About six weeks ago, I acquired a marvel of modern technology called “The Radio”.
Let me explain what prompted this purchase: About 95% of my entertainment and information gathering needs are catered for by The Computer. Courtesy of the internet, I have not used a radio, nor a TV, for that matter, in years, or at least not on a regular basis.
The reason for getting myself a radio was that I’ve been having ongoing problems understanding spoken Spanish, even in instances where the speaker’s pronunciation was crystal clear, and I knew all the vocabulary. I’ve tested this by listening to numerous podcasts, where I was barely able to understand more than the gist, but had no problems at all reading the transcripts. My just brain just wasn’t processing the spoken language very well, and I was still struggling with this after an entire year in Spain.
In my mission to finally crack this, I carry my radio around the flat like a talisman. I listen while cooking, getting dressed, cutting my toenails, washing up, as well as between waking up and actually getting out of bed (some days, this can take hours!!), etc. And I don’t just have it bleating away in the background, I apply myself to listening intently.
Within four weeks of this, there was a notable improvement in my comprehension level, and I’m expecting that, after two to three more months, I will no longer have the processing problem. From then on, I’m hoping, I’ll mainly be focusing on the fun part – assimilating new vocabulary and expressions, and perfecting the art of colocation (learning which words go to together and in what sequences – it’s what makes you express yourself like a native speaker, besides accent and pronunciation).
What I’ve also discovered is that, despite its prowess as a booster of linguistic skills, The Radio is a treacherous piece of equipment in need of very careful management.
At this stage, I’m not particularly choosy about what I’m listening to. Adverts, endless dissections of the economic crisis, weather forecasts and traffic updates – it’s all grist to the mill. As long as people are saying something, I’m learning.
But there are three things that make me lose the will to live: Football, Radio Vatican and Radio Santa Maria.
Avoiding said broadcasters poses a formidable challenge. Especially when I happen to be in the shower.
Radio Santa Maria, in particular, seems to have adopted guerrilla warfare practices to ensnare its audience. It does this by emerging on random frequencies at any time of the day. There I’ll be, all nicely lathered up in my steamy paradise, engrossed in a cookery programme on how to perfect a tortilla flip, when suddenly, without much of a warning, it switches to a sombre-voiced Sister will be lamenting the spiritual desertification of the modern world.
I’m half expecting them to start broadcasting from the microwave any day now.
Another curious hallmark of Spanish radio what happens during “tertulias” or chat programmes, which usually comprise the show’s host, a random clueless person (the producer’s niece or nephew, I’m guessing) and two “experts” on whatever topic is being discussed. So, how this works is that, Instead of taking turns, everybody talks, all at the same time, getting louder and louder, until all but one run out of breath. The ‘winner’ will keep on talking, until the others have recovered sufficient lung capacity to chime back in.
Also, watch out for programmes broadcast after 1am. Again, there will be a group of people. But this time, they won’t even pretend to be discussing something worthwhile. Instead, one of them puts on a muppetty voice, spout a complete load of bollocks, and everybody else will be laughing most hysterically. This goes on until the wee hours, when it all switches back to wailing (in a more serious voice) about evictions and cutbacks.
Music programmes are another tricky issue, especially those featuring flamenco music. Oh my. But I’ve wised up to this now – as soon as there’s a middle-aged bloke being interviewed and he starts talking about his guitar, I know that I’m mere seconds away from an eardrum full of him yowling on about some woman leaving him – and she had very good reasons for doing so, that much is clear.