El mundo de Espanol

I'm not good at writing the upside-down question marks. I also consistently talk about my beer (cerveza) when I mean to talk about my head (cabeza). And my accent sounds like a mix of fancy-pants French and open-mouthed American.

"Un lapiz?" Our teacher, Cynthia de Mexico, gestures towards us and rattles off some Spanish. We are supposed to tell her what it means. My Romance language brain quickly shuffles through the Rolodex of French words that resemble it. "Sounds like lapin, which means rabbit," I think.

I make rabbit ears with my fingers and hop my hand through the air. Cynthia looks puzzled. "No comprendo, Jennifer?"

My classmate Katerina (of Moscow) holds up un lapiz triumphantly. Pencil. Not rabbit. Freaking Russians.

Other than the occasional French-inspired flub, Spanish is a hoot and a half. My amigos in class are an eclectic mix: a law student from Bratislava, a Middlebury professor on sabbatical, an Indian guy on a 3-year UN mission to NY, a Russian translator for the UN. We stroll into class twice a week at 8 am and slowly wake up together, prodded by Cynthia's worksheets and listening exercises. We are all at least bilingual and when Cynthia writes "ser" on the board and starts conjugating, we all know what part of the class this is.

This is the part where we learn the verb "to be."

This is the part where we learn masculine and feminine.

This is when we learn question words.

It's a rhythm I'm familiar with and the fact that it's taught solely in Spanish doesn't bother any of us. We're happy just to watch the language come alive, to understand more in the pages of our workbooks each day, to soak up the joy of attempting to be funny in another language.

It's so. great.

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