Monday, May 30, 2011

Thesis highlights

Ok, I know that most of this will not be interesting for anyone reading this blog, but I am a teacher and this blog is about my teaching abroad, so.  While I don't think my thesis itself would be an interesting read, some of the information I discovered while writing it IS very interesting, either as an educator or as a language learner.

  • I had noticed when I first lived in Hungary, and when I first came from Hungary to Spain, the tendency of Hungarian and Spanish to interfere with each other in my spoken language.  This would either take the form of words from the other foreign language invading while speaking, or (and much more interestingly) grammatical concepts from one language making themselves known while speaking the other.  The most famous example of this is when I visited Spain from Hungary and said "Dos cervezaT quiero, por favor."  This has the combined fun of Hungarian word order and the Hungarian accusative ending working their way into my Spanish.  However, when I speak either of my foreign languages, I have very little English interference.  That isn't to say that I don't think of English words when I'm missing a piece of vocabulary, or that I never use awkward anglicisms, but rather simply that I don't have unconscious interference.  My use of English was almost always deliberate (if unwanted, because I want to be fluent!).  And, it turns out, this is totally a thing.  It's called "the talk foreign phenomenon," which is a horrible name, and it has to do with our cognitive centers apparently storing non-native languages in the same place.  It's simply more easy to "deactivate" our native language.  So, all you third language learners, rejoice!  It's totally a thing!
  • Partner teaching is completely best practices.  It's ideal (when the two teachers get along, of course) because it offers so much more to the students, and allows for the use of different teaching strategies.  World, get on this.  I'm so excited to go back to Krudy and partner teaching.
  • Immersion teaching may well only be the most effective teaching practice for young students, as adolescents and adults can benefit greatly from connections between languages and all of that fun metalinguistic stuff.
  • Code-switching (the practice used by bilinguals, mostly unconsciously but according to rather strict rules, of changing languages in one turn of speech) is not a sign of a lack of proficiency in the non-native language.  In fact, it is more likely to be used by people who are comfortable, if not fluent, with both languages.  It is also much more likely that bilinguals switch into the language which they HEAR most often, even if that is not the dominant language of the pair!  This is fascinating.  It also gives us expats a bit of an excuse for our obnoxiousness of using scattered words and phrases of the local language when speaking English.  We're not showing off... it's science!
  • Actually, very very few people are forced to learn a third (or subsequent) language with a non-native language as the language of instruction.  Very, very little research exists on the subject, and it all seems to deal with either the Basques (whom I can't seem to stop visiting this year) or the Hungarians (whom I love).  So that's interesting.  I'll have to write about it in a few years.

Masters Thesis

Here is my thesis.  It's 20.000 words long and I certainly expect nobody to read it.  But, nevertheless, here it is.  I also think my formatting probably will have gotten a bit messed up with the transfer to the blog, so do forgive that!  And if you do read it, and you find some typo... I don't think I want to know.  Anyways...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Well, I have laryngitis, so that got me two days home sick.  And that has resulted in lots of naps, which has sort of ruined my sleep cycle, though probably no more so than I already do every weekend anyway.

And on a positive note, it's let me work a ton on my thesis.  Which is sort of drawing to a close.  That is, I have all my factual information written down, more or less, and now it's time to just write my ten pages or so of analysis and I'm done.  Luckily, this analysis is on various aspects of my topic, not all on the same thing.  So it's actually like 3 pages of analysis on how the issues in second language education can apply to third language acquisition, plus 3 pages on how the different methods used in L2 can apply to L3, and then five or so pages of recommendations and general analysis.

Though I must say that writing a sixty-page paper is just a daunting thing.  I've been working on it off and on (though mostly off) for months, so I've sort of forgotten what it is exactly that I've already written.  Nevertheless, it's almost done.  I'm going to be so happy to be out of this desk chair.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spring Break Trip to the North: Santiago de Compostela

