Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The English Language Dies a Little Bit...

Every time it leaves my mouth.
My proficiency in English is declining. Rapidly. For every three steps forward I make in Spanish, my native tongue takes one step back. I am unconsciously applying my English lexicon to Spanish syntax, and it is producing crazy results. As we were walking to class this afternoon, I made a bad joke and asked Sarah 'Why so retard?' Yes. Why so retard, indeed. Apologies for the lack of political correctness, but the sentence is too excellent to omit. I am adding articles to sentences that don't require them, like 'The politics interest me, but it is frustrating sometimes.' COME ON. The good news in all of this linguistic chaos is that my Spanish is improving. I am learning so much vocabulary every day. Like the word for a slide in a playground or waterpark. Tobogàn. At some point in my life, I will use this word and remember sitting on the porch with my family in Costa Rica in the evening and telling them about the amazing pool I went to with the decrepit and terrifying slide. And the word for tariff. Arancel.
Language acquisition is such a fascinating subject. Living in a house with a four-year-old is one of the coolest experiences, because she is my harshest critic. Whenever I say something in Spanish that doesn't make sense, she looks at me sideways, twists her face, and starts laughing. I ask her what I said and she repeats it in an incredulous tone of voice like it's the most hilarious thing ever, then laughs again. Enculturation is so interesting, because I think Jimena and I are both exempt from the rules and expectations of living as a full member in Costa Rican society. I am a foreigner and she is four, so we are given a lot of room to make mistakes. This morning, she was telling a story to her mom, and she said, 'Mamà, ¡no cabo!' Which more or less means, 'I don't fit,' but caber is an irregular verb, so the first person singular is 'quepo.' In response, her Mom smiled and said, 'Quepo, niña, quepo.' When I study in Mexico in the Fall, I hope my host family has young kids. She is helping me learn so much.
The rest of the day I spent talking with students at La Universidad Tècnica who are studying English so that they can work at call centers, in the tourism industry, or continue their studies at another university. I worked with two girls close to my age who were just as excited about learning English as I am about Spanish. Language is so cool. That is the theme of this post. It's one of the most difficult, frustrating, and gratifying things I've ever done. We exchanged numbers after we made it through the assigned questions, and I am meeting them tonight for karaoke! ¡Mucho Español!

1 comment:

  1. While it may be true that you're botching the language, you're still using traditional English meter quite well:

    the ENG-lish LANG-uage DIES a LIT-tle BIT

    Perfect iambic pentameter!!

    Can I steal that line and write a poem with it?

    Also, this was a really good post. You should write a story about you and Jimena.

    Can't wait to hear more.