Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Don't They Just Learn....

My first Spanish class was in Irving, Texas at the park district, with a teacher had two thick grey pigtails. She was named María and she spoke English with a beautiful accent and a big smile. She was from Brazil and her first language was Portuguese. I had learned a tiny bit of Spanish prior to that from a sort of homeschool swap that my mom did, perhaps in exchange for babysitting, from a woman named Lisa who was married to a man from Madrid. Lisa came over a few times, and told us fairy tales using puppets, all in Spanish. She also taught us a supersticious but catchy rhyme for helping kids believe their boo-boos were all better:

Cura sana,
Colita de rana,
Si no se cura hoy,
Se curará mañana.

It sounded just like some kind of alchemist's chant or witch's incantation. I don't remember anyone ever using the rhyme on an injured kid, but the rhythm and rhyme helped the words stick in my head.

So why start there? Well...why not? We lived in Texas. Spanish was available. Dad said to me, "Learn Spanish and you'll find ways to use it someday." So I started to study.

Twenty four years later, I'm still studying. I learn new Spanish words in many a conversation, even though I'd estimate that I speak Spanish about 30-40% of the time. Whenever I overhear someone say, about someone from another language or culture, "Why don't they just learn [my language, whatever that is]," somewhere deep inside a tiny voice in me pipes up and hollers, "You have no idea." Learning a language, like any skill, requires sacrifice, time, patience, humility, and persistence. I don't know if I have any of those skills in great supply. Maybe you don't know whether you've got them, either.

Mostly what you need is what you already have. Curiosity. A willingness to try. Courage enough to let yourself make mistakes. Confidence to keep trying.

So, why don't you just learn Spanish? I ask myself that every day. Why don't I learn a little bit more today? Yes, I think I will.

Enjoy the journey. Buen viaje...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Singing in Another Language

Singing in another language is common practice for experienced singers. It's a great technique for learning language, also.

Music makes poetry memorable. With the notes, the words are easier to recall. The melody carries a sentence as it floats along, and the rhythm and rhyme harmonize in an unforgettable way that is attuned to the way our brains think.

To teach a song in a new language, I often begin by doing some speaking and repeating back of short phrases, to learn to pronounce the lyrics. Then, we sing and repeat short phrases of the song with melody, to familiarize the group with the tune and how the words fit to music. When the group seems bored, I sing the entire song or at least a first verse and refrain, so that they can see what the big picture will sound like and what our goal is. With an objective in sight, it's easier to be motivated to work towards that reward (as long as the song is one that they like and are hoping to learn.)

Practicing a little bit at a time, over a period of days or weeks, works well. Our Sunday school learned four Spanish songs in six weeks, with 10-20 minute singing sessions each week leading up to our program in church. All told, we learned 30 vocabulary words, including the lyrics to Jesus Loves Me. The children challenged themselves and grew tremendously in their respect for the sounds of another language, the concepts and expressions of another culture, and of their own ability to take on a challenge.

Here's to you and your musico-linguistic adventures this week!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Am I fluent?

“How do I know when I’m fluent in Spanish?” is a question that language students sometimes wonder. I have given thought to this question, first as a learner and then as a teacher of languages. What are the defining characteristics of a person who has achieved complete linguistic fluency? I’m not sure I have the answer, but here are some thoughts about the question.

A common assumption I hear from time to time is that a language learner is fluent when he or she dreams in the target language. This criteria seems to me to be too arbitrary, because some people dream often, and I know language learners who are quite beginners who have experienced the joy of having a dreamed conversation in the new language they are barely starting to study. I also know fluent speakers who, through some vitamin deficiency or sleep difficulty, seldom dream at all—and yet during their waking hours, they speak a second, third or fourth language as well as their first. While dreaming in other languages may be something to wish for, and perhaps a way to gain easy extra practice a language we’re studying, and—when such a dream happens, something to enjoy and be grateful for—our dreams are not under our direct control, and they do not mean that we are fully fluent necessarily. If you’re in your first months of studying Spanish and frustrated that you haven’t dreamed in Spanish yet—let go of the pressure you’re putting on yourself, and let language happen as it comes.

