As the year came to a close, I began to look back at my time in Colombia. Obviously, one of my bigger commitments I made was my desire to learn this language called “Spanish.” I thought that after I finished the course, I’d be speaking perfectly. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’ve spent the past 6 months studying a minimum of ten hours a week in the classroom, private lessons scattered in between, and thousands of drunken conversations in a bar slurring Spanish curse words. I’ve dated girls who didn’t speak my language (one which I had a strong relationship with), befriended people who don’t understand the meaning of hello, and have learned how to successfully tell taxi drivers that they are a piece of shit when they decide to rip me off because I’m a gringo.
I’ve had mistakes that range from truly embarrassing and all the way to absolutely hilarious. I still mix up the phrases “I’m scared” and “I need to take a crap.” In my defense, they sound very similar.
I can’t roll my r’s, and I tell people it’s a lost cause when they try to help me.
I’ve had successful interviews in Spanish, read complicated texts, and have gone days without speaking a word of English.
I was once talking with my girlfriend (who doesn’t speak any English) and her mother about the operation her dog was about to have. Her dog (which everyone in the entire world wants to kill besides her and her sister) had the desire to hump everything in sight. Thus, it was time to neuter that punk. During our conversation, her mother was explaining what was about to happen (in Spanish) and asked if it was common in the United States. I thought she asked me if I have been neutered before. One word. Awkward.
For the past four months, I have read almost entirely in Spanish. I’m a political/economic dork, so I find myself drawn to the “nerd” section in the bookstore. Reading in a different language really opens your eyes to a different perspective. One book on my list is an analyst of September 11 by a Colombian Political Scientist. That should be interesting.
Sometimes when it’s hot outside, I’ll forget that I can’t just say, “I’m hot.” Instead, I have to use a different verb. When I forget this and say “I’m hot,” I’m pretty much saying I’m horny. Talk about the looks I get.
Spanish through the telephone is close to impossible. Several times I thought I had been invited to dinner, only later to realize I hadn’t. The latter usually comes when I’m trying to decide exactly what wine to bring, and thus, feeling like a complete dumb ass.
I once tried to order a piece of tres leches (three milk cake) in a supermarket. At first she didn’t understand me. No problem… I understand my accent isn’t the best. I repeated it again, and she just gave me a puzzled look. I then held up three fingers, and played a game of charades in order to demonstrated milk. She then called over the manager to figure out what the hell I wanted. Out of every Colombian dessert out there, nothing else has the number three in it…. but she still didn’t get it.
I was accepted into a masters program here, entirely done in Spanish. I aced my interview, they believe that my level is sufficient enough in order to achieve high marks. But, the lady who was selling tres leches doesn’t agree.
Whenever I think I have this language down, something happens and shows me that for the rest of my life, I will never be perfect. And then I remind myself… keep at it. One day, I’ll be able to understand that my girlfriend’s mother really isn’t as disrespectful as she sounds by asking if I have been neutered.