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.


Filed under Bogota, Colombia

5 responses to “Spanish

  1. JP-Money

    Classic Tabone! Glad to see you are back and doing well. Keep that spanish up and won’t lie…I cracked up reading your post.

  2. MS

    To be fair, many people here would petition to have you neutered. I can hardly hold it against the poor woman.

    Glad to hear everything is going well though. Also glad to see you blogging again. Keep up the good work!

  3. Craig

    You’re getting there! But it takes a long time. After all these years, I’m still checking in at La Cooperativa to brush up.

  4. Dona Riel

    Love that you’re writing again, and love this one! These are some of the memories you’ll have for a lifetime. I had to file a police report in Baja once and turns out I reported my panties had been stolen (versus pants.) And in Italy decades ago, walking with a group of non-english speakers who tsk tsked upon seeing someone in cutoffs, I said “Many people in the U.S. go without shoes.” Looks of puzzlement & I nodded smilingly. Later after much walking, they asked if I was tired. I thought I was saying “I’m not tired, but my shoes are” since I forgot the word for feet. Looks of utter shock at this one. I nodded smilingly. Later learned the word I thought was shoes was… pants … no wonder they were shocked. ( “Are you tired?” “No, but my pants are…”) These are great memories, please keep writing !!

  5. Leo


    Or as they say in Colombia, Parce, great blog post!! And the comment posted my MS was hilarious.

    Keep doing your thing out there.


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