Spain—Day 7: The beauty and agony of a new language

A few things are happening with all of the spanish classes. Two of them in particular I’ll discuss.

One: it’s hard to explain what your life and conversations are like when you can only express yourself in the simplest terms possible. For someone like me, with a lifelong antipathy towards brevity and a sincere love of words (as ‘antipathy’ and ‘brevity’ in just this sentence show), it is strangely freeing to have to answer questions with a yes/no and a minimum of extraneous information.

It’s strictly out of necessity; my love of expression isn’t limited by language barriers, but my ability to express most certainly is. Rest assured that I’ll go right back to talking too much once I attain the necessary fluency and vocabulary en español. For now, though, it’s a little bit Zen having to strip every thought down to it’s barest essence.

Sample conversations, in spanish and then in english:
“¿Te gusta paella? (Do you like paella)”
Blank stare while I rapidly crunch through the adjectives that I know about food.
“Si. Me gusta paella. (Yes, I like paella)”

“Do you like paella?”
“Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s not in my top 5 favorite rice dishes of all times, but anything served with shrimp and meat can’t be all bad, right? Plus, it’s usually served family-style, where the whole table shares it, which is undeniably cool. It’s a good meal to have with wine and friends.”

So, you can see what happens here. Now, food is a pretty simplistic example, but it works with everything. When my roommates ask me what I do, I simply answer, “Soy musíco (I make music).” Which is a bad ass answer in any language. But I answer that question better than a lot of people. A lot of my friends have complicated answers that mention at least one day job and two side projects. I think we could all benefit from answering the big questions simply sometimes. “Do you like her?” “Yes.” None of this, “yes, but she’s just coming out of a thing and I’m traveling a lot, plus there’s this other girl and BLAH BLAH BLAH STOP TALKING.”

I think I may institute a conversational moratorium on clauses for certain conversations. Just answer the question simply with no extraneous commentary. It really is a dynamite way of cutting through the shit to get to the important stuff.

The second thing that’s happening is that I’m realizing how much of my personality is tied up in my ability to express myself. People who speak to me in just español never get a real sense of who I am, no matter how long the conversation. Why? I can’t joke in Spanish, and I can’t tease. I can’t make quips and play with words and tell funny stories or any of the dozens of things I love to do en íngles and do ALL THE TIME. It’s like I was given a lobotomy. And, like my grandfather always said, “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” That is a joke I wouldn’t tell en español even if I could. But it was one of his favorites.

Spanish para el dia: “He hecho una reserva, para esta noche.”
Translation: “I have a reservation for tonight.” I use this to check into hostels. I don’t need to, because everyone so far speaks english, but I let them get as far into the spiel in spanish everytime to try and practice. I’m getting better. I may no longer be the worst spanish speaker in the history of the language.

Comments are closed.