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Learning a new language is fun!

December 11, 2010

I have certainly had fun learning Spanish here in Ecuador.  I had plans of learning more before we left on our trip, but the truth is I knew very little; numbers, colors, some foods, some other nouns.  Our first four weeks were filled with intensive Spanish classes for 2-4 hours a day.  By the end of that, I felt like I could have very basic interactions but only in the present tense.  Today, my vocabulary has grown including nouns, adjectives, and verbs, and over the last couple weeks I have been improving my verb conjugations working with my teacher Fredy.  (If you want a great suggestion for a Spanish teacher who is skilled at on-line classes via Skype, let me know.  I highly recommend Fredy.)

One of the great things about learning another language is that is gets you thinking about how your own language is structured.  Verb conjugation in English seems easier to me, but most other things, especially pronunciation and spelling are harder.  The structure of sentences in Spanish is different, and so it is fun to think about how we say things differently in English. In learning a new language, it feels like a process of thinking of what I want to say in English, and then translating into Spanish, a slow and cumbersome process.  It is amazing that in our native language we speak without really thinking about what words come next, or how to conjugate a verb for the sentence we are saying.  I am sitting here writing away without really thinking about how to say what I am trying to say.  How can it be so easy to know how to say things in our native language?  It is as easy as walking.

Fun and confusing words:

In Ecuador, there are many small stores that sell various things, and the names of the stores reflect what they sell.  “Panaderias” make and sell “pan” (bread).  “Heladerias” make and sell “helados” (ice cream).  But one of my favorite words so far is “joyeria”.  I keep thinking that a joyeria must make joy.  What a lovely idea.  The truth is a joyeria makes and sells “joya” (jewelry).

Even on the hiking trail, that oh so common word - Siga

A phrase we hear often is “Siga, no mas.”  Literally, this translates to “follow, no more.”  We hear it on the bus, where it means “Go ahead, get on”.  We hear it when we ask a question like can we use the internet, and this response means “Sure, go ahead”.  And I’m sure there are other meanings I have yet to figure out.

Many of the boys here use hair gel to make their hair stand up in various ways.  Colin wanted some for his hair.  When we went to stores asking for “gel”, we were met with confusion.  Finally though with some more explanation on our part, we were understood.  “Si, tenemos hell.” (Yes, we have gel.) The thing about Spanish though is that often a g is pronounced like an h, so gel is pronounced “hell.”  Now we know what to ask for if we run out!

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