In preparation for our big move to Peru, Simon and I undertook Spanish lessons. Our pronunciation, thought to be quite good for people who hadn’t learnt Spanish or any language for that matter, was only the beginning considering the task ahead of us. Peru is not a country with a high level of English speaking locals. In fact, it is one of the lowest, so Spanish, even in its basic form, would be helpful to say the least.
Being my first time overseas also, I was becoming increasingly excited at the challenge, particularly with regards to communication. In fact, this excitement grew and grew until it flourished into a childhood fantasy, one in which I would imagine the first authentic Spanish speaking experience as a child imagines the first time they lay hands on their very own scooter (iPad, xbox, whatever it is these days). The thought, an elementary one I realise, of being able to communicate a message using different sounds to what I have been using all my life was something I could not wait to experience for myself.
I would chuckle about the imagined possible mispronunciations such as the unfortunate situations requiring the roll of the ‘r’, which I cannot do. This isn’t too bad, my tutor tells me, I may ask the driver to bring around the dog instead of the car but thankfully there is a wonderful thing called context.
I have been training my boys to speak some Spanish such as hola and adios, gracias and counting to ten. Little did I realise they knew more than me thanks to Dora the Explorer. Upon this discovery, I checked when Dora was scheduled on television and would ‘read’ a book while the kids worked on their Spanish.
As our flight was to Santiago in Chile I should have expected that Spanish speakers would be among our fellow passengers. My husband conversed with one such passenger, overtly excited to hear of our moving to Peru with our three young boys. I could hear what English sounded like from Spanish speakers but what about Spanish? My excitement grew at all the adventures ahead; it was finally within my grasp, staring at me just out of arms length. Yep, I am ready. My bravery has been recharged since my ski trip, there is no turning back now so let me at it! I was pumped, anticipating the take off in the big plane when the Spanish speaking man sitting in front turned around and offered my first authentic Spanish speaking experience by saying “hola” with a friendly wave of his hand. Oh wow, I thought to myself, here it is and I haven’t even arrived yet, haven’t even left the ground in Australia. The very thing I was wondering about, imagining in many variations was finally here, it has begun, yippee! In my eagerness to experience what I have been so keenly anticipating for months I offer a little wave in return and respond with nothing other than “hello”, of course. Hmmm, note to self: speaking another language isn’t just about understanding it but speaking it.