Below are some Spanish phrases that we wanted to practice before going to Cuba. Similar to what we’ve done for previous trips, Beija and I sat down to create post-it notes of important (clarification of this word below) Spanish phrases and then to post them throughout the house.
We found language post-it notes to be a great way to start to have some fun around the house before we get to where we are going and start practicing a little pronunciation. The ol’ pre-party on language learning.
We started out brainstorming the kinds of activities that we expect to encounter. Staying with local families, eating great food, and lots of small talk. Here are some phrases that we identified:
Buenos días (Good morning)
Buenas tardes (Good afternoon/evening)
Ha sido un placer (It’s been a pleasure)
¿Cómo se llama Ud.? (What’s your name?)
Me llamo _____ (My name is _____)
Un cafe negro, por favor (Black coffee please)
Un helado, por favor (Ice cream please)
¡La comida está muy rica! (This food is delicious!)
The ones related to food— we posted in the kitchen. Related to greetings— we posted by the front door. Related to the bathroom… see below.
At least for me, doing this exercise in Spanish is a bit easier compared to other languages. Strange, I know, it’s not every day that a Ph.D. in Spanish Linguistics comes in handy. So unlike previous trips where we’ve had to do more basic language research, I know Spanish well enough to translate phrases using my non-native-but-maybe-almost-proficient intuition.
Just to caveat, I’m totally aware that Cubans say stuff differently from my Bolivian/Spain inspired Spanish (part of having a Ph.D. is realizing how much you don’t know), but again, we are aiming for fun and getting inspired, not perfection. Separately, it will be fun when there to hear the nuances in pronunciation and phrasing. Linguistic digression: Vocabulary is one dimension where dialects differ: water fountain vs. bubbler anyone? At any rate, I’ll have to post on our experience with Cuban Spanish after we get back.
Back to our language sticky exercise. Toootally critical: make sure the kid is having fun with this too. So, if you get a suggestion for a phrase…
It turns out that if you are working with an 11-year-old girl, she will have her own point of view about what phrases will be important for her to know. And as a world-class parent (because you are one, even if you don’t always show it), you should be supportive in this context of her ideas (see the term “brainstorming” used above— no bad ideas). Otherwise you run the risk of triggering a profound philosophical pre-teen response like “I’m bored” or “How much longer?” So, if your kid is like mine, my advice is to roll with it:
Me tengo que mear un río (I need to pee a river)
Tengo que ir al baño como una vaca (I have to go to the bathroom like a cow)
Más papel higiénico, por favor (More toilet paper please)
And there you have it! Gracias por todo. Ha sido un placer. Now, perdóneme – me tengo que mear un río.