Tag Archives Spanish

Teaching the verb: to fall off (and other language challenges)

A boat depicted on tiles on an ugly graffiti-sprayed wall in Cartagena.
Taken with my camera Sunday afternoon.

After resting for at least some of this last weekend, I am feeling much better.

And having freed up so much time and energy previously spent feeling sorry for myself, I can now speak Spanish.

I admit, it still involves a lot of waving my arms, but I’m speaking words without translating first from English. They spew out my mouth, sometimes nonsensically, often in a higgledy-piggledy mess, but they are vocalised. This I take to be a major achievement. It takes a certain willingness to make a fool of yourself to speak a foreign language.

Of course, I reserve my best acting for teaching my English classes. Today I was trying to explain to the twelve-year-olds how Guy Fawkes fell off the gallows and broke his neck… All I can say is that I blame my mother who has been my story telling mentor. I still have much to learn from her, but I’m putting in the hours of practice.

But back to Spanish. I’m fed up with my miniscule vocabulary and so I’m on a mission to learn the most common words in Spanish with great urgency. I need to learn everything twice because nobody here speaks like a textbook. I don’t blame them in the slightest. However, for a new learner the unique character of the local accent (and sometimes additional dialect words) provides an extra layer of challenge. For example, the textbook chapters on plurals are unnecessary for this region and studying them has been a waste of time. The people here don’t bother with the letter ‘s’.

Adios’ becomes ‘Adioh’.

So, whilst I can make myself more or less understood on an increasingly frequent basis, I still know nothing of what is being said around me. Occasionally I understand a few words. For example, I understood the other night that Charles Dickens had become a factor in the conversation, yet, all the same, I had no idea whether those around me who were passionately discussing him actually liked him or not.

But I’m learning, and I’m healthy again, and my students know that attempting to kill a monarch is a very serious crime. So everything’s good.

Moving to a country where you don’t speak the language (and other great ideas)

I haven’t yet taken a picture of my new home, so instead you’ll have to settle for a confused red panda.

Yo tengo sueño.

I am tired. Something to do with waking a few hours after laying my head on the pillow last night. I had a plane to catch, and inevitably didn’t sleep well. Does anyone ever sleep well when they’re waiting for a half-three alarm? Like the temporary Spanish citizen that I am, I caught up on my sleep when I finally arrived at my temporary apartment, but I’m still drained from it all. Sleep does not necessarily equate energy although of course it helps. My energy, however, is lost in a whirlpool of change. There’s so much to catch up on that I feel like I’m floating in a daze.

I am here for eight months or so. Not in this apartment as such, but in this city, in this country and in this language. A language which I do not speak. Somewhere I once read that there’s no better way of learning a language than completely immersing yourself in it. I guess I’m about to put this to the test.

Ahora, yo vivo y trabajo en España.

Now I am living and working in Spain I’m going to have to master the language. Prior to my arrival, I communicated with my landlady in written Spanish. I can write a decent text message if you give me time, a translation app, a dictionary and a notebook to write my many drafts. When I’m stood at a bus stop trying to write a message quickly to say where I am so that said landlady can find me, my Spanish reaches its limits.

Soy aquí.

Which anyone who’s listened to Shakira knows should be ‘estoy  aquí’. By the time I was in the car, and my landlady was explaining that she was sorry for being late, my brain was overheating. It didn’t help that temperature wise we’re in the thirties here.

Once I settled into the passenger seat of ‘el coche de color negro’, the black car, though, I discovered that my landlady had a few words of English and I had a few words of Spanish, and we proceeded to chatter for the next twenty minutes – sometimes we understood each other. Interestingly, my first lesson was that the people from around here don’t only treat ‘h’ as a silent letter, but also ‘s’.

Yo soy de Yorkshire, y en Yorkshire no decimos ‘t’, por ejemplo, decimos ‘water’ como ‘wa’er’.

Now, for the important news. I have a bed, it’s comfy. I have found the Mercadona supermarket and have stocked up on necessities like sun-cream and shampoo – all those liquids which are too heavy for fussy airport weighing scales. I have Lapsang Souchong tea, which is the tea I drink, in my own mug and enough food to last me until lunchtime tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s plan is to wander, explore, and chill. Yes, it’s going to be a day for working out things like buses. But mostly it’s going to be a day to catch my breath. Settle down into where I am and listen in to how my body is adjusting. There is no rush. I’m not here for a week, I don’t need to try and make to most of it, I’ve got eight months to learn.