Wednesday, September 29, 2010


...what happens to a language when an English speaker married to a Cuban Spanish speaker determines to learn SOME Spanish, ANY Spanish, no matter how little natural language ability is knocking around the ol' DNA.

I'm looking at it as "free language immersion," or "the tutor who cannot escape"...hahaha

Yes, after failed attempts at becoming proficiently illiterate in both French and Russian in my younger years, I realize this is a missed opportunity...why not actually learn a language in my lifetime, or if not actually learning it, why not drive others totally to distraction trying to learn one, when I'm so good at doing that?  Because I'm all about fulfilling my real potential at creating international incidents.

So I've asked Jack to only speak to me in Spanish, unless he's complaining to the management about something related to survival or locating his clean clothes in a timely fashion.  So far, we've done ok because the first phrase I've written down (and carry in a notebook with other phrases, everywhere I go) is "how do you say_____?"  and  "I have no idea what cotton pickin' word you just said...please repeat."

Today I expanded my horizons and visited the library in hopes of perusing their vast Spanish language selection.  Then I found out that although I live in Florida, my library stocks about as many Spanish language materials and books as I'd guess some outpost in Wisconsin might.  Truly.  The children's book section was not much better.  But I did get the Spanish language version of Curious George.  That will be a real relief for all those real life situations in which I'll need to point to a monkey on a bicycle or say "the man in the yellow hat."

But it's truly a fun experiment!  I've decided to be fearless and not worry about grammar up front, and just learn like a little kid by putting words together in ways I hope gets the point across, and letting Mi Esposo help me polish it to some level of understandability.

I'm already really getting good, after just one day.  I tuned in to an AM band radio station while driving today, and in some broadcast from Cuba, understood the words "Frank Sinatra" and "Clark Gable."  I sure have an ear for those Spanish words...ha!

Got any war stories about learning another language...any advice?  I'm all orejas!


Irma said...

1. Last year I spent three weeks hiking in Spain. Total Spanish I picked up? "No espagnol" "cafe con leche" and "cerveza por favor". I mean, really, those three phrases cover just about any situation, right??

2.Husbandly One is from Lisbon, and we have a Portuguese enclyclopdia from way back in the dark ages when encyclopedias were printed on paper. Every so often I'll look up a word whose meaning I am sure of, like aeroporto, and then try to figure out what the entry says, seeing how I already have a pretty good idea of what it SHOULD say. I then translate it in to English for Husbandly One. Then he laughs at me for a long, long time.

Kimberly said...

I honestly couldn't stop laughing imagining your efforts! I am married to a bilingual Greek man. I knew much more when his mother was living as she spoke Greek about 1/2 the time. His father usually speaks the language when saying something he thinks no one else will understand. I've heard it for 14 years and know exactly what he's saying. However, I wouldn't repeat some of these utterances so it does me little good. :D I actually know how to read and write Greek and as my husband is obviously fluant (but doesn't write or read Greek), I speak the written word and he translates. We're a great match! I learned to read and write when my son attended Greek school and all his homework was in Greek!! I would use a dictionary to translate into English, then spend more time helping my son to complete the homework. I'm thankful he attended class one day a week!! UGH!

Good luck and keep trying. The best way to learn is the way you're doing it...listen to Spanish radio and books, etc. Hopefully one day you'll see a man in a yellow hat and be able to speak to him!!!! LOL!!!!

Jennifer said...

Afraid I would be no help. I tried to take a Spanish class twice in high school and did terrible! It just doesn't come natural to me I guess. I sure wish I could speak another language though.

tina f. said...

My dad was Italian and the only Italian I know to this day was from when we went camping in Italy. There was a little store at the front and these words were committed to my everlasting memory: uno litre latte (one liter of milk). This was for our breakfast.

My mom was German and when I was about 4 or 5 years old my grandmother came over from Germany to help out (my mom had surgery). Oma spoke no English and the first German word I learned was "Wasser" because I was thirsty. (water) I can speak a little more German now, but not my Grammer is not very good!

Alan said...

Advice - Don't study grammer the first year. (grammer was invented by linguists to justify their existance, not to help you learn the language. Learn like a kid!) Use the language as much as you can with as many people as you can for REAL communication. NO FEAR. Be happy looking like a fool if you got your point across. People will correct you, repeat what they say and move on with the converstion. DON"T CHEAT. Use the language all the time. If you don't know how to say someting one way find a different way to get your point across. HAVE FUN!

Best of luck! I did it with Chinese and Korean. It works. I tried French the "traditional" way and FAILED.

MommaofMany said...

One of the best free tools I have found is LiveMocha: I use it for language study with my children. Good luck with Spanish 101!