Hard Work Pays Off, Sort Off – And My Degree in Spanish Is Ingeniería y Ciencias Informáticas

I hope none of my colleagues at my office reads this.

Anyways.  I know I have been massively lagging behind in my Spanish class.  But I was inspired by Women’s 400m Butterfly.  Never mind trailing behind in the initial three laps.  It is how much burst energy you have in the last lap that counts.

This morning, I was determined to practice how to write the number 0 to 20 in Spanish.  Cynthia can memorize the spelling in two runs.  My first language is Chinese.  And I learn the language by memorizing the pattern of the character construct, not the sound of the word.  So, I am in for the brutal repetitive drilling exercise to get it.

This morning, I was summoned by my director at another office building.  To sit with him to go through something.  Before we even began, he was summoned by his boss for a brief meeting.  I could …

  1. Space out and look stupid.
  2. Feverishly texting my friends and look busy.
  3. Take over my director’s computer and Google the latest Olympic results.
  4. Or I could …

I opened my laptop, created an Excel spreadsheet that generated random numbers between 0 to 20, pasted these random numbers to a Word document, set the language to Spanish, and started to type the numbers in Spanish (see picture above).  The first set was slow.  By the time I reached the 100th number – I kid you not – I typed like a native.

From 0 to 20 that is.

My effort sort of paid off.  Anna, our Spanish teacher, asked me to write some Spanish on the white board.  Guess what I wrote?  OK.  You get the drift.

I like today’s lesson.  We all shared with each other what we studied and what our professions are.  Overloaded with Spanish words, certainly.  But it was fun not in a Bingo sense like the last lesson.  But getting to know some new friends that is.  There were four of us working in the banking industry!  Amazing.  Time to pass the CV around!

Now, why do the nouns ‘office’, ‘restaurant’, and ‘factory’ take the feminine word form while ‘hospital’, ‘supermarket’, and ‘hotel’ take the masculine word form?  I still haven’t got the hang of it.  To further illustrate, a female architect is arquitecta.  A male architect is arquitecto.  When Anna taught us that a male lawyer in Spanish is abogado, I couldn’t help but screamed ‘avocado’ as a reflect action.  That got everyone laughing.

Oh well.  Baby steps.  I know I can do this!  ¡Adiós!

Bingo, Played In Spanish

If I was single and in Spain, by the end of lesson three, I shall be able to go beyond hi-how-are-you, what’s-your-name, where’re-you-from, when’s-your-birthday, to … what’s your telephone number?

Except, I wouldn’t be able catch 100% what her number would be.  D’oh!

The reality is this: Last evening, Cynthia and I have spent an hour or so to do the Spanish homework.  One activity was to listen to a recorded track and learn how to speak 0 to 20 in Spanish.  I swear by the second repeat, Cynthia was able to memorize all the words and started to speak.  I was like … wait, what is after uno again?!  Actually I do know the answer.  Simply because it spells like DOS – disk operating system.  D’oh!

Again, what excited me today was when our teacher Anna talked about the origin of Spanish language, how it evolves from Latin and Greek.  As for the rest of the lesson, I was doodling most of the time.  I didn’t get the whole class feeling hungry like the previous time.  Someone asked our Japanese classmate in Spanish on how to say the word ‘chicken’ in Japanese.  We ended up talking about Chicken (Tori) Teriyaki.  Everyone was suddenly very animated.  I think we shall forget about the number 0 to 20 and go straight to ordering food in Spanish.

Oh well.

We played Bingo in Spanish and need not to say, I was utterly lost.  Cynthia won two games as I suspect that most of us were kind of lost too.  Anna gave us a preview of the various verb forms and I went uh-oh.  Here is an example for you.  ‘I speak’ is yo hablo, ‘you speak’ is tú hablas, and ‘he/she speaks’ is él/ella habla.  The fun begins with nosotros hablamos (we speak), vosotros hablais (you [in plural] speak), ellos hablan (they [men or a mix of men and women] speak), and ellas hablan (they [women] speak).

On a lighter note, my pair of Avril Lavigne tickets has arrived!  It’ll be on el siete de Septiembre.  Fun time it will be in exactly one month’s time.

OK.  Time to go to bed and dream of … cero, uno, dos, tres … tori, teri, yaki …

¿De Dónde Eres? ¡Singapur! – So I Sotong My Way Through Yet Another Spanish Class

Towards the end of the lesson, as Cynthia was conversing with our teacher Anna in Spanish on the topic of countries and nationalities in a convincing fluency, I was looking at the world map so nicely drawn on my Spanish book and couldn’t help but to imagine a game of RISK with my dwindling troops scattered at four corners of the world.  Soon, in this lost battle of I against me, all I heard was a foreign language that I was clueless about.  As though I was warped into another planet, lost in another reality.

