Sitting this evening at one of my favorite tapas restaurants, I was enjoying wonderful sangria! Of course, I was also practicing my Spanish with the waitstaff. I practice whenever I can because I fear getting rusty and losing everything I learned.
And while some of it came fairly easy – uno, dos, tres; agua; como estas, etc. The rest came with much difficulty. And embarrassment I might add. Or at least mild discomfort. I spent my first two weeks in Mexico ordering apple juice – jugo de manzana – because I could not say orange juice properly. In case you are wondering – it’s jugo de naranja. Something about the n sound coupled with the j sounding like an h tripped up my tongue. And of course I had the syllable in the wrong place.
I would like to add here that the Moors brought the word naranja to Spain and it was not an existing Spanish word. Some people have pointed out that could have been my issue with the words naranja and toronja (grapefruit). I’m good with that explanation. I have no problem blaming the Moors for my pronounciation issues. Really just kidding here 🙂
Other times, however, I did only have myself to blame. I had a hard time remembering words that were similar but not the same. It’s like when you meet two people at the same time named Mary and Maria – you keep messing up their names. And that..my friends…was my issue with vaso and taza.
Vaso means glass and taza means cup/mug. Pretty easy right? Wrong! I was always saying vasa or tazo (I think that was Starbucks’ fault and their Tazo tea). It became easier to order a bottle of water (botella de agua) or a glass of wine (copa de vino). Copa is any glass with a stem. For some reason I had no problem remembering that! hahaha…
Finally, I learned how to remember the two words and use them appropriately. In a very silly manner, I might add. In the word vaso – va means go in Spanish hence the ‘o’ ending in go, so vaso. I know – silly. But it worked. It’s similar to remembering the name of the Great Lakes through their acronym HOMES – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Sometimes, you just need a little clue.
My Mexican friends thought this was hilarious. They could not understand my inability to differentiate between glass and cup. Of course, when they put it like that – it did seem silly. But then I would politely remind them of the words that they confused in English that were not confusing to me. For example, in Spanish, historia refers to history and story. My friend A was always telling me he had a great history to tell me. It took me a couple of times to realize he had a great story to tell me, usually juicy gossip.
Also, in Spanish to lend or borrow both derive from the verb prestar. Needless to say, in English, you don’t usually go around saying – “He borrowed me some money.” Usually at this point, we would all bust out laughing! Thankful we could communicate in one language and somehow be understood in the other. As well as grateful that we could make mistakes and learn from each other.
This evening at the tapas restaurant, the waiter complimented me on my Spanish – “Tu español es muy bueno.” His kind words made me smile, partly with pride and partly with remembrance of my time in Mexico. At this point, we decided to order more sangria. But we wanted a pitcher. Oh crap, how do you say pitcher in Spanish?! Not again! Oh hell, just bring me a copa! I promise I will know how to say pitcher next time I come.