Learning Spanish, Part Two - El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, 1972

1972, El Puerto de Santa Maria.

I have a lovely sharpened pencil and a notebook, and I can't wait for my first Spanish lesson. The doorbell of the apartment rings and I meet my very own personal private tutor for the first time. He's a bit older than me, and a little bit taller. He has a beard and also has very nice teeth.

"Agudas. This word is an aguda". He talks loudly and writes a word in my notebook, then underlines it. "This next word is a llana." He underlines it too. He has a  flair for underlining words. I haven't a clue what he's talking about. It's something to do with accent marks and pronunciation.

I ask him that question that native speakers of English always ask any time they find themselves in a situation requiring even just a rudimentary knowledge of a foreign language, "Do you speak English?"

His eyes twinkle and he grins broadly as he replies, "Why? What difference does it make?"

His English is certainly better than my non-existing Spanish. He reverts back to Spanish with a shrug of the shoulders.

Yikes! This is not going to be easy! I was kind of thinking the lessons would be in English.

"The vowels." He pronounces each vowel precisely and with the energy of someone running to catch a bus. He gets me to pronounce the vowels and the list of words he's already written. Then he talks more about llanas, agudas, and the strange-sounding esdrújulas, and writes umpteen more words. He circles each accent mark, all the while speaking in rapid Spanish. I get the impression that the esdrújula words always have accent marks. You don't have to think too much on how to pronounce them. Not that I really care. But it does seem important.  After all, accent marks help you to correctly pronounce the word. I learn how to pronounce words like, 'loro' which is a llana word. It ends in a vowel, so the natural stress is on the next to the last syllable. The aguda words have the stress at the end. Think of the infinitives - hablar, cantar, perder, vivir, etc.

"Tarea. Homework. Read a newspaper article and circle the llanas, agudas and esdrújulas."

Fantástico! That's all I can say. And that's my esdrújula for today.  I really do love to say the word, 'esdrújula'. It makes me feel as if I'm really speaking Spanish. Another word I fall in love with is, 'desafortunadamente'. What a long word! I go around trying to use my new words any chance I get.

"What time is it?"
"Esdrújula, I don't know."

"Where are you going?"

I really need to add to my vocabulary list. A conversation using 'esdrújula' and 'desafortunadamente' is somewhat limited and people look at me with great big eyes as if they do not understand a thing I'm saying. It's okay. I don't understand what I'm saying either. I just enjoy the sound of the Spanish vowels. They're short, but powerful, unlike English vowels which sound as if they're whining and running out of steam.  And, my name sounds so important when Spanish people pronounce it.

My very own private tutor of Spanish keeps me focused on the task at hand.

It's back to newspaper articles. No pun intended. He underlines nouns and their articles.
"Each time you learn a new vocabulary word, combine it with an article. That way you'll know the gender."

He recites a list of nouns and tells me to give him the article.
hombre - el hombre
mujer - la mujer
dedos - los dedos
manzanas - las manzanas

"Once you figure out the articles and gender of the nouns, you can add on adjectives."
El hombre gordo.    La mujer alta.     Los dedos largos.  Las manzanas rojas

He taps his pencil on the words. "Don't forget. The 'h' is silent. And, always remember, the 'j' is mas o menos, something  like an English 'h'.  Pronounce the following words:  hola, hombre, jardín, jamón.

He taps his pencil again.  He screws up his face and exaggerates the sound. He really does have lovely teeth.


1 comment:

Phil Ballard said...

Haha, lovely post. I like to say 'esdrújula' at any opportunity, too.