Kind of Fluent

“The famous ophthalmologist Peter Halberg of New York refuses to consider that he speaks a language unless and until he can conduct a medical lecture in the language and then take hostile questioning from his peers. By his standards, he speaks only five languages.”


Kind of Fluent

¡Vamos a rocanrolear!

One of my students likes to converse around her one year old. Babies are sponges! She had bilingual education, so her expression flows in all directions. What we are trying to do, technically, is rein in families of conjugations (usually) to more specific subjects and objects. However, it is hard to rein in conversation that flows fluently, and especially with a one year old cruising around.

Mom places a toy that should help us in the middle of the room and starts pushing buttons: Triángulo, says the toy in a friendly pre-adolescent voice. Mom repeats it. Círculo, says a different button. The toy starts to get the baby’s attention: Morado. Mom starts reciting the colors, then. The baby, really, is more entertained playing a toy guitar. ¡Vamos a rocanrolear! Says the toy. “What does that mean?” My student asks, pronouncing it carefully, “Ro…”

“Let’s rock and roll!”

That’s the kind of word that:

1. If you asked me out of the blue, “How do you say rock ‘n’ roll?” I would be hesitant to tell you confidently, “¡Rocanrolear!”

2. I would undoubtedly use if I saw someone with long hair banging his head while playing the guitar, and for some reason I felt the need express, say, to my brother, the specific definition for that action, “Rocanroleando.”

3. I’m so happy a toy says!

Beyond basic shapes, and colors, words that reflect cultural and linguistic references is what makes our languages… well, a kind of rock and roll.


¡Vamos a rocanrolear!

It’s all… relativity

I was reading about an author whose friend asked him to explain to him the Theory of Relativity. The author used words like geodesic and tetrad, and his friend didn’t understand anything. The author kept those words but added aviators, bullets, and his friend began to understand but wanted further clarification. The author dropped the technical words and stuck to aviators smoking cigarettes, shooters with a gun in one hand and a chronometer in the other, and his friend finally understood. But that is not relativity anymore, concluded the author.

Aside from reading about relativity, sometimes I find myself just as engrossed reading discussion forums on the internet. I shouldn’t admit this to you, but I threw my head back in laughter at a Spanish learner’s heartwarming ingenuity the other day. They were reviewing a Spanish workbook. One learner offers his enthusiasm for the book’s efficiency. He even provides a specific example of how the book lists words that are very similar to words in English! (And this is where I lose it.) He puts in parenthesis, the conjugates.

Now, I know I don’t say cognates a lot, so I wouldn’t laugh at you! But I sure say conjugation, and conjugate, and conjugating, and conjugated often.

In terms of grammatical terms… what matters is that you use the label, or, find one that makes sense to you, so you can organize your thoughts. Because we will be saying a lot of words, and a lot of words about them! Though early on I would definitely remind you of the difference between ’conjugates’ and cognates, maybe even without laughing.


It’s all… relativity

But what do they say in L.A.?

Not only did the information below offer useful reflexive verbs (particularly a few that translate into ‘to get’), and not only did it provide a couple of verbs that cover part of “the scale of intensity”, this time for ‘to get angry’, but how fascinating (!) that it specified their usage across the continent and in our country.


I so looked forward to sharing this with you, “Language is ever-changing, environmental!” I would proclaim once more, “Spreading!” I would add now.

It was only hours (hours!) later, when I rested my head on the pillow that night, that I realized that by “L.A.”, the author meant Latin America, not Los Angeles!

But at least I’d proved my own point, to myself, in my environment.


But what do they say in L.A.?

I Love You

I was about to explain to a student the scale of intensity that differentiates Me gustas, Te quiero, and Te amo. But she told me that she had already learned it “the hard way” with her Spanish boyfriend.

I tell people that the passionate, unretractable, and sacred Te amo should be saved for ecstatic moments or “deathbed situations,” but I’m exaggerating.


I Love You