Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I was interested in reading this in Spanish, just to see what trouble she'd get herself into in a Spanish house. Not that I can read the whole book yet, but I get the gist. The first job on her to-do list was cambia la cama (change the bed). "Donde la pondre?" penso Amelia. So she moves it all around the room, nearly blocking la puerta. Next, she was instructed to busco el periódico (look for the newspaper), so she turns the house upside down looking for it. It's outside near the doorstep, still unfound. Next on the list was dale una vuelta al perro. I'm still mystified with that request, even after consulting my dictionary - I know it has something to do with a dog. I'm thinking it means take the dog for a walk, but all Amelia did was pick it up off the couch and turn it around.
Meanwhile, Amelia whips up un pastel de merengue y limon (lemon merinque pie), because as she admits, "Yo hago muy buenos pasteles." (I make good pies.) Once again, she avoids getting fired.
There's a terrific Spanish section in our children's library that I'm exploring. The best thing about children's books are all their pictures and easy words. I'm feeling the pride that my kids felt when they mastered their first Doctor Seuss books.
Work at the university is LOCO! We're smack in the middle of spring registration, causing all the students to take a break from the classrooms and bars to visit our advising office. As I mentioned before, we are quite international and at the end of the day I feel like I've been day-trading in China. I also have a big story due for a magazine about the Perfect Winter. The thermometer just dropped to 56 degrees, helping me get into the mood. I still marvel at Julie Powell (Julie/Julia) who managed to work fulltime, then cook a gourmet meal and write about it every day. Rosetta will have wait a couple days before I can spend time with her again. Until then, hasta luego! (See you later!)
Monday, September 28, 2009
In any other language crash course I've explored to make foreign traveling easier, they always start out with introductions and descriptions of where you're from and where you'd like to go.
De donde son ustades? (Where are you from?) Ustedes son de Colombia. (I'm from Columbia.)
Sadly, I don't have a clear concept where Columbia is located, but at least now I could tell someone if I had to. The word for live is viver - and all its derivatives, vive, vivo, vivinos, etc.
This is can be confusing to the beginning language learner. All verb conjugations spill out quite naturally out of Rosetta's mouth, but it takes you a while to catch on to what is actually being said. More importantly, what you're expected to say when given the opportunity. Sometimes I get tripped up in my Franco-Italiano Spanglish, pronouncing en nasally like the French do, or spitting out Como se chiamo? in Italian, which sounds suspiciously like Como te llamo? What is your name? and means the same thing.
After swapping names, you politely respond, "Ecantado de concerte," Nice to meet you. We haven't yet got into how we're feeling but I'm sure we will soon, and the pictures should be hilarious, if Rosetta stays true to su colores. I can only imagine the picture of el niño looking sick to his stomach, or la mujer looking desperate for a drink after a long day. We'll see.
What still amazes me is how Rosetta hasn't uttered one word of English these last weeks, and we're friends; I understand her completely. It's like traveling abroad and communicating by body language. This is so important on many levels for me. 1) My mind is still able to absorb new and foreign information at age 50 with success, 2) Given the motivation, one can communicate with anyone else, regardless of language, 3) There is hope for world peace, or at least detante, if people just take the time to try to understand others. This may seem a little soppy, but throughout my life I have met and become friends with folks from Eygpt, Italy, France, Peru, and those of different races and religions in the US. I get energized from all these folks and their different cultures and perspectives. God must have really had fun creating all of us so differently, only to see if we were smart enough to build puentes between us all.
My dad, nearly 80 years old, is in Mexico with the Lion's Club as I write, building those bridges, fitting eyeglasses on people so they can see more clearly. He started learning Spanish 10 years ago and is thrilled to use it in such a meaningful manner. My dad is my hero - tackling new things with such enthusiasm and optimism, and using his knowledge to help others in his community and beyond our borders. While others lament growing old, my dad is embracing life and squeezing it for all its worth. May Our Lady of Guadalupe bless him and his mission in Mexico. With any luck, I'll be following his footprints.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I wasn't really sure what to expect - so I kept my mind open and my mouth closed. At least until I had to beg them to slow down and start over, slowly, so my retarded 50-year old brain and body could catch on to the new steps. They, meaning the handful of Latinos from St. B. parish and my Anglo friend Ann; the steps meaning the Indian-type shuffle we were doing to the beat of a huge Congo drum.
