Vintage Vignettes glimpse into the Communicationist’s past, one to ten years ago from this day.
This time of year in 2007, I was nine months in to my year in Europe. I was living in Spain and completely in love with being able to speak Spanish every day. I was also writing my first blog, and I’d like to share an excerpt from it with you in today’s Vintage Vignette:
For me, learning another language is like building a new life. Every time I speak Spanish or listen to Spanish, each word has so much more meaning than most in my native language. It’s because each time you learn a word, you make a memory. I learned the word for terrorist attack when I was in Spain and the terrorist bombing on the Madrid train happened. I learned the word for popcorn the first time I went to the movies in a Spanish-speaking country. I learned the word for red-head trying to describe my family to the interns in Paraguay. I learned the words for clubs and spades playing poker in Asunción. I learned the word for “done up” in my reading for my Social Movements class describing a drag queen at the 1993 March of Washington for gay rights. I learned the word for execution yesterday collecting signatures with Amnesty International against the death penalty. I learned the word for understand in Ecuador the summer before I started studying Spanish when a shop-keeper kept asking me if I understood (I didn’t). I learned the word for stamps sending postcards home from Puerto Rico. I learned the word for canopy in the rainforest in Costa Rica. My friends and I learned the word for license plate in Bilbao trying to figure out the system to pay for parking the other day (you have to punch your plate number into a machine and we were running up to people on the street asking them when the heck the directions said because the Guggenheim was only open another hour and we had to get there). Every time I use or hear one of those words, I think of when I learned it.
Then there are other memories that go with other words. Like the first time a student of Spanish asked me a word they didn’t know and I did know it (a Swiss girl asked me how to say wheat). Then there are words that don’t have translations to English like the word for the time sitting around the table talking after you’ve eaten that I learned living with the family in Sevilla. Or the word for a big tango hall that I learned in Buenos Aires. When I’m trying to figure out which grammatical tense to use, I think of the teacher who taught it to me. For me, Spanish is a collection of the last 5 years of my life. That’s what makes it so alive for me…Each word is an experience. Learning a language is just like life…You get frustrated, you learn, you grow. There are little triumphs (the first time I was able to talk politics in Spanish) and hang-ups (for some reason I could never remember the word for broom until I finally mastered it a few months ago). Spanish is a whole other life within a life for me.