Spanish As A Second Language

Veracruz vendorIf you have been in Mexico for a while you may find yourself counting burros instead of sheep to get to sleep. Regardless of what you are counting it always starts one-two-three; but wait -- does it?

Truth be known while I spiel many a yarn about “living in Mexico from a gringo’s point of view” I don’t speak good Spanish.

Early on I gave into lacking Spanish speaking proficiency with the excuse that it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Lazy? Maybe.

Then there is the fact La Señora Vivaz, my Spanish speaking Latino wife, is my crutch in all this. We are together most of the time. She fills in the language gaps for me.

In my defense, I can read Spanish well enough to comprehend and I can even understand a good amount of spoken Spanish. I do have difficulty understanding children as they talk muy rápido. But then I have that problem with English speaking kids.

For going on 5 years now I have managed pretty well for a guy living in an area where virtually no one speaks English. Few here seem to have any interest in learning English. I am pretty sure English is far more difficult to master as a second language.

I get frustrated when I am sure that I said something in understandable Spanish when it isn’t understood. We can be talking with someone. I chime in with something with confidence thinking I know how to express this - only to get a blank stare. Invariably the listener looks over to Anita to translate.

She knows this frustrates me. In my defense often she suggests the person listen carefully, prodding me to repeat. We have this theory that some people are convinced I can’t speak Spanish before I utter a syllable (and there are so many in Spanish!). Veracruz zocoloThus they take the easy way out and look to her – after all she is prettier to look at in any case.

Before bed I often load up a Pimsleur lesson or two into my iPod and go to sleep with it playing in my head. But, I usually fall asleep fast and can only hope this is working subliminally (NOT). But then the other day this – I was in my yard needing to count the number of block in a pile. I needed 14 to complete a project. I started counting, “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro…” – huh? I found myself counting in Spanish. Now this may not seem remarkable to you, but I was caught off guard. I was actually thinking in my head in Spanish! A question that often comes up – do people that speak a second language ever think in that foreign language? The answer is a resounding yes. I am convinced I am really getting acclimated here in Veracruz, Mexico.

¡Manténgase Sintonizado! (i.e. Stay Tuned)   

John Calypso lives in Veracruz, Mexico. Back in the 60s, he was a very hip guy living in Hollywood and rubbing shoulders with Beatles and Monkees. Read lots more in his blog, Viva Veracruz.

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