Thursday, February 11, 2010

How I Learned to Speak Spanish

*I originally posted this story on my recipe blog, but I am posting it here for those of you who are curious as to how I learned to speak Spanish.  

*My Aunt Lidia and me on the ranch in San Luis, Sonora circa 1979

I am 1/4 Mexican, but I didn't learn to speak Spanish until the summer before my 5th birthday.  My grandmother had just married a man that spoke no English.  And I didn't speak a word of Spanish.  Seeing that Pappy and I were having trouble communicating, she took me to San Luis, Sonora, Mexico. (My grandmother was raised in San Luis.) She left me there with one of my aunt's and her family for three months so I could learn Spanish.  Talk about an immersion course!

One of Gramm's brothers, my Tio Ruben, was the only relative that spoke English.  He would stop by daily to see how I was doing and would give me a few pesos to buy dulces (candy).  I would voice all of my complaints and he would translate it to my Tia Lidia.

But Tio Ruben couldn't stay all day.  

The way I communicated with my relatives was through pointing.  I'd point to something, then my aunt or cousins would say the word for the object in Spanish.  If I pointed to the milk carton, my Aunt would say "Leche". 

Whenever I wanted a glass of milk, I would say leche.  But my aunt would then say, "Quiero leche."  At the time, I didn't know what that meant, but whenever I said it, I got a glass of milk. 

Being the genius kid that I was, I learned more and more Spanish everyday.

One morning, my Tia Lidia had prepared the best tasting breakfast I had ever tasted.  Remember I was only 4 years old!  I asked, "Que es?"  My aunt answered, "Chorizo con huevo."  I immediately asked for mas (more).  And spent the rest of the day singing "Chorizo con huevo" all day long.  I requested Chorizo con Huevo for breakfast every morning!

I couldn't wait to share my latest discovery with my Tio Ruben, but he had left San Luis for a couple of weeks.  With no one around to speak English with, my Spanish improved by leaps and bounds.

Two weeks passed and my Tio Ruben had returned from wherever he had been.  Before he could ask how I was doing, I said, "Tio Ruben, me das veinte pesos para comprar huevos y chorizo?"  (Uncle Ruben, can I have twenty pesos to buy eggs and chorizo?)

Tio Ruben laughed and was very happy that the little gringa was finally speaking Spanish.  I didn't speak a word of English for the rest of my stay.

And that ladies and gentlemen is how I learned to speak Spanish!

With Love,