Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spanish is utile if you want to speak worse English

The other day at work I was composing an email and could not think of the word synonymous to helpful, advantageous, and serviceable.  The only word that finally came to my head was "utile", which I pronounced (you-tile) in my head.  It felt almost right, but not quite what I was looking for.  And then I thought to myself: This sounds a little strange.  Is it a normal word?  Utile, utile.  Must be.

But I googled the definition of utile just to make sure, and then I saw it: "An obsolete word for useful."


That's the word I'd been wanting from the start, it just didn't come to me.  So why the heck did "utile" pop into my brain first?  After thinking about it, I realized it must have been because "useful" in Spanish is útil (oo-till), so my mind just translated the Spanish útil into "utile" and voila!

Especially when I lived in Spain, things like this would happen more often than not: Speaking and thinking in Spanish all day actually made my English worse.

Like the day Hannah and I were trying to navigate somewhere walking through Madrid, and I asked "for here?" while pointing down a street, rather than asking "through here?" or "this way?".  What left my mouth was a poor, poor Spanish to English translation of "por aquí?"

I'm sure things like this must happen to others who live in a place where they speak a second language on a daily basis.  Feel free to share your own story in the comments!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Last day in Madrid: 2012

After having just left the apartment on our way to the Barajas airport in Madrid on my last day in Spain in 2012 (September 24), Gregorio pulled over on c/ Alcalá.

I can't remember if Gregorio had seen Ángel's car, or if Ángel had seen Gregorio's car, but either way we randomly ran into each other on my way out of the country that morning.  (Ángel is Gregorio's (tall) good friend.  Off the top of my head, he's appeared on the blog when we painted the new apartment in 2010, and when he got us into Madrid Fusión 2012 for free). 

Gregorio snapped pictures as I gave some of my last besitos for a while.
In the airport Gregorio continued to take pictures as I waited in line.  He got yelled at by airport security; I think he was supposed to have deleted this picture:

Hours after these pictures were taken, I was up in the air on my way back to Madison, where I would surprise my entire family with my presence.

I'd forgotten about running into Ángel that day, and hadn't seen these pictures until Gregorio sent them in an email a few weeks ago.  Just reminiscing.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pelele: Carnival straw doll to kill!

One of the blogs I regularly read is American in Spain.  Blogger Erik (the American with a Spanish wife) often writes about his three-year-old daughter, Nora.  During my year in Madrid as an undergraduate student, I was mostly exposed to the Spanish university life.  As a teacher in Madrid during the 2011-12 school year, I spent my working time around 16 to 22-year-old Spaniards.  Point being that apart from my English lessons with Pablo (at ages 6 and 8), I don't really know what things are common for Spanish children.

In my elementary school in Wisconsin, we had a Pioneer Day in fourth grade where everyone dresses and acts like a pioneer for a day.  We would do Johnny Appleseed activities, sing ring around the rosie, had field trips to Cave of the Mounds and Little Norway.  These all seemed "normal," since my older siblings had all done them, so it was no surprise to me when these events or activities came up in the elementary years.  Through Erik's blog, I learn about things that could be considered "normal" for some Spanish children.

El pelele
At the end of January he posted about a celebration in Nora's class that may seem like anything but normal to you.  The celebration was in honor of Pelele, a rag doll that a group of women throw into the air during Carnival (Mardi Gras) celebrations in Madrid -- while singing about beating Pelele to death.

The lyrics (and his English translation of them) are definitely worth a look on his post.  In fact it was the lyrics of this song (sung by children) that really caught my eye and got me thinking:  How did this tradition get started?  Do the kids understand what they're singing about?  Do their parents?  Or is it just so commonly heard around this time of year that it's built into the culture, no one questions it?

The wikipedia article linked to above helps answer some of those questions, about the history of the song and tradition.

Can you think of any American celebrations, customs, or songs that would seem extra strange to a foreigner?