Not Really Bilingual
Despite two years of Spanish classes in high school and nearly two decades in Central Florida, it is nothing short of a shame that I don’t speak a second language. If I lived in a community that exclusively spoke any form of a Latin language, I would be a better speaker. When I listen, I do better at comprehension. When I read, I can put words into groups by their roots and do still better. Nonetheless, I still struggle with conjugating on the fly and forgetting when to end an adjective in –a or –o, yet I’m just slightly better at el versus la. And if I cannot manage between two articles, I have no business saying I am bilingual.
One of my favorite adventures in practicing when I can is finding words that I know are Latin-based. For example, there is a business not far from my home called AquaTerra. I often wonder why it wasn’t named WaterEarth, especially given the low ratio of multi-lingual speakers in my region. I speak a few words in several languages and once said, “Дос Видания” to a Russian cab driver who spent the entire forty-five minute ride on his cell phone. He was flabbergasted, despite my minimal knowledge of anything he said. I also used to share a cubicle wall with a woman who managed the Brazilian accounts, so she spoke beautiful Portuguese, except with her southern accent, her words sounded almost as if she were speaking an Asian language. Nevertheless, I would try to pick out as many words as I could, not to eavesdrop, but to learn. Still, I don’t even qualify as bi-listener.
Fun With Words
The Rio Grande River, easily translated even for a Spanish-speaking novice, means the Big River, or using its full name, the Big River River. Or as Duran Duran [who likes redundancy and repetition?] sang, it’s that river twisting through a dusty land. It starts in the Colorado Rockies, weaves top to bottom through New Mexico, and separates Texas from Mexico. I saw smoke from a not-too-distant fire across it when I visited El Paso (see “El Paso, El Paso,” January 2013), I crossed it east to west on my way to Petroglyph National Monument, and then the pinnacle of parental moments, I treasure it as my son realizes the value of travel and knowledge and music rolled into a momento perfecto.
While driving from Taos into the warm May desert out US Highway 64, we reach our first destination of the day: the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Stretching above the Big River, planes from the nearby municipal airport fly under it, it bounces as vehicles traverse across it, and it ages better than me, even though it is nearly three years older. But as we approach the crevice in the earth, the water out of site, I tell my boys that there, somewhere deep below winds the liquid road once navigated by the Mexicans, and the Spaniards before them, and the Native American people before them, climbing northward into the mountains or streaming southward towards the Gulf. My son grabs his iPod, shuffles through his mish-mash of melodies and finds, to my pride, the musical intro that soon tells us her name is Rio and she dances on the sand. Nosotras bailamos con ella.