“Am I fluent when I’ve finished second-semester of second-year college Spanish?” Most people in the US who go to college are expected to take 4 semesters or the equivalent in a second language, in order to attain a bachelor’s degree in any subject. I have witnessed many students come out of these language programs, even with A and B averages because of their good study habits and test-taking talents, and still prove themselves to be mediocre communicators in the language they have “learned.” Also, I have met people who speak very eloquently in a language in which they have had no formal instruction, ever. Just as we all have unique talents and skills, each of us has different preferred methods of acquiring new knowledge. Language learning can be done in a classroom, in a friendship, or through travel—and the time it takes depends more on the individual God-given abilities (and the hard work) of the person who wants to learn than on the number of hours, the setting, or the price or reputation of the classes.

Fluency is considered along a continuum rather than a on-off switch, as in, “I finished that class, so now I’m fluent” as if getting a degree or passing an exam proves that the goal of linguistic fluency has been achieved. Fluency is a process and language learners are lifelong students. When you read a great poet or novelist in any language, even in a language you have been reading for many years, and in which you have read dozens or hundreds of literary works, you will, from time to time, run upon a word that is not familiar, and to which none of the linguistic paths you know lead to an educated guess, and you are driven in humility to the dictionary to learn something new. Language acquisition is either an adventure, a series of discoveries, or a treacherous and tedious task of admitting ignorance. Either way, we learn as we go.

A friend of mine Finnish by heritage, but was raised by missionary parents in Taiwan. His father, a pastor, was Finnish but spoke such fluent Taiwanese that native Taiwanese professors in the country would call on him for linguistic advice about obscure words in that language’s complex writing system. His son, my friend, was in a sense a native speaker of Taiwanese because he was raised in that country—but his parents spoke Finnish at home, and his international school spoke English, so he was not as fluent in Taiwanese as his father (who taught himself). This story calls into question the meaning of the idea of “native speaker.” I admit that when I was first studying Spanish, I scoured the registrar’s catalog to find an instructor whose name belied that person’s “native” heritage. I wanted to learn from someone who spoke well—and relied on the last name to guide my selection of a qualified teacher. Universities are legally not supposed to inquire in the job search about whether a candidate is a “native” speaker (although I have been asked this question, and have seen it in job postings). Is it a good question to ask? Is there a reason for a person whose job it is to study, preserve, research, and instruct students and society at large about language, literature and culture to be native to that culture? The US has a law that the nation’s President must be at least 35 years of age and native of the country in order to serve in that capacity. While these criteria are arbitrary, they were selected by the founding father’s with the intention of having a qualified occupant in the high calling of holding the Oval Office. Does it seem important for those transmitting and preserving language, literature and culture, and (to some degree), creating and promoting cultural understanding, to have the innate ties of a personal, blood connection to those roots? I venture to say, at the cost of my own academic future, that being a native speaker is worth a great deal. Fluency is essential—and can be learned. Personal native heritage cannot be bought, earned, or acquired, except, perhaps, by a willingness to immerse oneself into another culture, live it, become part of it, and—for example, in the case of poets such as Massachusett’s Charles Simic, contribute to creating it. Though he is Serbian-born, he is an American poet. And while he speaks English with ever-so-slight an accent, he is fluent. More fluent than this native speaker will ever hope to be.

“What about when I can use all the verb tenses correctly and have a 5,000-word vocabulary?” Learning grammar is necessary to achieving fluency. Adding vocabulary sets provides each communicator with the ability to converse about increasingly diverse subjects. But linguistic fluency goes beyond just knowing words and rules. There is a cultural and contextual aspect to language learning. If I understand well enough to translate all the words of a joke, for example, but do not understand the cultural contextual clues that make that joke funny in a certain culture, then I am not fluent enough to “get” the joke. That’s why some aspects of language learning are best achieved outside the classroom, in the real world.

“Why is it that when I am relaxed, or with friends, or after I drink a beer, I am able to communicate so much better?” Learning any subject or skill is easier when we are not under extreme pressure to judge ourselves. Some level of expectation to succeed may cause me to exert the necessary effort to communicate better, while feeling inadequate to the task at hand may cause me to clam up or fear making mistakes so much that I am not able to learn anything new. A delicate balance is achieved.

