Aprendiendo Espanol

The title of this post means “Learning Spanish.”  This is one of my main objectives while I’m here.  The other two objectives are to write a lot (hence, this blog) and to help out my dear friend, Ashley, who is about to have a baby here.  Any day now, any hour now for that matter.  You’ll hear allllll about that when the time has come.

For many years now I’ve yearned to be fluent in Spanish.  Being here, I finally feel incredibly driven to learn.  I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about learning something.  It’s a wonderful feeling!  I find that most people here are more than willing to help you learn too.  I’m constantly asking native speakers, “How do you say this?  How do you say that,” and then diligently writing everything down in my journal because otherwise I’ll forget in five minutes.  I love that already, I can understand snippets here and there in conversations that I listen to.  I can’t grasp entire conversations yet, but in due time.  I try to memorize a few new words and verbs everyday.  It does take getting used to- speaking a different language.  You really need to rearrange the way your brain works to adjust to it.  You have to pay more attention and you have to be willing to sound like a complete idiot.  Someone asked me the other day, “When did you arrive?”  I replied, “United States.”  Another person asked me recently, “Where are you going?”  I said, “No, Gracias.”  I realized my mistakes later when pondering the befuddled looks on both of their faces.  It’s a learning process, right?  I feel as though if one isn’t learning something new in life, one becomes stagnant and bored.  It’s ok to feel foolish while learning something new, it’s humbling.  It gives you the motivation to get better at the task at hand.

Side note: even better was when I was in Italy many years ago and I was trying to say, “Can you help me?  I’m lost” but instead I later found out I was saying, “Can you help me?  I am a person?”  Also, when an Italian girl asked me if I was enjoying my vacation and I said, “Tomorrow.”  Also, when someone asked me, “Positano?”  Which basically translates to, “Is that Positano (he was pointing to a path that lead to the town called Positano).  And I said to him, “I am, I am.”  End side note.

Ashley makes fun of me for the way I act when I am asking someone for help.  She says I get very serious, I get my game face on.  I go from smiling and laughing to a very straight face with slightly furred brows.  I imagine those old fashioned photos of people from the early 20th century, the ones were no one is smiling and everyone looks stern.  That’s what I look like, minus the sepia tone and the neck to ankle dresses complete with broach and gloves.  Well, ok, I do wear the broach and gloves, they go great with my swimsuit.  I nod a lot, even if I haven’t a clue what the person I’m talking to says to me.  And I write.  Everything.  Down.  Otherwise, my attention span is that of someone watching TV, I can hear you but nothing is registering.

I will often start a conversation in Spanish with the phrases I have learned thus far but then the recipient fires off some long sentence which leaves me stunned.  It sounds as though they are all speaking tongue twisters with a fast forward button.  I have a tendency to cock my head slightly to the right and my face goes blank.  No frown, no smile, no questioning look, it’s simply a blank stare.  One you give when you’re on an airplane and you are pretending to listen to the flight attendant give their shpeal about flight safety and yadda, yadda, yadda.   Ashley makes the exact same face when she can’t follow a conversation either.  It must be an American thing….

My new landlord, Enrique, speaks Spanish, English, Italian and Portuguese.  He’s happy to jabber on in Spanish to me and I understand about five percent of what he is saying.  I asked him to only speak in Spanish to me and he obliges until he realizes he’s told me an entire story and I’ve understood words like, “the family, mother, then, grandmother, 5 months, 16 years old, the, and, but, because.”  Yeeeeaaahhhh, “mas despacio, por favor?” Please, can you speak slowly?  I did, however, find out that he was an exchange student when he was 16 in Rochester, Michigan and that he went to school with Madonna.   No joke!  The only reason why I can convey that information with full and complete confidence?  He told me in English.

Sunset!

More sunset!

Painting up the stairway at the hostel I stayed at when I first arrived

2 thoughts on “Aprendiendo Espanol

  1. Becca, your side note reminds me of being in Ecuador 4 years ago. Judy had a wonderful little language book that seemed to cover just about every situation, including male failure to perform in a sexual encounter (ending in the translation of "You just have to have a sense of humor about it"). In typical grade four delight, I learned to say "I'm sorry, I can't get it up." Unfortunately, as I found out later, my pronunciation was off slightly; I had been saying, "I'm sorry, I can't wash it."

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