Sep 9, 2010, 1:34 PM
Post #19 of 67
Re: [mevale] Learning to speak Spanish
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I have lived in Mexico now for over 21 years.
I moved here because I was tired of listening to Spanglish as spoken on the Texas border. Also on the recommendation of my English students from Matamoros who both spoke excellent Spanish and were appalled at the border Spanglish.
Now why did I want to learn Spanish? Because I had taken two years of Spanish in my college years, got A's both years, but after 30 years had forgotten everything, and because as a retiree living in Texas where we have so many native Spanish speakers as well as 2nd and 3rd generation kids, I felt I ought to learn it. One other reason: to keep from going intellectually stale.
So I took a lesson a week at a Seventh Day Adventist Spanish school. My teacher for the six months was an Ecuadorian. Excellent Spanish. Different pronunciation and rhythm than Mexican.There I met two young men from Matamoros who were studying English because of their jobs with a Maquiladora (Texas Instruments). We arranged a weekly meeting for comida at which we spoke a half hour of only Spanish and then switched to a half hour of only English. Strictly enforced.They recommended that I also start listening to Spanish TV stations of which in the Brownsville Area there must be at least seven. They particularly recommended the soap operas and the sport shows. They also suggested I pay special attention to the advertisements because they were repeated so often that I was bound to finally separate the run-along-wordsthatallblendedintone into separate words which I already knew from my lessons. This went on for about six months and they began to recommend that I get away from the border and its Spanglish to the interior of Mexico.
So far so good. I moved to Zacatecas for several reasons. Here, I continued to watch the soap operas on TV, went to my favorite cantina which was a hangout for young, unmarried, teachers and spent lots of time talking to them. All very supportive of my efforts to learn Spanish. All very helpful. There too, I learned to be very careful of those loaded Spanish words like Pendejo, which can be everything from a deadly insult worth fighting over to a term of camaraderie among friends. So my education progressed.
A disappointment. My student of English who by now had been sent to Japan as a representative of Texas Instruments on several trips and now spoke English of which I was proud to have contributed visited me after two years and made the the comment that my Spanish was better in Matamoros that it was now after living two years in Mexico.
But the problem I learned later was that here in Mexico I was learning the T˙ forms for the first time since all my companions used that form of address with me. It took me several years before I learned that the T˙ form of address to a stranger or newly met acquaintance was actually an insult. By that time, the habit was hard to break. I still haven't broken it. But the redeeming feature was and is that I am usually older than the person I am speaking to, and us oldsters have the privilege of
using that familiar form when addressing younger people. Now that I am so old that I am considered an anciano, I no longer worry about it.
Spanish castillian versus the Mexican Andalucian pronunciation.
Don't worry about it. Mexicans will understand it. They understand Spaniards speaking castillian don't they? They understand Cubans don't they? My Ecuadorian teacher taught me to say words like silla (chair) with the ldj pronunciation of the ll instead of the y pronuncian of the Mexican. The only time I ever was called to order was by a gringo in a library meeting at San Miguel de Allende who objected. I said SI-ldja instead of SI-ya. He immediately left my table and joined others but only after reading me off. Yet never once had any of my Mexican friends objected. They all understood me. They even understand the castillian lisp for c before e and i although I never learned that so it was never a problem.
Now this has been a long description of learning Spanish at which I am good at writing but still learning about talking. I have never been discouraged. I have always enjoyed the process. About ten years ago I even matriculated as a freshman in the University of Zacatecas in its College of Literature and spent a year with them just to see if I had trouble either reading required texts, listening to lectures, understanding, speaking or participating in group projects. No trouble at all with anything, and a qualification of a 10 (A) for the year, I dropped out. One of my volunteer projects was the reading of Herodotus' History of the world in a Spanish Text. A 10 on this one too.
I have enjoyed every minute of my life here in Mexico. I can not only survive in Spanish but I can discuss politics, culture, customs, legalities, or whatever else might be necessary.
Am I fluent in Spanish? Clearly not so. Can I understand the special Mexican street language. Clearly not so. Do I want to? Clearly not so and not necessary. Any jokes that I don't understand (very few) can be explained to me in a few words. Can I read and understand Spanish Poetry. With great difficulty because poets tend to use words in very special ways and words and word forms that are often rarely used and seldom heard. Do I feel that I am missing something? Clearly not. Would I like to be more fluent? Clearly so.
We keep hearing the words Practice; Break down inhibitions; Make mistakes and then correct them; Participate. All true. It is all worth while.
As ever, jerezano