Dr. Gilbert Meilander of Valparaiso University wrote an essay about “Bringing One’s Life to a Point.” In it, he discusses a moment of truth in which he spoke openly about a matter of great controversy, and identified himself, among others, as holding a certain position—which brought him a flood of animosity and criticism in the ensuing weeks and months. There are moments, perhaps not so dramatic, though, in the life of a language learner, in which we identify ourselves, take a stand, and have a linguistic breakthrough of sorts. The first conversation in Spanish in a public place, where others may turn around and stare, may be one such occasion. The first halting conversation in Spanish with a native speaker who does not speak English can be such a moment. And there will be others: the first time you go to the hospital in Spanish, or buy an expensive piece of equipment or property and, without the presence of a translator, you sign a contract that you have had to rely on your language skills in order to sign—these are moments of truth in which you take ownership of Spanish, and bring your reality “up-to-date” with the language that you are acquiring little by little.

I was 19 when I rented my first apartment. The transaction took place in Barcelona, in Spanish, and it was a thrill. I was young enough not to realize how scared I should have been—and there were times I regretted the choice I made—and, since, times that I have been very grateful that things worked out the way they did. Leaps of faith are hard—but God is good, and “all things work together for good, to them that love the Lord.” I urge my students to be sane, be brave, and be trusting in God as they march into the world to acquire language and experience. Boldly, legally, and with expectation to learn much.

When I was in high school, our choir director Mr. Moore, had a music club for his students. He took a moment during the first semester of freshman girls’ choir to invite us to join. He said the club had three levels, and by joining we would become better singers and musicians. There was no cost involved in joining, and assured us that it was not competitive, and that we would know right away when we were in. The introductory level was open to beginning students who wanted to try to sing better. In order to join, a potential member had to go to a public setting (like the grocery store, a theater, a church sanctuary, or a park) and sing a song out loud—not having anyone being present to witness the event would be fine. The second level of the club involved performing a vocal number in a similar public setting, with a human audience. The mastery level of the club could be attained only be singing in public and inviting audience participation (and getting the group to sing along). The first two levels came easily to me at age 14, but I know adults who still do not have an easy time with public speaking or performance. For me, the third level of the club took more time; I had already been teaching Spanish at Columbia, and singing in a choir there, that I led singing with a group of friends, served as cantor in the local Lutheran church occasionally, and had other opportunities to initiate group singing. The most rewarding and memorable experience of that kind happened en route to a Glee Club performance in Manhattan, at an opening of a show in an art gallery. The choir members took the train. It was the last week of classes, right before Christmas, and our program included some familiar Christmas carols and wintertime songs. We serenaded a car on the 1-9 subway train, and were richly rewarded with smiles and nods, a scowl or two, and the companionship of some impromptu performers in the train who sang along with us.

I tell this story to share the idea with you, not so much as a “club” as more an attitude. If you want to become “fluent” in Spanish, you don’t have to speak perfectly. Rolling your Rs is secondary. The important aspect of fluency, I believe, is communication. Good grammar certainly helps to make you a good listener and a better speaker. Ample vocabulary invites you into new fields of conversation and study. But being able and willing to engage with your audience, to show interest for other speakers of the language, and to enjoy being involved with Spanish by learning about the myriad of cultures, traditions, lifestyles, cuisines that Hispanic cultures encompass—this is the key to fluency. Enjoy the journey, take pictures, eat well, and don’t worry too much about finding out the answer to the famous childish question, “Are we there yet?” Your fellow travelers will enjoy the journey with you much more if you adapt such an open and positive attitude, and they will spend more time learning beside you and teaching you when you make yourself a pleasant traveler yourself. Buckle your cinturón de seguridad, hang on tight, and, by the way, buen viaje.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Practicing Between Classes

How do I practice between classes for myself or with my kids?
Thanks to a great question from Cyndy, mother to three of my students.

Working Spanish phrases into your daily routine as you learn new expressions is a great way to practice in context. Learn to set the table in Spanish in class--and then go home and do it every night for a week. Owe someone a thank-you note? Write it in Spanish (and then translate it if need be!) Be creative... try, try, and try again even if the words don't come easily on your first attempt.

Practicing language is like practicing a musical instrument. In high school I played the harp. I practiced once a week, Fridays after school, so I wouldn't make a fool of myself during my Saturday morning lesson. Needless to say, my teacher could tell. She didn't like me (I could tell). Once I went to a competition. I stayed up all night Friday night so that I could learn the piece well--and I got a blue ribbon. My teacher was not happy because she knew how I operated.

