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Immersed in TV Land

I’ve never been much of a TV watcher. I must say, though, that it is a good way to learn another language. My professors in high school and college recommended watching telenovelas, or soap operas. The dialogue and gestures are so exaggerated it’s easier for English speakers to intuit what’s happening, even if they don’t get all the words.
Unlike American soaps, Latin American telenovelas are not eternal. They are, as their title suggests, novels acted out on television. After three to six months of airtime, there will inevitably be a grand finale.

They are a great way not only to learn the language, but also to get a glimpse into Mexican society. I am in no way saying that society is accurately portrayed in the novelas, but rather, that they show us the stereotypes present in today’s Mexcio. For example, there is almost always an indigenous maid complete with folkloric dress, trenzas (braids) and huaraches (sandals). This is much more comfortable for viewers than having to see how a servant really lives. Wealthy families fight over affairs, inheritances, and the like. It’s always entertaining for the have-nots to see how the haves suffer. The plot is nearly always akin to a rags-to-riches Cinderella fairy tale.

If telenovelas aren’t for you, there are plenty of other shows on primetime. Take, for example, the sitcoms in which grown men and women dress like little children and act out sketches in classrooms. If you can understand what they say through the baby talk, you will have significantly advanced in your understanding of the Spanish language.
I remember when I first learned about El chavo del ocho (The Kid From Apartment 8). I was in a bar trying to communicate over the loud music. I asked someone a question. Instead of saying yes, she held up her index finger and moved it up and down like it was nodding. I thought this was an odd thing to do, if not a little infantile, until I learned that this gesture was made popular by El chavo del ocho, a television program from the 70s that follows the adventures of an orphan and his neighbors in a low-income apartment complex in Mexico City. Keep in mind: these children are also played by adults.
There’s an interesting article about telenovelas in Mexico here. HYPERLINK ”
You can see fragments of El chavo on You Tube.

Chavo – Slang for “guy” or “kid.” The feminine equivalent is chava.
Telenovela – Soap opera. Consists of tele (television) and novela (novel).
Trenzas – Braids
Huaraches – Sandals

Words and phrases made popular by El chavo:
Fue sin querer queriendo. – This phrase is kind of like, “I didn’t mean to do it, but I did.” It was used by el chavo when he did something wrong.
Eso, eso, eso, eso. – This was el chavo’s way of saying “yes.” He would say it while moving his index finger up and down, as though it were a person nodding.
¡Se me chispotió! – Is like saying, “It slipped!” It’s said when one says something without meaning to.