Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Speak Six Languages

A short story:

La clase esta en la escuela.
La maestra esta en la clase.
La maestra dice - Buenos tardes, chicos!
Los chicos grita - Adios, senorita!
La maestra esta cansada. Ella se sienta en la silla.
El maestro corre en la clase. El mira la maestra.
El maestro dice - Hola, senorita.
La maestra ve el maestro y sonrie. La maestra no esta consada.
El maestro dice - Ven conmigo a-
Maria corre en la clase y grita - Senorita!
La maestra grita - Maria! Adios! Ven a tu casa!
El maestro ve Maria va y el rie. El ve la mesa grande y el maestro sonrie.
La maestra dice - Aqui?

Today was the second session of my "Spanish For Teachers" class. I'm enjoying it so far - it's very hands on, low grammar emphasis, high practical use focus. The dialog above was written me and three other students/teachers using the words we've learned in the last week.

Despite our group's assurances that the two teachers were only going to use la mesa grande to review the CSAP data together, our performance of the scene garnered quite a few laughs and many winking references throughout the class. (I played El Maestro - there was only one guy in the class tonight, and he was in the other group.) My group made sure everybody knew that the la mesa grande bit was my idea. I, however, take pride in my attempt to write subtext despite a working vocabulary of only 30 words.

During our introductions at the first class, many people mentioned other languages they've studied. Here's my count, in chronological order:

  • American Sign Language (thanks to Grandma Dorothy, who quickly taught the not-yet-speaking me important words like "cookie")
  • English (obviously)
  • German (2 years worth at the DODDS school in Landstuhl)
  • French (studied in middle school/high school, accent gleaned from ma grandmere)
  • Russian (college/summer 2007)
  • and now Spanish.
I'm leaving out Swahili, since 1) I've surpassed it already in my Spanish studies, 2) I never got to hear it from or speak it to a native speaker, and 3) it would screw up the perfectness of the song title for my post title.

What makes me sad is how little I retain of the languages. I'm good for counting at least to 10 in all of those, a few pleasantries, plus a smattering of other words. After English, I'm most proficient in French, but 1) I've had far more chances to practice it and 2) I studied it for much longer than the others. Still, I'm kind of proud to realize what a polyglot I might be.

I have already put my Spanish to use. A few days ago, the students in my 5th period were checking in. They always pass it from student to student, passing it to me last of all. I was sitting on a table near some students in the corner (trying to keep them from talking) as one of them did his check-in:

Ruben: Hi, my name is Ruben. One new word I learned last week is "ratio". I pass it too...
Jonathan: Thinking he's going to "get me" as he whispers Ruben! A la maestra!
Me: Smoothly, without looking up from the attendance I was taking You can pass it to me if you want.
Jonathan: Astonished You speak Spanish, Miss?
Me: Si. Who are you going to pass it to, Ruben?

I emailed my Spanish teacher this dialog, and she was quite proud of me.

Hasta luego!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Now I'm singing this song in my head. Thanks a lot!
    (the comment that was deleted accidentally had "a lot" spelled "alot" and it made me laugh and think of the posters in your room. I couldn't dare leave such an error on your blog!)