As you already might have guessed, I'm not a harpist anymore. Practicing a little bit every day works better than cramming all at once. I suggest that you find five minutes a day to do something in Spanish. The Lord's Prayer. The alphabet. A song. A favorite Psalm. A short reading from the newspaper. A Spanish radio station in the car. Ordering a sandwich at a favorite restaurant. You will work Spanish into your routine if you make yourself be creative about finding little niches of time. Tape a list of vocabulary by the bathroom sink. This study aid will not make your bathroom look "messy" but rather, your visitors will be impressed by your self-discipline.

Do you have a pen pal over the internet who knows Spanish? I have found several through web forums I'm on. If you have a career or a hobby, find someone in Latin America or Spain who shares that same profession or interest, and "talk shop" in Spanish or bilingually, for additional practice. You'll build great sets of vocabulary that way--and learn about something you already like. That is a very motivating way to learn the language you need about a subject that is familiar to you.

Read in Spanish. Get a copy of a free local Hispanic newspaper. Read the Bible in Spanish, or read a bilingual version with two parallel columns. Read something that is already familiar to you--favorite Scriptures, a novel you know well that has been translated, etc.

When you eat out, if you have a server who is Hispanic, try speaking Spanish. Will you offend? Probably not--especially if you are kind, and humble, and explain that you are new to learning Spanish, and want to practice, and hope they will be patient with you. Otherwise, they might wonder if you think that they speak bad English--so be sensitive and polite, and then jump right in and get a free lesson on greetings, foods, and social conversation--while enjoying a good meal.

I have previewed lots of tapes and CDs for learning Spanish. My favorite so far is by Ana Lomba and Marcela Summerville. It's called _Play and Learn Spanish_ and it's a book and CD that go through the daily routine of getting up, dressed, meals, playtime. Lomba is a Spanish-for-preschool teacher and small business owner in Princeton NJ. She is from Spain. Marcela Summerville is from Argentina. Their CD gives a good set of very "international" Spanish vocabulary, because of their diverse backgrounds. And as they act out the scenes and songs, the regional accents are apparent. I got a copy at Barnes and Noble for about $15 and I have recommended it to many students. It's fun to listen to. We listen to it obsessively in the car, and my five-year-old, just yesterday, was hurrying to get dressed to leave and singing in Spanish to herself "apurate, apurate" (hurry, hurry)--and why won't my accent mark work today? There is supposed to be an accent over the "u" there.

Why a children's CD--even for adults? Because I believe there is something inherently child-like about a language learner. I sometimes felt like a little girl when I lived overseas during college. I was often lost, or left out of conversations. I had to ask questions. I didn't always know what to say. Sometimes people treated me like a child and made decisions for me, or against my will. That was humiliating and difficult. Some talked down to me, as if I might not be able to understand. Others treated me with respect and dignity while speaking clearly so I could learn--and that meant a lot to me.

I believe there is something to be said for the way God created us as language learners. We learn as babies, starting with a listening period, then making and practicing sounds while we learn to understand meaning, and then reproducing those sounds into meaningful speech. A second-language experience at any age can be similar. It's a glorious moment for a person to open his or her mouth, after a long period of listening, and find that he or she is bilingual and understood in the newly acquired language. Fluency is something else...it takes time, and is never defined. Am I there yet? we may ask ourselves. This is a question for another post. We're getting there.

Flashcards are good for improving your grammar. Make your own. I edited a set of flashcards for SparkNotes. I enjoyed the job, but never bought myself a copy when they were published, because they wanted ten bucks, and because I know that we learn more when we do things for ourselves. I did cash their check, though, and spent it on my family. :)

One of my star students, very self-motivated, made herself a textbook. It started with one list. She opened a computer file in her word processing program, and now between classes she makes lists of words and grammar as she learns them. She adds to her notes as we learn together, and week by week she goes home and returns to the computer file to make changes and notes that make sense to her. She has lists which are organized and grouped by the way HER brain works. Her memory for new words is astounding. She writes them down, and the next week she doesn't have to look them up in her notebook because she learns by organizing herself. It has taken discipline and effort for her to make time in an otherwise very busy professional life to learn a second language. After a couple years, with her hard work, she is able to converse freely in Spanish. I'm honored to have her as a student.

