How to become zero-lingual in two weeks

Since arriving in Chile, Jeff and I have often found ourselves at a loss for words, even when holding the simplest of conversations in spanish.  Trips to the store and bus rides have become exercises in patience for the people with whom we try to converse.  To combat this issue, Jeff and I enrolled in immersive Spanish classes two weeks ago.  Now, our days consist of verb conjugation and awkward (Jeff says “tortured”) conversations with professors and classmates.

¡Estoy muy alta! Rocking the ropes course during one of our class activities

We recently discovered an unfortunate side effect of intensively studying an unfamiliar language.  We call this the “One in, One out” Phenomenon.  Learning one new word in Spanish results in forgetting another word in English as the brain must make space for said new word. I recently  learned the spanish word for raisin (“pasa”).  Success! Later that day, I was attempting to describe someone “snoring”.  When the verb didn’t come to me in Spanish, I racked my brain for the word in English. Double fail.  Polish?  Don’t even bother.

Now,  recall my previous comment of our difficulties  in holding even the simplest of conversations.  Having seized upon this weakness with great relish, my professor, who bears an ironic resemblance to Che Guevara, likes to  select complex and incendiary topics to discuss each day:

“What do you think of Osama Bin Laden’s “supposed” death and the fact that the US government is trying to hide the true story? How do you feel about the fact that your government is lying to you?”

My reply: Er.. he…is…a…bad…man…

“What do you think of the educational system in the US, in light of the fact that your government is spending money on supporting foreign wars so that students must make do without funding for the arts or music?”

My reply:  It…bad…I…like…the music…

That was Day 1 of class, by-the-way.

But the learning continues. We’ve developed a renewed interest in “Los Simpsons” and enjoyed (and understood!) “Rio” at a recent trip to the movies. We can even understand conversations people have with toddlers and pets.    Until next time – hasta luego.

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