As the boy starts his journey in Spanish class I am reminded of my Spanish teachers (the formal ones) throughout the years. I had more than most …
- My 2nd grade one was my first one. She was fine. She was quiet, formal, sweet and supportive, perfect for the introduction and fast pace a newly immersed child was being introduced to the language in life, and then clarifying it in the classroom.
- My third and fourth grade one was awesome.She was tough. I loved her. She was Cuban and I was mesmerized by her accent (even by then I was able to distinguish the different ones.)
- My 7th grade one was touch and go. It was difficult because it was a first year Spanish class and it was hard to balance what I knew as it was coming back to me and what we were learning in a first year course. I struggled with her and the class to stay oriented, but she was patient when I became confused because I knew more than the tests were actually asking for.
- My 8th and 9th grade one was amazing. She really became a mentor for me. She was Venezuelan and that accent blew me away. She pushed me but kept me interested and learning and always gave me real work to do, as the balance of where we were at began to even out so she challenged me to go further.
- My 10th grade one sucked ass. She wasn’t a native speaker and was an arrogant witch who didn’t know as much as she thought. She gave us baby stuff to do. It wasn’t just me, no one liked her.
- My 11th grade one was the first time I had a Spanish teacher my brother had had. The school district knew our background, although none of the teachers ever mentioned it (we had lived in Puerto Rico for 3 years growing up. Upon returning my brother was in Junior High and went straight into language classes. I was not able to as the district would not allow it in elementary, so I lost 2 years of formal classes.) She knew this, but her Cuban accent immediately appealed to me. She was a little old lady who had such grace and elegance about her. It was an easy year though.
- My 12th grade one was intimidating. He was the department head and was from Spain, spoke Castillian Spanish, but did not require us to. He had a powerful sarcasm about him and could flatten you with a look. The class was very small, about 7th kids by that level. He was very tough. Also another one my brother had before me. He was good the way he worked with us, had us tell jokes in Spanish to understand the nuances and really develop our personalities in the language. I will always remember his guffaw as he read one of my vocab tests. He came over to me and said that my brother and I had done an excellent job of not “outing” ourselves and our background throughout the entire journey through the school district, but in one word I messed up, making it clear. See, I had forgotten the “proper” word for hell. For some reason, some brain fart, I could not remember the word infierno. Probably one of the easiest words EVER to remember. But nooooo, I had to write down carajo. He then asked me to explain how a 7 year old (when I learned the word originally) would have come into contact with that word. Even at that tender age in a different language I was influenced by political slogans and rhetoric! He liked the story and gave me full credit for the answer. We continued our banter about stories and literature and disagreeing on Juan Darien’s meaning, but the banter was always a good experience.
- College years … they were a mixed bag. The first one sucked. Class started out the first day at 9AM with the phrase “this is an accent mark”. In my mind I heard, THIS is not worth not being hungover for. She was an idiot who didn’t know the language very well. The second one was good, a lit course, he didn’t enjoy the banter as much, but it was good, the classics were covered and to this day I will never ever understand why Don Quixote is hilarious in Spanish but awful in English. He did not appreciate my disagreement of the religious blasphemy of Don Juan Tenorio and how it proved his nun converted and not that she converted him. But it was a good course. The multiple history and civilizations ones were a blur, except for the time when it aligned with the Contras and the Sandinistas and being the only US Citizen in the class the year we got caught selling arms for hostages, they were uneventful and forgettable. Three conversational classes were good. Great teachers, two from Spain (one an old misogynist little man who was pissed off I wouldn’t wear a skirt to class (in my defense, I don’t wear skirts, AND it was Montreal and winter … he did not appreciate the suggestion that he try wearing one in weather that cold) and one a younger one who went on to be some mucky muck in the Spanish consulate in Montreal), and Senior Lipp, and emeritus professor (which basically means old) who told us stories of teaching in Germany and being called Herr Lipp.
And then it was over. The formal classes. Now the language only comes back when others are in class, a nice hotel person comes over offering Mercurochrome for the wounds, or the anger swells up when the Telmex guy told me it would be another month at least for a phone line when we were living in Mexico.
I miss Spanish class. Not the lessons in the subjunctive … but of all the classes, I do miss this one. (and the English classes, but that’s mainly because of one teacher.)