Spanish Short Stories

Hellooo, I’m baaack!

It has been a whirlwind around here:

We’ve been sick in the house (again). This time around it was Natanael, and then hubby, the two who had escaped the flu two weeks ago… As usual, the kid was back on his feet in a couple of days, the adult was coughing his lungs out for a couple of WEEKS. I am re-learning to be more Canadian and I try very hard not to hug or kiss my kids when they are sick (it’s very hard, but I had to tell them it’s for our own good). In Brazil the concept of germs is very theoretical, and people hug everyone right and left, sick or not… Over here most people are less touchy, and will actually THANK YOU if you explain that you don’t want to shake hands because there is the flu in your house! (As a contrast, Brazilian people get very offended if you don’t want to hug them for whatever reason!)

And now, during Advent season, I’ve been hunting the thrift stores to find white shirts and black pants for the boys’ Christmas concert at school (plus 3 Christmas hats from the dollar store) and a winter coat for myself. One of the great advantages of living in a First World country among the over-consumerism of others is that I find a lot of very cheap clothes that are in very good shape or sometimes new! (with the tags on and everything). I can’t tell my mom that I buy clothes at the thrift store though, she is horrified, but for me it’s 1. budget friendly 2. earth friendly (hey, it’s recycling!) 3. totally worth it because the kids just destroy their clothes anyway, might as well let them roll in the mud in their 99 cents pants if they want to. I don’t want to care about it.

I’ve been busy with work. My current project is French Dialogues, from the same editor/author of the French Short Stories. I like to work for that person because he wants me to be the last beta reader, and let him know about the typos/errors if I find them. The two other authors/editors that I worked with did not ask me to do that, but I did it anyway.  I always find some errors when I read, specially now as a narrator, because I actually have to read over the same passages many times (when I record AND when I edit). In answer, what I like to hear from the author/editor after I signal a mistake or send the whole list at the end of the project is, “That’s great!” or “Good catch!”. Because it means that he will correct whatever needs to be corrected, and the final product will be of greater quality. I like a job well done. How disappointed was I when I received emails such as “Well, thanks but whatever, we can’t make any changes now, no work is ever perfect…” (I am not looking for perfection, but better is a start, no? How frustrating…)

Also, *drumroll* my Spanish Short Stories book is out! Yay! No reviews yet, so if you reside in the US or UK, and want a free download code for the audio book, just let me know… I would love to send one to you in exchange for a (hopefully) good review! 😉




About accents and languages

Just a quick note to inform you that since last time, I finished my very first audio book project. I am quite proud of the French Short Stories for beginners (if you click on the link you can listen to a sample — and hear me speak in French and English! ).

I was anxiously scanning the reviews everyday for some feedback on my work, and today, bingo!, someone wrote:

“(N) is a fabulous French narrator because she does not have a strong regional accent – she is as neutral as one could wish. Her speaking in English is not as strong and she mispronounced several words. Not a big deal and certainly not enough to detract from the book.”

… First, let us focus on the word “fabulous” of the review for a minute! 😉

OK. That pretty good, right?!  After all, having a French accent when speaking English, in a book about learning French, is not a bad thing, right? I obviously have an accent in English, it is not my native language, however I would be curious to know which words I mispronounced because, you know, I like to learn and improve. Was she actually speaking about “mispronouncing” words, or simply having a foreign accent in English?

This is what I am wondering, rationally.

Emotionally is another matter. Will I ever be good in English? I mean, better than just good enough? Most days I think I speak six languages, and I am proud of it, but am I actually as fluent as I think I am? Self-doubt can be crippling.

Comments about my language skills have varied widely between:

  • being mistaken by a native (while speaking German in Germany -decades ago-, in Italy by Italians -again decades ago-, by Venezuelans in Montreal when chatting in Spanish with them, even by Brazilians thinking I was gaúcha from the South),
  • wide eyed admiration (my language students in Brazil)
  • envy (“Can you imagine speaking five languages?”, asked me a new co-worker once, before realizing that it was me she had heard about.)
  • to the skeptics who cannot place my accent and say things like “but where do you come from?”, or “that’s not how we say it, but I understood”, “you don’t really speak English, do you?” (even if we have be having a conversation in the said language), “Você fala Portugues tambem?” (“Do you speak Portuguese too?”… Again, we were having a conversation in that language.)  🙄

So yeah, whatever level of fluency you think you have, there will always be room for improvement.

Exciting or depressing? Depends on the day.

And now, my next project is Spanish Short stories! I will probably have comments about my French accent in Argentinian Spanish, and weird accent in my Canadian English. *sigh*

The magic school bus

Our first concern when we arrived in Canada in November was to enroll the kids to school as soon as possible. While the school year in Brazil is from February to December, the following school year which is from September to June had already started here! The twins were only finishing their first year of primary school in Brazil, but they had missed the first months of their second year (Gr.2) here in Canada! And Uriel had missed his first months of primary school (Gr.1)… I was afraid that their reading skills would be behind from the rest of their peers.

Another concern was the language. They had started to read and write in Portuguese and had  adjusted rather well to the Portuguese language. I was completing their education with some French lessons at home and French is also the language we speak at home. However, they’d had little to no contact with the English language before coming here. What would happen now?

In Southern Ontario we discovered that there are four publicly funded school boards, English public, English catholic, French public and French Catholic. Free education of good quality (and free school buses!) was after all one of the main reason we came back. I’m loving it! 🙂

The choice was hard for us. On the most practical side, there is an English public school two blocks from our house. The other option was to send them to a French catholic school a little further away, but with free school bus service. Should we drop them in the English language and see what happens (we know how kids learn fast, right?), or ease the transition and look into a French school (their oral skills are obviously good, but the writing and reading in French in not as… intuitive).

We ended up deciding to send them to a French school for now. The idea is that they will hopefully learn to read and write the harder language first, be exposed to the French Canadian accent (which is not a bad thing in my opinion — they are French and Canadian after all!), then pick up English along the way (most of the kids in school speak English at home and behind the teacher’s back!).

Another fun fact: taking the yellow bus to school is a (very exciting) daily adventure! Their first thought was probably that they would step into the fantastic world of one of their favorite series. In truth, the ride that would take only 10 minutes if I would drive them directly to school takes them around 30 to 40 minutes… (not that they have anything else to do anyway, ha ha)

Magic school bus