I Just Gotta Do It

In an effort to continue my journey in the Spanish language, and to make things easier, I have acquired a new Spanish tutor. He’s British but he is a fluent speaker. I’m pretty sure he will help me get back up on my kindergarten bicicletta with the Espanol training wheels.

I had fallen off after our horrible non-intensivo, intensivo class. And I had avoided getting back up. Sure, I have labeled everything in our house with their corresponding Spanish words. The delivery guys have found this amusing when they came in to deliver various things and pointed at my visual prompts taped to walls, light switches, chairs, windows – and laughed. But it’s working for me in a passive sort of ‘learning without trying’ kind of way.

But even I knew it couldn’t last. I would eventually have to jump back into the river (yeah, I’m mixing metaphors) and swim in Spanish language waters again. My new tutor seemed like a good choice since he spoke no Spanish 3 years ago and is now teaching Spanish to several people I know. I’ve watched their impressive progress, so we met and started off our new working relationship.

He also has a Valencian girlfriend – I’ll call her Marta – who is a chef. Her English and my Spanish are, if not equally as bad, they’re living in the same dodgy neighborhood. So she and I met with another friend of mine to do an ‘intercambio’. They have these little meet ups all over Valencia – usually at a bar – and they advertise for native English and Spanish speakers to get together over drinks and alternate speaking in each other’s languages. The theory is that everybody will get better.

Now I haven’t dated in decades. I never really knew how to do it anyway. Meeting a stranger, finding something to talk about, going to the bathroom and calling a friend asking them to call your phone in 10 minutes with some sort of emergency, and finally leaving. But at least it was in a language you knew. The attendance of one of the general ‘bar intercambio’ seemed too much like a speed date, but much, much harder. Finding a topic to discuss with someone you can barely communicate with over drinks in a dark location, then sifting through the your terribly limited vocab, stringing together sentences like a toddler and them moving on to the next person. And struggling to do it all again.

So Marta and my other friend and I decided to form our own group and avoid the bar scene. The upside of this is that Marta comes right from work and brings food. Amazing food. And she brings bags of it. So I got home last night after our intercambio bearing gifts. Jeff is starting to see the upside of my new found commitment to my Spanish studies.

We spent the first 15 minutes speaking Spanish – or my version of it. And then we did 15 minutes in English. I learned how to have rudimentary smack talk in Spanish about Germany losing in the World Cup. Adding to my vocabulary for things like ‘perdedor’, ‘juego’, ‘presumir’ and much more. And Marta learned how to talk about driving and parking in Valencia, all in English. She learned new words and phrases like ‘Son of a Bitch’ and ‘asshole’ and ‘line hugger’. Things that will stand her in good stead if she decides to drive in Los Angeles at rush hour, or tries to park her car on the street in San Francisco.

We’ve decided we’ll meet every Wednesday and help each other. Sure, I’ll learn a bunch of stuff and the meet ups are tasty. Perhaps I’ll even bring Emilie with me for a few of these get togethers, because I think she could use it too. Just now our apartment buzzer rang and Emilie answered it in the kitchen. After moment she held out the hand set to me and in a bored-teenager-tone said ‘It’s a Spanish person’. I was so astounded at her need to tell me that  – and her apparent surprise that the person on the other end of the phone would be anything other than that – I broke out laughing.

But it’s not really funny. We need to be able to communicate much more effectively. And I think it’s time I took Emilie on the journey with me. Clearly, her new beach volleyball friends aren’t pushing her to use the little vocabulary she possesses. My goal is to be able to go to the Doctor with an interpreter and to get a newer version of our Padron in preparation for our driving license tests. If I can speak enough Spanish to accomplish that it will be major milestone. Or un hito importante!

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