It’s 4pm somewhere.!!

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When I first learned about chopsticks, I wanted to learn how to use them.!! Unfortunately, I was not very talented. In the beginning, it was like an endurance test. How long could I last.? First it was five minutes, then eventually 10 minutes. My fingers would cramp up. I would sweat. I couldn’t pick up the wet rice at the bottom. At some point, I would surrender and grab a fork or a spoon.

Then I would stuff my mouth with impunity. You would have thought I hadn’t eat in days. I was so impatient to learn and so disheartened at how long it was taking. But finally, after what seemed like thousands of bowls of shrimp fried rice and noodles, I could last the entire meal. I had finally mastered chopsticks. It became a new source of pride for me.!!

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And then my next challenge came… In the form of the Spanish language.! I started out slowly with the basics. Simple pleasantries were my mainstay such as the weather and how everyone was doing. Eventually, I learned to tell people more about myself such as where I was from, where my parents were from, and how many siblings, neices, nephews, etc I had. I could also inquire about other peoples’ families and origins. They were small, small, baby steps.

At my first two jobs in Mexico, I did not need to speak a lot of Spanish. And most of my Mexican friends wanted to practice English with me. So I became lax. But then two things happened. I became pretty serious with my Mexican novio and he wanted to teach me Spanish. And secondly, at my third and final and most happy job, I needed to speak and understand Spanish. All of our morning meetings were held in Spanish. Plus, a good portion of the hotel staff such as security, housekeeping, and maintenance did not speak English.

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This of course was great because my Spanish improved drastically. This of course was also a nightmare. Let us not forget that in my little pea brain, I already have three other languages – my first (Croatian), my second (English), and my third (French)..!! And sometimes these three languages like to overlap each other. And while my French is pretty horrible at best, it is still inside my mind and likes to rear it’s head at very inopportune times. Usually on those occasions when I use le as a masculine determiner rather than él.

Of course when I would have a few drinks, then Croatian would come out.! Who knew.?! I guess it’s the place I go to first when I am a little inebriated.! Then almost no one would understand me.! However, what I also learned is that just like with the chopsticks, I was slowly building endurance. Everyday, I could last a little bit longer than the day before. Every week, I could understand one more word, one more sentence, and one more expression. I no longer had to cry, “No, I can’t take it. It’s 4pm. No more Spanish today..!”

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I was completely surprised at how long it took me to learn Spanish. Is it an age thing.? Is Spanish more difficult? Was I lazy.? I don’t know. But what I did know is that I wanted to learn. Even when I had a headache. Even when my brain overloaded to the point that I did not understand a single word anyone was saying. There were definitely days, I would become so overwhelmed from my inablility to understand what someone was saying. Or a document.

Sometimes, I would mix up my sentences and speak half English and half Spanish. I was made fun of for that and accused of speaking Spanglish. But what I was really doing was continuing to speak the sentence or phrase I had the most skill in to continue to make it part of my daily rhythm. I spoke sentences in English that I had not yet mastered. Or sometimes, I did what most bi-lingual or multi-lingual speakers do, I code-switched. It’s where you use the expression or word that is suited best for the moment and is not easily translated.!

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I think mastering the language slowly is the only thing that kept me going and learning. I met so many expats who didn’t even try after so many years of living in Mexico.!! I also remember the surprised looks from my co-workers and friends when I would say, “Stop, I can’t anymore. It’s 4pm.” Because I was always trying, so that surprised them. But even marathon runners have to work up to 26.2 miles. They just don’t start out running that many miles. And the same can be true about learning a language.

When I left Mexico, I was at 4pm. That time became my cutoff and my rallying (or surrendering) cry. “It’s 4pm. I can’t speak or understand Spanish for the rest of the day.!” Of course everyone laughed, I’m funny 🙂 But I hope they also understood. Now after being gone so long, I worry that my endurance has regressed. What if now I can only make it to 2pm.? Do I still have what it takes to continue learning? I surely hope so.! Ojala..

18 thoughts on “It’s 4pm somewhere.!!

  1. Oh Rose! You do inspire me. Right now I am at about 8:00 AM (if I got up at 7:30!) but bit by bit I am starting to understand a word here, a word there, and occasionally even saying something intelligible myself.

    • I am so glad to hear that.! Thank you 🙂 Trust me, for a long time I was only at 8am and that was if I got up at 7:55am..!! jajaja… It really does take bit by bit. Just commit to one word or phrase per day until you get the hang of it. And then move on to another. Good luck!! Suerte.!!

      And it was nice to hear from you 🙂 I hope you are enjoying your lovely adventure.!!

