Learning a language is fun because the complexities of languages are essentially limitless.
Learning a language can be frustrating for the same reason.
Recently, learning Spanish was amusing.
For the last week, I’ve been staying in Mexico City with my friend Moni. Learning to live in a culture I thought I knew more about than I do has been a humbling experience.
I haven’t committed any egregious errors that I know of (yet), but I’ve snuck in a faux pas or two.
As a result, I’ve taken to asking a lot of questions to check my assumptions about whatever is happening at the moment. In other words: I’m asking stupid questions constantly.
The funny part is, I don’t always get those right.
The other night, Moni and I were at the neighborhood tire shop—the vulcanizadora—because her car’s front tires kept losing air. We were standing on the sidewalk chatting. I was watching a light rain fall on some beautiful flowering tree, or maybe there was a vine growing up the tree—don’t even start on me about botany with all the language learning going on—while the tire guy was breaking the lug nuts loose on the tire.
I figured he was going to check for leaks with soapy water like we would in the States. But I thought I’d check, because it’s a habit now.
Here’s what I said, translated from Spanish:
He’s looking for fruit punch?
Moni laughed. “Not in the tire. We don’t keep it there, and anyway, it is not Christmas.”
Turns out, I should have said ponchadura, not ponche, to refer to the hole in the tire.
Ponche (recipe here) is a warm drink made with cinnamon and a variety of fruits such as apples, raisins, pineapple, and others I’ve never heard of. It is served in the days leading up to Christmas.
Not only that, it’s usually served in cups, not tires.
In writing news, I’ve been sending out stories and adding to my rejection log. One of these days I’ll get published in a real, live literary journal, but in the meantime, I’ll keep celebrating every 25 rejections, because that means I’m in the game.
Maybe I’ll get a publication credit for Christmas…but if I don’t, I’ll drown my sorrows by drinking as much ponche as I can.