Friday, June 8, 2012

Learning With my Ears

At Hubby’s softball game last night, there was a darling little Latino boy running up and down our bleachers.  I overheard him using a few words of Spanish to his mother, so I asked him, “Habla espanol?”  He nodded.  “Will you help me practice my Spanish?” I asked, looking at his mother for approval.  He nodded shyly and she smiled.  I had a new tutor.

Ellos está jugando beisbal, I said questioningly, pointing to the field.  He nodded.  They are playing baseball.  La pelota amarilla, sí?  He nodded again; it’s a yellow ball.  Su camiseta es negra, sí?  Yes, he nodded, my shirt is black.  He looked at me curiously, wondering why a woman my age didn’t have her colors down pat, I suppose.

“How do I say, her jeans are dirty?  Sus jeans son . . . ?”  He thought for a moment and said . . . something I didn’t catch.  I looked at his mother, and she kind of shook her head.  “That’s a slang term for dirty.  I would suggest you use sucio.”  Got it.  Sus jeans son sucios.

When I got home, I looked up sucio to check the spelling.  And in the process, I found the word I think he used: cochino.  Google Translate says it means “swinish, hoggish”.  Basically, “looks like a pig”.  Had to giggle at that.

But I also had to be annoyed at myself for not being able to understand cochino when I heard it.  I think this is going to be a problem for me when I try to learn Spanish through conversation in Panama (if we end up in Panama).  I am a visual learner – this experience confirmed that to me all the more.  I couldn’t even register the sounds he was using because I couldn’t see them.  I needed to have him sound out each syllable separately and let me visualize it before I would have known the word.

Sigh.  That will be aggravating.  I suppose I’ll have to bring a notebook and pen with me everywhere and ask people to write down new words for me.  Perdón? Escribir eso, por favor?  Or maybe, hopefully, my ear will train itself.  This will be a fascinating process for a linguistic connoisseur like me!

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