Learning to speak Spanish

22 Oct

Learning to speak a foreign language is easy. There are just two parts:

  1. Knowing the right thing to say
  2. Pronouncing it correctly

I’m still a little taken aback at the number of times I’ve actually said the right thing but mumbled it such that my instructor heard something else. Or maybe I really did say what he heard. In that case, there’s a disconnect between my brain and my tongue (and my ears?), which is a bit disconcerting.

When you’re still learning to speak, trying to communicate is a lot like playing the game Taboo. I can rarely express my English thought directly, but rather have to find some alternate way to express the idea using Spanish that I know. If you think of it like a game, it’s kind of fun. If you’d rather just be able to spit out the Taboo words, it’s kind of frustrating. There’s no buzzer, just blank looks. The worst is when people start speaking English to me. Then I know I have failed. It happened tonight while ordering pizza (there is a new Papa John’s in Arequipa! Daniel says it’s the best food he’s had in Peru). Ordering pizza with the menu in front of me is so simple it can be done without speaking! How could the clerk possibly think that the transaction would go smoother if he spoke in my language vs. me speaking in his language? By the way, swapping pronouns like I did in that last sentence is one of the more mind-bending things to do in Spanish. I still can’t say “I like eggs but they don’t like me.”

Thankfully, the monitor situation is now resolved. Saga took back both previous monitors and I bought the Samsung that I almost bought in the first place. It worked right away. My office is now complete: a good monitor, a reasonably comfortable chair, a scanner / printer, good surge protectors, and a place for my ergonomic keyboard and giant trackball. I’m beginning to feel at home.

3 Responses to “Learning to speak Spanish”

  1. kcauble October 23, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I love the Taboo example. You’ve hit on one of the most fascinating things in language learning — ie. thinking ‘Spanishly’. It’s not just a matter of inserting the right word or even the right phrase; your way of thinking must actually change as you learn to express yourself in Spanish modes of thought. Don’t be discouraged. It’s a forever challenge, and it’s fun.

  2. michael CHANDLER October 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    The pronunciation baffled us in Thailand. At least Spanish is not tonal but you can still muff words by not saying them right. The spoken tongue is much more difficult than the written. When I was working with the Japanese in Thailand, they could not understand what I was saying, so I wrote it on a piece of paper. Then they understood. Perhaps you might try it in Spanish. Carry around a magic slate! Maybe better to learn to speak it right. Of course then there are the local vocal traditions which may violate the formal rules.

    When ordering food, it is important to get it exactly right! Pictures, hand gestures, may have to trump words. So glad your office is now functional.

    Love, Dad


  1. Learning to understand Spanish | The Chandler Far Southern Times - November 5, 2013

    […] while back, I wrote a post about the simple steps to speaking Spanish. Well, I’ve got great news! It’s just as easy to learn to understand spoken Spanish. […]

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