Letters to the Editor
I picked up a copy of the August Ojo at Sandy’s Bookstore here in Guadalajara the other day and came across the article by Cindy Paul titled “Talk Like A Hoosier Pirate.” I sincerely hope that this article was written in jest and was not to be taken seriously as our newly arrived ex-pat friends from the USA and Canada certainly don’t need any additional incentives to forget about the idea of learning Spanish.
I wonder where Ms. Paul got the idea that “Few Gringos possess the ear required to hear and pronounce a musical romance language.” I guess that I had better send a letter to the director of the language program at Georgia State University in Atlanta (my alma mater) and tell the university to quit sending summer students down to Guadalajara to study Spanish at the University of Guadalajara’s Center for Studies for Foreign Students (CEPE). According to Ms. Paul, most of these students are obviously wasting their time.
And what is this “. . not being able to understand anything the teacher says in Spanish?” Haven’t you been listening in class, don’t you pay attention, don’t you do your homework? This statement is absolutely ridiculous. Unless, of course, you are the worst student in the world or have managed to team up with the worst teacher in the world. And, hey, what does all this mean about the Spanish classes that have been offered by the LCS for years? Are these poor students wasting their time also or by some miracle can they understand the instructor?
Having lived in the City of Guadalajara for 14 years and managed to gain a working knowledge of Spanish, my learning experience has been very positive. I started taking classes at the American Society in 2000, then moved on to the University of Guadalajara, the Vancouver Institute, two other private language schools, had a private tutor for a while and even worked on my Spanish with one of my English students. I don’t know why in the hell (pardon my French) I would have wanted any of my teachers to speak like a “Hoosier” or any other person other than someone who lives in Guadalajara.
Certainly learning a foreign language is not easy, but at least all letters in the Spanish alphabet are always pronounced the same. And before you complain about how hard Spanish is, think of the poor Mexican students who are trying to deal with right, and write, and rite; or go and went and gone; and red and read (past tense).
I would reckon that most ex-pats in Mexico carry a cell-phone that could have an English-Spanish dictionary added to it. The best way to start learning the language is to look up words you see on signs and on menus. My wife and I still use the language calculator we bought in Atlanta 16 years ago. We came across an unknown word today in a restaurant, as a matter of fact! Ever heard of a dish called “Alambre de Pollo?” Well the dish is “wire or strips of chicken”, is served at a place called Tomate on Avenida Chapultepec and is delicious! You should give this restaurant a try when next in the city.
In short, I want to say to your readers not to be discouraged about learning Spanish. Of course you will be able to understand your teacher and as you start practicing your new vocabulary out in the Mexican world, the Mexican citizens will be very appreciative. Trust me, we get smiles and thanks for speaking Spanish in Guadalajara almost every day. And, most importantly, the ability to communicate in the native language makes your life here so much more pleasant and easier and fun!
Karl M. Fromberg
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