Monday, March 14, 2011

Say what? Learning the language and the lingo the long way..

Back home, I take it for granted that I understand everything on the menu at a restaurant, that I can eavesdrop on funny conversations on the bus, that somebody can ask me a question and I can speak for ten minutes ranting and raving about my day.

I take it for granted that I can communicate and express in whatever words I want, exactly what I'm thinking, feeling, down to the intonation and last sarcastic sentiment. I can complain, whine, tell stories, describe my friends and go on long tangents about nothing in particular.

What's more, back home when people are talking, I can understand what they mean. I can laugh at all the right places, make comments, interject and ask as many questions as I want simply because I get it.

In between eating berenjenas fritas, going for tapas, trips to Granada, Nerja and Cadiz, in between carnaval and Spanish classes there are days when I want to turn the spanish 'off' and take a break the shiny newness to have the old comforts of home. 

Those days are few and far between, in fact they've only been since the sun decided to go on holiday. The rain came, the sun went away and I had to find that good feeling again. While I've been practising my spanish with friends and classmates, with people at bars and discotecas sometimes after a long day, or too early in the morning.. I wish it wasn't so hard

I love the language, learning new phrases, slang, spanish songs and translating idioms and slang in english that aren't quite right in spanish but that I use anyway (eg. sausage fest: fiesta de chorizo, Fingers crossed: Dedos cruzados). I've slogged it out in my class at university trying to keep up with the other students who have been living and working here for months and (shock horror!) I actually do my homework!

I've gone to watch Rango (in dubbed spanish of course, is there any other kind of movie?) and try my hand at conversations with room mates and friends who don't speak a word of english, spanish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I'm loving the experience but still, there are some days where I don't love it as much. When the lovely owners of the second hand shop are telling long stories to me for ten minutes or more and I wish I could grasp every detail, when I wish I could press pause, slow it down and whip out my spanish-english dictionary.

The days when the loud, extroverted, never-shuts-up side of me really really wants to say something but can't find the words, can't learn them quick enough or get them from inside my head to outside in the perfectly formed, gramatically correct sentence with that castellano accent. 

It's a weird feeling not being able to express what you want to say, because you just can't. Because of this thing called a 'language barrier' you thought wouldn't be such a big deal. Most of the time it isn't because the people are forgiving of my timid, mumbling broken spanish. But other times the timid, mumbling broken spanish I speak makes me feel a little stupid and makes me mumble more and proclaim that I am 'shy'. As one of my friends exclaimed, 'Shy? You? DESDE CUANDO?' Since when!

Getting over myself and out of my own way is the bottom line. Having to get over this idea that something bad is going to happen if I say something wrong, if I conjugate the verbs wrong or if I'm using a feminine adjective with a masculine noun. Or all the rules that are gushing through my head while I'm just trying to explain that I went out last night and had a great time.

Still, poco a poco. Con tiempo, as they say. I may not get all the details but I'm working my way up, una palabra a la vez. One word at a time. One dubbed spanish movie, one spanish pop song, one slang phrase and swear word at a time!

For now though I've learned to express my random bouts of mild frustration in perfect spanish... JODER! (Pardon my french)

Todavia, con tiempo.. después de un año en España, dedos cruzados, mi español sea mejor!


  1. i loooove you! and this blog post. keep on entertaining me. hugs from sydney!

  2. Chiquillaaa!! solo llevas un par de meses!!

    Grace, you are doing really well!! Next year you will express yourself like a Malagueña! No gain!