The last stop of our trip was in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.  We arrived late at night on Holy Thursday and took a quite round about way to our hostel, so after that we decided to just crash out and get a good night's rest.  The next day we woke up to a rainy day, but not to be deterred, we headed out anyway.  After grabbing a yummy ham toast for breakfast, our first stop was the Cathedral.  This cathedral supposedly houses the remains of Saint James, or Santiago in Spanish, and is the end stop of one of Europe's largest pilgrimages.  
The altar of the cathedral, surrounded by pilgrims and shushing priests.  I gave the longest confession of my life here, as well, with an incredibly chatty priest who wanted to talk about everything.
The cathedral facade, from under an awning where we hid from the rain.
Lunch: spring rolls with awesome plum sauce and coconut soup.  I also had spicy vegetables with Thai basil.  We sat and chatted and drank beers for hours, looking out at the downpour and laughing with the owner.
a church featuring people burning piously
me in the rain
Then we headed out to watch the first cofradia's parade.
We had dinner at a pulperia, or octopus house: delicious (!!) pulpo a la gallega (octopus Galician style), which is cooked with garlic and paprika in wine and then roasted on a wooden platter, with padron peppers covered in sea salt, some french fries, and Galician beer.  The place was absolutely hopping, with tons of people eating atop barrels and more waiting at the bar for their turn.
We also got some fruity white wine, which was served in little bowls.  The white wines in Galicia were really super, crisp and delicious... plus they cost pretty much nothing.
The next day we headed to the supermarket to get breakfast, with nutty bread, jam, and local cheese we'd bought the day before.
Legend has it that a sculptor had made a voluptuous statue that distracted the locals too much at mass, so the church ordered him to modify it.  The locals missed their statue so much they started making "titty cheese" (yes, that's it's real name) as a form of revenge.  Anyway, it's delicious.
me with the cathedral in the sunshine
pretty plaza
We also visited the museum of the pilgrim, which contained tons of information about the historic pilgrimage and old artifacts as well.
The seashell was Santiago's symbol and can be seen everywhere, such as this canteen.  The seashell also marks the whole route of the many pilgrimage trails, so we'd seen it on sidewalks all week as we traveled across the north.
After visiting the museum, we sat in the square behind the cathedral and ate Easter bread.
Then we headed back to the main square to see another cofradia performance.  That night, we got pizza and chicken wings for dinner in pretty much the only restaurant open in town.
Our last day was Easter Sunday.  We spent a quiet morning, and then headed to the town to spend a last afternoon.  Here's a little worker dude statue. 
We found a park full of some old buildings and some cool statues.
It also afforded some great views of the Cathedral and the town.
Lyla, the Cathedral, and I
The city was so hopping, you wouldn't have been able to tell it was Easter.
Lyla and I got a fantastic lunch at a beautiful little restaurant.  First course: sauteed octopus and shrimp in garlic and white wine with some peppers.
Main course: beautifully fried salmon (crispy outside, rare inside) with almond sauce.  Dessert was tiramisu and the wine was a gorgeous Albiol.
We saw one more cofradia before heading to the bus station to catch our night bus home and end a fantastic, fantastic trip to the north of Spain.  Go, people.  Go.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Tomorrow is my last master's class of this masters, and quite possibly my last college class ever.  I have about two weeks to finish writing my thesis, which I've been totally blocked on but which will soon be done.  On June 1st, my work schedule also goes to half days, so all in all things are looking pretty sweet for the near future.  Which is good, because I'm just so tired after this year.  I really am just tired.

But then I wander onto facebook and see that one of my good friends from college, who I'm honestly a bit out of touch with beyond facebook, is back in Iraq and counting down the days until he's done with his five-year enlistment.  And that sort of puts everything into perspective.  And I have no choice but to laugh at myself, and how much I've spoiled myself in the last few years that I'm just so tired right now.

Still, it happens every year.  Dealing with kids all day long can be exhausting and demoralizing at times, and all of my colleagues have entered the phase where they are constantly sighing and dreaming of the last day.  Of course, then summer will start and it will be all planning and summer courses and soon enough that month will be over and it will be time for inservice, scheduling, and getting ready for the new year.  But at this moment, summer looks like the oasis that all non-teachers think it is, which to be honest (for me at least since I'm changing jobs again) it mostly is, and it's within sight!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spring Break Trip to the North: Gijon

The next stop on our journey was Gijon in Asturias.  Asturias is famous as a culinary capital of Spain and the food did not disappoint!  Actually, food was pretty much what I did there.  Upon arriving, we checked into our hotel and then wandered out to the coast for dinner at a traditional sidreria, or cider house.  We went to Sidreria Tierra Astur and had a great experience.  (Careful: the link plays music!  Once there, hit "poniente" which is where we were.)  The site is in Asturian but you can figure it out without problems if you speak Spanish, and in any case you can look at the pictures of this cool little restaurant.

