Thursday, January 21, 2010

Como Aprender Français en Espanyol...

{{Te quiero, Barcelona}}

Today marks the end of my first week in Barcelona, and every minute has been perfect. As I walk down the street, I catch phrases of Spanish (I'm back in the realm of "Castillian" Spanish, yes!), and then Catalan, around me. I love wandering the Passeig de Gràcia, Las Ramblas, L'Avinguda Diagonal, making my way down to the sea, exploring places I have only read about or seen in movies. Staring, wide-eyed, at the art around me that encompasses any view; whether it be a brightly-colored building with beautiful wrought-iron balconies, an exposition of sculpture in the middle of the street, or a curving, strange, fantastical building that could only belong to Gaudí. I'm slowly starting to accustom myself to the public transportation system--which is our metro stop, how to navigate the tramway, which buses take me to the French Institute, or downtown. Not quite perfect yet (I think Guillem is getting tired of my texts about directions, but they are getting fewer!) but bit by bit. Guillem said I could graduate to a different, easier metro stop in a month or so, once I have ours down.

The hardest part of my transition so far has been language-juggling. I have to constantly keep my brain trained to distinguish when a language switch is made. In the apartment, for instance, we operate with three different languages: Spanish, Catalan, and English, varying depending on who is talking to who. Once I've mastered some more French, some of that may be added to the mix as well! Our evening news channel is in Catalan, but our favorite program is in Spanish. With some of Guillem's friends, he normally speaks in Spanish; with others, normally in Catalan, and it's hard for them to maintain a switch to Spanish if I'm around. So I find myself listening hard to catch the words I know in Catalan, make sense of the sentences, then, when I least expect it, am surprised by a sudden switch back to Spanish.

French class so far has been excellent, though it adds another level of languages for my brain to sort through. Since the beginning it has been exactly what it promised--super intensive--with our teaching talking only in French and expecting the same from us. The only time I don't hear French in the classroom is if she has to clarify an instruction or or we don't know how to ask a question, and then we switch directly to Spanish. We're moving quickly through all the basics--first group conjugation, asking questions, numbers, introductory conversations--and I'm finding it challenging and rewarding to start working on another language from scratch again. The hardest part of French so far, for me, is the pronunciation. Nothing looks like I feel that it should sound! After so many years of having Spanish pronunciation drilled into me, it's what I want to automatically turn to. All of the native Spaniards face the same problem; today we practiced the sound of "e" for about five minutes, trying to figure out where it is in our mouth/throat to be able to replicate it later.

The other thing that I'm having to cut back on is my use of "Peruvianisms". When I went out to dinner with the family last Thursday, they immediately made fun of me for using the Peruvian favorite: "ito/ita". Cosita/cositita, ahorita, pequenita, regalito, all of these common words that I grew to love in Peru are valid no longer. Neither is chévere, the Peruvian word for "cool"; here it's "guay". No longer can I say achachao when someone makes a mistake, añañao when something is beautiful, or alalao when it's cold. But when I return home, I'll have plenty of Spain expressions to add to my list!

Adéu! Au revoir! Adios!

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