Monday, October 22, 2012

Working on My Espanol

Lately, I've been working on achieving my goals and dreams. Since life is so short, I figure it's better to live life all out rather than have regrets later on. Because of this life change, I am really working on one of my lifelong dreams — winning the lottery.

Ha. Just kidding.

I mean, yes, winning the lottery would be the culmination of many years of dreaming and wishing and buying lottery tickets, but my real dream has been to learn a foreign language. Don't get me wrong, along with my immense grasp of the English language, I also am pretty fluent in Pig Latin, sign language (especially sign language given to other drivers during rush hour) and, after several years covering football, Coachspeak.

While I'm not yet as fluent as a native speaker, I've learned a lot of Coachspeak over the years.
For instance: "They have a great coaching staff over there and did a good job preparing their team," is roughly translated "They couldn't coach a dog to scratch."

Several new languages caught my attention. I thought about French, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. While all of those other languages would have been fun and useful, ultimately, I settled on Spanish.
I picked Spanish for several reasons:

1. Spanish seems to be the easiest to learn. There are plenty of ways to learn Spanish, courses, books, tapes, and, of course, "Dora The Explorer." I have to admit though, I watched a little bit of Dora and I learned very little about Spanish. I did, however, learn that sometimes small monkeys enjoy wearing oversized boots.

2. Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the world, according to a report by the Summer Institute for Linguistics. Chinese finished first with 937 million, while Spanish had about 325 million, just ahead of English with 322 million.
Since there are so many people who know Spanish, I figured it might be easy to find an opportunity to speak the language.

3. I love Mexican food, so I figured I would love the language just as much.
For those of you who may not know, learning a new language is tough.
A couple of years ago, a friend lent me a set of tapes that were guaranteed to get me speaking Spanish in a month. I listened to the tapes every stinking day, and never really got past saying "hello" and asking for directions to the bathroom.

In addition, I've also watched countless hours of telenovelas on Spanish-speaking television stations. While the telenovelas are entertaining (and I mean VERY entertaining), I feel like I'm still missing out on some good stuff. 

It's time to try again.

For some research, I turned to The Internet — The Source Of All Truth.
One website said one way to jump start any foreign language program is to buy a phrasebook then take a couple of hours of personal tutoring from a native speaker. Makes sense, I thought.
Last week, I went out and bought a couple of Spanish phrasebooks for my me and my wife, who also wants to learn. It's a couple hundred pages long, so I figured I could have it memorized, lord willing and the creek don't rise, in about a week. I dove right in. After a couple of days, I have already learned how to say, "That dress would look very nice on a donkey," and "What do you mean you don't serve Nachos Bell Grande in this restaurant?"

Just kidding. I haven't learned how to say those things. I haven't gotten that far in the book yet. But I will.

After that, the key to becoming fluent seems to be using the language on a regular basis. One of the hardest parts for me is going to be getting passed my insecurity and just start talking. But I will.
Ultimately, I want to learn Spanish just for the sake of learning something new. I always want to be learning. I never want to stop. After Spanish, I want to learn French and Italian and Portuguese and maybe even German. Then it might be the guitar, the piano, how to salsa, or how to make pork chops without starting a fire. The subjects could be endless.

Our capacity to learn is something that sets us apart from all other creatures. Unfortunately, after high school we seem to forget just how important learning is. I did for a long time. Most people don't reach their goals, not because they are too hard, but because they give up too soon. And the hardest goals are sometimes the easiest to reach because fewer people are trying near the top.

So, my Spanish lessons continue. If you speak Spanish and see me on the streets, don't be afraid to stop and ask me how it's coming along. I'll probably respond with: "Hola. Como estas?" which roughly translated means, "Hello. Does your monkey know where the bathroom is?"

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