Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hablo espanol un poquito

It’s been two weeks now since I began my dogged resolve to learn Spanish. I have diligently sat at this laptop ten times, for 30 minutes a whack, reciting words to Maria and some guy who refuses to tell me his name, taking tests, and playing vocabulary games.

I’d been gloating to myself about how easy this learning Spanish thing was, how smart I was and how shortly I would be strutting around spewing out Spanish phrases like I was a native. Lessons one and two had lots of parts and lots of words but they were easy. I’m a natural, I gloated to myself. And then Wednesday night I clicked “Lesson Three.” Who knew that the first two lessons were made up of the few words I remembered from my two years of college Spanish. I have somehow managed to retain these words since that ancient time when only real nerds knew what a computer was and they used those nerdy brain cells to program and print vitally important pictures of animals made up of xs and os. Wait a minute, I’ll bet those weren’t just pictures of penguins and giraffes. This Valentine weekend has got me thinking about xs and os. I’ll bet those nerdy boys were encoding secret love language into their pictures hoping that some nerdy girl would figure it out. With each x and o programmed into the room-size computer, nerd-boy would dream of a girl jumping on the back of his Schwinn, throwing her horn rimmed glasses in the wicker basket, and riding off with him into the sunset.  And she probably spoke Spanish.

Wednesday night I needed a nerd to ram those new Spanish words into my brain. I was disheartened and frustrated and sad to be faced with the knowledge that I wasn’t all that smart and this whole project was not going to be a piece of cake.  (I could have used a piece of cake). And speaking of cake, since this whole learn-Spanish ordeal has started, I’ve been eating more things that aren’t good for me. The seven number limit has begun taking over. I’ve become a person who not only can’t speak Spanish but is constantly on the lookout for chocolate or cookies or cake. “Excuse me. Are you going to finish that chocolate bar? Because it’s just been sitting there.  Next to you.  And you're not eating it.  I’m trying to learn Spanish.”

Thursday night I repeated lesson three. I remembered a few more of the vocabulary words and a couple of phrases, but most of the time when mystery man asked me questions like, "what would you say if someone opened a door for you?", I drew a blank. Oh, I could think of what I wanted to say. For one thing I wanted to say, "hey buddy. What’s your name? Maria told me hers. What makes you think you can keep asking me these questions and you haven’t even introduced yourself?"  But instead, I groaned, willed my brain to come up with the answer, and then finally gave up in defeat and clicked the “next” button so Maria could cheerfully tell me what I should have said.

Friday night I forced myself to sit at this hateful laptop, open the Spanish program and repeat, again, lesson three. Just suck it up and do it whiney girl I told myself. I furrowed my brow, pushed the headphones tight onto my ears, squeezed my eyes shut and concentrated. I forced myself to answer before Maria confirmed or (more likely) denied my answer. Friday night I got a few more right than I had Thursday night. I’d surprise myself by remembering a phrase that was brand new to me, like “escucheme” (listen to me) but in the next question I’d forget that thank you was gracias. I’d answer puede ayudarme? (can you help me?) correctly to mystery man’s question, but I’d forget how to say I speak Spanish. I was really annoyed with myself, and to top it off I’d already eaten everything sweet we had in the house.

After my lesson, since I didn’t have any chocolate to keep me busy, I was surfing the TV and I ran across a Spanish language station I didn’t even realize we got. Don’t ask me why, but I’m a sucker for those reality wedding dress TV shows. You know, the one where the bride comes in searching for the perfect dress but the one she wants costs $6,000 and her budget is $750.00 and the rest of the show is all about the drama of “will she or won’t she break her budget to get the dress of her dreams.” Anyway, I’m flipping channels and next thing you know I hear Spanish being spoken, and a woman is looking at a wedding gown. How perfect is that? I say to myself. I can get my wedding dress reality show fix AND maybe learn Spanish at the same time. And guess what? I not only heard Spanish words from that miserable lesson three, but I knew those words. Yes, I knew them! I understood them! I’m not saying I understood the whole sentence but I knew somebody said, “estoy bromeando” (I’m just kidding) and then not long after, I heard “listo?” (ready?) Really! I wanted to jump off the couch and slap myself on the back. You know what? They said them over and over and I knew them over and over. Estoy bromeando. Listo? Listo! Estoy bromeando!

De Veras? (really?), you say. De Veras! I say. No estoy bromeando!


abby rose said...

His name is Roland. I know, I hear his voice, prompting me to speak spanish, in my dreams (and I've only made it to lesson two). It's amazing when you actually know what someone is saying, buen trabajo!

Art Elser said...

I'm still on lesson 1, but it's a very long lesson. I've been through it before, but am still struggling as you are Cathy. No one in my program, Rosetta Stone, tells you their name. I kind of wander from room to room, watch people come and go, and try to keep up.

I ride the bus downtown and back now and again, and I try to separate the Spanish from the Russian, Greek, and Arabic. I hear a word or two I know, but am frustrated because some of those conversations really sound juicy.

Creo que soy estupido! Muy estupido! Tenga suerte, Cathy, con sus lecciones Espanol.

Cathy said...

Muchas gracias Abby y Art y buena suerte para usted tambien!

emily said...

i've finally decided that since i live with a fluent native speaker, it's high time i learn some spanish myself! i make rodrigo only email me in spanish when i'm at work... :) So far, i keep the spanish translator page open at all times...