I have never been to Our Lady's Feastday celebration before, but Ann tells me it's quite a wonderful and spiritual experience. We meet at, get this, 4 am at the church, then dance our way through the streets in town. There's a Mass that we perform at, and something about a Mexican restaurant. You can tell I'm still a bit confused about the order of the day. I guess my mind just locked up when it heard 4 am. Reputedly, the church will be full of Latino parishioners who really get into this feastday. I had more or less of a milquetoast Catholic upbringing, with no dancing involved. This ought to be interesting.
But, I signed on the dotted line, and I'm in this. There is a basic dance that all the other (15) dances spin off from. We learned four on Sunday. Two had something to do with the figure of the cross, either tapped out or "painted" with your foot. The third was named something like a "drunken sailor," and involved hopping and weaving. That one looks like a lot of fun, and you cover the most ground when you dance. Good for those long miles through town. I am getting exercise, another of my goals this year, and having a good time in the process. Sure beats an exercise machine!
As far as my Spanish goes, I was able to discern, to my horror, that we'd be wearing some type of ankle bracelet while we dance. I was afraid it would have bells and alert people when I misstepped. But, I was assured they'd be wooden and not too noisy. I have a long way to go to actually follow their fast conversations, but am confident the fog will lift now and again. I also learned that our parish priest from Mexico didn't learn any English in school. He learned it from my friend, Rosetta.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
She flew through so many new words in Core Lesson 2 that my head started to spin. I couldn't wait to complete it and take a breather. It was a very nice lesson, really, learning all about rooms in su casa or apartamento: una sala de estar (living room), un baño (bathroom), un dormitorio (bedroom), un comedor (living room); and things you'd find in them: sillas (chairs), mesas (tables), camas (beds), un frigadera (sink), un inodora (toilet). Easy for you to say.
Then we put things that we already know like gatos y perros y tasas y niñas en (in), sobre (0n) or debajo (under) the chairs, tables, cars, etc. It really does make sense and the pictures are pretty funny - and well done, if I may add. I would LOVE to be in a Rosetta photo shoot. "Now, stand up under the car while it's jacked up - and smile!" "Put the dog on the car and the cat in the hat!" El perro sobre le carro y el gato en la sombrero.
Next we covered one of my favorite topics - kissing (besa) and hugging (abraza). We did it with madre and padre and abuelo (grandpa) and abuela (grandma) and hermanas and hermanos and bebés and amigas and amigos and esposa and esposo. You get the picture. Lots of quiero going around.
As I'm amazing mi esposo with all of these newly learned tidbits, he says, "We speak English in this house." See what I'm dealing with. He did have to agree that it was easier to navigate in France with my somewhat limited, but functional French. When I told him how useful this will be when we go to Mexico, he raised another eyebrow. "Mexico? When are we going there?"
I don't know quite yet, but when we do, we'll be ready.
Friday, September 18, 2009
What makes it so special to me, besides the beautiful lake and beach, is that it's a way to measure our lives against this modest, unchanging backdrop. It has seen me through college, through boyfriends, through my marriage and all my babies. It has hosted so many relatives, many who have passed away over the years, but I can still see them in the kitchen, in the downstairs eating area circled around the food in prayer, playing horseshoes, and screaming at the television when Notre Dame scores a touchdown. I miss them all.
When we gather at the beach, it's always quite a spectacle. Blankets and chairs and umbrellas sprawled out in between the coolers. It's a private beach and we're one of the few renting families, so we have to behave, lest we get narked on by one of the uptight property owners. Over the years, my folks have made friends, and peace, with all of the neighbors. So far, so good. After a day of sun and food, the die-hards stay for a night-time campfire on the beach. This year, my brother Brian rigged up his own fire-color-changing contraption. It was copper tubing and a garden hose "pipe bomb" as he fondly referred to it as. I was quite nervous as he threw it in the campfire, but sure enough, we had beautiful blue and green flames, the envy of nearby campfires. Just yesterday, I spoke with a lady from a fireplace store, and she told me those things are actually legit. Other years, Brian has brought fireworks to the beach, and my nervousness stems from the time his bottle rockets exploded our gas lantern and starting shooting our direction causing us to hit the dirt to avoid bodily harm. That was probably my favorite evening, although I'm not anxious for a repeat performance.
