I began the attempt to learn Spanish about a year and a half ago. There was a language requirement for the Liberal Arts diploma I was working on at the time, and the choice was between French and Spanish. Since I was enamoured with Pablo Neruda, I chose to “learn” the language that his poems were written in.
I did pretty well in SPN1. The words and basic grammar structures were familiar to me, as they were reflected in my mother tongue of Tagalog: Kamusta was merely a bastardized form of como esta, I knew how to count and spell, I could roll my r’s like a pro. And so in the summer of 2012 I learned how to say, “Como esta, amigo? Me llamo Daniella, yo soy un Filipina. Yo soy veinte uno anos, y mi cumpleanos es un dies y nueve de Octubre. Es un estudiante en Espanol en la Colegio de Seneca.” I learned how to explain that I wanted to go, “un a vaccaciones por dos meses con mi familia en las islas de Filipinas en la futura.” It wasn’t too hard, but not a cakewalk either. SPN1 was, with an amazing teacher, a fun and easy way to spend my summer.
And I learned what Pablo Neruda was saying to his lover when he wrote, “Pero tu y yo, amor mio, estamos juntos… Hasta ser solo tu, solo yo juntos.” Slowly, laboriously making my way through Neruda’s Cien Sonetos de Amor, I was starting to make sense of his love poems, written as they were in Spanish that was hard for me to grasp. The beauty of the words were not beyond me, but the fact that I could only look in glances and not stare in awe at the big picture was infuriating, to say the least.
SPN2 the following semester was a disaster. I made it out of the course with a B, but for me, the learning was buried among the other things that I had to do for the semester. Grammar got lost between the pages of my Western Literature reader, somewhere after Faust and just before Don Quixote. In my research for how Aristotle’s words were used by the Spanish Imperialists and Colonists to rationalize their appalling treatment of the Native Americans, Spanish grammar took on the role of lesser importance. How could I focus on “las perros no corren en la jardin” when I was too busy raging at the American Holocaust?
I am not fluent in Spanish by any means. Drop me in the middle of Madrid and I will most likely communicate in English until I can find my way back to my hotel, con una taza de cafe for my frazzled nerves. But this summer, I have decided that I will try and make learning Spanish a priority. I am religiously learning through the Duolingo app (it is muy bueno por nuevo estudiante de Espanol, folks) and slowly making my way through Cien Sonetos de Amor again, this time making sure that I understand the Spanish without looking at the English translation before I move on. And when I feel sufficiently confident, I will start watching Spanish movies with subtitles. Pan’s Labyrinth, I shall (re)watch you in about two months.
Where I was and what was playing: Safe in bed, listening to the wind trying to blow my balcony off of the building’s face.