As I’ve probably mentioned before, the company for which I work is foreign-owned. Although the North American headquarters are here in Houston, it’s difficult to walk down any of the hallways and overhear a conversation that’s actually taking place in English. This doesn’t bother me — far from it, actually — I’m well-accustomed to a multi-lingual situation, having been born and raised in one of the world’s biggest melting pots and it’s something in which I’ve always taken pride.
Myself, I speak a couple of languages. While it isn’t the first foreign language I learned, German is the one in which I’m most fluent. I attribute that to the simple fact that it’s so similar to English — no great feat there. I took two years of French in high school and made straight 100s (I didn’t even do that well in English, for God’s sake!) but to this day, I can only speak a few phrases. I understand it quite well, though. I have a smattering of Polish under my belt (thanks, Jess) and I can count to ten in Scots Gaelic (ach, but who canna?). The language that is the most useful to me, however, is Spanish.
Part of the reason I was hired here is that I speak Spanish. Again, it’s about third on my list of languages in terms of fluency. That doesn’t mean I’m terrible at it. It just means that I’m a little slower to respond to questions and I have to stop and collect my thoughts at times while speaking. My written Spanish is fine. In fact, I developed an entire line of Spanish communications (posters, brochures, booklets and a DVD) at my last job that were very well-received and caused a 200% increase in Spanish-speaking enrollment after its implementation. Yes, 200%. I have very few things to brag about these days, so just let me get that out of the way. Thanks.
At work recently, I was told that my Spanish is “too informal” (this was after asking someone I barely knew ¿Tienes una pluma?) I suppose that’s a fair judgment, considering that the bulk of my Spanish was learned from my stepfather’s family, contractors, cleaning crews and people I’ve worked with at community centers. I took four years of Spanish in high school, but that clearly sunk in about as well as my French classes. It’s not like I sit down and watch telenovelas or Sábado Gigante to try and brush up on it, either. And I haven’t taken a single formal course in ten years. So that’s to be expected. Informal was fine for my last job, since my Spanish-speaking audience was entirely composed of electricians. Here, it’s a bit different.
So last night I downloaded an entire podcast series on conversational Spanish. It was highly-rated and promised to teach both formal and informal Spanish, both of which I really need to brush up on. I was excited to start relearning Spanish (hey, I get excited about learning new keyboard shortcuts; I’m not exactly the epitome of cool) and was looking forward to going to the gym this morning even more than usual, since I now had my iPod chock-full of of Spanish lessons — this was going to be the best multi-tasking I’d done in a long time.
After my first five minutes on the treadmill this morning, I switched from my standard workout playlist once I’d woken up a bit and over to the highly-anticipated Spanish lessons. What I heard coming through my earphones sounded like this:
From what I could discern, I believe what was being said was this: “Welcome to Coffee Break Spanish! I’m your host, Craig MacDonald, and today we’ll be learning Spanish for the Spanish mainland!”
First of all, there is no way that I’m going to be able to learn Spanish from a guy whose Scottish accent is so thick that I can’t even understand him in my native language. His Spanish accent — God bless him — was worse than the fake French accents that the staff at La Madeleine uses.
Second of all, “Spanish mainland?” No, thank you, I prefer not to speak with a lisp. I would be laughed out of the building — and out of Texas — if I started speaking Castilian Spanish all of a sudden. No dice.
I guess I need to pay more attention the next time I download random podcasts. For now, I’m just going to suck it up and purchase that stupid Rosetta Stone software. I think I can do picture = word well enough. We’ll see how that goes.