Monday, November 3, 2008

Me llamo Stephanie

I finally did it. I signed up for Spanish class. Every year I look at the book and every year the class is on a night of the week I have regular meetings. But this year, miraculously, my Wednesdays were relatively clear.

Before I went I was a little nervous. I haven’t taken a beginning language class since middle school. There were three choices back then. Those of us who imagined we would one day enjoy a baguette and a glass of merlot in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, signed up for French. Those who were more practical and who wanted to, oh I don’t know, talk to actual people who spoke the language they were learning, took Spanish. And those who wanted to buck the entire system took German.

Seeing as how my family roots lie in French Canada, I saw it as my duty to my ancestors to learn French. But years later, all this amounts to is an occasional crossword clue and knowing how to correctly pronounce the titles of the French movies that play at the Hippodrome.

Spanish is a much more useful language. Most members of my husband’s family speak Spanish and my dream is to attend family events and be able to understand toasts and wedding vows. Also, thanks to Danny’s family I have plenty of people to practice (and embarrass myself) with. Because embarrassing yourself is an integral part of the language learning process. Like walking up to a French woman and saying, “I like your socks!” when you really mean glasses.

My class is held in a local middle school. It started out pretty simple, but by the end of our two hour session I wanted TO KILL MYSELF.

Our venezualan teacher was moving her way through vowel sounds. This is what "a" sounds like etc. We moved on to the consonants and were half way through she asked, Hay Preguntas? (Any Questions?)

A woman raised her hand, “Yes, how do you say sky blue? You know like the paint color at Lowes?”

The teacher looked confused, but answered the question. I gave this woman the benefit of the doubt, maybe she couldn’t wait until later for this information because later that night she was flying to Madrid to paint a house. Who knows?

After the alphabet, we learned some simple phrases. Starting with, “Como se llama?” (What is your name?) We practiced it a couple times and were about to move on to the next phrase when the teacher asked, Hay Preguntas?

Now, most people would think that the question “What is your name?” is pretty straightforward. Those people would be wrong. According to my new classmates, the phrase has infinite and sundry interpretations. A lesson that should have taken ten minutes dragged on for forty-five as people asked questions like:

Which name are you asking for? My full name or my nick name? Should I also say my middle name? How do I ask someone for their last name? Do you mean my name as it would appear on a job application? Or what my mother calls me? My name is Ed. But my full name is Edward John Clancey the III, should I give that name to the person asking? Or just say Ed?

The teacher was, understandably, a bit perturbed. She kept trying to explain a concept that any five year old would have gotten immeadiately. “The question is just, what is your name.”

It didn’t stop there. One man asked, “Wait, so you’re asking for the number?”

Again, the teacher looked confused. I could feel her wondering, are these people smoking crack laced with loco juice? “Noooooo,” she said slowly, “this question is asking someone their name. That’s it. If it’s a job you can give your full name if you want. But if it’s like, your neighbor asking your name, just say your name.”

The class was still skeptical, but we moved on. I was happy when we didn’t cover more deeply philosophical questions as “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is love?” Because if we had I might have shot someone.

For next week we’re supposed to bring in two words or a phrase we looked up, something we might use in class. I think mine’s gonna be, “Can it assholes. I’m trying to learn Spanish.”


Anonymous said...

Cayete translates to "Shut up"!

Anonymous said...

Is danny joining you for these classes, if not please make him so that he do more than order a diet coke in spanish. said...

Hey, I have scrabble in Spanish! We can practice together both French and Spanish, just in case we need either one. And don't worry, I'm a good teacher, I won't laugh too much :0)

BTW, just got laid off so I'm free! Going to be working from home permanently for my own Web Design company, so this is my shameless plug....Need a Website? Get said...

Oh yeah! Almost forgot, looks like the signs in your lawn were not in vain! Change is here :0)

Sugared Ellipses... said...

FYI, "Callete pendejos. Estoy intentando aprender espaƱol." If you really want to be a prick to your teacher, ask her how to say "this night" in Judaeo-Spanish. I took four years in high school plus one semester in college and I can sum up what I know in one word - poquito.

madwoman said...

I hate it when people are such anal worrywarts and ask so many stupid questions. Once in college I had a professor who waved all those questions away. She was just leaning on a wall totally relaxed saying "Do the paper however you want, as long as it contains the information, I don't care how you do it." So I was like, cool. I did much of my research drinking beer and floating in the pool in various bathing suits and I thought it was a fabulously entertaining paper especially the part about waking up naked in the bathtub --while containing all the required info (and then some.) Boy was I shocked when I got an F. I was the only person who got an F (she was kind enough to inform me of this) and I also got an F in the class. No maestra -- BRUJA!