Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner: ¿Hablas Español?
Back at it again with those foreign languages...
December 5, 2016
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As I have spoken on at length before, I am in love with language. I love words. I am particularly skilled in the manipulation of English, but I am similarly taken by other languages, namely the Romantic languages. Spanish was my second language, Italian would be my third if I could speak it off the cuff as breezily as I read it. At the height of my opera singing a few years ago, I could speak conversationally and/or recite literature in around ten non-English languages, give or take. But, I digress; the point in my sharing this is to emphasize how thrilled I was to undertake the challenge of spending a whole day speaking solely en Español.
I had been looking forward to this item off the List for a while now, but it’s been hard to work into the schedule considering I work every day in an English-speaking environment. The extent of our Spanish is a single Spanish-speaking Hispanic man and one girl who grew up with a lot of Latinos in Texas. While we do have a Jose Peppers and a La Fuenta all within walking distance, we don’t do a whole lot of it over at Strange Music. So, when my schedule recently promised a startlingly light work day, I jumped at the opportunity to spend the day speaking my beloved second language.
The first thing I realized is that I’m actually much better at Spanish than I thought. I figured I would struggle with even the slightest conversation, but I found myself speaking with relative ease. Sure, my vocabulary wasn’t as elaborate nor my syntactical patterns as elegant as their English counterparts might’ve been, but I managed to do far better than I expected. Now, given, I didn’t have that many people to have full conversations with; I could count on half a hand how many bilingual friends I have.
My more interesting discovery was how difficult and frustrating it is to not speak English in an English-inclined region. Restaurants and stores were the worst. Sales associates are virtually useless when you aren’t speaking English and tend to check out of helping you entirely when they can’t get what you’re saying fairly quickly. I couldn’t help but think of a guy I know from Cuba. He’s the only one in his family who can speak English (the rest of his family never learned after moving to the United States when Angel was a child). I can’t imagine what his family must feel like every day attempting to communicate with people in a community where your native language is fairly scarce. Even though I had the advantage of being able to understand spoken and written English- as my only impediment was regarding what I personally could say- I found myself very irritated by the language barrier. For those like Angel’s family I have developed a newfound respect.
With that, I bid y’all adiós. Have a Feliz Navidad, folks.
So long and goodnight,
Mackenzie Nicole O’Guin
Special thanks to my brother Travis O’Guin II for being so tolerant of my futile attempts to teach you Spanish. One day, lad. One day.