I am serious about learning Spanish. I have wanted to know a foreign language since I started noticing foreign words sprinkled here and there in stories and books I read as a teen. To me, this casual dropping of foreign words and phrases was the mark of a bright and worldly mind. Sometimes, I ruminate over the possibility that complete mastery of English might be a better goal but a desire for bilingualism is just more tantalizing.
We ran into our friends Jim and Marley a couple of days ago on the dusty Fronteras street. We had just been down to the fish market and left empty-handed because we were too intimidated to jump into negotiations with no-nonsense fishermen. We asked Jim and Marley if they had purchased fresh fish down where the fishing boats land with their catch. They really enjoy talking to the locals and, although they downplay their fluency, I suspect them of long, detailed conversations about politics and literature with local Guatemalans.
Jim replied that they know just enough Spanish to get them in trouble. He said that learning some basic phrases and being able to say them in a convincing accent will typically trigger a torrent of Spanish words and phrases well beyond their vocabulary, leaving you looking a little like a deer in the headlights. This is funny and so true at all levels. Even when you know only the basics, you want to use what you know and try to get better. But saying “How are you today?” or “What do you think of the weather?” makes you feel so fluent until, invariably, someone wants to answer you. Oh No! They think I know Spanish! Then you shake your head apologetically because embarrassment makes you forget that you did actually memorize how to say, “Lo siento, mi espanol is muy pequeno.” (Sorry my spanish is very small.)
So here is my thought. You have to approach Spanish immersion with a few handy sentences to clarify your fluency. This way, you can keep the conversational ball rolling and hopefully keep the learning ball rolling as well. I have looked up these handy sentences for the next time that someone answers one of my questions with TMS (too much Spanish).
“Que diria esto a un nino de dos anon?” translation – How would you say this to a two year old?
“Lo siento, que me perdi en la palabra (insert word)” tran – Sorry, I got lost at the word (insert word)”
“Dios mio. Puede repetir la parte mas importante muy mientras miro en mi diccionario.” tran – My goodness. Can you repeat the most important part while I look in my dictionary.”
Here are a couple of pics of Jake doing laundry!