As our 10-year reunion fast approaches for the Ellensburg Class of ‘96, I am documenting some long-forgotten high school memories. Last month I covered Biology class, now it’s time to look at Spanish…
Technically, we were learning a second language. However, we were being taught at an infantile level. Even after graduation, it’s not like we could go to Mexico and discuss politics or world affairs in Spanish. Our vocabulary was limited to the alphabet and the primary colors. Unless a Mexican two-year old wanted to strike up a conversation about counting to ten, I wouldn’t have much to contribute.
Aside from that, it was all buen (good)…
The Dry Erase Boards:
Every so often, our Spanish teacher would pass out Sharpies and dry erase boards to the entire class. The learning objective was simple: She would say something in Spanish, and we would transcribe it with the correct spelling and punctuation.
That was the intent, anyway. The instant the teacher turned her back, Solo would raise his dry-erase board overhead for the entire class to see the remarkably detailed depictions of sex acts he had drawn. I would then give Solo a thumbs up for his efforts, as I’ve always believed in supporting the arts.
I tried to interject my own slang into Spanish class, just to provide some levity for myself. For instance, “cool” was “frio.” “Manchild” was “hombre-nino.” “Sweet” was “dulce.” And so forth…
The best way to illustrate this is to read my Spanish project from my Junior year. You can access it here. Trust me, it’s worth a click over.
Oh Raquel, will you ever locate the bastard child of Don Fernando?
In an effort to learn conversational Spanish, we were forced to watch episodes of the Spanish soap opera Destinos. For those unfamiliar with Destinos, allow me to summarize the plot:
Don Fernando is old and very sick. Muy malo. On his deathbed, he summons the Mexican female equivalent of Magnum PI (Raquel Rodriguez) to his hacienda to help him resolve a troubling issue from his past.
In his younger days, Don Fernando was a soldier. After the war, he fled Spain and went underground to Argentina. There wasn’t a reason given, but presumably he was a war criminal. Muy atrocities. In his flight out of the country, he left behind his wife and child, and started a new family. Muy philandering.
Now living in Mexico, he tries to atone for the mistakes of his past. Lying on his deathbed, he clutches a faded picture of his abandoned child. “Mi hijo,” he repeats ad nauseam for dramatic effect. And that is where Raquel comes in…
The dialogue is exclusively in Spanish, so much of the details of the storyline are lost in translation. But why is he so desperate to find this child now? Is he worried about being incriminated? Does he need an heir to run the cartel? And let’s not forget, at this point, his “child” would be about 70 years old.
Gaping plot holes aside, Raquel must now travel to every corner of the third world to find Don Fernando’s lost son. And we, the audience, get to share in the adventure and intrigue on the edge of our seats.
Translated, it means “I see.” And I owe my “A” in Spanish to those two words. A big part of our grade was conversing in Spanish, and I found that I could reply to virtually any statement in Spanish with a simple “I see” and it created the illusion that I was able speak fluently. For instance:
The Teacher: “Yo quiero planchar la ropa a las tres y media.” (I like to iron clothes at 3:30.)
Me: “Yo Veo.” (I see.)
Me: “Adios.” (Goodbye.)
Oh, and I always tacked on an “Adios” to signal that the conversation was over. And that my friends, is how you flow fluency like a rio de buen agua (river of good water.)