Back to my Guadalupeproject, I admit I took some time off - no computer, no CD player. But, I did speak to Diego, my cousin's Erin's husband who was raised in Peru, South America. They met while she was teaching in Hawaii. Diego and Erin have two beautiful children, growing up bilingual in the Midwest. It's wonderful sight and sound to have them in our family. So, my lesson for the weekend was that I'm on the right track. I see how these little girls are learning English from their mom, Spanish from their dad. They seem to differentiate the languages with little trouble. However, Diego did tell me that his daughter said something Spanish to a dark haired American, who didn't respond; repeated in in English with no response, then told her dad, "He has no language."
I can only hope to immerse myself in Spanish as well as my new cousin has become immersed in our culture.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I had to repeat this exercise 3x because my mind went to a complete and solid blank when the bell *dinged* for a response. So, I resorted to furiously writing down some of the more common things you might say to someone - especially in a camping situation.
Qué esta haciendo? What are you doing?
Qué es esto? What is it?
Qué tienen ustedes? What do you have?
Yo tengo pan. I have bread.
El perro esta comiendo. The dog is eating.
The last remark got a big laugh from the couple when the girl said it. I think I'll try that one at my next cocktail party.
The big news is that I completed Unit 1 in less than two weeks. The light is beginning to flicker on in my head, but I know it's going to be a while before I can fire off, " Qué esta haciendo?" and not think of my favorite Mexican restaurant back home.
Other neat revelations: su means his, her, its, one's, and their. Pretty nifty - one stop shopping for every personal pronoun. That's why Hispanics get her and his mixed up in English all the time! Well, I'm sure they get plenty of laughs from us gringos slaughtering their native tongue as well. Also, hijo means son, hija means daughter, esposo means husband, esposa means wife, madre means mother and padre means father. Here's the tricky part - unos padres means parents. How would you describe your family if it included a birth father and a step-father? Dos padres? I'm confused. Please realize Rosetta is just flashing pictures with people pointing at each other, so it's up to you to translate.
I asked Maria at the office how you would tell someone at the hospital where I volunteer, how to say, "Hope you feel better." She said, "Espero y se sinta mejor." I haven't gotten that far with Rosetta yet, but I'm sure that will be included in the next milestone lesson. *Ding!*
Monday, September 14, 2009
The written words in Idiot Spanish reinforce what I learn. I need to visualize/stare at words sometimes before they really sink in. Rosetta doesn't give you much stare time. Then again, Rosetta makes learning more digestible than learning chapters of foreign grammar - yuck!
Yesterday we went over different kinds of clothing: el abrigo (overcoat/jacket), los zapatos (shoes), los pantelones (pants), una falda (skirt). I never before realized that a sombrero was the word for all different types of hats - not just the big floppy ones that Mexicans wear during their siestas. Who would know? La ropa (clothing) doesn't show up until page 190 in Idiot Spanish, so really I am way ahead of the game. And although Rosetta goes quickly, you can get off the bus at any time, catch your breath and look over the map before you jump on again.
The dancing practices for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day start next week. My friend Ann says there will be 16 dances to learn, and we're the only two gringos among a group of seasoned Hispanic dancers! OMG! What have I gotten myself into? It's beginning to turn into one of those I Love Lucy episodes where Lucy and Ethel find themselves performing in disguise in order to meet a famous movie star, like William Holden or Cary Grant. I'm convinced something good will come of this; but there's just no telling what capers we'll get ourselves into along the way.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I just got caught up to date recording my pre-blog, ie. handwritten journal, entries that began August 15, right after I saw the Julie/Julia movie which inspired this whole enterprise. Surprisingly enough, I'm still excited about learning Spanish, and have made a lot of headway. If people would just start talking r e a l l y s l o w, and use preschool Spanish, I'd be right there with them.
The blog setup on September 1 was the handiwork of my talented and beautiful daughter, Chelsea. It's not a really difficult thing to do, but those savvy Twenty Somethings have no fear on the computer. I have still yet to figure out many aspects of this medium, like how to put the correct accent marks on my Spanish words - perhaps somebody smart in that area will volunteer the information.
About the blog, everyone I have told so far is either supportive, amazed or amused. All except my mother, whose reaction was, "Now, why would you want to do something like that for? Is this going to be public?!!" I know I'm on the right track when my mom objects to my crazy ideas; it's just her over-protective nature. But since that announcement, we've been flinging Spanish words back and forth to each other, because it's a little like visiting a foreign country and we both love to travel.
