Killing you softly with my mangled words

January 15, 2013 in Costa Rica On The Horizon by Scott Alexander

Things are coming together rather nicely as I prepare to make my exit. So I’m going to fill you in now on one of my larger and ongoing projects: learning Spanish.

¿Habla Español?

Si!!!!

No, not really. As evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this in English, although I was only talking about speaking, not writing. Yo escribe! Look at me. I’ve got a subject and a verb there. I know what’s up!

Seriously, though, I could absolutely kick myself for not buying Rosetta Stone for Latin American Spanish when I first moved to Miami. Of all places to learn it, South Beach is probably one of the best places. And while I’m still in the very early stages of learning, I feel like it’s coming along quite nicely. It doesn’t hurt that I hear Spanish every day. The guy in the alley? Our conversations are no longer a resignation of comprehension on my part but more of a little-engine-that-thinks-he-can determination to communicate, both in listening and trying to speak to him. It’s amazing. And I understand him better each day!

A friend of mine (for whom Spanish is a second language) has suggested that I watch telenovelas on Univision. Because, unlike the news, which will be spoken quickly and filled with a lot of technical terminology, the dialogue in the telenovela will run at a much slower pace and be much more practical in the day-to-day. Solidly good advice, I do believe. However, I hear Spanish all the time without television. At the market. At work. On the street. Any time I set foot outside this door, and often behind this door with my windows open. People walking by, arguing en Español. Or any of my neighbors wandering up and down the steps of the building on the phone with whoever.

As I’ve been going through the lessons in Rosetta Stone, I’ve realized that I’ve picked up a number of words since being here that I didn’t know before. I’ve just been amazed really at how natural the program feels. I hope my downstairs neighbor appreciates the fact that I leave my windows open for her amusement as I sit here alone, talking about and TO el perro y el gato who are temporarily living with me.

Work is great now, too. Because I work with a lot of people who speak Spanish natively and they happily and easily correct my pronunciation and teach me any number of things. I’m just hoping they don’t screw me up like I did the French guy at work who had just taken an order for delivery to one of the bungalows at a hotel and wanted to know how to enunciate that word. After saying the word over and over, back and forth to one another, the guilt set in, I finally stopped laughing, and I told him that in fact, no, “bunghole” isn’t the correct pronunciation.

So my advice to any newcomer to Miami: learn Spanish. Probably one of the few places in the US where it fills the everyday culture but isn’t necessary to survive. You’re going to be around it. You’re going to hear it spoken everywhere. You’re going to see it written everywhere. Context everywhere. It’s going to be easier to pick up. You’ll have endless opportunities to practice in the day-to-day world. Start with hola. Work up from there.

Says the man who can tell you that “the monkey is eating twelve green eggs” but can’t yet ask “What’s the best way to get monkey poop off a table?” At least not yet. Hopefully, I won’t have to. Though, it looks like I’m going to have to learn how to say “Stop stealing my stuff, Monkey!” Monkey thievery is apparently an issue. And yes, Spanish is the native language of the White-headed Capuchin. Fact!

One of the blogs that I’ve been paying attention to lately is delapuravida.com, the blog of an expat living in Costa Rica, and she actually JUST wrote about learning Spanish. I was actually pleased to discover when I read that that I already knew how to say (and write!) the three things on the list! Woohoo!

So there you have it. I’m on my way, I’m making it. I’ll soon be having wonderfully clear conversations with Papi!

(Oh, by the way… new layout for the site. I think this is going to work well. I’m going to build out galleries here the way that I did at the old site. More on this later.)

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