Dreaming in Spanish

Un Cœur de Papillon by Sybile


My latest dream was to have a language-practice-buddy …

When I first met Sara, she didn’t say a word to me … even though I spoke to her in my very best Spanish.

Although I absolutely adore the language, I’ve rarely spoken it in 20 years. No one to practice with! (I don’t know about you but after all that time … especially when I was never actually even fluent in the first place … I’m thinkin’ I need a whoooole bunch’a practice. Right?)

I noticed … when you’re not a native speaker, people tend to answer your Spanish with English. I suppose it’s their noble attempt to relieve you of the need to stumble imperfectly through their language. Meanwhile you were wanting to stumble through!

Years ago I had a friend from Uruguay … yaaaaaay! … who found it uber annoying to slow down her Spanish in order to practice with her beloved buddy … booooo! 

Alas, I was flying solo on the language front.

My first one-sided conversation with Sara was along the lines of one or two sentences. Something like, “Thank you so much for picking up my clothes from the floor. I so appreciate it.” … Only in Spanish.

Precious mom had hired her to come help me with a few things. My hands are givin’ me a run for my money so I pretty much conserve them for essentials like my beloved graphic design.

Folding is not an essential.

Which explains the ever-growing clean laundry mountain on my living room floor. I can’t bring myself to ask for help. Too big of a feat to impose on anyone else.

Not even the girl who my mother so kindly hired to help me … a girl who just happens to speak my favorite language in the world next to English.

Whenever I hear Spanish, my ears perk up and I yearn to attempt to partake in the conversation. Occasionally I do, in my little broken-language way … pausing to think of a word … wrestling with past perfect verb conjugation … hoping they’ll speak relatively slowly so I can catch what they’re saying.

Ever since I was little, I’ve always adored the Spanish language.

My neighbor’s mother had one’a those classic record albums. You know the ones … “Listen and repeat … Hello … ¡Hola! … ¡Hola!”

I was in heaven!

Next I remember a little red hard-bound book with black and white line drawings. I must’ve been ten. I learned to say things like “ceiling” and “pencil” and “book.”

“Cielo raso” … the very first word I learned … a word I will remember til my dying day. Why Berlitz thinks “ceiling” is one of the first things I’ll need to know how to say on my upcoming trip to Spain or South America is beyond me.

Who cares, I ate it up anyway.

Now I could go around pointing passionately to chairs and desks and other objects, naming them with reckless abandon. I was a force to be reckoned with.

Fast forward to last year. The scene: A train station

Two guys were trying to purchase a ticket … and not being particularly successful. In fact, they were about to give up.

I heard the familiar lilt of my second-favorite-language in the air so of course I perked up and stepped in to save the day with my fabulous Spanish explanation of what they needed to do at the ticket machine.

I have no idea what I sounded like from the other end but apparently I said it right because they did what I suggested. Then one of the guys turned to me and spoke to me in perfect Spanish, to my delight.

Remember what I said about people responding in English? No, he was speaking Spanish. Delicious Spanish.

He asked, “¿Habla español?”

To which I gleefully replied, “Ooooh … ¡Me gusta español! Pero tengo que practicar y no tengo nadie para practicar mi español. Por favor, correctame si estoy diciendo esto incorrecta.”

(Which is something akin to, “I love Spanish. But I need to practice and have no one to practice my Spanish with. Please correct me if I am saying this wrong.”)

The glee continued because he did just that, he corrected me, changing “practicar mi español” to “practicar hablar español.”

And then continued to speak to me in slow, mid-level Spanish for an entire hour and a half on the train.


Fast forward once again …  to this year.

I was super-appreciative of Sara’s help. So, in true jewelry fairy fashion, I decide to give her a piece of jewelry I had made back in the day, along with a little note in Spanish. Since it was coming from the heart, I didn’t go the Google-translate route and just wung it.

Fantastic idea.

In my enthusiasm, all of my verb tenses went completely out the window and I wound up saying the Spanish version of the following:

“This is a necklace I make to say thank you for your help me. I don’t know if the Spanish is correct. It’s not perfect but I love the language, so I try to speak it. :)”

Close enough, right?

Well, the stars were aligned and God himself was smiling down on me because that day a friendship was born. The very next time I saw her, Sara was all aflutter with conversation.

Spanish conversation.

We talked about how she had come here to work, left her three kids behind … the challenges she has at work … how she yearns to be doing things in the way that people need her to but has no idea what that is or how to ask since she doesn’t speak the language.

My heart went out to Sara.

I could help! We’ll meet once a week and I’ll help with her English. She can tell me about situations that come up at work and I’ll teach her things she can say. We’ll practice little scenarios and conversations. We can totally do this. We got this!

So now we’re at present day. We get together at the library each week. We laugh a lot and I make up practice sheets for her and we work on her English. I need to speak a lot of Spanish because that’s the way we communicate. Funny, I’ve learned a lot about Spanish by teaching Sara English!

The last time we met, I told Sara about the conversation I’d had with the guy at the train station last year. I wanted her to help me with the structure of the sentence “I need to practice and have no one to practice speaking Spanish with.”

In her language I asked, “How should I say that sentence in Spanish?”

She answered, “You shouldn’t.”

Maybe she didn’t understand the words. I smiled and repeated the sentence, “I need to practice and have no one to practice speaking Spanish with.”

She replied, “Well now, you do.”

And hey she was right!
Look at that … Sometimes your dreams sneak up on you.


Un sueño es un deseo de su corazón hace





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