Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Keep CALM Y Habla Español :)

After 20 hours of studying Spanish over the past month and a half, it took me 35 minutes and a lot of brain time to write the below paragraph. This would usually would take me 35 seconds in English.

‘Mi llamo Aanchal. Soy de India y vivo en Dubai. Yo trabajo en la publicidad. Mi familia es pequeña - madre, padre, un hermano y un sobrino. 
Yo soy bajita, delgada y muy bonita. :) Mi pelo es castaño, largo y liso. Tengo la piel es clara y mi ojos es castaño. 
Yo soy optimista, simpática y algunas veces comunicativa. 
Mi hobby es - escuchar música, para mirar películas de comedia, escribir mi blog, yoga, viajar a países exóticos y leer libros. 
Mi gusta el vino tinto, comer en restaurantes y pasar tiempo con los amigos. 
Estudio español porque algún día me quiero retirar en España.’

When I was in the sixth standard, Sanskrit was introduced as a compulsory subject. For some odd reason the government insisted we cramped up a dead language for three precious years of our life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best Sanskrit teacher. We both had a subtle hatred towards each other. I could not stand the smell of her coconut oil laden hair and the permanent frown lines that adorned her forehead and she clearly didn’t like me because my mum allowed me to speak with the ‘boys’.
Uninterested in teaching and certainly oblivious to us, she asked us to blindly learn the lessons without explanation or logic. I hated it. In the eighth standard final exam, I just about managed to scrape through after days of cramming up. My teacher attested it with a B minus and as I collected my report card, I knew that I was hopeless when it came to languages.

Over the years that followed, despite moving to different Indian states and visiting countries where English was not the first language, I continued to let myself to believe that along with driving (there will be another blog post on this one!) there was one thing I would NEVER achieve  – learn/speak another language.

Then something changed when I visited Spain for the first time in 2012. Perhaps it was the welcoming sunshine after a week in freezing Paris, the sangria or as I really like to believe a past life connection with the country….
When locals in Barcelona spoke to me in Spanish, I couldn’t help but blush. Even at the speed in which they were spoken, the words stirred something in me. 'Was I actually making an effort to understand?' I tried to brush the thought away as the after effects of sangria and flirty smiles from tanned waiters.

The second time I visited Spain in 2014, it happened again. I felt I was drowning in words. I tried to read, I tried to listen and suddenly I wanted to swim in this enormous sea of sounds that was all around me.
However, every time I tried to say the few phrases I knew in Spanish, something slapped me on the inside – “You can’t do this! You will make a fool of yourself! Language is not your thing.”

I listened to the voice and shut up.

Months later as the year drew to a close and I listed my resolutions for 2015 (here), I knew in order to get some magic in my life I had to surprise myself before the universe did. So I mustered up the courage, told the voice inside me to calm down and enrolled in a Spanish language class.

When one learns basic forms of communication as an adult, it just doesn’t open up a whole new world but also transforms them inherently. This is what sitting in a classroom and feeling like a two-year-old child trying to pronounce and understand words has done to me.

I have learned to unlearn in order to learn.
The adjective comes after the noun. I still don’t get it. I have had to change the way I think and communicate. I have shed layers of my preconceived notions and beliefs to let my mind stand naked in order to adorn new thoughts.

I have learned to follow rules.
Spanish has rules and then it has exceptions to the rules. What I love about it is that it keeps me in check. For a change I am coloring inside the lines and yet there is so much to discover.

I have learned to be humble.
Before I started class, the geek in me wanted to stand out so I learned the alphabet and I practiced the greetings. When I reached class – I couldn’t utter a word. Other students knew more than me and when I tried to converse with my teacher – I was the foreigner. I had to take a step back and respect the language. I had to literally eat my words and pride so that I could let the language rule me.

I have learned to be patient with myself.
One of the perils of being an adult in this day an age is to want everything instantly - including learning an entire language! Initially I would get angry with myself for not remembering words or on forming wrong sentences. The voice in my head would come back mocking at these little failures. It has been a long process but I have learned to be calmer and way more understanding with myself.

I have learned to be a child again.
When was the last time you looked at something with child like wonder? Or marveled in silence at the beauty of something only you understood the importance of?
I have learned to do this everyday since I started class. Everything amazes and amuses me and I just can’t get enough of it. I can stare at a word for hours tracking it back to its uses, its origin and the stories it might have told. I can’t get enough of pronouncing the A’s and the J’s… each time I read/speak in Spanish its playtime.

My ultimate goal with Spanish (other than to live in Spain one day) is to read ‘Love in the time of cholera’ in its purest form – just as Marquez wrote it. As a fellow Spanish student said to me the other day, “Marquez has the best translator in the world so just imagine reading him in Spanish.”

I know it’s not happening anytime soon because I am still trying to get the hang of articles, the different forms of verbs and figuring out whether I need to use SER, ESTAR OR TENER in a sentence. But soon.....

As it happens, the voice in my head is very dim and hardly wakes up anymore. When it does, I just have to hush it and gently tell her…. “Yes, you will fall several times but at least you are finally on the road and now, there is no looking back.”

And until this blog has its Spanish version …. Hasta luego amigos!


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