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Monday, June 27, 2016

Spanish

Spanish was the third language that I learned to speak (after Russian and English). When I was in high school, I decided that I should probably take Spanish, being half-Cuban and all, and had a really fun teacher that mostly taught us how to dance merengue. I then switched high schools in my sophomore year and got a phenomenal teacher who only spoke Spanish in the classroom. I understood nothing the first day. But no better way to learn than to dive right in, and so by the time college came around, my Spanish was good enough to take the highest level language classes. What finally did the trick was spending a semester in Spain. So there I was, comfortably blabbering away by 21, putting my tongue between my teeth when pronouncing the soft c's (Spain's Spanish style). CiudadCiruela. Palacio. 

But as they say, if you don't use it, you lose it, and it's been hard to keep up my language skills without having the opportunity to practice much.  Sometimes I try to watch TV in Spanish (started on this Netflix show not too long ago). Let's be honest though: nobody wants to exercise the brain muscle when watching TV, so back to English I go. (This is why documentaries and foreign films with subtitles are not the most popular genre, my friends.)

I've been fortunate this year that most of my billable and pro bono work at the law firm has been in Spanish (thank you, Latin American clients), and I spend most of my days reading and communicating in this beautiful language.

I'm hesitant to speak Spanish out in the world, though. Afraid that I might not understand everything 100% or that I might get lost in the country-specific accents, I often say "un poquito" when someone asks if I speak Spanish. Today, though, when a woman trying on shoes next to me asked "Hablas espaƱol?" I felt brave. Si, I said. And we chatted away about what color shoes would best go with her new black, red, and white dress. Black, we decided.

On the way home, I tried to buy some watermelon from a street vendor, in Spanish, again, but only had 1.75 in cash. Twenty-five cents short. Delicious watermelon left behind.

Then, a woman needed help finding an embassy, and I navigated her, with Spanish pronunciation of English street names, to her destination. Final exchange of the day of the rolling r', the long ah's, and the v's that sound like b's.

When I got home, I was happy. Happy that I felt brave. Happy that I could casually chat with someone about shoes, or watermelon, or directions. Happy that I didn't hold back.




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