Hablo espanol? No, but I know how to count

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One of the things I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time is to learn Spanish.  I live in California, for cryin’ out loud where approximately 25% of the population (and growing) speaks Spanish.  The names of our major cities – San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento – are all of Spanish origin.  The legacy of once being part of Mexico runs deep in our state.  So, really, unless you want to cut yourself off from a large part of our population and our past, it’s silly not to speak at least a bit of Spanish.

Sure, I took Spanish in junior high many many many many (OK, we get the point, you’re old) years ago.  I think that was the only language offered in junior high.  Once I hit high school, I started taking French.  It felt so much more sophisticated and well, foreign.   Besides, the Spanish classes were filled with kids from Spanish speaking households who were taking Spanish for an easy A.  In French class we could pretend we sounded good.  You couldn’t get away with that in Spanish.

I continued taking French in college.  And while I was never pretentious enough to wear a beret, I did enjoy getting drunk, smoking Gauloises and speaking slurred French (which actually helped my accent).  And then because my major required two foreign languages, I started to take Italian.  Why Italian and not Spanish?  Why not use my language requirement to learn a language I might actually use?  Because, my friends, my goal was not to actually speak a foreign language, but to watch foreign films without having to depend on the subtitles.  Spain and Latin America, at the time, were not doing anything of note film-wise, so I opted for Italian.  Yeah.  Feel free to chuckle.  I was a pompous ass, I admit it.

Now, many years later, I’m a bit more practical and far less pretentious. I’m taking beginning Spanish at the local Adult School.   My classmate’s incentives to learn Spanish range from “I work in a restaurant and I need to be able to talk to the kitchen staff” to “my grandchild is being brought up bi-lingually and I want to be able to support that” to “I work in construction” to my unspoken reason “I don’t want to get stuck with any more rabbits due to a language barrier.”

Our teacher runs a language school of her own, and frankly I think she does the Adult School gig to promote her own school programs and to sell her workbooks and CDs.  As this was Adult School Spanish, I was expecting perhaps a bit more emphasis on the practical and the conversational.  You know, like those tapes you buy to learn a bit of traveler’s Spanish before you go on a trip?  Yo quiero una cervasa, por favor. Quanto cuesta? Donde esta el bano?   But, noooooooooo.  Not Miss Oliviera.  She’s doin’ it old school.  Which, for me, has been quite frustrating.  Here it is Week 7 out of 8 , and we only just learned a couple of verbs. Granted the verbs “to be” and “to have” are biggies, but we could have done so much more if she hadn’t focused half the class on counting.  Yes, we all all very very adept at counting. Oh, and telling time. And even with numbers, she’s rollin’ old school.

One of my classmate, Miquel (aka Michael) a construction contractor, questioned Miss Oliviera when she was tell us how to say phone numbers.  So, let’s say the phone number is 848-2452.  Miss Oliviera says in Spanish rather than saying each number individually, they would say 8-48-24-52.  Miquel said, “gee, I’ve never heard my crew say it like that – they say it like we do, one number at a time.”  “Well, they are wrong. This is the proper way to do it”, said Miss Oliviera with a bit of a sneer.

When we were learning to tell time, another classmate had the audacity to question the teacher.  In English, if the time is, say, 3:42, we simply say “3:42”  Miss Oliviera says in Spanish they would say “4 hours minus 18”.  When the classmate mentioned her Spanish speaking family didn’t say it like that, again Miss Oliveira snapped “that is not proper! I am teaching you the proper way.  If later you choose to not say it correctly that is your choice.”

There’s an attractive young couple in our class who are planning on doing some traveling to Latin America.  In fact, I think Miss Oliviera has a bit of a crush on the man because when we started to learn adjectives, she was always using Roberto (aka Bob) as her example.  “Roberto es muy guapo y alto” (Bob is very handsome and tall).  Roberto, taking advantage of his teacher’s pet status asked if we could  learn some useful phrases to use when traveling.  From the way Miss Oliviera responded you would have thought he wanted to know how to say “Excuse me sir, which way to the the donkey show?” “I don’t teach phrases” she spit out with disdain. “It takes years to learn to speak a language properly, but it is well worth it.”

