Since mid-October I’ve been learn­ing Span­ish, mostly while I drive my car. I’m using the Pim­sleur Method, of which I highly approve. I can now speak Span­ish far bet­ter than I could after tak­ing three quar­ters at Emory.

I can speak, but not read or write it very well. That’ll come later. They don’t want me doing that yet.

The Pim­sleur Method is based on the recog­ni­tion that most peo­ple on the planet who’ve learned a lan­guage, i.e., chil­dren, learn to speak it pretty dang well before they can read any­thing. They learn by speak­ing and hear­ing, a lit­tle bit at a time, and fig­ure out on their own verb tenses and conjugations.

I spend about 45 min­utes a day speak­ing and hear­ing Span­ish. What I’ve learned is mostly tourista Span­ish. We talk about mak­ing reser­va­tions, order­ing food, make small talk about the weather and people’s families.

After fin­ish­ing the first 86 of 120 lessons, I can now order Mex­i­can food and con­verse with my servers in Span­ish about it. I can make small talk with lovely senori­tas at the bar. That goes some­thing like this:

Me: Vienes aqui con fre­quen­cia?* (Do you come here often)

And the senorita gen­er­ally says some­thing which in con­text sounds some­thing like, “I think you’re a creepy old man.” (There seems to be inter­cul­tural con­sen­sus on this point.)
But I’m also learn­ing basic con­ver­sa­tional struc­ture and a rea­son­ably good abil­ity to be under­stood that I think will serve me well in a vari­ety of situations.

Let’s say I’m in Mex­ico and am con­fronted after din­ner by a ban­dito in a dark alley who says, “Hey gringo, I want your lunch money muthafucka.”

Now, if the guy looks stoned, I might take this tack: “Lo siento, no hablo ingles. Entiendo “mutha­fucka,” pero que quere decir “lunch money” in espanol?” (I’m sorry. I don’t speak Span­ish. I under­stand “mutha­fucka,” but what does “lunch money” mean in Span­ish?). And then, while he’s try­ing to parse that out (“Quere decir su dinero para com­prar su almuerzo”), I run away.

But let’s say he doesn’t appear likely to fall for that one, then I go with the in-your-face assault. I say, “Acabo de ter­mi­nar comer mi madre,” which I believe to mean, “I just fin­ished eat­ing my mother.”

To which he might reply, “Lo siento, no es el hom­bre pense. Quizas pro­dria com­prar le una cervesa.” (I’m sorry, you are not the man I thought. Maybe I could buy you a beer)

But let’s say he presses the issue, that he’s one of those des­per­ate hom­bres about whom one hears so much, and he says, “No creo que a comido su madre.” (I don’t believe that you have eaten your mother)

I then say, “Mide! Mide aqui entre mis dientes. Hay mi madre.” (Look! Look here between my teeth. There’s my mother)

At this point he’s look­ing wor­ried, unable to tell your com­mon carne from mama meat, and I press the advantage.

Quere que debo comer su madre. No hace me hacer lo. Donde esta su madre? Creo que va a sere muy deli­ciosa.” (Do you want that I should eat your mother? Don’t make me do it. Where is your mother? I think she’s going to be very tasty)

But now he’s impressed that I’ve remem­bered to use “deli­ciosa” instead of “deli­cioso” since I’m still refer­ring to his mother, a fem­i­nine noun, and he says. “Por favor senor, podria ayu­dar me con mi ingles?” (Please sir, could you help me with my English)

Com­pra mi muchas cervesas, entonses podemos hablar.” (You buy me many beers, then we can talk)

*A note on spelling. No lo sais. I’m just mak­ing my best guess from the way it sounds.

  • Benji
    • Benji

      What I said was “applause”, but I put it in pointy brack­ets so I think word­press thought that I was mak­ing a really stu­pid HTML tag and thus did not dis­play it.