Yo hablo un poco Español. Imagine me saying that in a very bad Mexican/American accent, and you will hear the best of my Spanish. Actually, I’m not sure if the grammar is even correct (perhaps someone can enlighten me in the comments). Sometimes I try “Yo hablo poquito Español,” but either way I am met with chuckles and amused smiles. Not sure if it’s the white girl accent or if I’m just saying everything wrong.
You’d think that I would have learned Spanish just by living near the Arizona-Mexico border, working with Spanish-speaking people, and going to Mexico a dozen times. Nope. Living in Phoenix taught me enough Spanish to pronounce “gila,” “agua,” and “cholla” correctly and navigate my way through Food City. Unfortunately, the people I asked to help me learn mostly liked to teach me insults and laugh when I asked someone to “give me the hooker” when I wanted lettuce. Thanks, guys. Muchas Gracias.
Fortunately, my Spanish has been steadily improving since I moved to the island. On the plane ride here, I set next to a Puerto Rican lady for a few hours. I used all the power of my jet-lagged brain to recall the words I learned in Spanish 101. Her English was even worse than my Spanish, and we got along just fine. Through Spanglish plus hand gestures, we had a conversation about how to avoid pickpockets in San Juan. I understood enough to be glad I was catching a connection to Sint Maarten!
Since I’ve been here, I’ve been practicing on the Duo Lingo app and watching lots of Spanish movies. There are a few Spanish-speaking kids in the group I tutor, so while I teach them English, they teach me Spanish. They learn a lot faster than I do. Some of them learned conversational English in a month, and I’m just over here struggling with Spanish adverbs. I told them they must just be smarter than me. They laugh. And then they correct my Mexican accent.
There comes a moment in language learning when you realize that you’ve made a major breakthrough. Those moments are some of the best moments of life. It’s kind of like the moment you find out you’re hired or that you won the scholarship. That moment came for me a few days before Christmas when Ben turned the radio to a Christian Spanish station. We were tired, and we just listen to it in silence as we drove. Suddenly it hit me: I could totally understand everything the speaker was saying. I almost jumped right out of my seat, I was so excited. I could understand!
Don’t ever, ever, ever give up on the things that you want to do. Even if they don’t come easily to you.
I’m still struggling with adverbs, and I still don’t know whether I should pronounce “ll” the Mexican way or the Caribbean way. I still can’t speak or hear it as well as I read it. But I’m making progress, and it’s encouraging. Trilingualism, here I come!