:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Sunday, March 12, 2006  

I am learning Spanish yesterday, es verdad!

I'm still quite embarassed at my spanish language skills these days. I'm finding myself confused by the tenses and using the present tense way too often. Working at an LA county hospital affords me the opportunity to work with many spanish-only speaking patients -- in the clinic, in the hospital -- and I've improved my Spanish immensely in the past few months. There's really nothing like immersion. But i'm just not nearly where I need to be. I used to be a pro -- I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and I was a conjugation and vocabulary rockstar, and a pronunciation queen. Then... I forgot everything. And now... it's coming back to me, but muy despacio.

Yesterday, I met a friend at a bookstore before we grabbed some dinner. I hunted down the Spanish language section, on a mission to find THE BOOK that would help me. Spanish for travelers? No. Spanish for lovers? Hmm, perhaps in the future, but not right now. Latino Slang for Gringos? what's this? here's a description:

“ Learn Spanish Slang Now - You Can Use Our
Exclusive Latino Slang 4 Gringos to Understand
What Others Are Saying About You. . .
And Stop Feeling Powerless At The Office,
The Mall Or While On Vacations! ”

I'll hold off on that item for now. Still lookin'....various spanish-english dictionaries of various mid-range pocket-fitting sizes. Do I want a dictionary? maybe. Do i want a 42,000 word one or a 100,000 word one that would take up my whole pocket? 42,000 words seems like it would be enough for me, really. Oh forget it, maybe i'll get a dictionary for my PDA instead of stuffing my pockets so much I can't close my white coat. What i'm looking for right now is a mastery of conjugation, not how to say "pencil sharpener" in spanish (try fitting "sacapuntas" in a conversation with a patient. Let me tell you, I've tried. You've gotta show you know some spanish, even if it's "your leg looks like it was eaten by a pencil sharpener. le duele?")

The various Spanish tenses are way back in the depths of my brain, and sometimes I recall them from my high school days. But the fact of the matter is, I only really have present-tense confidence right now: I'm still past tense shy, present progressive tense anxious and preterit tense scared-out-of-my-mind. I'm tired of using the present tense for everything:
Like: How much does that hurt you yesterday?
Or: I am going to will be in the future drew your blood in 5 minutes.
(ok really i'm not THAT bad). Well, my broken spanish gets me by, but would I want a doctor who talks like that? So anyway...still looking... looking for the right book for me. Thoughts go through my head as I pan my eyes over the rows and rows of Spanish learning tools. Wow, what a great industry, I think to myself. Books, dictionaries, audio CDs to distract you while driving, slang dictionaries, nicely dressed up and durable multi-colored plastic binding travel guides, etc. I even saw a Panjabi audio CD selling here -- I can't even imagine trying to learn Panjabi while driving in my car.

Oh wait, what's this?!? Complete Medical Spanish! Sweet! WITH tense explanations, vocabulary, AND only 280 small pages. Now I can add to my wealth of medical terminology...
'Doctora, tengo una enterrada' = 'I have an ingrown nail, Doc'
...while learning conjugations again :> Rodillas, pulmones, corazon, picazon, comezon, bring it on!

So here I go, my friends. I bought the book. And it's so cute, the authors have thrown in cultural references to go with the grammar and vocabulary. I'm hoping they don't stereotype and make me cringe, but so far so good (as of page 2):
"One should shake hands with everyone to avoid being seen as extremely rude, cold, and uncaring. An even more kind, caring, and warm gesture is to cup your left hand over the hand you are shaking which conveys the feeling of trust (confianza). It is a quite comforting action seen from the Latin American point of view, and it tends to communicate the feeling that "You are in good hands now." It does not transmit the trite or paternalistic attitude that may be interpreted by U.S. Americans."
Sounds like a great way to shake hands with everyone, latino or not, paternalistic or not :> Mucho gusto, 'Complete Medical Spanish'. We're off to a good start.

(cross-posted at Los Anjalis)

posted by Anjali Taneja | 3/12/2006 11:53:00 PM | |


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