Cooking Verbs in Action

I’ve previously written posts about my ongoing effort to get a complete list of Spanish verbs (see tab above) used in cooking, but here I’ll describe a great way to see some verbs in action. As part of my effort to actually learn Spanish I constantly look for new resources and I found a really delightful one, a YouTube channel, Why Not Spanish. It’s a great way to practice escuchando with a very entertaining couple.

But in particular there is one video that applies to cooking verbs.

Gringo Makes Empanadas For The First Time!

where María (a Spanish teacher and native of Colombia) is helping her husband Cody (Spanish learner from USA) to make empanadas. The video is better than any post I can write about it so I’ll just list a few things I extracted from the video.

Also, this video triggered me to make some more searches and so I found a wonderful receta/cocinar site, Mis Recetas Colombianas that has an almost identical recipe Empanadas Colombianas  to the one in the video (and in English) with a lot more detail and some good vocabulary to learn.

So first is a list of the verbs shown on flashcards in the video with what they say is the English, what Google Translate says and SpanishDict says. These are very common cooking verbs that are very good to know (unlike some of the most obscure verbs on my list).

from YouTube shown on the screen as flashcards from YouTube shown on screen GT SD (primary)
agregar to add add to add
añadir to add add to add
calentar to heat warm to heat
cocinar to cook cook to cook
colocar to put place to place
cubrir to cover cover to cover
dejarla reposar to let ___ rest let it rest to leave ..… to rest
doblar to fold bend to fold, to turn
escurrir to drain drain to drain
formar to shape form to form
freír to fry fry to fry
mezclar to mix mix to mix
picar to chop chop to sting, to itch
under (to divide into pieces) chop, mince, cut
revolver to stir stir to stir
romper to break break to break
sellar to seal seal to stamp
triturar to mash crush to grind

Second, if you listen the video closely you will also hear other verbs being used in this cooking lesson they didn’t make flashcards, but I’ve included for a bit of completeness. Recall (in previous posts) that the infinitive for a verb gets conjugated in actual prose BUT also there are other derivatives, commonly the first person singular present conjugation is also a noun and sometimes an adjective, so, por ejemplo, molida (modifies noun carne so is the feminine of the adjective molido, so ground meat) which is the past participle of the verb moler (to grind).

in audio of the video SD
acompañar to go with, to accompany
amasar to knead, to amass
aplastar to crush (squash)
dorar to brown
faltar to miss, to be missing
llenar to fill
molida (moler) to grind, to mill
oler to smell
retirar to remove

And this is an interesting phrase used in the video

sí manos a la obra let’s get to work

They also show the various ingredients used (image and its English and Spanish name) and I’ve just re-arranged their list a bit and also merged with the recipe website.

para la masa: for the dough
·                     el maíz precocido ·                     a masa flour ( from hominy nixtamal)
·                     el agua ·                     water
·                     el aceite vegetal ·                     vegetable oil
·                     el sazón (con Culantro y Achiote) ·                     seasoning mix
·                     la sal ·                     salt
para le relleno: for the filling
·                     las papas ·                     potatoes
·                     pastilla del caldo de pollo ·                     a tablet of chicken stock
·                     el aceite de oliva, ·                     olive oil
·                     la cebolla blanca ·                     white onion
·                     el tomate ·                     tomato
·                     la sal ·                     sal
·                     la cebolla larga ·                     scallions, aka green onion
para el resto: for the rest (a quiz in the video)
·                     el ajo ·                     garlic
·                     el cilantro fresco ·                     fresh cilantro
·                     el pimentón rojo ·                     red (bell) pepper
·                     la pimienta negra ·                     ground black pepper
·                     la carne molida ·            ground meat


Nuevas aventuras en español

Perhaps the old, “seek and ye shall find” applies for this post. Two days ago I complained how my routines for learning Spanish (most of what I do during my day, being retired and now stuck indoors due to COVID) was getting tiring. Well, I just got a new burst of energy. Sometimes to supplement class type study I just watch the many Spanish language TV channels on my cable subscription or try to find Spanish TV shows or movies I can follow. As is well known the speech is way too fast for me to keep up, but I do hear/understand some of the words; some people claim just continuing to do this will eventually produce comprehension. Well, maybe, but while listening might train me to hear the sounds of the language better I doubt I’m going to guess the meanings of words and plain old-fashioned cram vocabulary is required.

