Monday, March 23, 2009

Spanglish: Me Encanta Espangyol

Six years of Spanish classes, visits to Spain and Mexico, and perfecting my paella recipe did not prepare me for conversational life in Costa Rica. Nearly a year ago when I landed on the CRROBS base I was lucky that I could even utter hola with the proper pronunciation instead of greeting someone with the famed “holla.”

I would stand in silence surrounded by Lopezes speaking at me in Spanish and respond with looks of sheer horror or an occasional head nod that really meant nothing. From that point on, I not only knew that I needed to learn what they were saying, but I also wanted to learn.

Learning a language has never proven easy for me, so my best way to go about this was by making words up. I began by using the same Spanish verbs repeatedly to form random sentences (querer (to want) and poder (to be able)…you know the drill) intertwined with English words pronounced like Spanish words. Some of them had to be real words…right?!

That was, until the trobulo incident. We all know how common it is to use the phrase “I’m in trouble” about an array of topics in the states and I wanted to be able to say it in Spanish. Instead of making the word up I decided to ask a friend and was told that the word for trouble was trobulo. So I walked around base for a week saying esoty en trobulo numerous times to several people and didn’t really acknowledge the smirks or giggles, until one day, a nice Tica told me that trobulo was not a word, not even close. And my “friend” had actually wanted to mess with me and teach me an underlying lesson that I should use the resources around me (converse with Ticos, go to classes, look in the Spanish/English dictionary) rather than make up my own language.

It was the push I needed to actually learn real Spanish from real Costa Ricans. Now rather than staring at the Lopezes blankly I can joke around with them like family. Que suerte.

But, don’t get me wrong, I still love my Spanglish.

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