So I got this bright idea to teach myself Spanish – you know, teach the old dog new tricks. Muy bien, senora. My reasons for doing so are many and varied, kinda like my stretch marks:
1. I’ve always enjoyed listening to someone speaking a language different from my own – the unfamiliar rhythm and cadence, the ebb and flow – which is probably why I thoroughly enjoyed working in a chem/biochem library in college, with its constant influx of foreign students;
2. I like the idea of keeping my synapses fit & flexible by taking on this new mental challenge (and warding off anytime-onset Alzheimer’s, thankyouverymuch); and finally…
3. I dream of traveling to Spain to watch Davis Cup competition in the flesh (Lopez, Ferrer, Nadal – el muchacha mala is thinking naughty thoughts again), as well as to get a Barcelona beach bun-burn. (Now that's alliteration!) In this dream, I speak Spanish fluently – I am no ugly American, I fit right in. I also just happen to be ultra-thin and fabulously wealthy. Sigh… yes, mine is a rich fantasy life – rich ala Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, baby. (Does anyone else hear the "Margaritaville" lyrics whenever they see Buffett's last name? No?)
You might wonder how successful my do-it-yourself (let's be honest, el cheapo) methods have been; some of them are a little half-assed, but I’m having fun. Let’s review, shall we?
I’ve loaded up ye olde iPod with Spanish music from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, La Oreja de Van Gogh and Shakira (from an earlier, less twitchy phase in her carrera). I go hunting on the Internet for the song lyrics in both Spanish and English, then compare the two and get an idea of word flow, syntax and normal vs. slang usage. I think it’s much more interesting than the usual “listen & learn” audio instruction method, and I’m sure I get the added benefit of a cardio workout of sorts because that Latin rhythm makes me wanna shake my groove thang. (Mis disculpas for any scary visuals that triggers.) Hubby seems amused by my antics, but not so amused that he stops watching my thang a’groovin’ – he just won’t join in, as he firmly believes that White Men Can’t Dance. (That’s his lame-ass excuse and he’s stickin’ to it. I think it’s more like Won’t Dance, but whatever. I’ve suggested that he could help me with my quest in other ways, perhaps with a little role playing – the helpless senorita & the marauding conquistador – but no luck so far. Maybe I’d be more successful if I smear myself with salsa & serve chips on the side – muy caliente! I really wish he liked guacamole, ‘cuz I’m a little worried about the hot stuff in the hot salsa lighting me up, but again, no luck – he can’t get past the sound of the word, much less how he thinks it will taste. Sigh.)
I also bought a couple of books to help me with the nuts & bolts of mastering Espanol, and I’m sure they’ll be useful when I actually find the time to sit and read them for more than a few minutes at a whack. In the meantime, those tomes are right where I can access them in an instant, freeing them from their current pedestrian task of performing as oversized, overpriced paper weights cum dust magnets.
The next teaching method in my curriculum involves the wealth of Spanish television programming, a world opened up to me via the magic of satellite TV. I first tried watching a program called “Infarto,” chosen solely for its musical, earthy-sounding name – yeah, you know what I was thinkin’. Imagine my utter disappointment to discover this program has absolutely nothing to do with body functions, earthy or otherwise. Apparently, infarto means infarction, i.e. a heart attack, and this Spanish TV show is much like “Scare Tactics” in the US: put people in terrifying situations & see what happens. (Would it be a ratings blockbuster of they actually caused someone to have…el infarto?) Disappointing – I loathe reality TV. I then tried to watch a few Spanish soap operas, believing that while I may not understand the language, I’d still be able to follow along & learn while viewing all that passion and intrigue. Blech – a soap in any language is still a mish-mash of hammy acting and ill-advised cosmetic surgeries, topped off with bad hairpieces. Instead, I’ve resorted to copying down the program descriptions listed in Spanish, then deciphering them via Google Translate (AKA Transmangle, affectionately), so I get the gist of the action without all the nausea – truly a win/win.
All things considered, I think I’m learning a great deal about another culture, if not necessarily the language. For example, the other day while zipping through radio stations, I landed on 105.1 FM, which was playing – I kid you not – what sounded like a Spanish polka. I’d like to be able to say I could understand the lyrics, but nope – I was too distracted trying not to wet ‘em as I giggled like a fool at the idea of a Spanish polka. So it seems I still have a lot to learn and I need to just keep plugging away – oompah-oompah-oom-pah-pah! Olé!