Also, I’ve never been a big fan of YouTube, not necessarily due to any specific content, but the whole idea. Unfiltered stuff can go there and get huge audiences, so all sorts of misinformation is rampant, esp. climate change denialism and anti-vax (and generally anti-science), and of course a huge dose of truly horrible political propaganda. Not my favorite source of information.

But when it comes to Spanish it is a rich resource. I’d done some exploring before, looking for some material, mostly course material which is usually pretty dull and dry and I have a hard time paying attention, plus it’s like some meals one eats, an hour later you’re hungry again. And since most of the content is aimed at beginnings, I get a lot of repetition of stuff I already know and then when I do find something new I rarely retain any of it. I think it’s partly I’m just used to TV as idle time entertainment, not learning, so the material is in one ear and out the other with nothing sticking.

Well, that’s a long windup to get to my point, so ya basta.

Somehow, while doing some searches I stumbled on my first find, the YouTube channel, Why Not Spanish. There are a ton of episodes and the hosts, Cody and María are a delight. The balance of María as a native speaker and then Cody as a second language speaker still learning is a great format for entertaining and informative lessons. And I get the extra kick that my 600 days of less fun type of study is paying off because I can understand most of what they’re saying (of course, as a teaching video they make that a bit easier than just a TV program with native speaker).

Once I got into the part of YouTube with this kind of content Google’s suggestions (right hand side of web pages) revealed other channels, some also interesting and helpful (so many I haven’t sampled them all yet), but then I found another delight, Butterfly Spanish. Ana, the host/teacher delivers a real punch and is quite fun to watch as well as doing a great job of organizing and presenting the material. Connected to the subject of my blog you might sample Vegetables in Spanish, or Learn to Order Food in Spanish, or How to order food in Spanish, Learn how to talk about eating in Spanish, and covering some of the material I’ve presented What’s the difference between Spanish in Mexico, Latin America, and Spain?

Ana reminds me a bit, in personality and method of teaching, to my current teacher, Erika. Both discuss subjects in English, but insert lots of Spanish (often then repeating in English). So in addition to whether the lesson is the student gets a lot more practice hearing. Interesting I find hearing both Spanish and English intermixed in a conversation is very helpful to me. But also, with both people I encounter via video (our teacher is using Zoom from Cuernavaca) the incredible enthusiasm, energy and friendliness is a huge incentive to learn Spanish and go meet people like this in real life.

So just after admitting to some learning fatigue I have a new burst of energy, thanks to these people (and others I’ve discovered or am still exploring).

Spanish Study Fatigue

When I started this blog to study and analyze menus in Spanish I had no “required” activity; I could pick and chose what I’d look into and when. Then I decided to actually try to learn Spanish. It’s been fun but now it’s become a chore.

See I don’t really have any knack for languages. I can manipulate symbols, find patterns in raw data, analyze and comment on findings – that’s easy. But none of that requires actually committing anything to long-term memory.

OTOH, learning a language means practice, practice, practice. And more practice. If you stop for a while you start forgetting what you learned. Use it or lose it – progress is easily lost if you don’t constantly refresh your memory.

Now learning your first and initially only language is easy. What else do you have to do. Every waking hour you’re exposing the that language, listening, even if purely passive in the hearing range of some conversation (as a baby would), reading (what else could you read except that language), writing and speaking. But when it comes to a second language, especially one you don’t actually ever need during your waking hours, except in the context of study, you don’t get that constant repetition.

And here’s a tough thing. When you start learning a language and don’t know anything, it’s actually pretty easy. Most of the online learning systems depend on this, starting from scratch in a few weeks you think you know something.

But here’s the bad news. Even you learn faster than I do you’re looking at years before you even approach fluency. And worse, the more you learn, the more you forget. You learn a lot of words and some prose constructs you rarely use, a variant of the 80-20 rule. IOW, 20% of the language you use 80% of the time. I can’t even do anything without seeing y or el or para, so naturally that’s easy. But how often do I use pasillo or pizarra or patines.  Even if you only look at menus or recetas, how often do you see berza, cebollino or remolacha

If you don’t repeat what you’ve learned you will forget. I use two primary techniques to learn Spanish – Duolingo (self-study, online) and now my live class. I’ve done Duolingo for almost 600 days, faithfully every day, through now 98 of the lessons. I’ve done nearly 90,000 individual drills and have accumulated at least 5000 word forms. My real classes are now nearly 50 hours of immersion (Spanish only conversation and lessons).

