I tried to explain to my host family that they weren’t getting the full effect of The Big Bang Theory by watching it dubbed into Spanish. “The man,” I said, garbeling the Spanish a bit, “the tall one, with the little hair. He has a very funny voice. Very high.” The Spanish voice actor apparently decided not to imitate the nasal sound of Sheldon Cooper, and instead just pronounces the lines in a deep voice, with the quick Spanish delivery that comes whenever a longer Spanish sentence has to replace a shorter English one.
“Ahhh,” said my host father.
The Tufts-Skidmore Spain program has an incredibly generous reimbursement program; it will reimburse any purchases that can be proven to be “cultural” in nature, from museum visits to movies and plays. I’ve tried to take advantage of that and consume some Spanish entertainment content, beyond just watching Big Bang Theory with my host family. Here are a few recommendations:
- Coco: I watched the Pixar movie Coco in Spanish and can’t recommend it enough. Originally in English, the Spanish translation is phenomenal (one review called it the rare translation that overshadows the original). The plot takes place in Mexico so it makes much more sense to watch it in Spanish anyways and the story is beautiful. Watch, to laugh, cry, and make an obligatory comment about how the only the only good movies these days are Pixar.
- The Maze Runner (El Corredor del laberinto): A great benefit of watching movies in Spanish – PG-13 action flicks are fun again! Take a break from depressing “realistic” movies to live in a world where there are lots of adults but everything important is done by teenagers and sex, drugs, and rock&roll are as far away as physics. Watch for a plot that defies language barriers; just root for the 16 year olds with the modern haircuts in the post-apocalyptic wasteland and against anyone in a mask.
- La Katarsis del tomatazo: A play put on by local actors where you can throw tomatoes at the actors after their bits. It’s run like SNL, with lots of small, independant skits using different actors, so if you can’t understand one, just wait for the next. Come to remember that no matter what language you speak, it’s funny when people get hit with tomatoes.
Teatro Flamenco de Madrid: Luckily, at least one of the great pleasures of Flamenco, telling people afterwards that you went to a Flamenco show, is available regardless of whether you understood what they were singing. The guitar is also beautiful.
- Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal: Harry Potter is a great Spanish read; if you’ve read it enough times you’ll remember the plot and be able to figure out the words you don’t know from context. Bonus: know lots of words about magic you’ll never need.
- El Alquimista: The Alchemist is a novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho about a boy who goes searching for gold. It’s full of wisdom about life and it’s written simply. I like it as a Spanish read because, translated from another romance language, if feels like it’s changed less from the original. I listened to it as an audiobook which is great for commutes.
- Los Detectives salvajes: Bit of curveball with this one. I was looking for a simple novel with an easy to understand plot for my next audiobook (hence, detectives), but it turned out to be more of a meditation on literature and youth (the “detectives” are young writers, searching for lost poets). It’s a brilliantly written, Roberto Bolaño (who also wrote 2666) is according to Wikipedia one of the great modern Spanish language writers, but the non-linear plot and split narration makes it hard to follow. I’m going to have to reread it sometime; they’re always in a coffee shop but I’m never sure exactly what happened since the last coffee shop.
Regardless, taking advantage of the reimbursement program and generally just trying to enjoy Spanish entertainment and literature has improved my Spanish, especially my ability to understand speech. Check out some of these recs if you get a chance.