Cue TV addiction

My mind is still spinning. I can´t believe that I didn´t find this out 6 months ago when I first arrived in Colombia.

Whilst I´m not much of a TV watcher – perhaps a product of not converting to digital TV when they turned off the analogue signal in my hometown a few years ago because I had already stopped watching due to sucky reception and didn´t think it was a priority to upgrade my antenna – television in your native language  is oh so very comforting when you live in another.

I don´t mind watching programs or movies filmed in Spanish and I do have a favourite telenovela (the Colombian soapie Amo de Casa), but I abhor anything dubbed from English into Spanish. Urrrgh! I refuse to watch dubbed movies at the cinema, only going to the sessions in English with Spanish subtitles. I cannot stand the horrible voices that don´t match the characters, the actors or the mouth movements.

So whilst it´s much easier to find English language programs in Colombia than it is to find Spanish language programs in Australia, it´s mostly dominated by the Kardashians, celebrity rehab programs or other trashy reality TV shows. When I´m desperate, they suit just fine for a fix.

The other day when refusing to watch a movie with its non-original language, I had to explain to D what doblada (dubbed) means. He was confused because in Spanish, doblada also means folded. While I was at it, I also had to explain subtitulada, which hopefully you´ve already guessed means subtitled. I told him that it is very hard for me to watch something in Spanish when it was originally filmed in English and proceeded to explain that the TV show he watches Mi niñera es una vampira (My Babysitter´s a Vampire) was filmed in English and that someone else says the words in Spanish. D then said to me something which has changed my world.

You can change the language on the TV to watch it in English.


He proceeded to casually demonstrate with an expert flick of the remote control how he could select to watch a show in Spanish or English. Oh. My. Gosh. Upon seeing my astounded but gleeful face he asked if they were speaking English, to which I practically sobbed, yes! I didn´t realise the TV cable box was so smart. Far smarter than me if it´s taken over six months to discover this functionality that the nine year old has known about forever.

He told me (and showed by way of more flicks of the remote control) that it doesn´t work on every program, which is a given if it wasn´t actually filmed in English, but I love that the original version is available as an option. I think my sanity is one step closer to being kept!

Suddenly a whole new range of entertainment options has been opened up to me. I can watch a movie in English instead of Spanish. I can watch TV shows and documentaries in English. I can vegetate in front the TV instead of in front of my computer. Only one thing stands in my way, the non-English speakers in my household who have preferences for watching telenovelas and cartoons in Spanish.

Do you prefer watching foreign language programs dubbed into your native language, or with the original sound and subtitles?

Parla italiano?

Once upon a time, six years ago, I wanted to learn Italian. I had just returned to my hometown from a year-long journey where I had learned Spanish to the point of  being able to read, write and have conversations with people.

I had found a job with Italian employers, and whilst some random words sounded familiar to my Spanish-enabled ear, I decided I wanted to learn Italian. So I did all the things you do when you decide to do something. I bought a lesson book, audio CDs, a dictionary and the Big Green Book of Italian Verbs, 555 conjugated Italian verbs.

Like a health kick, it started off well. I dedicated some time to it, and completed a few lessons. Then somewhere along the line, my enthusiasm waned (no doubt distracted by the most recent infatuation) and I abandoned my Italian studies. I think I justified it to myself as “I don’t want to forget/lose my Spanish by learning Italian.”

In my desire to downsize pending the move to LA, the Italian resources got the chop. A Facebook status update advertising all these resources free to a good home netted a response from a friend who is passionately in love with the Italian language, has been to Italy a number of times and who admitted to me today, dreams about having an Italian boyfriend.

So over a coffee at a cafe run by my former Italian bosses, we exchanged plans for 2011 and I handed over the books.

My plan is to focus on improving my Spanish. I’m sure there will be ample opportunity to learn, study and practice Spanish in LA, so rather than spread my language skills thinly like Vegemite on toast, I’m going to focus on immersing myself in Spanish like a big thick goop of peanut butter instead.

What language are you learning (or continuing with) in 2011? My best wishes and encouragement go out to you as you pick up the lingo.