Saturday, June 2, 2018

Into the Mystery of a New Language

Desafortunadamente. Eight syllables … des a for tu nad a men te. It’s like champagne bubbles on your tongue … all fizzing together to mean unfortunately.

Words like desafortunadamente thrill me … even when they make me feel like I’m reciting the Gettysburg Address in a normal conversation. Will the listener pay attention long enough for me to get to the finish line of this one word? Plus, that marathon word drains all the thoughts that were supposed to follow it. Unfortunately, … uh … what? Oops, it’s gone.

Studying Spanish is fun, frustrating, exciting, rewarding, humbling, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. Interestingly, I’m also learning more about English … and forgetting how to spell … especially all those words with double letters since Spanish seldom uses them … except for “ll” which used to be considered a separate letter, now it's just a letter combination pronounced like  “y."

Sun and Moon
There are many words in Spanish that are beautiful … to my ear and my tongue. Here are just a few ... the accents are important and marked with ( ) and (i) is pronounced as a long (e) … 
al (men) dra … almond 
seren (i) dad … serenity
(jun) tos … together ... j sounds like h ... (hun) tos
fan ta (sí) a … doesn’t that sound much more alluring than “fantasy”
o ja (lá) … hopefully or “God willing!”
man da (ri) na … mandarin orange
zan a hor (i) a … isn’t that better than carrot?
(al) ma … soul
Mi alma shouts ojalá when I have a fantasía about eating una mandarina with almendras. Try it. It’s like face yoga. 
Learning a different language seems to be changing the way I think. The difference between “I like to read” and “Me gusta leer” is subtle but intriguing. “I like to read” is a closed statement, a fact, a period. If there is a follow up question, it would probably be, “What do you like to read?"

“Me gusta leer" means that reading is pleasing to me. It’s more of an open statement, with a comma, inviting a different conversation … “Why does it please you?”

Me gusta esta nueva idioma. I like learning this new language for many reasons … I like the sounds, I like the feeling of having my brain tangled as I search for words and phrases, I like seeing the veil thin between me and the thoughts and words of others. 
Me gusta la sensación de ser una principiante. I like the feeling of being a beginner, of having beginner’s mind. Especially at this stage of life when so much is already done, known, or experienced, learning a new language opens up nooks and crannies in my mind that I didn’t know existed. 

It's the "thin thighs in thirty days" thing.

Ojalá, tengo sufficiente tiempo y energía para continuar.  I hope I have enough time and energy to continue. When I began this language journey, I had a goal. Somewhat like “thin thighs in thirty days,” I wanted to “be fluent as soon as possible.” 

I now know I will never be fluent in the sense of being a native Spanish speaker. However, I intend to become functional. I want to be able to have conversations in Spanish. I long to be able to hear stories from people who have lived completely different lives and who see the world in ways I’ve never experienced. 

Desafortunadamente, I started late on this journey.

Fortunadamente, all the time I have is mine to spend as I wish. 
What a gift! 
¡Qué un regalo!


  1. YES, exactly, changing the way one thinks..
    Because culture is hidden within the language.
    I love you calling it "inviting".
    When I have a conversation with a Mexican friend, I don't have my grownup MONITOR in place, that is, I speak like a child from my heart.

  2. Thanks, Susa ... I look forward to having conversations like that.