What I am getting to do, studying someone else’s heart language, is a privilege. No, it does not always feel like a privilege as I am struggling through using the past tense correctly, but regardless of how I am feeling on a particular day I am trying to remember that the fact remains that it is a privilege and for this I should be grateful.
After a month of Spanish language school, I have realized a few things:
- I cannot explain the game of Spades in Spanish.
- I also cannot explain the U.S. medical system in Spanish.
- The English language is ridiculous.
In the middle of trying my best to explain the U.S. medical system to Betty in Spanish (which is something I can’t do in English) I became frustrated with trying to learn Spanish. And then we had a conversation in English that made me realize how much harder it would be to learn English in all of its craziness.
My teacher for the past month has been Betty, a woman born and raised in Arequipa; growing up she wanted to be a veterinarian, but when there was not a university in Arequipa for this, she had to change her plans and so she decided to become a teacher. She teaches Spanish for a living and is fluent in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. But, as any normal person whose first language isn’t English, she would sometimes ask me to explain to her how to say things in English.
So the conversation started like this:
In Spanish you say: “Me duele el estomago” which literally means “My stomach pains me”.
In Spanish you also say: “Me duele la garganta” meaning “My throat pains me”.
However, in English it is a stomach ache and a sore throat.
But we never say a sore stomach or a throat ache.
But you can also have a sore on your leg, and be a sore loser, and birds can soar through the sky.
Different spellings, different meanings, but sound the same.
And it was in the midst of explaining this to Betty, that my already elevated respect for people who speak English as a second language grew even more, and I became thankful that the Spanish language is not as crazy as English. Because we all know…I need all the help I can get.