Dos lenguas

Today I signed up for Duolingo to brush up on some Spanish skills. No reason really, except maybe boredom or the hope that I will someday be in an interesting situation that requires knowing another language. So far I’m 13% fluent. Not sure what that means??

Español was offered at my middle school, taught in a basement classroom by Señorita Shirley, a tiny but feisty woman. Thanks to her, my early teen social life wasn’t as terrible as it might have otherwise been. She let those of us who hated the cafeteria eat lunch in her room and also ran the Spanish club, which had house parties every couple months. They were just the wholesome kind with snacks and dancing, but the people in attendance were usually fun. In class, Señorita Shirley welcomed creative presentations, so my friend Megan and I once tied a giant apron around both of us (we were supposed to be conjoined twins) and proceeded to mix a large amount of unappetizing ingredients into a bowl – while hablamos en Español, claro que sí.

In high school, we had Señora Musco (Mrs. Moss) y Señora Lobo (Mrs. Wolff). Sometimes Señora Musco would don her skin-tight, pink ¡Simpatica! t-shirt, which was difficult to ignore. She would go off on tangents, excited about how a language absorbs new words almost every day. “Not that long ago there wasn’t even the term ‘pap smear’,” she said at one point, while we all squirmed in our seats trying not to burst out laughing. Señora Lobo introduced us to educational rap, a vehicle used for learning the countries and capitals of South America. She also showed us slides from her trip to Spain and -oops!- included a photo of herself in a bathing suit. But she never seemed to catch on that when my friend Dawn drew names for the seating chart every few weeks, Dawn and I would always “randomly” end up sitting next to each other through sleight of hand.

Senior year I stopped taking Spanish and switched to Japanese. I can’t even recall why now. The guy who one day became Napoleon Dynamite was in my Japanese class.


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