But wait, weren’t Cynthia and I at the same class with supposedly the same progress?

OK.  It was not all hard work.  I like the part about Spanish culture that Anna took some time and shared with us some of the basic demography of España: the ancient Celtric tribes that settled at the north (Galicia), the capital city Barcelona of an autonomous community (Galicia) that borders with France, and the south of Spain (Andalusia) that is just a good swim away from Morocco.  Anna asked us what else we wished to know besides the different peoples in Spain, the Flamenco dance (that is well known as a Spanish dance but in fact only popular in Andalusia at the south), and the 9am to 1pm / 4pm to 8pm working hours (siesta in between), my immediate response was: food.

That got everybody in the classroom feeling hungry, including Anna.  Not my fault!  It was an innocent question!

The hard part was learning the list of countries, nationalities, and the masculino and femenio forms for the males and females.  For example, Spain is España, a Spanish man is Español, and a Spanish woman is Española.  In plural form, we have Españols and Españolas.  The rules that change the nationalities into the two forms are not that hard; the way a nationality is spelled out is.  Some countries are totally unrecognizable.  Who would have thought that the words America and American are Estados Unidos and Estadounidense in Spanish?  I personally wish that the lesson stresses more on the pronunciation of these Spanish words rather than the rigorous exercise of pen-and-paper.

I guess it will take me a long while to memorize and speak what I’ve learned this lesson.  No wonder I spaced out towards the end.  How Cynthia managed to memorize on the spot and speak is totally beyond me.  Perhaps her brain is wired in a different way.


¡Hola! ¿Cómo Te … Erm … What? – Our First Spanish Lesson at Las LiLas School

You didn’t think I was joking when I said Cynthia is going to learn Spanish after Fernando Torres scored the goal that won Spain the UEFA Cup 2008, did you?  So I join her, under one condition.  Stay tuned and you may hear about it in September this year.

To learn Spanish is one of Cynthia’s childhood dreams.  I honestly have no special love for the language, the music, or the food but I do love to fulfill the dreams of others if I can.  Learning a language is absolutely not my strength and it is utterly one of the 10 things I fear most.  I am not exaggerating.

Exactly what I am going to do with this new skill, I have no clue.  However I am a strong believer that whatever you learn today opens up options you may have in the future.  Besides, I have this impression that Spanish is widely spoken in the Americas and I just learned from a Filipino friend of mine that his country was under the Spaniards for 400 years!  If this new experience hasn’t opened up new options for me yet, it has certainly opened up new conversation topics.  Did you know that Spanish is the world’s second most-spoken language by native speakers after Mandarin Chinese?

I told my boss that I have a Wednesday class in town so that any travel plan in the near future can hopefully be scheduled according to my constraint; I told my team that I am learning Spanish so that they know I have a life and won’t expect me to OT on work that never ends.  My boss sounded supportive and he told me that learning a new language is good to give our brain cells a good workout.  Great!  I think my first lesson was more than a workout.  I was exhaustively euphoric.

Anna is an interpreter by day, Spanish teacher by night and she is a fun person full of laughter.  Las LiLas School specializes in teaching Spanish language at various levels and the learning environment is OK.  I wish the classroom could be more colorful.  Having some refreshments inside the room would have been nice.  Next time I shall bring along my bottle of water and some snacks as well.

I guess all good language lessons begin with hi-how-are-you, what’s-your-name, and I’m-so-and-so.  Spanish language seems to have three extra alphabets ll, ch, and ñ, which is pretty funky.  Cynthia’s mother tongue is Bahasa Indonesia – a language with a certain level of Dutch influence – and she didn’t find the i-pronounced-as-e and e-pronounced-as-a confusing.  That alone confuses the heck out of me.  Fortunately, I am trained in pronouncing the tongue rolling ‘R’ sound of the Indonesian and the throat vibrating ‘R’ sound of the French, I am doing OK with the Spanish ‘G’, ‘J’, and ‘R’ that utilize both techniques.  ‘Y’ in Spanish is pronounced as ‘Y Griega’ (literally means letter Y from the Greek).  Some of these alphabets sound almost like a word to me.  When I was asked to spell out my name, I flipped.  The alphabet ‘W’ is pronounced as ‘Uve Doble’.  Although I seem to be able to get the rest of the tough alphabets right, ‘Uve Doble’ is one tough nut for me.  You know the Spanish dance genre Paso Doble?  It is the same ‘Doble’.  Why English calls ‘W’ double-U?  I don’t know.  Spanish calls it double-V.

Ah … all these confusions.  Thanks to the Tower of Babel.

Oops, exceeded 500 word count for this entry.  Stay tuned for more stories on How I Flunk My Spanish Test.