Tuesday, June 4, 2013

No Se Habla Espanol

Back in my salad days I could speak Spanish.

Really! At the risk of sounding braggy (or presuntosa, as we apparently say according to Google translate), during my Peace Corps years in Costa Rica I once had an actual native tell me he thought I was a Tica because my accent was so good. Now, at the time I was 24 and naturally blonde so the guy may have been trying to make up the eight inches he was shorter than I by throwing some sweet talk my way, but whatever. I believed him. I believe now, though, that no one would say that to me today, even if were magically once again 24 and once again naturally blonde.

In a few weeks Boy#2 and some of his college buddies are taking a trip to Costa Rica, and I've been cyber-corresponding with the family I lived with during my stay in Central America. When I wrote to ask for hotel recommendations, I even wrote out what I wanted to say in English first so that I wouldn't make any mistakes.

"Hi, Vital! My son is going to visit Costa Rica with some friends. Would you happen to know of a good hotel in San Jose that doesn't cost much but would be safe? I would be so grateful to you if you could give me some recommendations."

"Hola, Vital!" I wrote my older "brother," starting out all easy-peasy. And then I was stumped.

What was the proper conjugation for the future tense? The conditional? The dreaded subjunctive?

Uh, "mi hijo" is correct when it refers to my son. And I'm pretty sure "va a visitar" is still the proper translation of "going to visit," but what about "I would be grateful to you"? Direct objects, people. They're hard.

I began to throw tenses and "les" and "las" and accent marks against the screen as if I were trying to clear my board in a multilingual online Scrabble game. I'm pretty sure when I finished it read like a Chinese menu, all quaint and quite incorrect.

But I think, perhaps, Vital will forgive me. He was a very nice guy back in my salad days, and will understand that during the intervening three-mumble decades since I lived with his family my Spanish has lost a step. Or perhaps dos steps.

Muy amable, Vital. Gracias!

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