#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Me at My Worst

I busted my tail in high school, oh, close to 30 years ago. Stayed up all kinds of hours to learn things like trigonometry and physics. Never bothered to learn a second language.


So here I sit in Spain, on my own for about a week on an assignment, and I struggle to do the most basic things like, order a decent meal outside the hotel, instruct a taxi dispatcher as to my whereabouts.

Worst of all, my favorite on-the-road activity, conversation, is all but impossible. Understand, I’m not in Barcelona or Madrid, I’m in a relatively small city. And while many people speak a little English (a little better than my Spanish), that’s not going to work for more than, “It’s a nice day today.”

Talk about regrets.

And I know I’m not alone among Americans. We simply do not put much emphasis on languages in school. I took German in junior high and high school, seven years total, and when I went to college and took a placement test, I was placed in German 1. Was I a slacker in high school Deutsch? Sure, but to my recollection the only kids in class who became at all conversational in German were kids who had German parents. When I got to college, where the professor actually forced you to prepare and converse in class, I began to learn the language, but it was so hard I only hung in for the minimum number of semesters, escaped with a couple of C’s and called it a career. When I went to Germany for the 2006 World Cup, 20 years past my last German class, I remembered nothing. Thankfully, nearly all Germans speak English, or I’d have been lost for two weeks.

My regrets are not new. Several years ago, I invested a pretty good amount of money on Spanish CDs. I thought they were pretty good, and I thought Spanish was going to be easier to learn than German. However, when I went to a five-day Spanish immersion class a few years later, well, I was brutal. None of it made sense. Again, I bailed.

So, I’m left knowing only a few words and even fewer phrases. When attempting to comprehend Spanish speakers, I hear a word here and there, but I can’t process sentences, not even a little bit. So, I’m left, more times than not, spitting out something like, “Bien.”

It’s too late now. What a shame. I could be enjoying a week in Spain, walking the streets, meeting nice people. Instead, I sit here in a hotel lounge typing…


Anonymous said...

You can always improvise. You wanna curse? El toro poo poo! lololol...

Anthony said...

Jeff, one of my most valued accomplishments was becoming fluent in Italian. It opened so many doors for me while I lived in Italy.

C said...

Don't be so hard on yourself my friend. It takes a nice long stay in a country to learn the language in order to start communicating...besides that, the football in Italy is much better than that in Spain so you didn't miss much. If you make it out to the boot look me up, we can catch a few Internazionale games, and I will translate for you as well as teach you a few key words.

Heather Dugan ("Footsteps") said...

I have the same regret. I'm still trying -but without great expectations for fluency at this point. I remember French and Spanish phrases, verb conjugations and vocabulary but over the years they've merged into one mangled non-language.