If you’re reading this, chances are I stayed up late Saturday night furiously typing on my laptop when actually I should have been studying for my Spanish finals. Or better yet, sleeping. But I cannot put myself to sleep easily since the minute I close my eyes, I see flashes of pages and words and images jumping out at me. It’s been a while since I’ve given examinations, and at least seven years since I last found myself in a classroom. But it’s also been seven years since I’ve really wanted to learn Spanish, since I’ve wanted to read one of my favourite authors, Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the original and Federico Garcia Lorca’s poems. Why Spanish you ask? Cause it sounds sexy (we’ve all heard Shakira and Enrique in their native language) and it is one of the easier languages to pick up. Relatively, at least.
On my first trip to the US, I was bombarded with a number of languages, but since I met two of my sisters-in-law, who are Spanish-speaking Latinas, I just fell in love with the language. It sounds amazing when you hear it upfront. And they speak so fast! Words just seem to fly by. So within a month of me back in Delhi, I signed up for classes, and I’ve been beaming about having finally taken the plunge ever since.
I opted for weekend classes, a total of six hours over both days, and while it was easy to manage my work, it would often get too hectic for me. To get the brain to start learning something afresh, after years of being in the doldrums became a bit of a task. But herein lay the beauty of learning a language. I was opening myself up to not just a language, but a whole new world.
Boy, when I thought the language would be easy, I was so wrong. Being born and brought up in Calcutta, my Hindi is not at its best. Gender always gets the best of me. But who knew that gender would be an even greater issue in Spanish. Here, not just people and things get assigned a gender, numbers do too when they refer to a masculine or feminine word. And when structuring a sentence, one needs to keep in mind every aspect of the sentence. Be it gender, verb conjugation and nouns. It’s called ‘concordancia’, and it sure will be the end of me. But in all this frustration over pronunciation, spellings, sentence structure and grammar, it is quite an experience to be learning something from scratch. I don’t know how much I may have appreciated my learning process while studying English or Bengali, but Spanish classes have been attended like a child with eyes strapped open wide. I wasn’t too fond of Hindi, though my writing skills always outshone my speaking skills.
Also, now I found myself facing a whiteboard instead of the regular blackboard. All this time, I would hear my mother rave about the smartboards in her school, but I barely paid attention to it. But, teaching has reached a whole new level with this whiteboard and access to the internet in the classroom. My professor, Profe D would often play Spanish songs for us during breaks, just so we could get used to listening to the language and get to know more about the culture. Also, during the Mexican festival ‘El Dia de los Muertos’ or the Day of the Dead that is celebrated at the beginning of November, the institute had put up a small tableau showcasing certain elements. Traditionally, families commemorate the transitory return of deceased family members and loved ones to earth and they facilitate the journey by laying flower petals, candles and other offerings from the cemetary to their homes, fashioning a path. They put up a table decorated with pictures, colourfully painted skulls and decked up skeletons. It was quite something to be able to see a slice of another culture right here in Delhi.
With almost 21 countries part of the Spanish speaking world, the kinds of stories, histories, personalities and cultural aspects are immense. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in love with this part of the world already! I am now actively keeping an eye out for cultural events in Delhi related to these countries. Hopefully I’d have attended at least half a dozen by the end of winter. And of course, I’ve gone on an online and offline shopping spree to pick up as many books as I could on the subject. It was almost like a reflex action. I couldn’t stop myself. And I can’t wait to get done with my examinations so I can just sit back and savour my recent buys.