  2. I gave up on chopsticks a looooong time ago – it’s just not for me haha.
    I completely understand the sensation of being in a foreign country trying to learn their language. The first time I came to the US was a nightmare because I realized that the Englisht that I learnt in school was awful. So many days of embarrassment and awkward situations, but there is nothing we can’t do if we set our minds to! Congratulations on your progress Rose!
    Hasta pronto!

    • Thank you so much.!! Sometimes, I am just stubborn and so I keep proceeding forward when really I should just quit.!! hahaha… Hence, my talent with chopsticks.

      Funny, it’s not just a new country. Sometimes, it’s an old country too. When I went to visit my relatives in Croatia the first time, they made fun of my Croatian. And not because I couldn’t speak it.! But because my parents had taught me 1970s slang Croatian mixed in with the correct words. So here I was in 2001, saying the equivalent of “groovy” to my relatives.!!! We laughed about that one for a long time 🙂

      Hasta pronto.! Y suerte 🙂

  3. Estás un poquito loca!!! me encanta leerte…!!!! Estoy segura de que no tendrás ningún problema…Aunque claro, siempre se `puede seguir aprendiendo!!! No te lo he comentado, pero C. es americano, y vivió un año en Chicago! 🙂 Desde el principio sólo hablamos en español (de hecho él no sabía que yo hablaba inglés! 🙂 ) y cada día mejoró un poco, y un poco y un poco…Ahora casi sabe más que yo! Y, en cambio, yo sí que he perdido mucho de mi Inglés! Así es la vida>>! Como tú dices: “Son las 4 en algún lugar del mundo”
    Un abrazo!

    • Perdona que me entrometa en tu comentario pero me ha llamado la atención! Mi novio también es de Chicago y a veces tratamos de hablar en español para que el pueda aprender y poder hablar con mi familia, que vive en España. El problema es que estamos muy acostumbrados a hablar en ingles porque es la lengua que empezamos a hablar cuando nos conocimos. Me siento muy extraña hablando con él en mi lengua nativa! Mi objetivo es que para estas Navidades pueda ya hablar una conversación perfectamente. Vamos a visitar a mi familia y quiero que les sorprenda!!

      • Wow.! ¡Qué pequeño es el mundo.! It is very interesting how certain lives intersect and are similar to others.!! Mi novio y yo took turns speaking English and then Spanish. One hour English, one hour Spanish. Because neither of us knew the other language – we had to learn to use both.! Good luck on your visit.!! Suerte.!!

    • Si es verdad.! Soy un poquito loca por seguro.!! Mi novio me dice. Mis amigos me dicen. jajajaja…Gracias por tus palabras amables y por leer mi blog.!!

      Ah I didn’t know C. is an American. Muy chido 🙂 But it is the perfect complement to learning another language. Mi novio, J., learned more English from me. Now he speaks English way better than I speak Spanish. And of course he makes fun of me because he knows more.!! hahaha….Oh well…es vida loca 🙂

      Un abrazo para ti.!!

  4. I love the chopsticks metaphor! I can so relate! By the time I come home from working at a Spanish speaking office, and my host family starts speaking Spanish to me, my brain muscles hurt. I just wish I could unwind with some mindless TV…that wasn’t also in Spanish.

    • Thank you.!! And I totally understand about your need to unwind.!! I got lucky (except for mi novio), all of my roommates were American or British. So I got to go home and speak English which after a long day was a welcome relief. Ah, I was also lucky because we have some American channels in English in Playa.! Good luck.! It will get easier 🙂

    • Aw..thanks Andra.! How sweet of you.! Sometimes, I don’t feel very brave. Sometimes, I wonder (have wondered) if I have completely lost my mind.! But it has definitely been exhilirating and life altering. Not to mention the dear friends I have met. And while you can’t do chopsticks, I have seen your yoga moves and boy are they impressive.!!

  5. Ha ha…I felt the same way to begin with, when I lived in Sweden. After 4pm I spoke Danish, take it or leave it:) Regarding Spanish I agree, it’s such a difficult language. Or at least I found it really difficult to get the intonation right. I’ve never studied Spanish, but I worked for 6 month in Marbella as a tourist rep. Not exactly optimal conditions as there are so many non-Spanish living down there. At an ordinary trip to the supermarket, I’d probably meet more Scandinavians than Spanish people:)

    • I couldn’t agree with you more.! I always found the intonation to be the hardest part.! Where exactly do I put the accent.??!! I also had the same experience with Spanish b/c I studied French in school. And in Playa del Carmen, there are so many English speaking expats living there as well as tourists.! I knew people who got by never learning Spanish while living there.!!

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