Español para tontos

I am in the process of becoming a Spanish speaker. I never originally set out to learn this language. I actually avoided it during school, choosing instead to focus on French and dream of living in Paris someday, even though adults in my life swore up and down that if only I committed to learning to speak Spanish fluently, I’d be able to “write my own ticket” when it came to finding a job. (What does that even mean, by the way? and why was Spanish the missing link?) A few years after college, I did move to Paris just as I’d dreamed, under the impression that I would live there forever, become totally fluent in French, marry, have French kids… but it was as surprising to me as anything, after a year spent there, when I realized that I didn’t actually want to stay in France, that I missed the States and wanted to come back.

After coming home, and embarking on a ten-year series of peripatetic moves to NC, DC, Oregon, DC again, and Richmond, VA, I got a slightly harebrained notion that it was time to move to New York City at the age of 36. I was again as surprised as anything that I ended up meeting Jorge only a couple months after arriving in the city. I had pretty much sworn off the idea that I would ever find a partner in life — but I turned out to be wrong. As you know, if you have been reading this blog, Jorge is now my husband. Whose parents, incidentally, don’t speak much English. Whose extended family doesn’t speak any English. All of whom he and I will encounter in Mexico on a visit there sometime later this year.

The urgent pressure that I now feel to learn at least conversational Spanish before this impending visit has not seemed to hasten my progress. Far from it. I’ve been strangely very lax about this. It’s as if now that we’re married, I have my whole lifetime to learn Spanish — which I kinda do… but I kinda don’t. So far, I’ve managed to improve my comprehension somewhat; however, I still can only make limited conversation. Well, it’s actually more like I can only issue announcements about myself, like “I’m hungry,” or “I don’t like mayonnaise.” I cannot even express to someone just how much I detest mayonnaise, I can only manage a halfhearted “I don’t like it.” This must change.

I am just not a stellar Spanish student. I haven’t been poring over lesson books, drilling grammar, or even practicing that often. What little I currently know, I have learned from coaxing Mexican recipes out of my mother-in-law, listening to music, watching telenovelas on Netflix, occasionally reading Spanish language news or magazine articles out loud, playing dominoes, and talking to Jorge.

Some Spanish words and phrases I do know. I tend to be more interested in learning vulgar or slang words.

It’s probably in my best interest to take a class, but again, I am surprised as anything to notice that the words have been seeping in all the same. As I had to force myself to do with French (and which worked), I’m just going to have to talk more, even though I feel I am much more coherent in written Spanish, thanks to Google Translate, Word Reference, and my general preference for collecting thoughts in writing as opposed to talking. I will eventually become a fluent Spanish speaker, I know, but, in the meantime, I’ll be clinging to these life rafts:

  • Coffee Break Spanish podcast episodes – this is a Spanish language podcast narrated by two Scottish people, a teacher and a learner. I unabashedly love this series and its cheesy theme song, which promises (and I quote): “No haggis here, I hope that’s fine, just a little Español online!”
  • TV shows: my current favorite is El Vato, but I also have been known to watch Celia and even Dueños del Paraiso.
  • A Spanish music Spotify playlist I created. I add songs to this pretty often – feel free to tune in!
  • Oh, and this amazing book: The Essential Cuisines of Mexico.  More on this in another post soon.

¡Hasta pronto!