sold by the conductor, and the ones for inter-city buses at the station. Most buses have a digital marquee that shows the time, temperature, and next stop; but on some buses, the temperature sensor must have been mounted inside the bus to show how effective the air conditioning is; depending on the bus the temperature ranged from 16°C to 36°C. The Málaga airport is pretty easy to navigate, but the check-in for short hops on Air Europa like Málaga→Paris is separate from the rest. There were some storms around Paris early in the day, so my flight to Paris was delayed leaving until they managed to land all the planes in holding patterns, and I didn't have as much time as I'd planned to make it from Charles de Gaulle airport on the outskirts to Montparnasse train station nearer the city center, so I took a cab that turned out to be horribly expensive but got me there on time. The TGV hop was pretty efficient, and I got to St. Pierre de Corps without much trouble and met the rellies. Michael Jackson had died the day before, and both Spanish and French radio were abuzz with the news and sprinkled his songs through their broadcasts.

John's and Mary's house in Verneuil sur Indre is a cluster of 3 small properties: what was originally a blacksmith's forge and two living spaces. From the front door you can see the village château which is a stone building with conically rooved towers. The front lawn has flowers, and the beginnings of ivy which climbs up the front wall of the main building. Out back is a garden.

We went into the closest large town, Loches, to buy food for lunch: chicken (chook in Aussie parlance as I was quickly reminded), cheese, and bread. Saturday is market day, and there was quite a crowd in Loches ; there were more retirees and fewer young couples which I suppose is normal for the countryside, but there was the odd other tourist. I walked around a bit and took some pictures of the nicer houses.

We had lunch in John's and Mary's backyard and caught up. John is mostly retired, and it was his 70th birthday the Thursday prior so we toasted his health and ate more than enough to show we meant it. Mary is retired but is in charge of the ILO (Intl. Labor Org.), a UN arm in Geneva, and serves on a bi-annual rotation of judges. Pat is living in Marseilles but still does some translation of Psychology papers into English ; she finds the abstracts the hardest since most English speakers like motivation and conclusions up-front, whereas francophones tend to expect some discussion of theory before talking about contributions. Mary's son, Patrick, whom I'd met when we were both much younger, was also there, with his girlfriend Harriet. He's working on a consultancy basis for a number of medical firms in London, and Harriet is a classical pianist and percussionist finishing up her doctorate in something musical. Patrick has recently gotten into cycling, doing a 200km ride along Hadrian's wall, so we nattered away about bikes and touring.

Patrick, Harriet, and I then headed to Château de Chenonceau, a pretty old castle/château which was traded back and forth between a number of wives and mistresses of various kings. The building itself is nice, with towers, turrets, and all kinds of bits of well-cut stone, projecting out over a billious green river on a series of arches. To either side are some nice gardens, and past the gardens is a wooded area with some trails and a maze.


Last modified: Tue May 26 10:57:51 CEST