She may have a point.  Learning the Spanish the Adult School way with Miss Oliviera may take years.  I may have to find a quicker path before Maria presents me with another rabbit.

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16 responses »

  1. Oooh, I hate to be down on your teacher, but learning a language that way sucks. It takes years, and still doesn’t teach you how to understand or be understood by native speakers.

    Much better to find a native Spanish speaker locally and have them chat to you for a couple of hours every week, teaching you phrases that you repeat frequently til they’re second-nature and so you can get the accent right.

    Plus, hire as many Spanish films as you can and watch ’em over an over!

    (This coming from me, who speaks French, German and Italian plus a little Russian and Latin and ancient Greek, but no Spanish!)

  2. Yikes! You’ll forget it as soon as you learn it that way! In my experience, watching (and talking back to) Spanish-language tv shows helps. : )

  3. Thank you Donkey Porn
    Reply to: anon-90359106@craigslist.org
    Date: Thu Aug 11 07:06:26 2005

    First, if you are offended by harsh language please do not read this post. This post is rated CL-MA and so there is your warning…

    I was really bored last night and decided to download some porn. So I open the P2P program I use and think of some nasty words to search for.

    “Ass” hmmm no not specific enough.

    “Hot ass” nah that could turn up a guy

    “Hot ass brunette” okay now I am getting some results but you have to be specific when you are searching on this thing.

    “Hot ass brunette doggy style” ahh there we go! Tons of results! Let’s start double clicking!

    So, I let them download and go about reading some CL stuff and trying to get the least hits on Google.

    Ah ha! I see the beautiful black bar that indicates a completed download! Woohoo time for some porn watchin’.

    So I get all set up in my chair ready for some hot doggy style action. I click play and wait to see if I have already watched this particular clip. I haven’t, man this is sweet!

    Enter screen left a beautiful, I think Brazilian, woman undoubtedly ready to get done in some nasty ways.

    “Yeah this is going to be hot!” I think to myself as I watch her walking through the grass.

    Then I think “oh yeah outdoor sex, grass and good lighting, awesome!”

    Enter screen right white guy with donkey. Actually enter screen right white guy with donkey that has a huge hard on. At this point I realize what I have downloaded. I am now watching some Brazilian Donkey Porn.

    Now I am a guy slowing down to look at an accident. I know you all are pissed at me looking, and say you would not, but when you get to the accident you look too.

    So anyway this incredibly hot chick starts to mess around with the Donkey.

    I will spare you the details but it was hardcore and made me feel a bit dirty to be honest.

    The movie finishes. I am waiting for the FBI to pound on my door and arrest me. Then it hits me.

    That chick just did a donkey and yet I am single. It’s not like she was ugly or anything…

    Why am I single? I thought.

    Well you have some bad habits. My brain replied.

    Yeah I do have bad habits but I think there are some women who would overlook them. I thought.

    Yeah but they are ugly. My brain replied.

    Okay brain, stop it! There are obviously hot girls out there that are doing donkeys for Christ sake!!

    Then I thought about what I just saw and the reason someone would do something like bang a donkey.

    The only reasons I could think of are:

    Money

    Drugs

    Some weird animal fetish that I do not even want to think about

    So, I am not into animals we can knock that one right out. I also am not a big fan of drugs. Though for some reason I always have weed? I don’t know what’s the deal with that? But I digress…

    So I am left with money. Makes sense, if money can make a hot girl bang a donkey then I am sure it will make one want to be with me.

    This also got me thinking about hot girls in general. My approach has really been no approach. To be honest, I was a little intimidated by hot girls until last night. Now that the image of that hot girl is in my head with a big floppy Donkey dick… Hot girls watch out.

