Friday, February 8, 2013

Spanish On The Hoof

Oink if you feel it helps.

"Now here are the words for today: 'vaca', 'cerdo', 'pollo', 'caballo', 'cabra'. Write a sentence using each."

This was Spanish at Noxius, The School of Language.

After three weeks there I began gnawing on my leg. They had to drag me out.

I believe the yawning pit opened somewhere between "vaca" and "cerdo", but I could be wrong. Vertigo may have distorted my memory.

I have no great love for vacas, either close by or from a distance. Or for cerdos.

Not a one of them. Not in herds or individually, even if they were to wear colorful name tags, and I never write about them. Ordinarily. As far as I can remember.

Which is what made this Spanish class so extraordinarily poignant.

Is that the word for how you end up sobbing in desperation?

Could be. Something like that. After having been an adult for so very many years, and being returned to seven-year-old status.

My fellow students were earnest. As was Señora Salamandre. Our teacher.

My fellow students wanted to learn all about farm animals, and to use them in sentences. And Señora Salamandre was qualified.

She spoke Spanish and we didn't. Which entitled her to earn money.


And she was the wife of a doctor. Which made her large with status.

In week one we learned to count from one to three.

In week two we learned what a fork was called, and which things one could poke with it, in polite company.

Week three introduced us to the farm animals, and to sentences of up to four words.

And then there I was, growling, and biting my ankle. Perhaps you can understand.

Perhaps not. It seems different in Spanish than the ordinary gnawing you might do in English, for example. In case you have done that yourself, in English or French, or Klingon.

"In Klingon? Right. I can understand how you might end up there, in Klingon," you could say, solicitously, backing up, looking for an exit. "But Spanish? Well..."

Ah, but you did not study under Señora Salamandre, who had a way of bringing the teeth out in people. She had a way. It brought all those gnawing instincts straight to the surface. Which was where my Spanish studies at Noxius ended.

I had to resign.

After regaining consciousness I sent a polite email explaining that I would not be back, so sorry. Ever. Cold fronts in hell and so on. And then the Director of Gringo Studies contacted me about remedial help.

"I have discussed your case with Robert Waddler, my room-mate, one of your fellow students, and a board-certified Slung Fwey Technician (Third Degree, Kwik Kwek Kwak School of the Ravenous Heron), and Crystal Therapist. He feels there may be some disturbance in one of your past incarnations. We can work on that. I have also talked to others about you and your episodes of speechlessness, and feel confident that if we place you in a new, Sub-Beginner Spanish Class (starting next week, at only $19.95 per hour), and you promise not to gnaw on yourself in front of others, we can virtually assume that at the end of six months or so you will be fluent in talking about farm animals in sentences of up to four words."

But by then I am afraid it was too late.

Perhaps it was my previous language training that spoiled me.

The training in Latin. The training in German. The B.A. in English. Or perhaps the B.S. in Physics and Computer Science (with minors in math and chemistry). Who can say?

But I did not feel up to a special Sub-Beginner Spanish Class (starting at only $19.95 an hour, with four-color flash cards of farm animals and emergency tutoring available on demand), and am now studying with Nadezhda of the Dark Eyes and the Quick Wit.

And blood is once more flowing through my brain.

Because of being treated like an adult? Possibly.

Because, you know.

I am one.


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