Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pelicula Attack or Why I don't speak Spanish

The other day, GoofBoy was visiting the Carpool Clan and he kept saying, “I’m so hungry, I wish there was a big plate of fried molcajete to eat.”

Carpool Dad finally told GoofBoy, “You know molcajete is a stone bowl used for grinding stuff.”

“I know,” GoofBoy answered cheerfully, “But my dad loves the way the word sounds so he keeps saying things like that to make my mom crazy.”

Every adult present laughed because – well – they know me.

MamaGoof is a fluent Spanish speaker and yet somehow, despite over 20 years together, I haven’t managed to learn Spanish. It is possible that I am a few scoops short of a sundae. There is plenty of evidence for this theory, but I think MamaGoof has incentives to prevent me from becoming bilingual.

I fall in love with the sound of words, like película. That is the Spanish word for movie. But MamaGoof at the instant she taught me the word, realized to her endless regret, that as soon as I heard it I envisioned a huge pelican with fangs.

(The attached pictures that capture what I see in my head when I hear the word pelicula come from a neat Washington Post article about ancient flying vertebrates and a neat sight called called Kids Dig Dinos - visit them if you actually want to learn something rather than reading my drivel.)

“Aiii! It is el película!” I would scream in terror or, “You know what would be a great película? El Película vs. El Chupácabra!”

The salt in this linguistic wound is of course that película is feminine, so I should, properly, be yelling “¡la película!” in terror (which might be appropriate when we sit down to watch the next Sharknado.)

When I actually try to speak Spanish, the results aren’t much better. Since my Spanish is at the level of a two year old, my conversation is similar to that of a two year old.

¡Yo quiero un oso blanco! (I want a polar bear.)

¿Dónde está el burro? (Where is the donkey?)

¡Yo quiero comer el molcajete! (I want to eat the molcajete!)

As it happens I do speak a bit of Spanish – enough to communicate with children and surprise people. Once when GoofGirl was an infant, we were shopping and MamaGoof headed down an aisle to find something. I stayed along the side with GoofGirl and the cart. A wizened Latino saw my little girl and came up to her and grinned – just looking (a sentiment I certainly understood).

¡La muñeca!” he whispered.

“That’s right, she’s my little doll,” I answered.

His eyes grew huge and he jumped back, exclaiming, “¡El blanco!”

I also issue basic commands to my children in Spanish. One afternoon, while the little Goofs were over at Carpool Clan manor (notice how many of these stories start this way), Carpool Gal asked if I really knew any Spanish.

“Watch this,” I told her.

“¿Que haces niño?”

GoofBoy dutifully looked up, “Nothing dad, just playing. CarpoolGal was unimpressed, “That’s it?” she asked.

¡Ven aquí niño!”

Summoned, GoofBoy ran up to me, “What’s up dad?”

“Nothing buddy, go play.”

CarpoolGal nodded approvingly.

¡Niño, no hagas eso!” I yelled.

GoofBoy, at the other end of the yard looked up, shocked, “Dad, I’m not doing anything! Really!”

“See,” I told Carpool Gal, “I know some Spanish.”

But not too much, and that’s just the way MamaGoof wants to keep it.

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