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Language And Love: How To Really Learn A Foreign Language

Updated on May 7, 2011

When trying to learn a foreign language you will almost definitly hear the advice:

"What you need is a girlfriend, then you will learn that foreign language real quick!"

This writer took that advice to heart, and yes, it works, but it is dangerous. I learned fluent Mexican Spanish but I also learned why there are so many desperate Mexican love ballads. What good is Spanish when your heart beats thousands of miles away from your body?

I met her, lets call her, “Margarita” at a popular dance and mingle type bar in Oaxaca, Mexico. At that time my Spanish was at a level a little beyond that of backpackers Spanish. The bar was packed, resonating with the rhythm of a shuffling cumbia beat. My courage was elevated by several Coronas, a mescal, and a week of dance lessons. I went up to the most beautiful girl on the dance floor and grabbed her hand. She smiled and danced with me. I liked her long black hair, her big brown eyes, her full Latina figura . She was a Latina Betty Boop.

With our hips gyrating to the powerful base, she asked me, “eres Sueco?”

I didn’t understand, I heard her incorrectly, “eres puerco“, you’re a pig?”

“Puerco?” I asked, thinking she thought I was some sort of perverted pig.

“No, no, Sueco,” [Swiss], she said.

We laughed, danced, even kissed, I got her phone number and after some minor complications we started dating.

A sample of the sexy cumbia!

Margarita didn't speak any English. My Spanish improved without even knowing or thinking about it. We spent hours in our small apartment cuddling, watching movies and making love, only venturing outside--hand in hand in search of tacos and horchata. I was fascinated by her foreign philosophy, on life, music, love. She would make fun of my gringo accent. We were in love. Then one day we had a fight. I ate all the jamon, the ham. I told Margarita, “I will go out to get some more jamon.” That’s not the point she said.

Quick Spanish became necessary for my Latin relationship. I was writing poems, buying flowers, explaining my point of view. lamenting in cantinas, eating on the street, learning through Mexican love songs. I sent pleading, abbreviated text messages, “K poka madre!” “Te Kiero.” The relationship went through tremendous highs and profound lows, the language, the culture, flowing through my body. I made Mexico my home.

Learning a language through Love is not easy. It’s incredible difficult, more difficult, because of it’s thoroughness, the pureness of passing real feelings through foreign words. One must live a language to fully capture the gestures, intricacies, the slang. When you are able to have a heated argument in a foreign language you have passed a sort of horrible litmus test.

Now I speak Spanish like a Mexican cab driver-but my heart is far from my body. So be careful, you may be taking on more then you bargained for.

Quiting Smoking With Steam Rooms "EL VAPOR!"

Or some, "Money Saving Tips," I learned while traveling in the third world.


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