Anecdotes by my students
One day before the class ended, I asked the students to share some their experiences speaking and learning Spanish.
Coleen, a girl from Texas who had complained about the lack of good Mexican restaurants in this area, raised her hand: “Well, one day, the class laughed at me because I said “me baño con sopa” (bathe with soup), instead of saying “con jabón, which means soap”. Everyone chuckled and Maricarmen volunteered. She was a Newyorrican and spoke Spanish fluently, since her parents were from Puerto Rico and she was born in New York. Maricarmen was always boasting about her cosmopolitanism, opinionating constantly that the people in this city were very provincial and their conservatism annoyed her to no end. She was studying the language to improve her writing and composition. Maricarmen, excited, got up the nerve to speak: “One day, an American friend told me that once in a while she ate “sobres” “Are you sure?” I asked surprised. “Yes, you now, when I don’t feel like cooking different the next day, “ she added. I laughed and explained: “Nicole, what you want to say is “sobras”- leftovers-, not “sobres”, which is Spanish for envelopes!”. Next Krista, an extroverted red-head from Florida, lamented having come to such a frigid place and she, as I, longed for sunny days. She continually came to my office for help with the subjunctive tense, which she had trouble understanding. She recounted how she had gone to a hardware store in Mexico and asked one of the employees for a ferret since in Spanish ferretería is a hardware store. “ Miss” he said, “ you can find one hurón (ferret in Spanish) at the zoo”. He gave me the directions to get there. Now it was Carol’s turn. A Bostonian, she was the most intrepid of my students. I adored her accent and her extravagant way of dressing. One day she would come with a mini-skirt and the next with attire from the Middle Ages. ”Last summer I was in Mexico visiting a girlfriend. I like to shop at the convenience store and one day I asked a clerk if he had any “huevos.” “Blondie”, he replied with a smile, “you should learn the word “blanquillos” so you don’t get into any trouble. He refused to expound any further, but later my friend elucidated: “Güevos” are testicles and the term is the same as the English “balls”. And that is how Carol learned the proper word for eggs in Mexico. At the moment, Linda said that she had a similar experience in Spain. When she was living with a family, one day at lunch time I said: “la polla está deliciosa” The whole family looked at me as if a had said dirty words and the lady of the house corrected me immediately: “Linda the dish for the day is chicken (pollo). Don’t ever say polla (female chicken) because it means testicles.” I promised them to forget about this word.
Finally Jason, my Californian from San Francisco, decided to tell us of his experience. On the shy side, he was very intelligent and wise. I was mesmerized by his gold earrings and his monthly color-changing locks, which on this occasion were blue-green. Last month his hair had been purple and his hoarse voice contrasted with the femininity of his body. He began: “Last semester I said in Spanish class that I was “embarazado”, that is embarrassed. My professor told me
that I was the first man in history who was going to have a baby. “Embarazado” is a false cognate in English and it actually means “pregnant”.
The class ended and I hoped the students had a fruitful lesson.