Michelle Bergmann freely questions her love of Spanish
If you are considering moving to a foreign country to practice it’s native language but fear the embarrassment of inevitable mistakes you may as well kiss your dream goodbye. Here is a short story of encouragement:
In the apartment I stayed with Juanma and Catalina you are required to light the gas with a lighter in order to get a hot shower. A group of us, myself and some friendly Spanish folks, were enjoying ourselves at a bodeguitta. I decided to purchase a new lighter from a young man circling the bars looking to make a Euro. I grabbed one and was beyond excited to show my temporary roommate, Juanma, the very much needed prize for our survival. With eyes filled with excitement and pride, I held it out to him and instead of saying ” Lo Quieres!?” (Do you like this?!) I shouted and asked “Te Quiero!?” which as most of you may know, is most commonly used to express “I love you!?”.
You can imagine the long and awkward pause proceeding the rather shocking question and confusing gesture. The bodeguitata filled with roaring laughter. People were handing each other forks, olives, whatever they could get their hands on; asking each other “Te Quiero?” “Te Quiero?” poking fun of the silly American girl.
I had just made myself 5 new friends.
Another memorable linguistic gaffe during my time studying Spanish here in Granada came as an unintended result from my class in the academia. I was spending 4-5 hours a day learning, breathing, and fuming Spanish. One day in class we were playing a board game in which my dice landed on the spot “Pregunta Libre”. This directly translates to “Free Question”. However, through trial in error in only being allowed to speak Spanish in the classroom, I assumed the translation was ” I have a question”. So naturally I pranced proudly around the town of Granada using my new material. In line at the grocery store…”Free question please!”… at the post office “Free question!”…shopping for shoes…”Please, free question!”. Praise the Lord a friend witnessed this mistake and after 3 painful minutes of her crying in laughter she broke the news.
I have come to accept that every day I learn more and every day I have more to learn.
Footnote: Don’t be afraid of a language. Embrace it, screw it up, keep practicing and screw it up again. This and being patient is the key to learning.