Monday, February 19, 2007

Si, si...Que?

This weekend I dove head-first back into my Spanish practicing. Since my return to Spain, I’ve made a few token steps toward regaining my footing—perusing my verb-form flash cards, declaring that I’d never learn Spanish at all, the usual ritual—but have shied away from actually speaking. There have been challenges: two repairmen spent an afternoon on our terrace, fixing a drain pipe, and my interactions with them (Did I have a large container for water? Like a mug? No, bigger. Like this big pot here? Si, si…Did I have a broom? Si, si…Que? You mean this electrical outlet here by the door? No, a broom. This object here? etc) relied quite heavily on mime. Plus, they may have been speaking Catalan. And earlier in the week, we were invited to dinner with a Chilean couple; yet we spoke in English, for my benefit, the entire time.

This weekend, however, we were invited to a party hosted by some of Andrew’s Mexican friends, at which we were the only native English speakers among a large crowd from Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. “There’s going to be a lot of tequila at this party,” Andrew warned me in advance, “and a lot of Spanish.” More difficult was the fact that Spain-Spanish sounds much, much different from the Spanish spoken in Mexico and South America—even Andrew has a difficult time understanding it sometimes. I can only imagine how difficult it was for everyone else to understand my own fumbling attempts, since my Spanish is a tricky blend of a heavy American twang, incorrect verb forms, made-up vocabulary words, inventive combinations of French and Spanish words, and generally terrible pronunciation. Not to mention the fact that my body temperature rises and I get so overheated that, at a glance, one might think I was having some kind of phobic episode.

I did, however, speak (I guess I’m not phobic of Spanish, not yet). I may not have spoken correctly, but I did manage to carry on rudimentary conversations. I could understand enough of what was said so I felt like I was part of things—though, of course, at times I found myself facing an expectant face and realized that a question had been asked, the subject of which was a mystery. Ah well. It’s time for the Spanish practicing to being, in earnest, once again.

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