Sunday, December 18, 2005

Intercambio: Earrings for English

Alejandro, Artista

I got to the Santo Domingo five minutes before I was supposed to meet Mary (formerly María Elena), so I decided to kill the time by sketching one of the plants outside the church. An old man came up to me and asked me, in a mixture of Spanish and English, if I liked drawing and where was I from and all the other standard questions they have for me.

Then this little boy came up and asked me what I was drawing. I pointed out the plant I was sketching. He said, "Draw me!" I said I couldn't, that people were hard to draw. So he compromised, "Then just the face." Still I said no. He borrowed my pen and notebook, to show me how easy it really was. Results are in my notebook. :) He got all self-conscious when I asked him to sign it. He said no at first, like he was embarassed, but a por favor was enough convincing.

Alejandro's Self-Portrait

"It's me," he said of the person he drew. Also a soccer ball and net. Mary showed up just after Alejandro's self-portrait. I told the kid I was going to go, but he said he still needed to draw his house. Funny stuff. :) I don't know why his house has floppy dog ears, though.

So after all that artistry, Mary and I went to a café around the corner to do earrings. We didn't go back to her place because her two young nephews (1.5 and 2 years old) were there, and we'd never get anything done with them running around. We ordered mochas (but got cappuccinos, dunno why) at the café and sat at one of the streetside first floor "balcony" seats. Mary brought out her box of supplies and example shapes and cheap wire for me to practice with. She showed me how to do a four-leaf clover loopy thing and a spirally thing. They were pretty bad. :)

We decided to make it an intercambio, 'cause Mary wanted to practice English. Her English is a bit better than my Spanish. She was definitely understandable although accented, and she said she understood almost all of what I said. We traded some new words for the craft vocabulary: alambre "wire," plano "flat," pinzas "pliers." I also tried to help her with her pronunciation.

Then she said "pottery" ['potɛɹi] and we got into a whole discussion about the alveolar flap in English. I tried to have her say "ladder" as ['læɾəɹ] (or ['læɾɹ̩], I'm never sure which transription is more accurate — John, care to comment?), but she ended with one of ['lædɛɹ], ['lɑɾɛɹ] (which sounds sorta like a non-rhotic "larder"), or ['læðɛɹ] (which sounds just about like "lather"). If she's still interested in getting that allophone down, maybe we can go over a list*:

  • ladder ['læɾəɹ]
  • latter ['læɾəɹ]
  • lather ['læðəɹ]
  • larder ['lɑɹdəɹ]
  • leather ['lɛðəɹ]
  • letter ['lɛɾəɹ]
  • litter ['lɪɾəɹ]
  • lighter ['lɑiɾəɹ]
  • liar ['lɑiəɹ]

When we got our drinks, I wasn't sure if we needed to pay. Mary said not yet. Later the employee came by to ask if we wanted anything else. She ran away before I could pay. It became a running joke that I really wanted to pay. Finally, after Mary asked for la cuenta, I could pay. :)

The font on this computer doesn't do most of the IPA, so I'm relying to the IPA Unicode Keyboard's entities for them to show up for our listeners at home. If something is off, let's blame it instead of me. ;)

Update, 4:25 PM: I've installed Firefox. Woohoo! It correctly configured itself to use fonts that do contain the IPA characters I need, so transcriptions have been error-checked to the best of my abilities.


John Cowan said...

As for ['læɾəɹ] vs. ['læɾɹ̩], I suspect that the ['læɾɹ̩] is better. My friend's stepdaughter Taira tells anglophones to pronounce her name "Tide-a". You have a typo for "leather"; the fricative is voiced.

Arthaey Angosii said...

The [əɹ] vs. [ɹ̩] is not just a school-of-linguistics thing, then? I've always preferred [ɹ̩], as that sounds more like what I say myself, but I wasn't sure. And thanks for the catch on the typo. :)