Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do You Speak Spanish?

Q: Comprende?
A: No.

Last night I had a charming dinner with someone who, in as a definite way you can imagine, stopped a life in progress with a primary goal of leaning a foreign language. This involved quitting a successful career (or at least "pausing it") and relocating to another hemisphere. One of the reasons cited for such a course of actions was a desire to communicate with non-English speaking Grandparents.

I've often said, although jokingly, that I want to learn Spanish to better understand one of the greatest television programs in the medium's history: Sabado Gigante. A few years ago I met someone who actually went to a taping of that hugely popular Univision show and was told that even people who speak Spanish fluently have difficulty understanding the show. I still believe that if I enjoy the show as much as I do - knowing as little as I do - just knowing more Spanish must surely enhance the experience. Obviously, this isn't a heartwarming enough reason as my friend, and I won't be resigning and relocating any time soon.

There are probably ten friends I know that speak Spanish well enough to converse without effort. It's split down the middle from people with Native Latin American parents (and were raised to be bilingual) and those that have successfully added it to their verbal repertoire after having their speech fully embedded in English. All of them have urged me to try to learn it.

My 3+ years of high school Spanish have left me with a comical, at best, grasp of the language. The following, in no particular order, are my ten favorite Spanish sayings:

Donde esta la zappateria?
One of my favorite words, in any language, is the above word for "shoe store." The alliteration of the 'z' and pop of its second syllable is like orator candy.

No me digas?
In high school there was a video we watched that featured this phrase - it was instantly hilarious to me. The loose translation is "You don't say?" and was said in a tone that felt like "GET OUTTA HERE?" There is a coworker who I use this phrase to constantly, whenever I'm told borderline unbelievable news.

Que lata!
My high school text translated this as "What a drag!" Almost fifteen years later, as I look back I still find that an odd thing to have in a text book.

Es la verdad. Es la pura verdad.
You can thank Benicio Del Torro for this gem. I loved the movie Traffic and found a scene in which this phrase was said especially moving. The subtitles translated it as "It's the truth, it's the pure truth." Since this film's release, friends have told me a more accurate translation is "complete" or "whole" truth. I use it in response to if someone might say "No me digas" to me.

Que ridiculo!
Straight up quote from The Big Lebowski. Rarely used outside people who would instantly recognize it as a movie quote and not that I think something is actually worth noting as ridiculous.

Tienes chicle?
The most worthwhile grammar skill I retained from my 'formal' Spanish classes was the verb "tener" ("to have") and how to say "tengo" (I have) and "tienes" (you have). For some reason I must have realized that I'd need to know Spanish only in times of desperation - in which I would need to communicate something that I didn't have or to find out it others did. I asked a former coworker how to say "Do you have any gum?" as an indirect way of finding out if they did.

Oh, Dios mio!
You don't really need to know Spanish to know this is "Oh my God." I recently had someone say this to me in a quite unsettling manner to me (hugely comical to a few others).

Vaya con dios.
Personally, it's the least used of all these I'm listing. That's probably for the better. There's such a finality in saying, "Go with God" but I find it poetic.

Buena Suerte
"Good Luck" were always the famous last words before every Spanish exam.


More and more people find saying, "God bless you" after a sneeze. You have to admit that this word for "health" is a much better term to say after one sneezes. My boss from my previous employ used to say "gesundheit" after every sneeze. I always suspected he also didn't find the 'god bless you' comfortable.

In an oddly related note, "Tomas" might be the 3rd most popular nomenclature others assign me (behind "Tom" and "TQ"). "Thomas" is a distant fourth and if you call me by the fifth option you obviously don't know me and I'm too polite to correct you.

1 comment:

  1. If you need some help practicing, I might be of some use to you.