And if I can just talk about cider for a minute, it was awesome.  This place had all its cider lined up under a little "waterfall" to keep it cold.  You ordered a bottle, which usually cost around three euros for the whole bottle, and the waiter would come over and pour everyone a little glass.  The trick, apparently, is to knock that glass, a mouthful, back like a shot.  This is because of the distinct pouring method used: the waiter holds the bottle over his head and pours into the glass held down around his knee.  This "awakens" the cider and releases the gasses in it, which gives it a sharp bite and makes me cough.  The cider here is tart and borderline sour.  So we drank cider and ate yummy food while cheering on Real Madrid in el Copa del Rey.  It was a good night!
from the internet: cider is poured
Cheese plate of Asturian cheeses... half of it was eaten for breakfast the next day with a really great loaf of nutty bread.
vegetable grill platter
a corn fritter with wild boar meat and gorgonzola sauce
The portions at this restaurant were just insane and everything was really reasonably priced.  The staff was also really friendly and accommodating with explanations and such.  If you're ever in Gijon, check it out!
The next day we got up and headed to the market, where Lyla and I got bread and apples to eat with all that leftover cheese, as well as a piece of nut cake.  Then we headed out to explore the town.  On our adventures, we also found an artisan street fair, where we got to try handmade cheese and sausage and bought some other sweets.

colorful buildings
a church crammed in with the apartments
statue by the port
This is out on the town's peninsula where the fishermen used to live.  It's cute.
an ode to lost sailors
coast line
The north of Spain is said to be the continent's Ireland, and I get it.  It's so green and lush, and people also play bagpipes.
bagpiper overlooking the sea
a church by the coast
a view of the peninsula from the beach
So Lyla and I then wandered the town some more and found a few parks before getting a lunch of an enormous salad and patatas ali-oli (easily the garlicky-est I've ever eaten and delicious!) with a bottle or two of cider.  At the little place where we were eating an old man came over and explained the cider drinking tradition to us and showed us how to knock it back so I didn't cough quite so much.  Then it was again to the bus station and off to the last stop of our trip: the pilgrimage town of San Sebastian in Galicia.  This bus trip awarded us with some amazing bits of sunset, but of course those never photograph well from a bus!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hysterical cooking video

Ok, this is seriously more funny than Semi-Homemade.  The whole recipe is sung in black metal.  I would probably not watch it at work, though.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring Break Trip to the North: Santander

The third stop of our trip was Santander.  Santander never makes it into any of the guide books, and I really don't understand why.  I mean, I probably wouldn't travel to Spain to visit Santander, but if you are in the north already it's really just a lovely, charming little town.  It's also the major city of Cantabria, and surely more interesting than visiting fake cave paintings (the one attraction of Cantabria that tends to make the books are the famous Altamira cave paintings... small problem that you don't actually get to see them, but have to visit a "replica cave.")  I bet it's awesome in the summers, with all the beaches!  It was also nice to get a break in pure castilian Spanish after the the impossible basque and before heading to the land of Bable (Asturias) and Gallego (Galicia).
These are the sardines I had as my second course for dinner after arriving.  Yum!
The next morning it was out to explore the town.  This is the fortress-like cathedral, which was dark and creepy inside.  On the plus side, some cardinal was visiting so there were priests in cassocks everywhere, which added to the atmosphere.
the courtyard of the cathedral
a park
This is the headquarters of the Santander bank, of which I am a moderately satisfied member.  The armored vans pull right up into the middle of the bank through that archway.
This is Santander's iconic statue, or little children going swimming.  I guess in the warm months little kids actually line the banks and will dive in after thrown coins.  An interesting take on the lemonade stand.
cultural center (actually named the Palace of Festivals)
I love the little blue house squeezed in there between the apartment buildings.  I'm sure some contractor really really hates the old person who assuredly lives there.
sea (actually the Bay of Santander)
We walked along the beach until the end of the city, which juts out into a peninsula.  The whole peninsula used to belong to the royal family but today it is a park.  There is a wooded area, a few more beaches, a palace, and a little zoo housing penguins, sea lions, and seals.  Their enclosures were pretty cool because the tide went in and out of them, so they still got to experience real salt water.
A baby seal.  I die.  He was snoring until a westy dog started barking at him and he decided to flop into the water.
The English-inspired Magdalena palace.  I just realized that, since magdalena means muffin, there are tons of little girls and grown women running around Spain who are legally named and called Muffin.  Fantastic.
After finishing up on the peninsula we headed back into town to grab a quick lunch and catch our bus to head to Asturias and Gijon!