Not everyone learns in the same way. I would say, be brave, be creative, and find ways to practice that work for your personality and your lifestyle. And your brain--because each person is unique. When you find a system that works for you, pass it on so I can share your idea with other students. Or write a book about how you learned, so we can help teach others a second language. :)

Many of my students write and turn in little essays. I correct grammar and ask questions. That's a good way to learn new words and I love getting to know my students through their writing. So write to me about something that YOU love, whether it be a pet, a person, a field of study, a favorite recipe, a trip you're planning, a theological idea, a favorite sport--I learn with my students, always, and I'll be glad to have you teach me about what you care about.

Feliz Dia del Padre (Happy Father's Day). There's an accent over the "i" in Dia and I'm very embarrassed about the accent marks today. I have my work cut out for me today, and I will be having a conversation with my "computadora" about this issue. We had it all worked out an e-mail or two ago... but I am calmly telling myself that, compared with my dear laptop, I am bigger and I am human, so I think I can negotiate to get the accents to come out like they're supposed to. We'll keep you posted.

Hasta pronto, (until soon),

Spanish for the Whole Family Starts Today in Highland

We're meeting at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Highland, Indiana. We'll be learning at mixed levels and mixed ages (mostly beginners). This class is for members and friends of Redeemer Lutheran Church. Welcome! Join us if you'd like to learn some conversational Spanish.

In previous sessions we have done: colors, numbers, introductions, greetings, animals and sounds, giving directions around town, clothes, going on a trip, songs, nursery rhymes, bible stories, puppets, authentic Latin American games, and some Hispanic culture. We'll continue with more along those lines...and you will fit right in. :)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Learning linguistics in utero and beyond

As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, I took a class in psycholinguistics. The professor cited a study in one of her lectures about how babies learn to distinguish between the sounds of their native language even before birth. Language scientists found that French-Canadian babies could tell the difference between the sounds corresponding with the letters "P" and "B" (as defined by Canadian French linguistic standards) from their experience listening to their native language within the womb. Exactly how the researchers communicated these questions and interpreted the responses from the little fetuses did not stick with me, and I have forgotten those details in the ten years or so since I took that course. But what still amazes me is that human babies are wired for language from before birth. We call our first language our "native" language. I think of language-learning skills being "innate". Those word origins relate to the root idea of being "born" but perhaps the words we use should express some of the language-learning that happens prior to birth as well. This week I'm giving some thought to a word that might express in-utero language immersion. If you have any illuminations in this area, and decide to coin a term that is apt for this idea, please let me know.

I have performed some informal research along these lines in our living room, and at the kitchen table. During pregnancy with baby #3, I spoke Catalán on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes I spoke out loud in Catalán with my older children, or read aloud to myself and to our baby #3 in my womb. During the week of my dissertation defense at Columbia, I met with my former Catalán professor, and we chatted in his office. We were both surprised that even since I've been living in Hobart, where the Catalán population is so small I haven't found anyone to practice with yet--still, I could remember plenty to converse on a variety of subjects. Baby #3 in utero kicked and seemed pleasantly soothed by the linguistics taking place around her. Within a few days of her birth, I read some Catalán recipes aloud to our yet-un-named baby girl. She smiled and seemed especially content. I acknowlege that it could be that I'm not that objective about my baby's psycholinguistic abilities, especially considering that this observation took place during the emotionally vulnerable moment of four days postpartum. But perhaps baby Mary really does like the sounds and rhythms of a language that Mommy also likes. I'm open to the possibility.

Last October, at my parents' barn blessing and housewarming party for their new Wisconsin home, (http://www.cooksvillefarmhouseinn.com/), I met a neighbor of theirs in the little town of Cooksville who researches genetics at the UW Madison. He's also Catalán--and his wife invited me to introduce myself to him in Catalán to see how he would react. At the party, we all enjoyed a nice conversation in Catalán, in which baby Mary was included in the fellowship, so that was another evening of practice for both of us.

