Years later, when I was 18, I moved to San Diego which is right on the Mexican border. I began using my Spanish, what I remembered of it, working in the hotel and restaurant industry. But, I got off to a bad start when I pronouced a co-workers name as Jesus (Gee-zus) instead of Jesus (Hay-zus).
My Spanish in the ensuing years was pretty rudimentary. 'Mas frijoles por favor' (more beans please), 'Dos margaritas por favor' (2 margaritas please), 'Donde esta el bano?' (where is the bathroom?), and '!@#$@$' (^## (#&*(@+) (expletives I won't go into here).
Fast forward many, many more years when I purchased some Spanish lesson CD's at Costco in preparation for my trip to Panama, and later that year to Cuenca. The CD's were tedious and I didn't have the attention span to study (my sister inherited that talent...not us brothers). But, I was able to re-load old memory disks long collecting dust in my brain and revived some of the knowledge I learned lo' those many years ago.
Slowly but surely, I have expanded my vocabulary....a little more every day. Right after I arrived in Cuenca and took possession of my newly purchased house, I launched in to remodelling (which you would KNOW if you've been reading my prior blogs!!). NONE of the workers spoke a word of English. So, I was forced to use what I knew, body language, and the good ol' internet and it all worked out very well. As I roamed about the city, I would see some of the same words or phrases repeated. I would try to remember them so when I came home I'd enter them into Google Translate to see what they mean. Also, if I was in a wi-fi area, I could connect using my cell phone and look up words on the spot, like at a restaurant if I didn't know an item on the menu. Coupled with english-speaking Ecuadorian friends who'd help me out and my asking 'Como se dice....pointing to an item such as a bathtub?' (translation 'How do you say.....?') and the person I asked would respond 'TINA!!' very loudly thinking I'm also deaf...my Spanish-speaking skills continued to grow daily.
Finally, I decided to enroll in Spanish classes as a result of a promotional offer for free classes for the first week. Though I know a lot of words, I don't always know how to assemble a complete sentence AND use the proper tense, etc. There were only 2 of us in the 'class' to the 1 teacher who was great. My classmate sorta annoyed me as she kinda hogged a lot of time. After a week, I decided I would enroll in a different time slot....which I have yet to do.
Now you're up to date on my Spanish capabilities and history. Let me share with you some of the idiosyncracies of the language. There are soooooo many rules, just like there is (are?) in English. If you tried to teach English to someone, you'd probably get stumped over and over when asked 'why?'....because who remembers the rules WHY...we just know HOW.
Trying to learn all the rules in Spanish....feminine vs masculine ('a' ending vs 'o' ending), past tense vs present, modifying the base word based on pronouns (he, she, I, we, they), and those gawd-awful rules that conflict with what you were first told, is mind-boggling to say the least.
Example: If 'Esposo' = Husband (ends in 'o'...masculine), and 'Esposa' = Wife (ends in 'a'...feminine), then when you read text referencing 'Esposos', wouldn't you think that's a gay couple of two men? WRONG!!! EHHHHHH!!!! (bad buzzer). It means a 'couple'. Couldn't they have come up with a word like 'Esposoas'? Then what ARE the words for two men in a relationship, or two women in a relationship? I dunno.
To make matters more challenging is the verrrrry slightest of difference between two words, let's say just one letter, can mean a world of difference in the resulting meaning. Be vehwy, vehwy careful!!!!
- Vieja = old woman, Viaje = trip
- Caro = expensive, Carro = Car
- Casado = married, Cansado = tired (don't make the mistake of saying 'I'm very married')
- Venga a mi casa = Come to my house, Verga = (starts with 'c' and ends with 'k'...another word for penis). (You don't want to run around town saying 'verga' 'verga' 'verga' when you meant 'venga' 'venga' 'venga'!!!)
- Fuera = outside, Fuerte = strong
- Pero = but, Perro = dog
- Por Que? = why?, Porque = because
- Cuando? = when? = Cuanto = how much?
- Cuarto = room, Cuatro = 4
- Ciudad = city, Cuidad = care
- Jugo = juice, Juego = game
- Lave = wash, Llave = key
Then, there's the same words that have a different meaning depending on the context (like our 'cool' (temp) and 'cool' (nifty).
- Escalera = stairs, or ladder
- Cafe = cafe/restaurant, or brown
- 'El' vs 'La' (the)....based on whether it is masculine or feminine. If you want to say 'the building', you must know if it is a masculine building or a feminine building. HUH? So, if it's a pink building it's 'La Edificio' and if it's blue it's 'El Edificio'????? ARRGGHHHH!!!!
- 'Su' vs 'Tu' (you)...based on whether it's informal or formal (I'm not going there)
- 'Saber' vs 'Conocer' (to know)...based on whether it's intellectual knowledge or knowing the building is pink
- 'Pequeno' vs 'Poquito' (small)....based on whether it is size or quantity.
So, if you're wondering why I'm not flatulant in Spanish yet, just think about all these rules one has to know. And, ask yourself if you can answer the question 'In English, what are the rules to determine when it is proper to use 'me' and 'I'?'. HA!!! Ain't easy is it?