Un Poco

Un Poco – that’s the Spanish word for “a little,” which is exactly the amount of Spanish that I understand and speak. But, I leave on Monday for a mission trip to Panama, so that, combined with my general desire to possess at least some understanding of a second language have me studying Spanish.

A few years ago, before leaving on a mission trip to Russia, I was given Pimsleur’s Conversational Language CD’s and was able to learn some rudimentary Russian. Not enough, really, to converse but enough to get by for the eight days I was there. So, now that it’s time to learn a little Spanish, I decided that Pimsleur would be my choice for getting started. Besides, the beginning (quick and simple) guide was only $8.50. What did I have to lose?

I did take a year of Spanish in both high school and college so I figured that would give me an edge. It has, but it’s a slim, slim edge and I’m fairly certain there is a direct correlation between giving birth three times and the death of my language learning brain cells. (Not that I wouldn’t do it all again.)

What I noticed about both the Russian and Spanish version of Pimsleur’s language CD’s is that the first phrase you learn is “Do you understand English?” I guess they figure that if you can coerce someone into speaking YOUR language, you can immediately drop any pretense of knowing theirs. Personally, I think this is a brilliant scheme.

So far, I know how to say, “I don’t speak Spanish”, “I don’t understand Spanish”, “Where is the Columbus Hotel?” (which would be really handy were that the name of the hotel where we’re staying), “I’m from Chicago” (which I’m not), and “I have lots of pesos” (which doesn’t really seem like the kind of thing you’d want to brag about.)

When my husband and I were in Cozumel a few years ago there were lots of merchants trying to get us to come into their stores and spend our money. Someone taught my husband how to say “I don’t have any money” in Spanish – “No tengo dinero.” The next time a guy tried to get us to come into his store my husband said, “No tengo dinero,” and in response the man said, “We take credit cards,” in perfect English. It still cracks us up. Then, when it came time to learn “I have” and “I don’t have” on my Spanish CD’s they connected it to money – pesos and dólares. Consequently, I have it in my brain that the word “tengo” only ever has to do with having money. I’m guessing this is not the case.

I’m only on lesson six of the first ten beginner CD’s. The price for subsequent lessons goes up after that, so we’ll see if I make it through the first ten before ordering more. I’m hoping by lesson ten I will have learned to say “Please talk more slowly,” because that is going to be key to me actually understanding anyone.

Other than a million more words that I’ll need to learn in order to be fluent in Spanish there is one other thing I’ll need to master – rolling my “r’s.” How do they do that?