Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Slicking a fwitch

I have a test tomorrow. It´s a Spanish test. I first started learning Spanish about twenty years ago. I was newly graduate in recession Britain (yes, we´ve been there before!!) with not many opportunities for a good job. I had a Drama degree, which kind of qualified me for not very much really and I was wandering in a haze of “Why didn´t I do a proper degree” mist when a friend suggested I apply for Thompsons Holidays. She had worked two summer seasons for the company years before and had enjoyed the opportunity to travel and earn money. So I applied, thinking nothing of it really except that my irresponsible and flighty young 20 something self might enjoy some paid sunshine.
I started learning some Spanish as my friend had told me it would help with the application. I went to night school and enjoyed the process. Then I got the job with Thomson and was fortunate enough to work two summer seasons in Mallorca´s North coast resorts…beautiful places like Puerto Pollensa which weren´t suffering too much from the Brits abroad drunken mentality. I also suffered a Winter season in Benidrom and the less said about that the better….
I did my fair share of sunbathing, drinking, trying to help guests (not always easy when you have 24 people in your overbooked hotel who have paid for a sea views and been placed in a cupboard pending room availability somewhere else).
I also tried out my Spanish and was taught some great phrases by friendly waiters and bus drivers. My favourite phrase from that time was “Sueno con los angelitos” which means sweet dreams but literally translated means sleep or dream with angels…beautiful. I also learnt at the time that vegetarianism wasn´t really wholeheartedly embraced as part of the Spanish cultural landscape and many Spanish people actually found it incomprehensible that I was vegetarian..they couldn´t believe that I didn´t eat meat….. not even chicken!! Often bus drivers (on the awful airport run to pick up guests who seemed to always land at 4am) would have to rush to tell their friends on arrival at the airport that I was a VEGETARIAN and DID NOT EAT meat!! Their incredulity was very amusing but it was also challenging in restaurants!
Anyway, I was a bit of a lazy girl with my Spanish and although I did improve a bit I didn´t really get beyond my night class ability.Many of the Spanish people I met were in the hotel trade and so it was far easier to communicate in English.
So, roll on to the present day and I am now living in Spain and trying to remember it all once again. I´ve also been put in the position of being a student, being outraged at the amount of homework my teacher gives me and mortified by the red markings on my pages to show my mistakes (which are many and terrible…)
The society I work in is still predominantly English speaking but I am also frequently in contact with people who do not understand English, my friendly neighbor being one! I have also met some parents from my childrens´classes who have been very friendly and so I am determined, this time around, that I will become a better Spanish speaker.
Learning a new language is a magic that I am also familiar with from my childhood, having been sent to a Welsh speaking nursery and school at the age of 3. I can´t really remember learning Welsh as I was so young, but the language learning was part of my brain processing from an early age. I did my O levels in Welsh and some of my A Levels too (Henrik Ibsen and Brecht translated from the original to English then to Welsh anyone!) I am very rusty in Welsh now, having not spoken the language regularly for over twenty years, but the stuff is still stored in my brain somewhere.
Spanish is also stored in my brain although sometimes it feels very difficult to access, sometimes talking to Spanish colleagues or reading a Spanish text can feel simple and effortless, like flicking a switch to turn the light on. There, done, brain is now comprehending and functioning in another language…hurrah, when it happens it´s language magic and feels fantabulous!
Then sometimes the change from English to Spanish gets tripped up along the way and flicking the switch becomes slicking the fwitch and the switch gets stuck in the middle and the room is still in darkness while you strive to find the words in the big black jumbled filing cabinet that your brain has become.
So, I need to stop writing now and start revising. I have a Spanish test tomorrow and I need my switches to work.


  1. Really enjoyed reading this Sian. You brought back some memories of Ibsen and Hedda Gabler...
    Good luck, pob lwc, suerte en el examen. Here hoping that the switch flicks for you!

  2. Hello! I followed a link her from Beth's blog :) I enjoyed this post! I'm an Australian living in Belgium, and have the same thing with learning Dutch. I need to learn so I can chat with school mum's, feel comfortable every time I walk in to a shop, help my daughter with her homework (she's already bilingual, it is strange to be corrected in your pronunciation by a 3 yr old!), all that everyday life stuff is so much easier when you can speak! It's hard though. My brain is not coping!!
    Hope your exam went well :)

  3. Thank you Rhi! Test went well although the oral was really difficult and I made mistakes I had never made before! Spain is quite a forgiving language (apart from the verbs, which are a nightmare!) and I am enjoying being a student...knowing some of the language also makes a massive difference to quality of life, but as you say, it fries your brain with so much thinking...am envious of my 7 and 5 year old who will be fluent before me!!


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