Argentines refer to the language they speak as castellano, not español. (In Argentina that’s “ka-stay-ZHA-no,” not “ka-stay-YA-no.”) My favorite online dictionary has this to say: the term “español” is often avoided because of its associations with the former colonizing country. The term castellano is also supposed to be more respectful of the other languages still spoken in Spain, including Basque and Catalan.
I have had a whole month of language classes (80 hours!), and yet I still refer to myself in the third person, still stop overly long mid-sentence to visualize the page of my notebook where I wrote down past tense endings, still break down completely because I don’t know how to say simple things like “try” or “leave” or “still.” I also have huge gaps. After saying “Por favor, quiero” (Please, I want…), it finally occurred to me that I sound like a barbarian.
The only solution, of course, is to keep talking and making mistakes and figuring out—after the fact—how to say things correctly.
Thank goodness for the mother of seven-year-old Otilio, a smiling, mile-a-minute talker in Lou’s tae kwan do class. Pete and I met Otilio’s mom Valeria on Lou’s second night in class, when Pete used a request for parenting advice as an excuse to vent about Lou’s tantrums. I could tell that Valeria was a generous and thoughtful person, and when Pete walked away she engaged me in conversation. And I managed. The next week we talked about our plans for Christmas and she told me about wanting to instill Christian values in her children, in part by reading them stories from the Bible, even though she doesn’t identify with any organized religion.
Valeria doesn’t speak any English, and knowing that I will see her on Wednesday and Friday nights is motivating me to try harder and spend more time on my Spanish.