The Linguistic Me: Phase One: Donde Esta El Bano?

April 26, 2011

Many years ago, when I was a freshman at St. Bonaventure High School, I took a couple of semesters of French. Sadly,  everything I learned in all of that time was limited to the phrase “je ne comprends pas”. It wasn’t much, but it has served me well whenever I have actually been called upon to say something – anything – in French, which hasn’t been very often.

Fast forward about 12 years and you will find me at San Diego State University in a college Spanish class. Two semesters worth. The difference was that I actually learned a few things in those classes, largely because, in the second semester, class was held at Mexican restaurants and we got to use the language outside the classroom. 

Now fast forward again about 20 years…

In 1997, Judy and I went to Puerto Vallarta for 6 days, courtesy of my employer at the time. It was not a business trip, but an anniversary gift trip in honor of my 10th year with the company – I loved that company…

We had a wonderful time! Among other things, it gave me an opportunity to brush up on the Spanish that I had “learned” so many years before. You can imagine that I was a little rusty after not using any of it for all that time, and I was excited to finally have the opportunity to use what I had learned in real life situations with real life Spanish speaking people. 

Yes, at long last, I was going to use phrases like “Where is the bathroom?”, “Beer, please” and “Do you speak Spanish?” in a foreign language and have non-English speaking  folks understand me!

We also brought along an English to Spanish dictionary in case I wanted to say something more than the above mentioned sentences, but after a few days, I was getting into the flow pretty well (by the third day I knew the location of  just about every restroom in  the city  and I had met all kinds of people who spoke Spanish), and we didn’t have to use it as much as we did when we first got there. By mid-week, I was practically one of the locals, language wise, or so I thought..

On Thursday we ventured forth to the one place I was dreading – the local shopping bazar…  I was dreading it because I knew that Judy would want to buy one of each. But I was also looking forward to it because it would give me a chance to ask a LOT of shop keepers for beer and a restroom.

We spent much of the day perusing the shops, Judy looking at all kinds of things to buy (and thankfully not buying that much), and I dazzling the shop keepers with my language skills, so we were both having a great time… 

Finally, we were talking with a shop owner and (in my opinion) I was doing fine with the lingo.. Suddenly, and without warning, the man busted up laughing so hard that tears were beginning   to dribble from his eyelids. I was a bit flummoxed because I didn’t know what he was laughing about, so I pulled out the English to Spanish dictionary to see what was wrong with him. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, rather than saying what I thought I was saying, I had just attempted to arrange a date between Judy and the man’s dog for Saturday night…

I learned a great deal on our trip to Puerto Vallarta, but these things stand out…

  • I learned that most places there have bottled or filtered water so you can feel safe about learning to say something more than “Quick! Hurry! Tell me where the bathroom is! RIGHT NOW! Por favor.”
  • I learned that Mexican shop keepers will not let their dogs date American women.
  • And I learned that it’s pretty useless to ask Spanish speaking people if they speak Spanish.

It has now been a very long time since I have attempted to speak Spanish in a real life situation, and I believe that I am now ready to venture forth on some new foreign language foray. BUT this time I’m going to do things a bit differently than I have done in the past…

I have decided to become a linguist. Not the kind of linguist who lings normal languages like Russian (Pycko), Taditional Chinese (漢語) or Klingon (tlhIngan Hol).  No, those languages are far too common for me to speak, listen to and teach. The world is already full of people who can speak those languages. 

Actually, I have determined that in order for me to best use my talents as a linguist to further my ambitions and achieve my goals, I need to find a language that nobody else knows. Doing this will afford me the following benefits:  

  1. I will be able to further hone my, somewhat limited, current linguistic skills (hopefully, to something beyond plain English).
  2. This will enable me to practice on other people without the fear that I will make a complete buffoon of myself by requesting a lift to the other end of spoon.
  3. Allow me to monopolize the linguist market in that language, thereby making it possible for me to become the world’s first expert in that language. 
  4. This, of course, will open up vast opportunities for building wealth and enabling me to pay next month’s electric and gasoline bills.  

So, with that in mind, I now begin my quest to find a language that only I know, and I am enlisting you, my readers, to assist me in my search… 

Here’s where you come in…

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Next: Where you come in…

Click here yo read The Fashionable Me…

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