Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Learning Spanish in the Middle East?

Tis’ true…I can barley speak a lick of Arabic. My “lick” being Inshallah, meaning ‘God willing’. Everyone begins and ends phrases with Inshallah.

Person A : Do you think they’ll have coffee at the meeting?
Person B : Inshallah. Are you going to make it happy hour tonight?
Person A : Inshallah. Do you think they will have a ladies night special?
Person B : Inshallah. If they don’t we’ll just take a cab to a different bar
where they have ladies night, inshallah.

You get the point. Needless to say, this phrase comes in handy, but all other Arabic words almost seem irrelevant. That sounds horribly disrespectful and I do not mean it to…..simply, most people here do not speak Arabic. There are tongues from India, Pakistan, Korea, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the US…..ALL OVER THE WORLD. In general, Arabic is heard, but rarely understood.

This paired with the more important factor, Castro, is why I have decided not to learn Arabic, but Spanish instead. So what, you ask, is Castro? Castro is :
• An anomaly
• Not a motor oil
• A proud Spaniard from the Basque Country
• Easily the funniest guy I know
• Best friends with everyone (plumber, landlord, sheik, cab driver, principle…doesn’t matter, he knows and loves them all)
• A Spanish teacher here at DAA but posing as an IT teacher for reasons I will not reveal.
• Convinced that beer and wine are not alcoholic beverages. I, too, have chosen to adopt this philosophy. After all, Castro es muy intelligente tambien.
• My polar opposite (at least when it comes to likes and dislikes)
• A great friend, neighbor, car pooler, and drinking buddy
• My new tutor in Spanish.

So every Monday (that is Wednesday for all you folks back home) a few of us convene on Castro’s apartment to learn us some Spanish. One by one we stagger in, some of us bringing Nutella and chocolate, others bearing hummus and pita, and all of us inevitably bringing a beverage of choice. Our class consists of :
• Dale (but we call him Whale which in Spanish is Ballena….so we now call him Ballena.) – 5th grade teacher, my floor mate, prankster, forever a 10 yr old boy.
• Teresa – my rock star buddy, speaks French like a champ, can dance like nobody’s business, throws a mean party but being that she never took Spanish, homegirl no comprende Espanol.
• Cai – P.E. teacher and proud Welshman, also a virgin to Spanish, but takes it all very seriously (I think only to impress Teresa but what do I know?)
• Tom – 50ish Science teacher I have mentioned before. He is quite good at Spanish actually, probably doesn’t need lessons but our classes are so fun so he comes anyways.
• Brado – a.k.a. King Benito Camellas. Thinks that his ability to say “tu madre” means he is fluent in Spanish but he isn’t.
• Me – clearly a Spanish master...enough said.

So generally class begins with various insults being exchanged between Castro, Brad, and myself. Someone will remind me that Tennessee lost their first game to which I respond by insulting their mom. Brad will inevitably start talking about what random gadget was invented in Minnesota to which Castro, Teresa and I will either ignore or pretend we care so much that he goes on for 10 minutes. All the while, Dale will be text messaging us funny quips and Tomas will be telling dirty jokes. It is the best introduction to a lesson a person could ask for. At some point, Castro will say in his very Spanish accent, REPETA POR FAVOR…..and the lesson begins.

We have learned the basics :
• What is your name? Como te llamas?
• Where are you from ? De donde eres?
• What is your telephone number? Cual es la numero de telefono?
• Mucho gusoto. Please to meet you.
• Me gusta la musica I like music.

Then there are the accessory phrases:

• Mucho busto. Nice boobs. (don’t know if I will
actually use this one but it is one
phrase closer to fluency, right?)
• Embarcharros Bunch of drunks
• Vivas con tu madre? Do you live with your mom?

You get the point.

So, the lesson goes on, interrupted occasionally to relay a funny school story or to hear Benito talk about the number of factorials that can be found in the square root of Pi if divided by the number of letters in the word Minnesota, until we complete the necessary vocabulario y frases. Really our Spanish tutorial ends when our sides hurt from laughing too hard, our beverages run dry, and/or we realize that we are unprepared to teach in less than 8 hours. After saying our proper goodbyes (Adioses, Hasta Luegos, Hasta Mananas, etc…) and exchanging mucho besos we part….each scrambling back to our designated Golden Sands II floor to enjoy a good night’s sleep. After a class like that, sleep is just frosting on the cake.

So, in case you were wondering…..I sleep well on Monday nights.


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Blogger Rob said...

That's bullshit that Tennessee lost it's first game! We won the first, yes-lost the second to Florida, and fuckin' killed it in a fourth quarter all-star comeback against Louisiana last week. So Ellen- don't take shit from those Volunteer-hater mugs. I'll be hootin' up tomorrow at the Mississippi game, and abusing their fans in your honor.
We know the truth!
Peace out my dawggy- dit- dawg-

7:03 PM  

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