Tuesday, September 15, 2009


We decide to go to Peru, but neither Rick nor I can speak Spanish. We have two months. Because this is a budget trip to Peru, I check out every Spanish program I can find at the library. We listen every free moment. At first I try to understand everything on the tape. It is futile. After “Hola!” and the ABC’s, I am lost. I thought Spanish was supposed to be an easy language. As soon as I hit the verbs, I know this is not true. Then I relax and let my brain work on it as it wishes. Still, as I leave for Peru two days ahead of Rick, I am not particularly well equipped.
For the first two days in Pucallpa, I have no daughter to help translate for me. I am SO GLAD that I studied Spanish. I can at least make some basic needs known. For a long time, I can understand nothing that anyone is saying. Then they slow down and talk baby talk to me. Present tense only, clear enunciation. V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y.
The brain is miraculous. After nonsense sentences for hours and hours, it somehow kicks into gear. First a few words start to make sense. Then, here and there, whole sentences.
I plunge into speaking Spanish. I use every bit of vocabulary I have learned. I stumble through verb forms, self-correcting when I see glazed looks. When my vocabulary fails, I make up words out of English with vaguely Spanish endings. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. From somewhere in my foreign language storage cabinet, come bits of foreign language. Ooops. Some of them are French.
I say totally ridiculous things. Sometimes I don’t know what I’ve said until days later. Instead of refreshing, I think I called the shower a soft drink. And I meant to tell someone that she should talk to me like a child, but I’m told that what I really said, was, “talk to me like a guy.”
Now that we are back in a land where everyone speaks English, my Spanish ability is fading. But we go to a cafĂ© for an open mic and, hey, the people are from Peru! I pull out the Spanish (It’s just as wobbly as before) and have fun trying to decipher the sounds flying by. I can see that I need to keep studying this very important language.


PPASP said...

LOL LOL!! that is so funny! I laughed--! your shower was a soft drink and talk to me like a guy! LOL! I love the painting too.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Karen! What a great story! Language can really be a challenge -- when it's not your native tongue who knows what creative expressions you can come up with. Sounds like you've found some gems! Thanks for sharing!