The point is this: children learn what they are exposed to. Raising bilingual children is not easy in a culture where one language dominates, and where resources, materials, and relationships with other languages and their speakers takes effort. By nature, we tend to do what is easy. If it's available, we'll give it a try, but if not, most of us are fine with remaining monolingual. Whether pregnant, or baby-wearing, or raising a gradeschooler, I think we as parents have a responsibility to nurture our child's language skills.

I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to immerse my children in Spanish, and to teach other families as well. Yesterday my son told a friend from Colombia that he was wearing "pantalones". Since he's been in the silent period of language acquisition (and in his case, the silent and skeptical period), I'm glad to hear him making some inroads into communication. He decided to talk with my friend. Selfishly, perhaps, I wish he'd also talk in Spanish to me. And in time, perhaps, he will. For now, I'm just glad that he knows what "pantalones" are and how to talk about them in Spanish when he feels like it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mommy & Me Spanish

Mommy and Me Spanish for babies, toddlers, and mamás is beginning next week in Valparaiso Indiana. Class location will be Au Naturel Market. We will learn greetings, colors, and numbers, using puppets, singing, and movement. Wear comfy clothes in case we sit on the floor.

E-mail for more information if you're interested in joining us.

Virtual Groundbreaking for Spanish Sí

Spanish Sí has been a brainchild for years. We are now a reality. Launched in 2008, Spanish Sí is a small business providing classes, tutoring and translation in Northwest Indiana.

The organization offers reasonably-priced Spanish classes for individuals and small groups, from beginners through advanced, and available to all ages. Specializing in classes geared for the student's unique needs, Señora Fields' classes have been designed in the past for groups of clergy, homeschoolers, business executives, international relations professionals, medical professionals, beginning translators, and journalists--to name a few.

Señora Sarah Fields has ten years' experience teaching Spanish to various ages, ranging from 6 months to 93 years. She holds an earned doctorate in Spanish literature from Columbia University, and has studied and taught language in Texas, Chicago, New York, Barcelona, and Indiana. Señora Fields also provides translation services--to be used sparingly, because, eventually, she will urge you to begin to learn the language yourself, of course.

People sense a need for learning a second language from any age. The US public schools generally provide a four-year window during high school to study language at the cost of the taxpayers, and some students have the privilege of continuing their linguistic education in a college classroom or study abroad setting. Prior to those two windows, few chances are made available to study another language.

This approach does not mesh with the studies done by psycholinguistics researchers, who have demonstrated that language learning begins in utero, and that prior to birth babies can identify the sounds that are unique to their own mother tongue. Learning a second language, in cultures where the majority of the population is bilingual, trilingual, or more, starts from birth.

Some of the Spanish Sí classes are for mixed ages. Sometimes educators are puzzled about this approach. How will pre-readers and readers work in the same room? I contend that those of us who were raised monolingual all learned our native language in a multi-age setting, among peers and mentors of mixed abilities, in the odd but Divinely designed unit of the family. If you trust your first language skills, why not try learning a second language in a similar setting?

Sometimes colleagues comment on the pictures on the Spanish Sí website (http://www.spanishsi.com/). Why are there no classroom pictures? Those comments come from people who did not learn to speak English in a classroom. Perhaps those critics did learn a great deal of Spanish grammar in school setting, and that is a good thing. But immersion-style classes, which are proven to be most effective and most efficient in teaching language thoroughly and well, require the use of the whole planet of vocabulary sets, many of which are hard to discover and explore in a classroom. We do what we can to recreate the real world indoors. And sometimes, learning Spanish takes us outside.

Some students prefer to meet in a coffee shop. One student learned Spanish while inviting Señora Fields to provide company and language skills on errands, grocery shopping, exercise jaunts, and field trips. Some families prefer to hold classes in their homes, while many churches provide an ideal setting, whether in a classroom or the church nursery.

A dear friend who now teaches at Princeton taught herself Italian while growing up in Eastern Europe. She learned from a dictionary. Now she is teaching literature in the Ivy League. I have students ask often if they can learn Spanish from tapes or CDs, such as Rosetta Stone. I always respond that, while I have never personally met anyone who spoke a language well and said they learned from an audio program, I do not exclude the possibility from the realm of verisimilitude. Yes, I believe it is possible.

Welcome to the Spanish Sí blog, dedicated to promoting the learning of Spanish as a second language. Bienvenidos... and stay a while for the tertulia (table talk). We're glad you're with us.