Saturday, September 01, 2007
For the last two weeks, I've been on a tear to brush up on my espanol before my trip to Mexico City on Monday to attend the Sexta Compentencia Mexicana de Baristas, or to us gringo types, the Sixth Annual Mexican Barista Championship.
Sure, I studied Spanish in high school. Three years worth. But that means nada in the real world when you've limited your spoken Spanish to the menu at Taco Hell: "Dohs tahcos, por fay-vor..." Jeez, I shudder at the thought.
Learning a new language is difficult. Trying to learn it in two weeks is nearly impossible. I'm still trying to remember the basic verbs of donde, que, quien, por que, cuando, cuanto y como. Luckily, my background in high school Spanish, along with my ability to speak pickup line Tagalog gives me an edge in the pronunciation department. It's not much, but it's something.
In my quest to learn, my first stop was the library language aisle where I picked up a Michel Tomas CD on basic Spanish. It was helpful but his pronunciation is much different than I'm used to, so I headed to the local Border's Books to find alternatives. While at Borders, I stopped this elderly gentleman who proceeded to quiz me on what "kind" of Spanish I wanted to learn. Conversational, please. Then he took me on a tour of the books and CDs available.
Now, I'm sure all of you have had the experience of meeting someone who just wouldn't shut up. That person, in their earnest, just keeps going on and on about some nonsense you couldn't care less about. At first, I thought this was one of those times, but as he continued asking questions and guiding me through the tomes I learned that he's an old university language professor from the United Kingdom and his recommendations were on the money. In other words, I got the right guy to do the job.
To bolster this learning experience, I've been listening almost exclusively to the local Latin radio station, where I've discovered that they have the same rotation of music over and over again, which is what I hate about the English-speaking pop stations. Then there's the movies. The available selection (to me) of Spanish language movies has been limited to: Y Tu Mama Tambien, El Crimen de Padre Amaro and Amarte Duele, with the occasional jaunt onto YouTube to watch clips from Le Hija del Mariachi, a Colombian telenovela.
However, since these are modern-day films featuring regular people doing somewhat regular things, the spoken language is very colloquial, meaning filled with slang and "expressive" language. And since the fun way to learn a language is by learning the "bad" words first, the Spanish in my mind is peppered with idioms such as: guey (dude), cabron (brother or asshole), pinche (fuck), chingar (to fuck), pendejo (asshole), or just general slangs such as: carnal (brother), que onda? (what's up?) or oye (yo).
This means that I can easily come up with: "Que te paso, pendejo?" (what's your problem, asshole?)
But then it's difficult for me to remember something proper, like: "Buenos dias. Senora Garcia. Mucho gusto."(Good day, Mrs. Garcia. It's a pleasure to meet you).