Teaching English; Forgetting English

It always irks me when Americans, after spending three whole months in Spain, say they’re forgetting English. How adorable! You’ve spent a total of 90 days here, and you’re already losing your native-language skills.

Or not. Because you’re not. No, really, you aren’t.

That’s why I won’t be claiming anything of the sort. Nope, what I want to talk about is overanalyzing the way you say things. You must know what I’m talking about. Have you ever read or said a word over and over again until it seemed like it wasn’t even a word at all, just a jumble of arbitrary letters and sounds? Let’s try an experiment:

Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. I don’t know about you, but that word is weird. I even had to refer to Google to make sure I wasn’t spelling it wrong. And I was a sixth-grade spelling-bee champion! Squirrel. Ugh, is that even right? Okay, yes. Yes, it is.

Continue reading

Let’s Link—Week 2

Let's Link!

Hello! I’m back again with one of my favorite types of posts, links! Let me show you what I found interesting on the interwebs lately.

The Best Spain Tours, featuring—you guessed it!—Zamora. “This part of Spain is a far cry from the crowds, beaches and tourist traps and a place where you will recognize a different aspect of Spain”

Continue reading

But I’m a Girl! … and Other Spanish Language Mishaps

I really enjoy the discussions that arise from posts like last week’s about my Rookie Mistakes (written in all caps because it’s a BFD).

As you know, I like to think about all the important, totally unimportant things in life.  Although Spanish is important—being the second-most spoken language in the US—the stuff I contemplate is really not. Except to me, thus making it, like, oh my God, super-mega important. Got it?

As you may well know, Spanish has something called grammatical gender, which actually doesn’t have to do with gender; it’s just a name we use. (Confusing? Yeah.) If you don’t know what this is, just think of the terms fiancé and fiancée. One means a man engaged to be married (fiancé), while the other means a woman engaged to be married (fiancée). So if I called a man my fiancée—oopsy, that would be wrong.

For the most part in English, we don’t deal with this, especially since we pronounce fiancé and fiancée exactly the same way (or at least I do). Hence, when we native English speakers learn a language that does employ grammatical gender, we usually have slip-ups. If you don’t, I officially hate you. Don’t call me again; I’ve blocked your number.

Right now, I’m what I’d call an advanced speaker of Spanish. (I’m even better at writing!) But I like to talk fast in English, so I try to speed up my Spanish as well. I hate being the person everyone listens to like, Come on! Cough it up! Right? Don’t you hate that? Naturally, though, this leads to missteps. I often autocorrect myself, because I’m very self-aware in this area, but sometimes I don’t catch it.

The most common way to tell if something in Spanish is masculine/feminine is to say how the word ends. If it ends in –o, it’s likely masculine; if it ends in –a, it’s likely feminine. Ya with me? However, this is not always the case. (See: la mano.) Easy peasy, lemon squeezy?

In my rush to speak, I sometimes call Mario a girl. No, I don’t say, “Eres una chica,” no. I just refer to him with a feminine adjective. I’m sure this sounds rather odd to him, as this whole grammatical gender thing is ingrained in his speech, and has been since he was a wee little tot with glasses. (Cutest kid ever.) So it has to be jarring when I do this. I like to compare it to when my students would refer to males as “she” or females as “he.” Yes, it happened, and it always seemed so weird to me. Don’t they get it? Well, of course they do; they just mix it up—just like yours truly.

Gender is a tricky thing in Spanish. Here are some examples:

  • It’s el agua/águila/arte, but las aguas/águilas/artes.
  • La mano vs. el mapa
  • Words sometimes change meanings, depending on whether they’re preceded by el or la:
    • El cura (the priest); la cura(the cure)
    • El herido (the wounded man); la herida (the wounded woman/the wound)
    • El frente (the front); la frente(the forehead)
    • El capital (the capital [money]); la capital (the capital [of a country])
    • El mañana (the future/tomorrow [but tomorrow is really an adverb]); la mañana(the morning)
    • Sometimes words are both—la/el mar (both are still used) el/la calor (la calor is seen as archaic). Apparently, la mar is more poetic. That’s because females are more poetic, did you know that? (Okay, I lie.)

Okay, I’m going to stop here. I tend to start writing and just keep going and going, because there’s always more I want to say. But I shan’t. Please, tell me about your grammatical-gender-based mishaps in the comments!

General Nerdiness

Please consider yourself informed of the general nerdiness of the following post. Thank you, you have been warned.

If you’re a blogger (am I blogger? I guess I am), you may consider yourself to be a “nerd,” due to your general social media savviness or knowledge about which things the general public couldn’t care less. I too am a nerd in many respects; it’s a lable I claim with pride. What am I nerdy about? Let’s see …

  • English grammar. I am praying to God that I make no mistakes in this paragraph, but I love a clean, well-constructed sentence more than most pies. (Pies are just not that good, people.) I like understanding the finer points of grammar, such as why splitting infinitives is sometimes okay, unless you want to sound like an ass.
  • Cooking. I like cooking blogs. I like thinking of new spices, herbs, and vegetables to combine. I like reading about food, the experience in a restaurant, the ambience. It’s serious when I pull out the word ambience.
  • Healthy living. I stumbled upon a healthy living blog and never looked back. How else would I know about kale chips, banana soft serve, or barefoot running? My taste buds and thighs thank you, ladies.
  • Languages in general. I admit it, I read linguistics books for fun. I spout off random facts about declension to my friends and family. I read Wikipedia entries about the Indo-European language family and practically pee myself when I imagine my future bilingual babies – which, by the way, deserves an entry in and of itself.
  • All things Spain. I am biased. I love Spain. Mario is Spanish and, well, if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. But seriously, there’s a lot to love about a place where the siesta is still practiced and the wine is cheaper than water. Oh yes, and there’s fresh bread on every corner. Take that, Paris.

That’s it for now. But just ask my mother and I’m sure she’d be happy to tell you what other crazy things her daughter gets up to.