    That single clip of porn has given me new confidence and drive. If I make all the money I can and have a more aggressive approach to hot girls I will land one of you soon. I am sorry ladies but that clip of Donkey porn just knocked you off of your High Horse.

    Pardon the pun….

    Thus I thank you Donkey Porn.

    You have made me a new man….

  4. [blink… blink… blink…]
    i think my NaNoWriMo plot has just changed due to the donkey porn insertion. (no pun intended)

    anyway… back to what I was gonna add. The company I work for has about 98% spanish speaking clients… almost all of them from Mexico, almost all of them illegal, almost all of them speak no English.

    As a result all of our employees (all seven of them) speak Spanish. There are two who are from Mexico and I’ve noticed they say their phone numbers the way your teacher described. They don’t say them in single digits… They say them in double digits.

    It sounds like they’re calling out a football play.

  5. Yeah, maybe you need another teacher. Can you imagine the difficulty of having to learn English old school as a new speaker?

    I’m actually almost bilingual. I’m sort of fluent in Afrikaans, which is a variant of Dutch/Flemish. And I know a bit of German, but really just on a basic level -enough to get by in the ordinary world. But I’ve no interest in really mastering these languages. Since I’m lucky enough to be living in an English-speaking society, what would be the point?You only really need to master your first language, don’t you?

    By the way, thanks for that side anecdote, BBG. It was really uplifting. 🙂

  6. Yeah, you need another teacher. She was actually correct with the phone number and time but any teacher that sees it as an either right or wrong issue is not doing a good job. My answer would have been to say that the correct way to say it differs depending on where the person is from and from what class. It’s okay to teach the “right” way as long as you acknowledge that there are other okay ways. Spanish in the U.S. differs a lot from how it is spoken in a Spanish speaking country. I know I can speak the correct way but I don’t because most of the people I speak Spanish with don’t speak the correct way and would think me pretentious if I spoke proper Spanish.

    Find a “Conversational Spanish” class not taught by that teacher. Also, get some DVDs and watch the movies with the Spanish on. It works well with kid movies, such as Disney films. You already know the plot and what is going on so you just listen for the Spanish.

    Either that or hire me! 😉

  7. Corina’s film idea is a great one … I do that with films that have a French soundtrack option, and it works pretty well, although often the translations are a little more formal than one would hear in ordinary conversation … less slangy. But it’s still a good way to accustom your ear to the speed and rhythm of the language.

  8. Truce – you can go ahead and diss my teacher to your heart’s desire. You’re right, to learn it, I need to speak it. That’s another reason why I hope I get this new job. Some of my staff are bilingual in Spanish (the others in Chinese and Vietnamese), so I can experiment with them.

    TMC – There are a lot of spanish TV channels out there. I just need to find something worth watching.

    BB Golly – Wow.

    Jules – It’s OK. You’ll be fine. BB Golly is an odd bird, but he means no harm. Anyway, I’m glad to hear that the phone number thing is modern usage. I have this fear with her that she is teaching us some form of Spanish that hasn’t been spoke since Franco died back in the ’70s.

    tpgoddess – 🙂

    Wisdomjunkie – I’m not after complete fluency in Spanish, I just need enough to say “no thanks, I don’t need another rabbit” and “really, you don’t need to clean under the bed. In fact, I would prefer if you didn’t”

    Corina – thank you for the suggestions, especially the one about the films where I already know the plot. I guess it’s just a matter of being willing to get immersed, and speak it and speak it a lot.

    David – I think that has been the challenge with trying to pick up Spanish on my own, they talk so damn fast. So reading is always good because I can take my time and figure the word out. Hearing it is much more challenging, but in the end probably more worth the effort.

  9. LB, there is a lovely thing on iTunes called One Minute (insert language). It’s a free podcast, and although what I downloaded was not Spanish (I can order and holler “help me” and call someone a drunk, so I’m good) I bet they have it. You can’t go too fast in a minute– you only have time for a few words or a phrase. 🙂

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