After a fabulous Zumba class taught by my girl Maritza Flowers, the women’s sauna is the hottest spot to be in the gym. Women pile in and chat about everything under the sun while they swelter. We laugh, offer advice and sympathy.
It’s also a time when my Latina Zeeps from a spectrum of backgrounds enjoy the freedom to chatter away in Spanish. We ignore the frowns from some women sitting around, and I glare at any one of them pursuing their mouth to say something. Women of Color basking achy muscles and having fun is not the time or space for low-key racism.
I sit among them trying to catch a word here and there to get the gist of the conversation. Someone will look at the strain for understanding on my face and translate, and sometimes I’m able to comprehend the topic and respond in English or some jacked up broken Spanish. It always reminds and encourages me that I should spend more time and energy focusing on learning the language.
In Southern New York (probably all of the state), Spanish is everywhere. There are millions for whom the language is either their primary or secondary language, and a lot of non-speakers adopt or at least understand some words. So, it boggles my mind that more people don’t have at least a working competency in Spanish.
I’m especially ashamed because I’ve spent years—decades learning and unlearning Spanish. My husband, his Latinx family and my friends who speak it encourage me, but I can never get past understandings snatches of it and talking in two-to-three-word sentences.
What’s ironic is that three characters in my first novel My Way to You speak Spanish. The male protagonist, Simon Young, his love interest Regina Kent and her brother Marcus all speak it as a second language. I guess it’s my wishful thinking.
I really want to buckle down and learn Spanish, and not that Castillo mess. There are some serious gaps between the Spanish taught in high school and what mi gente (mainly Boricua – ‘cause that’s my husband’s background) use to communicate.
I would love to be able to fully engage in some of that beautiful chatting between my friends and not stay on the sideline, struggling to grasp as much as I can and them explain, losing important connections because of the need for translation.
What language have you always wanted to learn? Do you think you will try?
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