Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vaya Con Carne, Mi Amoebas!

My friends accuse me of speaking Fake Spanish.

You see, I took six semesters of Spanish when I was in college. However, like most of my other classes, I only committed the material to memory long enough to pass the exams. I know there are all kinds of complicated rules for subjunctive tense, past tense, past-perfect tense, future-imperfect tense, past-double-decaf-with-a-twist-of-lime tense, etc., but I can't remember a single one. Each week we were given a list of 20+ vocabulary words to commit to memory, the idea being to build our vocabulary gradually. But each week, I would memorize those words, pass the vocabulary test, and then drink them all away the next weekend.

During my third semester of Spanish, the instructor hit on the brilliant idea of pop quizzes. Each day, he would select two people at random and have them go to the front of the classroom to carry on a conversation in Spanish. It didn't matter what they talked about... the idea was to get them to use their vocabularies, which were supposed to be considerable by this time.

So one day, I got called, along with an adorable little Kappa Alpha Theta named Caitlin. As the two of us made our way up to the front, my mind raced to form sentences from the 20 or so vocabulary words that I could remember. I knew it was up to me to take control of the conversation, because otherwise Caitlin might veer off onto a topic for which I simply lacked the words to express myself.

So our conversation went as follows:

Me: ¡Ay, caramba! (Oh, darn it!)
Caitlin: ¿Que pasa? (What is happening?)
Me: Estoy muy cansado. (I am very tired.)
Caitlin: ¿Por que? ¿No duerme usted mucho? (How come? You don't sleep much?)
Me: Si. Es verdad. (Yes. It's true.)
Caitlin: (Says something in Spanish that I just don't understand.)
Me: Um... ¿Que? (Um... what?)
Caitlin: (Repeats something in Spanish that I still don't understand.)
Me: Um... Yo no se. (Um... I don't know.)
Caitlin: (Getting frustrated) ¿Por que no duerme mucho? (How come you don't sleep much?)
Me: Uh... um... Porque mis cosas estan en el bano con el diablo. (Because my things are in the bathroom with the devil.)

At this point, Caitlin just looked helplessly at the instructor until he told us both to sit down. Caitlin probaby got a really good grade because she was cute. I got a C.


A couple of years later (I spent an indordinate amount of time in college), my buddy Keith was struggling through his Intro to Spanish course. Despite my illiteracy in the language, I had managed to pull A's and B's in the classes, so he turned to me to help him study.

Basically, it was a list of questions that the instructor was going to be asking the class the next day, and they had to be able to respond in Spanish. It was really elementary stuff... What is your name? Where are you from? How are you feeling?

One of the questions was "How old are you?" In Spanish, that translates to "¿Cuantos años tiene usted?" or "How many years do you have?"

So I ran through the questions with Keith, and he seemed to have the hang of them. Then we got to the birthday question.

Me: ¿Cuantos años tiene usted?
Keith: (Blank stare)
Me: ¿Cuantos años tiene usted?
Keith: Um...
Me: Just go through it word by word. You can figure it out.
Keith: Okay. Say it slow.
Me: ¿Cuantos... años... tiene... usted?
Keith: Um... uno?
Me: One? Seriously?
Keith: Are you asking me how many anuses I have?


Anonymous said...

¡Usted es muy divertido! ¡Usted debe ser escritor! Observe por favor los dedos que menean de cualquier lado de mi cabeza. Alguien que le ha apreciado de lejos... hasta hombres con las mangueras vino ponerla hacia fuera.

Sylvana said...

You did better than me in Spanish. I think I got a D.

But hell, I barely have a handle on English!

Irb said...

Anonymous: Since I am functionally illiterate in Spanish, I was forced to translate your comment with Babel Fish...

You very are amused! You must be writer! Please observe the fingers that wag of any side of my head. Somebody that he has appreciated to him of distant spot... until men with hoses came to put it towards outside.

I couldn't possibly improve on that, so I'll just move on...

Sylvana: I applaud your handle on English. In fact, it was you who contributed the word "asstard" to my vocabulary and, for that, I will always be grateful.

scarletvirago said...

"Asstard"? Really? And here I thought I was being original with fucktard. Oh well, nothing new under the sun...

Oh, and I had three years running of French, yet the only thing I retained was "Je ne sais pas" which means... "I don't know."

The irony is not lost on me.

Anonymous said...

It didn't translate very well - (I knew you were clever enough to use Babelfish - I had to use it too). It was more along the lines of: You are very funny. You should be a writer. Please note the wiggling fingers on either side of my head. Somebody that has appreciated you from afar... until men with hoses came and put it out. (that was a lame attempt at a punny). Aufwedersehen :)

Professor said...

I can barely use English let alone any other language...

marshmallow goat said...

Actually, in Spanish "anos" means anus, so if you didn't pronounce "años" with an ñ, that's what the question would've meant.

In other news, I love the Breeders.

jenna p. said...

Where would modern civilization be without the magical use of Babel Fish? Amazing how trusting people can be of it... for all we know "No hablo con mi perro" could mean "One does not sing whilst being beheaded."

But that's just my personal opinion...

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