preparation through cheese

Any time we travel, I try to – at the very least – have a minor grasp of the language spoken in that region. Our trips to Portugal and Madeira were back-to-back and gave me an excuse to continue practising a handful of useful Portuguese phrases. Malta was a different story as there are no phrase books or lessons readily available for their difficult language, so I’m still at a complete loss for Maltese communication. (Not so bad, as they have nearly everything in both Maltese and English.) This year we go to Spain. A couple of years of dabbling with Portuguese has kept me familiar with similar word structures and spellings, but the practise of speaking Spanish was a skill I’d all but lost over the years…

Now I’m re-learning with the goal of improving my Spanish vocabulary and skill. It’s been almost a couple of decades since I studied Spanish in school but thanks to a healthy Mexican population in Wisconsin (sounds strange, but it’s true), I had some exposure to the language at work every day. The company I worked for also did contract work for the government and part of my job was to type lengthy forms in several languages- one of which was Spanish. Over the years, all of this has worked to my benefit and I can feel an increasing comfort with my progress. Currently, I’m using a little “Spanish in 15 Minutes a Day”-type of book with a Michel Thomas audio course (introductory) and working through the BBC’s superb (and FREE) interactive language lessons online.

This brings me to Neil’s involvement. Our bargain thus far has always been: I learn to communicate and he drives the rental car. Works pretty well. For example, in Madeira, where there is much less English spoken that in Portugal by comparison, he pulled into a petrol station and I asked the service attendant to fill the tank. I also order in restaurants and Neil typically handles the money. Easy. But for some reason, he’s showing a little more interest in Spanish… So last night I thought I’d start him with a few words before bed. For example, though not as a full sentence, he can now ask for a coffee with milk. I figure it makes the most sense to teach him words for things he likes; it seems logical that those words might be more meaningful and therefore more memorable. Which is why the next thing I taught him to say was that he’d like a bucket of cheese. Perhaps next we’ll work on squirrels, toiletries, and trousers. Should make for an interesting order in the restaurante.

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6 thoughts on “preparation through cheese”

  1. A bucket of cheese is way more critical than toiletries. But perhaps you should teach Neil to augment it to be: “a bucket of cheese, a hunk of bread, and a bottle of wine”?

    As for learning, have you considered *gasp* a translated copy of a Harry Potter book? Yeah, yeah, say what you will, but they seem to have spent some serious money on translations that capturing local idioms.

  2. @David: Ah David, you’re so sensible with the bread and wine! These suggestions may have to be incorporated into our learning. πŸ™‚ (At the very least, may save us from having the mental health authorities contacted when he asks for a bucket of squirrels…)
    As for Harry Potter… (contain thy gasps), I never read the English language versions of any of them, so getting me to read them in Spanish is not high on my list. I did, however, grab a Spanish language in-flight magazine off the last plane I was on in the US. That’ll help, I’m certain.

  3. @Jodi: Not for a couple of months, so I’ve still got time to master a couple thousand words. We’ll be going to the East coast and then road tripping to Madrid for a day. I can’t wait! (I’ve been really excited ever since we saw a documentary series on the art of Spain.)

  4. You’re really just teaching him enough to get himself arrested aren’t you?

    I can just see Neil explaining to the police officer that, no, he really didn’t mean to ask the waitress if she would mind handling the “squirrel” in his trousers πŸ˜‰

    – Neil.

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