I’m quite pleased with the progress I’ve made, given three times before I failed to make any headway at all trying to learn Spanish. But now it’s becoming an ordeal. It’s not just my age, as it is commonly believed that learning another language is harder as one ages and much harder in one’s twilight years, but I got nowhere with this language, that half a billion people can easily speak fluently, even when I was younger.

So, of recent I’ve gotten a bit tired of my routine I’d developed over 1.5 years and began to try other things. Also I decided to focus more on learning new material than repeating old material.

What are the consequences?

My error rate has skyrocketed. Constructs that were once easy and I now miss in stupid ways. It is inevitable that repetition, given the same amount of study time per day, is going to decrease. If you’ve done ten lessons and you do 5 lessons per day, half new material, half repetition, it will only take you four days to repeat all previous drills. But push that to 100 lessons and more than half the study time to newer material now the average duration (I keep tons of records to analyze) between repeating a lesson is now over 15 days. And that, being a statistic means a classic Gaussian (bell curve) distribution which means some lessons are repeated every 30 days and some others every day or so. In fact, the program I wrote for myself to schedule what lessons I should do now has a bias to almost force me to repeat lessons I haven’t done for 30+ days. That bias is now slowing down my time devoted to lessons in new material.

And I’m only 61.6% done with Duolingo lessons, about 40% done with vocabulary from various “stories” I used for reading practice and only about 20% done with the vocabulary at least mentioned once (that I can record) in my immersion lessons. Despite working really hard it feels like I’m just falling further and further behing.

And then every now and then I go try to read online real-world stuff (not the graded materials for learning, like CERF A2 stories which is about where I’m at). Discouraging. As much as I feel I’ve learned trying to deal with real world Spanish makes me feel like I’m a baby, hardly able to communicate at all.

But, and the point of this post, is the more I learn, the more I forget, plus the more I realize I need to learn. Almost every day, certainly every week I learn something (not just more words) that I hadn’t seen before, so, por ejemple, now I just learned what se vende queso really means, i.e. using the passive instead of active voice (I’d muddled through this before, catching most of the meaning (simple) but not the actual phrasing).

So now, every day I feel like doing something else than just drills, I end up feeling guilty. If I don’t do drills there another something I’ll forget. Go a week without drills and my error rate (which I record and analyze diligently) noticeably increases. And that’s on top of the fact that many mistakes I made months ago I make again today. Try as I can and the usual difficulties, ser vs estar, preterite vs imperfect, por vs para, I still make almost as many mistakes as I did when I first learned about these things.

I feel like if COVID weren’t stopped me, now if I went on a vacation I’d forget everything I’ve learned.

So this is turning out a bit like my exercise routine. Almost every day I do miles on my stationary bike and my treadmill. If I skip one day, it’s fine because I’ll actually have rested a bit and the next day doing exercise is easier. But skip a couple of days and then it’s hard to do the same workouts I routinely did. And try as I do to avoid the ravages of age, my obsession with record keeping and programs shows my steady decline even when I manage to keep it up.

So when I realize how much more I have to learn losing any progress I’ve made feels awful. And that makes me a slave to all this. Simply put: a) the language learning isn’t fun any more, and, b) I’m not even doing the things I originally wanted to do, i.e. reading menus and recipes. Just trudging along every day.

And, por cierto, I’m retired and don’t even have the time conflicts of work, plus now stuck at home due to COVID, even much of any other activity to do. I clearly have the time but now I’m really losing the motivation.

So I really hope the COVID thing gets over (as almost every other person does) so I can have a goal. If I were headed to Spain next April or even Oaxaca in December there is a reason I need to be able to have some Spanish fluency. Sheesh, even something locally available, shopping in the Latino grocery stores, would be an incentive, but unfortunately the highest local infection rate is in that part of the state. I’ve love to ask a grocery what the difference is between jitomate and tomate (not just one is used in Latin America and the other in Spain).

I started all this because I had extra time and I had just doing nothing as all my life I’ve worked hard on projects. It was fun, now, I’m not so sure.