This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The beauty of the Spanish language

I really don't speak Spanish, but I speak a whole lot more than most of the people I've met in Arizona. I studied it in high school in Minneapolis, and practiced it when I could, in California. Since moving back to Phoenix in 1989, I've hardly used it at all. But a couple of years ago a friend of mine, who does speak Spanish well, encouraged me to get back to it. He gave me a simple Spanish grammar book, and encouraged me to ask, politely, whenever I was somewhere that I heard Spanish being spoken, such as at a Mexican Restaurant, if I could practice my Spanish. By the way, you never, ever just suddenly start speaking Spanish to someone, that is terribly rude. You can say, quiero practicar mi EspaƱol, por favor.

Spanish is such a beautiful language. My high school teacher taught us that the best way to pronounce Spanish words correctly is to smile. Now, come on, you gotta admit, that's a pretty darn cool language! By comparison English, like German, is guttural (like the sound of pigs). But wait, it gets better. The pronunciation is remarkably easy. There aren't the millions of different ways to pronounce letters that English has, and if you can read it, chances are very good that when you sound it out, it will be very close to being correct. Try that with English!

I was at a party last year and I politely asked a couple who had been speaking Spanish if I could practice a bit, and they graciously allowed me. They were from Spain, and it was the first time anyone had told me that I spoke Spanish with a Mexican accent. I was so proud! I'm a vato!

Of course I can read Spanish much better than I can understand it being spoken. That's because any spoken language blurs the words together. I learned to use the phrase mas despacio, por favor. Then people will slow down. And. Talk. Like. This. At that point I may or may not have a chance to understand!

I speak what I call Budweiser Spanish. No, I don't drink a lot of beer, but when I was hanging out with my friends in California, who only spoke Spanish, I did. And if you wanted something, like another beer, you had to speak Spanish. And to this day my Spanish is better around friends, around people who will cut me some slack. My friends understand, even if I talk like a four-year old.

Above: with my friend Jesus in Santa Barbara.

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