One of the beauties of being married to a Hispanic man is that I’ve gotten to learn about his culture through his eyes.
I had grown up in Miami before I met him so Spanish was all around me. Many of my friends were Cuban, but they wanted to be “American” and most of them were already losing their handle on their language, creating what we know now as Spanglish.
He, on the other hand, came from Venezuela, which at the time was nothing like what you see on the news now, but there was enough violence that moving to the United States was a dream come true for his family who had seen victims of shootings on the street and who had been robbed of their gifts for Christmas.
His father is a journalist and was offered a job with a major news organization so they took the opportunity and ended up in New York.
I met him after he’d moved to Miami because his father was working at El Nuevo Herald by then.
And, after all of the years of living in Miami, studying Spanish and hearing Spanish, I couldn’t speak it.
But, he introduced me to the Telenovela: A wickedly colorful version of what we “Americans” call Soap Operas.
I had seen my friend’s grandparents watching them but the crying and screaming freaked me out.
It was simple enough that I could understand what was happening and hear the Spanish language delivered by children.
Within the confines of this little school, you would laugh and cry and the language would live and breathe inside of you.
There were the rich and the poor. There were the outcasts and the popular kids. There were the mean and the nice kids. Everything related to you and yet you learned about their culture also.
My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, showed me it because it was a good show, not because he wanted me to learn the language.
I watched it for the same reason.
So, when the thought occurred to me that I could actually learn how to speak Spanish from this, it didn’t feel like I had to work very hard at it.
The children expressed themselves with their bodies and expressions as much as through the language itself.
How Did It Change My Approach to Spanish?
When I ordered food, I would ask for the item in Spanish more often.
“Dos empanadas de carne por favor.”
When I listened to Spanish I understood more.
Sientete aqui really became Sit here but I didn’t need to stop and translate it into English like so many have to do.
Mostly, though, I just felt at ease with the language.
Por qué siempre hacemos aprendizaje tan difícil.
So, I ask you: Why do we make learning so difficult?