Unfortunately, I don’t have the motivating factor of knowing that I won’t know where the bathroom is or how much things cost unless I complete my Ultimate Spanish CDs because our friend Pedro, who’s going with us, is fluent.
(Conversation with my dad:
DAD: Can’t AK help you with your Spanish?
ME: Well, I guess we could help each other. Her Spanish is a little better than mine. But we like to talk about things that are more complex than how the weather is, or what color our clothes are.
DAD: But wait, isn’t she, um, Spanish?
ME: If by “Spanish” you mean Mexican, yes. But her parents were bo
DAD: [As if AK’s ethnic background, Orange County childhood, and the fact that not all Mexican Americans speak Spanish are all totally new information] Huh.)
I took Spanish in school for six and a half years, but it didn’t accomplish what three weeks abroad would have. And despite the fact that 12.4 million people in L.A. speak Spanish (according to one random inte
- The teacher, who was always either a college Spanish major who’d studied abroad or Mr. He
rnandez, who’d taught for 35 years and was so bu rnt out that he mostly just had us draw pictures, an activity that is not only not Spanish, but not even lingual.
- Giovanni Untiveros, who was a native speaker.
- Megan Lengel-Zigich, who practiced with her housekeeper and was kind of a show-off.
So I didn’t exactly emerge fluent, you know? In the same way that some people are good singers in the shower, I think I’m a good Spanish speaker in my car. My pronunciation doesn’t totally suck, and I can get the gist of your average article in La Opinión. But put me in a Spanish-language situation in the real world, and I’m like one of those people in the first round of American Idol auditions who’s shocked to discover what she sounds like without the benefit of tile acoustics. Or, no, I guess I’m more like a contestant who opens her mouth and is shocked to discover that nothing at all comes out, and then runs off stage in embarrassment.
Ultimate Spanish, despite its exciting-sounding title, is a little boring because the sample conversations are bland and benign.
JUAN CARLOS: Hello, Marta. Would you like to see a movie with me at 9 p.m. tonight?
MARTA: No, I am sorry, Juan Carlos, but I am feeling sick.
JUAN CARLOS: Does your stomach hurt?
JUAN CARLOS: Does your head hurt?
JUAN CARLOS: Does your elbow hurt?
MARTA: No, it is not serious. I am tired from exercising. I need to rest.
JUAN CARLOS: That is good. It is important to exercise and rest.
I know what you’re thinking—that there’s some interesting subtext here involving Marta’s refusal of Juan Carlos. Is she giving him the brush-off? But something about the tone of their voices leads me to believe that their relationship is strictly platonic. Also, if Marta was trying to get Juan Carlos to leave her alone, it seems like she would just say, “Um, yeah, it’s my stomach. I have a terrible flu. Have fun, though.”
In the world of Ultimate Spanish, no one gets sick in a serious way. When people talk about their jobs, they might have to work hard, but their bosses are always nice and they’re compensated fairly. When they go into clothing stores, they always readily find a blue tie for their uncle and a red skirt for their niece at a reasonable price.
Although it would be interesting to hear all hell break loose—which could introduce all kinds of new vocabulary—I guess I’ll need to look to telenovelas for that.
We watched a little bit of one with our upstairs neighbor, Alyssa, last week. Alyssa tried to catch us up on what was going on (“They both dated the same guy, but now he’s in a coma and they just discovered he’s really married to this other woman and now they’re teaming up to get revenge”), but AK and I kept whispering comments to each other along the lines of, “I just caught the word ‘man’” and, “That lady said something about being in pain, or she said how much something costs.”
Mi vacación será muy interesante, pero espero que no es muy interesante.*
*I’m pretty sure I needed to use the subjunctive in there somewhere.