My Favorite Teacher

It’s autumn 2009. There is a slight chill in the air, and we are walking up my favorite street in Salamanca. It is a long climb, this street, one that leads to the cathedral, which reigns atop the hill like a mighty king. I huff and puff as Mario talks. I love the way he talks: his rolled Rs, his throaty jotas. But when he utters an unfamiliar word, I stop him. I’m 22, going on my second year in Spain, the world is at my feet, but I still have so much to learn—from him, from Spain, from everyone and everything. And so we’ve become accustomed to this: him speaking, me interrupting, him explaining, and then returning to the topic at hand. Listening to him was much more than just getting to know (and love) him; I was learning about Spanish and Spain at the same time.

Kaley Mario Salamanca

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Words You Didn’t Need to Know…Until You Did

I was reading Danielle’s blog (note to self: add to blogroll) and she mentioned how you learn certain words only when you need them?

You know how you also learn lots of Portuguese words when you need them? Like how you learn that sink is pia when it breaks, or that you need to say estou rouca when you’ve lost your voice…

Estou ronca = Estoy ronca = I’m hoarse

Her post, while not focused on the topic, resonated with me because it’s spot on! I got to thinking about what words and phrases I learned in the heat of the moment because I needed them, not because I was in the learning mood. Thus, I made you a handy dandy list! Who doesn’t love lists?

¿Dónde está la embajada? One time, back in 2008, I went to Barcelona. It was a fun trip, don’t get me wrong, but while there, my traveling companion decided to take a photo. With his tripod. Thus, I set my purse down, inside his backpack. I was carrying my passport? (Yes, yes I know – I also want to slap my 2008 self silly.) They took it. The purse, not the backpack. Of course. Luckily, there was no money / credit cards in there. But when you’re traveling around Europe, your passport comes in pretty handy, especially when you don’t have a NIE. Being the “estudiante de español” that I was, I didn’t know how to say embassy. Thank goodness for guide books. Thank goodness for nice taxi drivers.Right before the passport was taken. Also, not coincidentally, the last photo taken.

Estoy constipada / resfriada. The first time I got sick in a foreign country, I had to go to the school doctor. Luckily, I had my directora with me to help me. I learned something, though – constipado/a does not mean what you think. It’s what you say when you’re all stuffed up. So when your intercambio tells you he’s constipado, do not giggle. You’ll have to explain yourself.

Household vocabulary. When I first got to Spain, I had no idea how to say the following: doorknob, light bulb, faucet, shower head, drain, handle, hanger, comforter, blinds, and many more. Just, ya know, your basic vocabulary when talking to your doorman (which we had at our residence). I mean, I did know how to say some things, don’t get me wrong. Those things included: door, sheets, bed, shower, sink, toilet, floor, etc. However, when your light bulb needs change you can’t just keep repeating “light…light” to the confused maintenance man.

Te quiero. I don’t want to get all sappy on you, I swear. But I used to really not get the whole te quiero/te amo thing. Like, when do you use each one and why? Can you say “I love pizza?” in Spanish? (Yes, you just say “Me encanta la pizza.”) I didn’t like saying what I saw as “I want you” to mean “I love you.” However, with time, I came to understand and appreciate the Spanish way of saying I love you. While it is a phrase I would only utter to one person (guess!), it has been most useful to me.

Gratuitous photo of my favorite person. Oh, and me.

What are some words/phrases you learned in the heat of the moment?