Saturday, May 17, 2003

:: Learning the language ::

In my evolution as an aspiring Spanish speaker (I realize that I have to master the language if I want to show the professors here that I’ve got what it takes to get this doctorate done), I have reached the “pa-este este” stage. Which is rather ironic, given my upbringing as an iskolar ng bayan in the University of the Pipol. And I can’t even get it right all the time— every now and then I still mix up este, esto, and esta.

Although I managed to jump right into the life here in Spain much faster than I did last year (I received a number of compliments on how my Spanish has improved compared to last year, ahem), I still have a lot of difficulty navigating the complicated language system of the Spaniards.

First off, the pronunciations, the most difficult thing being the soft “th” used for “c” and “z” when followed by “e” or “i.” Thus, Concepcion, which we Filipinos pronounce as “Kon-sep-shyon” is “Kon-thep-thyon” here in Spain. “Francisco” becomes “Fran-this-co.” And so on. I fear that I am developing a permanent lithp, err, lisp.

The Spanish language, thankfully, uses only short vowels, which makes it much easier for us Filipinos to learn the language compared to, say, Americans, who are used to speaking with long vowels. Thus we manage to quickly pull off a convincing “¡Buenos días!” while an American struggles to pronounce “¡Bway-nose dee-yaz!” But it also results in funny pronunciations when the situation is reversed, and the Spaniards have to pronounce English words. Thus, in a conversation with some friends, I heard how much they like “es-speed-er-man” (that’s another funny things about most Spaniards—they can’t start a word with “s;” they always have to pronounce an “e” before the “s”); that although “kris-ler” makes nice cars it is not a very popular brand; that they were impressed with my Palm “toongs-ten;” and so on.