I’ve written before how I’m using Spanish-language television as a substitute for the immersion I would get if I were in Mexico all the time. I have my choice of shows, but I’m afraid I’m getting addicted to that nutty morning variety show Hoy.
Rosetta Stone gets awfully tedious sometimes, and the scenarios set up to teach you are pretty stilted. I’m still convinced that they’re pranking me when they instruct me to reply “encantado de conocerlo” at every introduction. My Spanish-speaking friends here laugh when I say it. Maybe it’s because I can’t help saying it without accompanying it with a sweeping, grandiose bow that would get my ass kicked in San Juan.
Hoy is nothing like anything in Yucatán, but at least it’s Mexican. Not that it reflects anything I’ve seen in Mexican culture either. It’s really a chaotic world of its own, residing on a set that resembles a hacienda-themed casino in Atlantic City. Wikipedia claims it’s based on the Today show, but I never see Today’s female anchors in evening wear first thing in the morning. (Well, maybe Kathie Lee and Hoda.) They sing, dance and play, don costumes and wigs, and are having a lot more fun than their counterparts in 30 Rockefeller Center.
There are 14 hosts, or conductores, appearing seven or eight at a time in rotation. They share celebrity gossip, conduct cooking segments, play party games and perform school-room sketches. They also provide soap opera roundups. (I wonder if telenoveles are suffering the same declines as soaps are in the U.S. One of our neighbors was a long-time star of “As the World Turns.” She hasn’t worked since it was canceled last year.)
Am I learning Spanish? Slowly. It’s more precise to say I’m developing an ear for the language, doing the best I can to immerse myself a couple hours each morning. Hoy is generous with its graphics, so what’s said is often literally spelled out for me on the screen. Every day when they play Charades, idioms (ya ves, amor prohibido, no quiero saber...) that they mime are written on the screen. (Some sayings give me pause: mátenme porque me muero, or kill me because I’m dying. That’s an expression?) Cooking instructions that correspond with their kitchen segments are also written out, perhaps heading off some future embarrassment in which I confuse lechuga and pechuga.
When they interview a TV actor, they caption it with something like: Diego Olivera: Nos platico sobre su papel in ‘Amorcito Corazon.’ Podremos verlo dando vida a un sexy personaje. I type it into Google Translate, and see the meaning: Diego Olivera: We talk about his role in ‘Sweetheart Heart.’ We see giving life to a sexy character. The simple act of typing words out as I see them must have some value. The next caption appears: No le llama la atencion desnudarse en calendarios. Translation: Draws attention not naked in calendars. Hmmm? My technique will get me just so far, it seems.
When I say a Spanish word, I notice it rolls off my tongue a little more easily. I’m told it sounds more authentic. Meanwhile, I’m having fun watching Hoy instead of Today.