Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

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Lost Language Department – Up The Stairs

It’s been sort of a rough week for my head. It seems as though I’m not only losing my English but simultaneously sucking at Spanish. I guess the English started slipping over time and with such immersion, it’s only a matter of time before the grammar starts to go. According to my dad, my blogs are getting sloppier and sloppier. I now speak no language well.

Last week when I spent the afternoon at an estancia with my job, assisting Canadian tourists, I could see how my English was exaggerated and forced. It seemed like I was subconsciously speaking with a slight Spanish accent. But why?

How I Learned to Shut Up and Listen

I sat at a table of no fewer than fifteen people on the street Pio Nono, entry to Bellavista, the down-home party section of Santiago, Chile. I’d been invited to go out for a beer after the monthly critical mass bike ride, and we stacked our bikes tidily (handlebars to rear wheel) against a nearby tree and set to the matter at hand. We sat at a long series of card tables extending down the street, each of us perched on one of those ubiquitous white plastic chairs, serving ourselves beer into small glasses from the liter bottles of Escudo on the center of the tables. Some, drinkers of fan-schop (a Chilean specialty), mixed theirs with Fanta. I drank mine plain, and listened.

I arrived to Chile in 2004, with way more than a passing knowledge of Spanish. Between high school and a couple of travel and study stints in the mundo hispanohablante (Spanish-speaking world), I could express myself fairly well, if not cleverly. Hadn’t I explained the electoral college to a group of teachers in Antigua, Guatemala in the 90s? Wasn’t it me who grabbed other travelers by the hand to take them to the post office, the bus station, to get their hair cut? I enjoyed helping, expressing, being in charge. I could get you a seat on the bus, a doorstop, tape to fix a book – you name it. I could ask for it directly or circumlocute it. I spoke, and people understood. At the time, I felt that this was the only necessary linguistic accomplishment. You, listen to me. And then it was over.

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