Friday, October 14, 2011

The Language Barrier

Parador at Carmona, a former Moorish ruin 
For our recent trip to Spain, I tried to relearn a bit of my old Spanish from high school. So long ago.   I also read all the signs on a city bus trip through Spanish Harlem and realized it wasn't the reading that was the problem, it was the spoken word.

I went to high school in a community full of migrant workers who spoke Spanish (Mexican Spanish) at home but of course didn't know how to read and write.  The first day that the teacher (a Phi Beta Kappa) opened her mouth and lisped away in her Castillian accent, the Hispanics rolled on the floor holding their sides they were laughing so hard  Truth to tell, she did sound ungodly effete.  Everyone else laughed, too, although we weren't in on the joke.

The Anglos excelled in reading and writing and the Mexican kids were masters of conversation. But speaking is what you want to be able to do.  Speak and understand.   After I married, we made several trips to Mexico and could communcate a little bit, especially Significant Other who studied 5 years of Spanish and has a bit of a knack for languages.

In the meantime, I had three years of French at university, and learned German at Berlitz.  Spoke lots of German and some French during trips.  Picked up a little Italian after a few jaunts to Italy.
So naturally, whenever I opened my mouth to speak Spanish, German, French or even Italian words presented themselves to my tongue.    After two weeks, I had remastered my vieho espanol a bit, and was making valiant efforts at menu Spanish.  We sure as hell didn't want to order an omelet of pig brains.  With a cheat sheet and the good will of waiters, we muddled through.  Jamon Iberico (forgive the lack of accents) three times a day.

Saw the windmills Don Quixote jousted.  High on a windy hill.  Zowie.

At night in my dreams I am still in Spain, not a bad place to be.  A cat that looked very much like my tortoise Thisbe ran through the Alhambra gardens.  

In Carmona, just before the bus took its last hairpin curve into town, there was a cat house.  No, not that kind.  Grapeshot runs a clean blog.  This was a house surrounded by a wall with a nice courtyard that was full of cats of all sizes and descriptions.  They slept in the garden and on top of the wall.  A quick glance into the window of the house showed a man  with a cat on his shoulder and two on his lap.  Was this the home of a crazy cat man?  You always hear about crazy cat ladies, but I did know a crazy cat man once.  Anyway, the dogs barked like crazy down the hill, but the cats were  silent.  Sometimes a rooster crowed.  That's what happens when you sleep in an old Moorish palace, now a posada. 

All for now.  Hasta la vista, buenos tardes, arividerci, ciao, auf wiedershen, schuss, adieu, and so long.


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