When we hung up el teléfono, my dad wished me, "Adios mi hija," pronounced eeha, and without seeing the written word, I figured out that it meant Goodbye my daughter. Some might say that it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, but frankly, I was proud of myself.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
She's also a tireless teacher, insisting you get it right before you move on. Gosh, wouldn't that be a concept for success in the American educational system... Anyway, I couldn't for the life of me pronounce the word blanco correctly. Speaking into my air traffic controller-like headset/microphone get-up, I'd say blanco, (beep), blaanco (beep), blanKO (beep), blanco! (beep), BLANCO (beep), shit (beep). When I screw up, it makes me feel self-conscious, so American. Then I take a deep breath, imagine myself on some beach in Cozumel watching a white horse run by, "Oye, el caballo blanco!" (bling!).
There's also a CD set to listen to in the car as a review of your computer lessons. It's amazing how much I'm actually understanding in this new language. Now if only my XM Radio station, Caliente, would play slow songs with the words "Le pasta es verde," (The grass is green) "y la luna es blanca," (and the moon is white), I'd know what the heck they were singing about.
From the library, I borrowed several Spanish books: The Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish (for obvious reasons), Buenos Noches Luna, Good Night Moon, and Amelia Bedelia. I'll need a dictionary for the last one because Amelia gets into all sorts of trouble by doing things literally, like "dust the furniture," and she literally pours dust on it. That one will be interesting to learn some double entendres. I looked for our own Amelia and Good Night Moon books, now stowed away for future grandchildren, as our youngest is almost 16. Buenos Noches Luna was actually pretty easy to read, as I had memorized the English version with so many repeated readings throughout the years. It made me nostalgic for all those happy hours spent reading to our four children. I am so grateful for all the stories that have been stuffed into our heads.
I feel like I'm cracking a secret code. When I asked my husband if he could tell my brain was growing, he said, "Yep, smoke is coming out your ears." Sometimes it feels like that!
Friday, September 4, 2009
The chapel is also a wonderful place to visit when you want to shoot off a prayer to God for the healing of a loved one, for a peaceful parting, for a new job, a happier marriage, or whatever your need. It's also a place to record the blessings God brought to your life as a result of prayers of adoration.
In was in this such book of blessings that I got my next Spanish lesson, because there are many Spanish-speaking chapel-goers:
- Jesus, yo confio en Ti .... Jesus, I trust in You
- Gracias Dios por nuestro familia revaida de nuevo... Thank you God for my family coming back to you.
Okay, I'm pinch-hitting here. I think that's what it means. Haven't actually gotten a dictionary yet, but it sounds good. Also words I learned in context by going through a Spanish children's Bible story book:
antiguo = old; nuevo = new; todos = all; antes = before; naciera = birth; con = with; mundo = world; pueblo = village; estrellas = stars; noche = night; dia = day; arboles = trees; flores = flowers; despues = then; creo = created; felices = happy; pecado = sin; hijo = son; donde = where; el Niño Dios = Baby Jesus; rezar = pray.
Maybe praying in Spanish will help!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
That's how it feels with this project, especially Our Lady of Guadalupe's involvement. Years ago, my mother gave me a medal and necklace that my grandmother got in Mexico. It's engraved from a 1939 20-centavo coin, and has the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, complete with streaming rays. My uncle worked in the US Embassy in Mexico City, and grandma must of picked it up on her visit there. I wear it because it reminds me of her.
Also, several years ago, I went to a church fundraiser, and bought a collector's plate of Our Lady, thinking, "Hey, this matches my necklace!" She's been hanging in my cucina for years, watching my every move as I live mostly in the kitchen when home. And then just the other day, I really looked at a candle in my bedroom. No way, it's got her picture on it. It's one of those tall candles like the ones you find in church that burn forever. I found it in the ethnic aisle of our grocery.
To top it off, my friend Ann has become involved with the Hispanic community in her parish, and dances on OLG's feastday, December 12. It's a really big deal - an all day event, which I will keep you posted on, as she and I will be the only gringos in the dance troupe.
Back to Rosetta. I settled in and learned more about maneja un corre driving a car, and manzanas y leche y pan, apples and milk and bread. Did I mention that Rosetta speaks exclusively in Spanish? The only English she uttered was in setting up the program. So, when I make a mistake, please bare with me, because I'm dealing with a foreigner here in a foreign land.
It's really a very natural way to learn, though. Point and click, see it and say it. Remember those See and Say toys with the big yellow wheel? You point to the dog and it says perro and would bark ~ well, that would be the Spanish version. Rosetta doesn't bark, but when you get the answer correct, she plays a string of notes from a harp. When you screw up, it's more of a thudding ding sound.
