The Essentials/Los Imprescindibles

Essential words for the beginning spanish student. I recently happened upon the notebook I kept during the eight weeks of my first Spanish course, which met for three hours a day, five days a week, for eight weeks in the summer of 2008. Inside the front cover—the flyleaf to be precise—I jotted down words and expressions that struck my fancy, phrases that seemed essential to a beginning language learner, and many, many ways of conveying my frustration with my progress or lack thereof.

For example, in the red rectangle along the left edge is the word “quisquilloso,” indicating that almost from the start of my language journey, that word was part of my Spanish vocabulary. The second line at the top of the page lists expressions for cool/neat/great—words that, as it turns out, I hardly ever use. On the top left, there’s the verb “bostezar” (to yawn) and the commands for warning a classmate  not to yawn. (Our classes were sometimes less than scintillating, and a single yawn would trigger a chain reaction around the room.) The top left also features the verb “estordunar” (to sneeze), followed by what to say when someone sneezes. With the first sneeze, you say “salud!” (health), with the second “dinero!” (money), and with the third, “amor!” (love).

Moving down the page to the red circle, note the numerous phrases to convey frustration, e.g., “estoy de mal genio” (I’m in a bad mood),  “estoy harta de…” (I’m fed up with…), “me doy por vencido” (I give up, or literally, I consider myself defeated),” “me choca…” (I can’t stand…), “que lío” (what a hassle), and “¡olvídalo!” (forget it!)—all expressions that continue to prove very useful to me. After The Kid complained that Antony, her adopted godson, sometimes shrugged off her scolding by muttering, “A mí, qué?” (so what?), that became my go-to phrase.

La guarda que tiene todos los imprescindibles. Según el diccionario de la lengua española, “guarda” significa una de las dos hojas de papel blanco al principio y al fin de un libro. La guarda de mi cuaderno de mi primer curso de español es como un barómetro de mi humor durante esas clases. En la guarda, escribía todos las expresiones y palabras que me parecieron imprescindibles para comunicar.

Por ejemplo, en el rectángulo a la izquierda, puedes ver “quisquillosa,” mi favorita palabra española desde el comienzo de mis estudios. Recuerdo que usaba las expresiones en el óvalo con frecuencia para expresar mis frustraciones. (Como he mencionado, no es fácil aprender un nuevo idioma a un edad avanzada…)

Más tarde, cuando estaba en Perú y estudiaba en una escuela de idioma, me apropié una expresión de Antony, el ahijado adoptivo de La Flaquita. De vez en cuando, mi profesora, Kathy, me preguntó algo y yo no tenia ganas de responder. Para distraer a Kathy y le hacerle reír , solía decir, “¿A mi qué?”, encogiéndome de hombros. Sí, Kathy rió, pero siempre insistió que yo respondiera la pregunta.

Whadya think? ¿Qué pienses?

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