Why I Study Spanish/Por Qué Estudio Español

I do not have a talent for learning foreign languages. Really. I suck. I studied French from third grade through high school and never achieved the slightest level of fluency. When I studied Russian in college, my professor begged me not to continue and even petitioned the administration to waive policy and award me credit for a single semester, just so she wouldn’t have me in her class again.

I never would have started learning Spanish had it not been for my daughter. The Kid visited Peru several times during her undergrad years, studied in Chile for a semester, did a two-week stint in Nicaragua as part of an internship, and then lived and worked in Peru for two years. She sometimes left incomprehensible voicemail in Spanish and sent me e-mails peppered with Spanish phrases, both of which frustrated me but somehow managed to pique my interest.

When I began my studies in 2008, I had a vague intention of trying to keep current on The Kid’s activities. Now, I realize that my reasons for studying the language have undergone a seismic shift. My Spanish studies have given me an incentive to travel, exposed me to new cultures and cuisines, and most wonderful of all, introduced me to so many extraordinary people young and old—students and teachers from all over the world, all of whom share a love for the language and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world.  Even if The Kid never spoke another word of Spanish, I would still be struggling to keep my verb tenses straight and relearning the uses of “por” versus “para” for the tenth time.

Cuando empecé estudiando español, tuve razones muy imprecisos. A mi hija, La Flaquita, le encanta todo de Latina América —las culturas, la gente— y yo quise compartir este parte de su vida. Ahora, me da cuenta que mis razones han cambiado totalmente. Estudio español para conocer a otras personas y disfrutar nuevas experiencias, culturas y países. Mis estudios han abierto una ventana en mi vida y por eso, estoy muy agradecida.

How I Became La Quisquillosa/Como Me Convertí en La Quisquillosa

In Spanish, “quisquillosa” means fussy or picky. And I am. At least when it comes to words. It’s one reason why I’ve managed to have a moderately successful career as a freelance writer and editor for more than thirty years. So naturally, when I began learning Spanish, I always wanted to use the precise word. This tendency has driven some of my teachers loco and almost all of them have tried to get me to talk more and think less. Early on, a teacher used the words “puntillosa” and “quisquillosa” to describe me, and he wasn’t far off the mark.

Al inicio de mis estudios españolas, uno de los maestros me regañó, “Mari, eres demasiado puntillosa. Siempre buscas la palabra exacta. Eres quisquillosa”. Cuando supe el significado de “quisquillosa” me dije a mí mismo, “Sí, soy quisquillosa. Como escritora y editora, a mí, las palabras importan.”

Why This Blog/Las Razones Para el Blog

In writing this, I hope to share thoughts about language and culture, movies and books, cultural misadventures and interesting individuals. Sometimes, the connection to learning a language will be tenuous at best, but I assure you, there will be a connection. I also plan to address the difficulties of retaining new information even as you forget your own phone number. And finally, I would like to keep in touch with the many friends I’ve made in the course of this journey and maybe even meet new ones.

El aprendizaje del español, a pesar de las frustraciones, ha abierto mi vida (y mis ojos) en innumerables formas, algunas de las cuales espero compartir con ustedes. También echo de menos a todos los amigos que he hecho y quiero mantener contacto con ustedes. Te invito comentar sobre los temas y compartir tus pensamientos.  Y si eres un hispanohablante nativo, ¿podrías ser tan amable de corregir mis equivocaciones?


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