Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crossing the Border

While running errands today, I finally stopped into the Mexican grocery store to purchase the Spanish-English phrase book that Maria recommended some time ago. What I didn't realize was that when I opened the door, that I would be crossing the border into Mexico. Seriously. The music, the clientele, the food and all of it's packaging, the books and movies; even the produce looked different. One thing I absolutely LOVE doing when I travel is shopping in foreign grocery stores. I stare at odd things, try to figure them out, taking pictures at times. The last time I was in Paris, I took pictures of their enormous cheese and yogurt displays. They were gorgeous. As I clicked away, people began staring at me. These grocery items are always good to take home as inexpensive souvenirs, and are more meaningful to me than the touristy type of things hawked at street corners.

For only $4.99 you too can learn Basico Ingl├ęs. I began leafing through my new book tonight, and saw the English language in a totally different light. We Americans, who take our native tongue for granted, self-righteously expect everyone else we deal with to speak in perfect English. I do firmly believe that people entering our borders should at least attempt to learn English, but I hold myself to the same standard of attempting to learn their language when I cross theirs. It's polite, and the right thing to do.

In some ways, learning English is easier. We have one word for "the," Spanish has four: el, la, los, las. We rarely discriminate between the sexes, especially now in our politically-correct charged era. Who knows what sex the flight attendant is anymore? Also, many new words in Spanish have English origins, like laptop, jeans, computer, television, radio ~ you know, everything that has been invented recently, you just add an "o" or "a" at the end and pronounce it with your best south-of-the-border accent.

Foreigners have to decipher and follow our temperamental rules of spelling and pronunciation and usage in English. I'd rather not revisit my years of grammar and sentence diagramming, but we throw up some serious roadblocks. I read a page from my new phrase book and felt empathy for those trying to understand the meanings behind this string of different, but similar groupings of words: She says that; she does not say that; she said that; she did not say that; she will say that; she will not say that; she might say that; she might not say that; she would say that; she would not say that; she may say that; she may not say that; she is saying that; she is not saying that; she was saying that; she was not saying that.

Too much information. Thank you, but I'm staying in the present. Tense.

My humble hopes are to be able to transact some business with my local grocer/cashier with more ammunition than my point and smile technique. Although, that does work. Esto no es ficcion: esto es verdadero. (This is not fiction, this is true.) ... I think I'll just memorize these handy little phrases and spit them out when necessary.

Hasta luego!

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