The potential advantages of my being able to speak Spanish first struck me when many a time on the crowded streets of Manhattan or Boston, I was hailed over by a lost looking face and greeted with a flurry of words in a language that made absolutely no sense to me. The soul desperately in need of help would take it for granted that I was a Latino without needing to confirm that. Snatches of the word storm blowing my way would indicate to me that he/she was asking me how to get to a particular address and that he/she was greatly relieved to have found someone with whom they could speak in their mother tongue. But being gifted with the road-sense of a 2 year old and my grasp on Spanish being restricted to "No enteyendo Espanol!"[I don't understand Spanish!], I was only of as much help to them as the next manhole cover. But being frequently mistaken for a Latino presented some really tantalising possibilities. "Hmmm... interesting. Very interesting!" I thought to myself helped also by the fact that I have alway wanted to visit Peru, Argentina and the Easter Islands on my own.
So I set my mind (like an arrow headed to the bull's eye) to learning rudimentary conversational Spanish on a priority basis and bought myself a "Learn-it-yourself" Spanish language kit. Naturally then, more than 8 months came and went away after that momentous day before I finally mustered the will to open the CD pack and put the first CD into my computer. And the funny part is that from the first CD onwards, it seems to convey a highly pessimistic impression of how conversations with Spanish speaking women would go and the practice lines in the CDs are indeed a hilarious exercise in self-'fool'fillment (in other words making yourself sound like a fool). It almost seems like that the teachers of Spanish are sobering down your high flying expectations from a conversation in Spanish.
The CD lessons are purely audio based as they first run through frequently used phrases and short sentences making you memorize them by repeating them. This is followed by an actual conversation where there are deep long pauses between two consecutive lines where you can practice what needs to be said a number of times before the CD recording itself tells you what the right response is so that they can be compared.
There's one long one-sided practice conversation where the guy (played by me :P) goes on-and-on in Spanish spouting:
"Buenos dias, Senorita! (Good morning, miss!)
Como esta usted?(How are you?)
Soy el Senor Jones. (I am Mr. Jones.)
Soy de Chickago. (I am from Chicago.)"
Presumably due to the confusion writ on her virtual face, the next question which the CD asks me to put to her is:
"Usted entiende? (Do you understand?)"
Pat comes the recorded reply to this in a female voice from the CD leaving me a.k.a Senor Jones high and dry:
"No, entiendo un poco de Espanyol. Soi de Northe Americana. Soi de Los Ankhilis. Adios, Senor Jones! (No, I understand very little Spanish. I am an American from Los Angeles. Goodbye, Mr. Jones!)"
But halfway through this beginner's course in Spanish, the mock conversation which really takes the cake for me is this one.
Senor Jones (a.k.a Me guided by the CD's cue voice in English) : "Buonas tardes! (Good afternoon!)
Female recorded voice: "Buonas tardes, Senor! (Good afternoon, Mister) Como esta usted? (How are you?)"
Senor Jones: "No muy bien. No avlo ee no entiendo Espanol. (Not very fine. I can't speak nor understand Spanish)
Female recorded voice (in a reassuring tone): "No no senor, usted entiende ee avlo Espanol muy bien! (No, no Mister. You understand and speak Spanish very well!)"
Senor Jones: "Gracias! Ah, ess usted la Senorita Gomez? (Thanks! So, are you Miss Gomez?)"
Female recorded voice ( now in a rather scandalized tone): "No, no soi la Senorita Gomez. Soi la Senora Gomez. (No, I am not Miss Gomez. I am Mrs. Gomez.)"
At this point in time and imaginary situation, I did not need the CD to tell me what needed to be said from Senor Jones' i.e. my end but the CD advice did confirm what I already had said...
"Adios, Senora Gomez!"
And that was exactly where Chapter 4 of my Spanish learning CDs ended. I squirm at the thought of what further embarrassments lie ahead for me as I move to the Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8!