My Spanish isn’t great, but Mama’s English isn’t much better. Our conversations are always in Spanish though, except that I speak in what I like to call, Spanglish. I’m not completely fluent and struggle with grammar and forms other than present tense. I find it difficult to manage what I’m trying to say. I try to use present when speaking of the past, and I just feel like an idiot, and to be honest, at times a disappointment. I wish I were a fluent Spanish speaker more than anything. If I were given three wishes, I swear that would be one of them. It would make me feel so much closer with Mama, and help the ease and flow of our conversations, and would also open the doors to a whole lot more talk.
When we’re having a conversation that has more to do with than just our usual everyday ritual of: ‘¿Qué hiciste hoy?’ (What’d you do today) ¿Qué has comido?’ (What’d you eat today) ‘Hablado con mami?’ (Have you spoken to your mom) ‘¿Dónde está Natalie?’ (Where is Natalie) and ‘¿Has visto a Ian?’ (Have you seen Ian), I often have to pause our conversation and look up translations online in order to be clear. This usually helps, but it makes it a little awkward. She understands me for the most part, and is always very nice about it. She doesn’t make fun of me, (though sometimes we both have to laugh at ourselves) and always tries her best to understand what I’m telling her.
It’s cute because I can especially tell when she doesn’t get something but doesn’t want to insult me or hurt my feelings, I know this because I do the exact same thing to her when I’m left in the dark. When I don’t understand it, I usually reply with “Oh,” or “Si.” But this doesn’t work all of the time. When she does this to me, I always know she doesn’t understand because most of the time I’m expecting more of a reaction from her. And that’s when I have to resort to translator.com. Other times I flat out ask her, ‘what does that mean?’ And it’s a question I hate to muster. That’s probably the only times she actually becomes frustrated with our language barrier; when I don’t completely get something she’s telling me. And that part really sucks. She thinks I should know more Spanish, and I should, but I feel that she should know more English.
My Spanish should and could be a lot better especially having my Mama, Mom, and the majority of my family being fluent Spanish speakers. And when you add six years of taking it in school, you’d think it would have helped, but truthfully I feel it has only made it worse, and to me, that much more confusing. What you’re taught in school it is nothing like the actual language spoken with a native Spanish speaker. And it goes without saying that Mama isn’t guiltless, her English should be a lot better considering she’s lived in America for over 40 years. But, with that being said, we make it work.
When I was little, I spoke Spanish a lot better then I do now because Mama lived with me up until I think 8 years old? And then she moved to Dominican Republic and then eventually to Florida with my Aunt to help her with her kids. I remember every night saying my prayers with her, in Spanish, and I’m pretty sure it was the “Lord’s Prayer.” I can’t even think about the words in Spanish now, and it’s weird to think that when I was much younger, I could. Still, Mama loves me and accepts that I don’t speak her language perfectly well, and acknowledges that I try. At least I don’t let it get in the way of our relationship, which I so easily could.
It’s funny because even though I’m not the greatest at speaking Spanish, I managed to be a translator for my manager at work the other day who needed help understanding one of the employees explain a fight that occurred at the restaurant the night before. I couldn’t believe that I was literally the only person in the entire place that slightly spoke and understood Spanish, but I was. After he asked he asked me to translate, I immediately regretted telling him that I knew the language a bit. I was so afraid I would embarrass myself, but both he and I were impressed and surprised about just how much I did know. Mama was proud too, of course. (And my mom) It was then that I realized just how valuable it is to be immersed in another language.
I’m doing my best to learn more, and to become a better speaker. This summer I hope to spend some time in the Dominican Republic to work on my skills, I really think that’s the only way to go about it. I hope it ends up being successful, but even if it doesn’t, I know that the more I speak the language with Mama everyday, the more I’m bound to improve!
P.S. Thought you guys would like to know I’m seeing Mama very soon. I’m going to a journalist conference in Orlando for a week, and staying with Mama and my aunt and uncle. The countdown begins: 11 days!
Have any of you experienced a similar situation with a loved one or family member? Do any of you speak another language, or have members in your family whose first language isn’t English?