Speaking of Spanish speaking

My parents are heading back to Oak Park after their loco 9 days in Spain. I had a great time with them as their translator and guide. It made me realize that sometimes my Spanish was really good, and sometimes it was not helpful at all. How can I feel like I “know” Spanish, but have no idea what some of the things on the Menu del dia are?

Ok, I for sure know that most of those things come with French fries, so you can’t go wrong.

I started thinking about all the other things that I can’t do…

whistle, dive, run for more than 2 blocks (if I’m not being chased), fold a fitted sheet, wrap a present (big fan of the gift bag), shake only my butt, cross my eyes, and you get the idea that this list could go on for a while….

All those things that I can’t do don’t matter in my daily life. It would be nice to have good gift wrapping skills, but it’s not stopping me from waking up in the morning and buying wrapping paper anyways.

My language skills are similar. I know most of what I need to know to survive. If an ostrich ever burst through my window and built a nest in my closet though, i’m not sure what I would tell my landlord.

I also realized that there are certain people and types of people that I am more comfortable communicating with, and my Spanish is a bajillion (9078389798673227117…. or something like that) times better. Usually it’s in non pressure situations that I can suddenly sound like a real Spanish chica; like chatting with the taxi driver, or asking the tour guide a question (and then becoming BFF’s).

Usually my Spanish is bad when I’m talking with my teachers at school since I’m not even sure when i’m allowed to know anything but English. Although, the secret has to be out by now that I’m not a complete idiot and I know Spanish since I’m living in Spain. Right?

It also gets a little blehh when the person I’m talking to starts giving me this look like “oh god, what is this giant blonde about to say? I probably won’t understand her so I’m not going to try and i’ll just crinkle my nose and say Que?!”  (bus drivers, most stores).

One of the day trips that I took my parents on was to San Millan de la Cogolla: Birthplace of the Spanish language. Boom. I’m living in the cradle of it.


San Millan has two Monasteries, Yuso and Suso, and I believe two restaurants….Oh and one possible Mayor, or wannabe Mayor who told us to please be quiet since we were the only three people walking and talking. Treated.


Yuso Monastery

All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. 

I love that quote. I really believe it.

Read this.

Euskera/ Basque. Written by an anonymous monk. OOoooOOhhhh

huge books that the monks would "chant/ sing" from during services

The tour of the Yuso Monastery was only offered in Spanish. Fine, perfect, I know Spanish! The guide just happened to talk extremely fast. The kind of fast that you can only imitate by making a constant rrrrrr rolling sound.  At this point my parents had already seen at least 12 other churches and had been here for 7 days, so it was okay if we didn’t get every bit of information.

Suso Monastery. It's really "arriba" if you take the route where you climb over a guard rail....

We didn’t want another tour, but we did want to walk up to the other Monastery. It was a hike, but the view and the feeling were wonderful.

The end of a great day

Thinking about the first languages being written and giving meaning to words and things is a pretty abstract topic for me. I love languages and I think I’m good at them, but I’m glad that someone did all that figuring out for me.

Christmas vacation is almost over and now I have to start thinking about what I’ll teach my students when I get back. Reflecting on my learning style and speaking abilities can hopefully guide me. But then again, this quote is a good reminder of the difficulties that English, that oh so wonderful language presents…

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.

un beso



  1. love as always, your spanish got us through some pretty interesting situations! and we met amazing spaniards. What a wonderful, friendly, beautiful, dark-haired, country.

  2. Just wanted to say that I’m the exact same way re: Spanish speaking. With my fiance, easy peasy. With his family, not so easy. Ugh!

    Also, the menu del dia is ridiculous at times with the names of the different cuts of meat/seafood. Sepia, what? 🙂

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