El idioma

Irises blooming on the University of Granada campus. Just like in Minnesota, Granada has had an unseasonably warm autumn. It's also been very, very dry, which is bad for the ski season and for the water supply.

Irises blooming on the University of Granada campus. Just like in Minnesota, Spain has had an unseasonably warm autumn. It’s also been very, very dry in the south, which is bad for the ski season and for the water supply.

The language.

Learning Spanish was a big reason behind our decision to spend a school year in Granada, and Lou seems to be making a lot of progress. Last weekend we had our first intercambio—a playdate organized by parents who agreed that at our house the kids would speak English and at the Spanish kid’s house the kids would speak Spanish. Lou and the other boy seem to get along well, which makes us all happy, but Lou found it hard to resist speaking Spanish at our house, even when there were other American kids around.

Pete participated in NaNoWriMo again this year and wrote a 50,000 word piece of fiction in November. In Spanish. He’s doing well.

I can get by. Today, for example, I registered for a second session of Pilates through community education and for a badminton class offered by a university rec center. The process was easier now that I know how to do a bank transfer (online payment? nope, that’s not how it’s done), but I would describe my interaction at the sports center as ungraceful. I have moments where Spanish comes fairly easily, and many more where the right thing is in my head and the wrong thing comes out of my mouth, or where I just don’t have the vocabulary or the grammar so I don’t say anything at all. In a culture where people aren’t stingy with words, I feel my limitations acutely.

On the bright side, we’ve all mostly adjusted to the Granada accent (I can’t say southern accent because—as I’ve been told by Granadinos—there’s that much variation across Andalucía). Nearly every Spanish person I’ve met has apologetically explained that people in Granada speak too fast and cut off the ending of too many words (“Granada” becomes “Graná, and “él me ha dicho” becomes “élmadicho”). I dunno, sounds like what native speakers do.

I am also adjusting to having one additional set of verb conjugations that are only used in Spain (for “you all,” different from “you” singular and from “you” formal).

The lisp I was so afraid of seems pretty muted here, and with all the other things I have to remember when I’m speaking I almost never bother to do it.

My conversation exchange partners—and now I have three I meet with regularly—give me an excuse to work on my Spanish. They’re patient listeners and willing to answer my culture and language questions. And because we also speak in English, our conversations have a depth and parity that’s missing from my interactions with other Spanish speakers. I’d like to think we’re becoming friends.

2 thoughts on “El idioma

  1. merediemartinez

    It sounds like you all are busy — in a great “I get to choose what I do with my time” kind of way. The activities your family are involved in sound like a great way to immerse yourselves in the culture and language. It was fun to see this post pop up today, as I was thinking about sharing on our blog the unique dialect of Spanish here in PR! Have a wonderful holiday trip!

    1. ellentveit Post author

      Yes, we are extremely fortunate to be practicing a year of near-retirement while we are healthy and young-ish. We’re getting far more exercise and fresh air, and doing more learning and socializing than we could if we had to work. It reinforces our belief that for us, paid work is a means to an end.

      I’ve had a little exposure to Caribbean Spanish, and for me it’s the most difficult variety to understand. I’ll be interested to read more about your experience with it! : )


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