Aventuras en Español

So, my friend Lucas had to listen to me wax obnoxious about Español while we classed up Amato’s on a friday night. The Tufts volleyball team rolled in, several of the women wearing uncomfortably short shorts, giving me goosebumps just at a glance (we’re in Maine mind you, and we’re definitely in the thick of a cold snap).

I am in the midst of a personal journey to learn Spanish, something I never thought I’d bother with. I recall the agony of watching Aladdin’s awkwardly dubbed voice-over while we watched Disney movies in Spanish class during high school. I also remember when a perfectly lovely multi-cultural high school alumn came to talk to us about her daring career as a flight stewardess that called upon her ability to speak Spanish, Portuguese, and English (probably all at the same time. las salidas están aquí y aquí?). However, it  probably did not speak to our linguistic ability when the head of the Spanish department stood up and translated in response to the sea of blank stares blanketing our faces. At that point, I started to consider myself part of the language dis-advantaged: I may be good at a lot of things but language just isn’t one of my “things”. After all, the farther I get from the ennui of my teenager years,  the less elastic my brain becomes, and the less liable I am to pick up a new tongue.

However, I suppose the recent trip to Costa Rica re-kindled a desire to take second look at Spanish, as I start to think about how to travel and spend more time in South America and among the tropical paradise and rainforests.  I also realize that I take some interesting job prospects off the table by limiting the ways I can communicate (including some amazing teaching positions with Ecology Project International, leading student groups to study sea turtles in Costa Rica, or ecology in the Galapagos.)

Thus has started my journey. So far, I’ve been listening to Spanish podcasts on almost a daily basis during my 40ish minute commute to work in the morning. My favorite so far is the Discover Spanish podcast w/Johnny Spanish (y Christina!). They’re a soothing pair that make me feel secure as I repeat the Spanish phrases at their urging while bewildered motorists pass by observing me animatedly talking to myself. I’ve listen to one or two episodes of Coffee Break Spanish which seems to capture the Castillano lisp, as they focus on Spain’s version of the language, while Johnny and Christina cater to the Miami crowd. One other option is the “Survival Spanish” podcast, a more low-fi production with Spanish instructor David Spencer. The first few episodes are brisker, brusquer vehicle than what I’m used to, with a less welcoming tone, and a demand to “escucha y repeata!”, but as the series develops,so does Spencer’s delivery, with useful ways to internalize vocabulary, including spry little songs on the guitar.

I waltz into work and subject at least one of my co-workers to the new phrases I am learning that have no useful context in my current day to day. Quiero cambiar cinquenta y cinco dolares a euros, por favor (I want to change fifty five dolars into euros, please).  ¿cuánto cuesta este anillo (How much does this ring cost?). Tengo un pez de colores (I have a goldfish… This is decidedly untrue.) Tonight I spent a few minutes browsing the web on my phone searching for marine biology terms in Español as Lucas pointed out how absurd it was that I wanted to learn Spanish for marine science job prospects but didn’t know how to even say “ocean” in Spanish. (Ocean is simply “océano”, and sea is “mar.”)so, I now know a whale is a “ballena”, probably in relation to the word “baleen” and have decided that Mi Caballito de Mar (My little seahorse), is my new pet-name for those unfortunate enough to spend too much time with me while I practice my unwieldy new language skills.

So I will keep you posted in how I fare. Right now I am figuring out how to explain to my Costa Rican penpal that my kitten recently broke his leg (dont’cha worry folks, kitty is on the mend and well on his way to being his old, crazy-like-a-fox, self) and is still sporting a slightly medicinal smell. Not exactly covered in the Spanish basics…

I will keep the interested masses (by which I mean all two of you) posted as I wind my way through this new great adventure.  Hasta Pronto todos!

By the way, I will not be offended if anyone corrects any of the half-informed Spanish contained here within. (Save me from my overzealous self!)

Watch your step around the linkage:

http://www.spanishdict.com/ – a useful spanish dictionary site with good translation tools

http://discoverspanish.com/podcast.php – Here’s hoping Johnny y Christina don’t like anything like their animated counterparts

http://radiolingua.com/shows/spanish/coffee-break-spanish/ – Coffee Break Spanish. I like that the girl in the first couple episodes seems to have trouble repeating the pronunciation of words the same way twice. I can relate.

http://www.learnoutloud.com/Podcast-Directory/Languages/Spanish/Learn-Spanish–Survival-Guide-Podcast/20124  – I now know the days of the week thanks to your catchy little song. Thank you sir, or should I say “Muchos gracias, senor!”