Language Week

Language Week

Accompanying song: Foster the People – Pumped up kicks

It’s now July, and Māori Language week in New Zealand is being kicked off. In an attempt to keep the te reo Maori (the language of New Zealand’s indigenous people) alive, New Zealanders are encouraged to embrace the use of the language for one week. Then there’s me, 9,000 kms away from New Zealand, embracing my own bilingual-ness with Spanish. I’ve been feeling like I’ve actually been making progress over the past two weeks.

I’ve been embracing every method of learning as possible, including reading kids’ stories and even attempting to make sense of Spanish movies.

Television and I have kind of had a love hate relationship over the years. Although I’m not against television I’m a tad goal oriented and have found in the past that television really doesn’t benefit me. And then there’s social movie watching, If I want to hang-out with friends, I’d prefer to spend time conversing with them, or doing an activity with them – not sitting in mutual silence viewing a movie with 100 other people in the theater. In saying that, I like the entertainment, especially if I can do another activity in conjunction with it (like edit photos).  Now that I’m learning a language, TV has become so much more fascinating. I watched “Cómo perder un chico en 10 días” this week and loved it so much more than the first time. Don’t know the movie? How about “how to lose a guy in 10 days”, because that’s what it is, well with Spanish voice-overs. Kate Hudson had a deep voice and spoke Spanish – yes, an odd scenario for my poor brain.

My Spanish now consists of verbs and nouns, not particularly strung together in the most poetic manner. For people to understand me they need to really want to understand me and be intelligent enough to decipher what I’m saying. It’s like Darwin’s natural selection, I’m only able to be friends with patient and intelligent people! Not a bad scenario at all.

Although most people are pretty tolerant of my terrible Spanish, there are a few mistakes that are clearly not well received in some circumstances. There’s masculine verses feminine words (no man wants to be called a woman and visa versa) and then there’s the “tu” or “usted” thing.  “Tu”/”usted” translate to the equivalent of “you” in English, the difference lies in the formality. You say “tu” most of the time unless you want to be formal. I consider “usted” to be like saying Sir/Madam. Some people take a blanket approach of just saying “tu”, no matter who they are talking to. They consider “usted” to be too old fashioned. I don’t know any person who actually likes being called madam or sir, so I too have adopted this approach. This is good for me for two reasons, first it’s more friendly, sometimes saying “usted” is considered to be a method of distancing yourself from someone, and second I have one quick-fire conjunction response. However… I have recently discovered from the disgust on people’s faces that sometimes this is not the right rule to follow. Some people see it as a sign of disrespect, eck!

On the whole I’m learning and getting better, well when I’m not being unintentionally vulgar that is. Although “caliente” means boiling, it also means randy. Saying “I feel caliente” as you take off your jacket certainly doesn’t leave the kind of impression a girl wants.

Ximena & I with some fun Chicas we meet on Saturday.

To my American friends, happy 4th of July, to my friends in New Zealand, happy Māori Language week, and to others like me making the move into bilingualism,  power to you!

I’m missing some people back home (a huge amount), but life here is starting to feel normal. I have a couple of friends now and even went out to a club on Saturday night and had a great time (see pic). I’ve found a (relatively) good gym and it seems that I can communicate my broad wants and needs.

So now, it begs the question, what bucket list item shall I start working towards…


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