After un tasa de café, I'm ready to dig into to another lesson. Learning is so much easier and more fun when you actually WANT to learn. If only I could pound that concept into my children's heads as they start another school year...
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
French is a terrific language; it's just that nobody here speaks it. Thankfully, I had two occasions to visit France, so it wasn't all for naught. Plus, I made a lovely friend of my teacher, Lenaick, who helped me brush up after a 30-year hiatus.
Spanish is another monkey altogether. Everything I learned to perfect my pronunciation in French has been tossed out the window, so my listening ear, (which isn't so hot in English anymore), is thoroughly confused in Spanish. Hay meaning there is or there are, sounds like "eye." So, I'm grappling with Hay una mesa, thinking it means I am a table, which I'm not. The word for and is y and pronounced "ee." In French, and was et and sounded like "eh." So, although I've had experience with languages, it's really back to Square One.
That's where Rosetta comes in. You've heard the ads, "Learn a new language like you did your first language! Please order today for your free Language Demo CD!!!"
Well, I called them, and some operator practically badgered me into getting the whole series. All I wanted was the free Demo CD. Her rationale was that I already knew which language to study, so the demo would be a waste of my time, and her shipping. Later, on TV, I saw another ad for Rosetta, and it did look good. So, I navigated their website, and lo and behold I could get it at a discount! It's not cheap, but if I was going to do this thing, I needed the interaction/immersion that Rosetta promised, and has delivered.
I work with Maria in my office. Well, not really with, per se, but she comes in about the time we're leaving to clean up after us slobby office workers. She's Mexican and delightful. She's my only Hispanic friend at this point, and she is going to help me, as we help her with her English. She didn't know what darling meant, "Ees this a good thing?" "Yes, Maria, it means sweetheart," which she translated as corazon dulce. In order to do this, I need all the friends I can find.
Rosetta was easy to set up, even for someone who HATES to read directions of any kind. It's crazy - it comes with a headset and microphone, so I feel like an air traffic controller. Then, I'm speaking outloud, next to my family watching television, in loud imperfect stumblings. Come means eat, bebe means drink. A new meaning for "Come, baby". What do the Hispanic girls think when someone is trying to pick them up at a bar? Well, I guess they intended to buy them a drink anyway...
For the life of me, I couldn't pronounce hombre. I said it over and over until my son, Sean, grabbed the microphone and said "umbray," then all was good. Lesson One was done with no bloodshed - I actually scored well for a first-timer. It's honestly like playing a video game, like PacMan, that is easy to do. But one lesson was plenty. It's kind of like skiing. You have to stop before you get really tired, or you're libel to break your leg.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
This blog was conceived last month after listening to the Julie/Julia Project book on tape, and watching the movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The real heroine of the story is Julie Powell; a young actress/writer wannabee who loved her husband and cooking, and wanted more out of life than where her government job was leading her.
It got me thinking. Where am I going? How can I make a difference? I'm older than Julie, but still young enough to dream. And knowing myself, I would do best with a project - one that had a beginning and an ending, a set regime, and a reward at the end. My project needed to include writing (hence the blog) learning something new (Spanish), and having a meaningful purpose that could help others. It also needed to involve a faith journey. I dedicate this project to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of the Americas. Starting from scratch at age 50 should provide its own entertainment.
I've been a freelance writer since 2001, having first worked for a weekly newspaper. Since then, I've written for local magazines and university publications, and done a lot of gratis work for my church and sorority. My main source of income is being a very small cog in a Big Ten university, meeting and greeting students bent on getting a management degree. Love them. Probably because they are the ages of my children, and they deserve a little mothering and love away from home. Many of these students are international. We're talking LOTS of Asians, Indians, and Europeans. It is truly the United Nations in our lobby on a busy day. My job is to calm them down, set up appointments with their advisers, and send them on their merry way - usually to the Registrar or the International Student Services Office.
Here's why I picked learning Spanish.
- Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States.
- There is a huge Mexican contingency in our area - and I don't have a clue what they're saying.
- Many members of our church speak Spanish, and I'd like to connect with them, especially those in the hospital where I volunteer.
- The Spanish speaking population is not going away.
- Learning Spanish sounds more fun than doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku as an anti-Alzheimer's activity.
Gotta go to work now, but stay tuned for tales of Rosetta and how she is changing my life.