Ode to my Spanish boyfriend

If Facebook photos are any indication, there are a fair number of men out there whose car (or motorcycle) occupies the position of leading lady in their life. Do you see those pictures too? The ones they post of their hot rods unironically captioned My girl! or My girlfriend with nary a woman in sight. I get car love, kind of. My little Corolla is shiny and winsome and always looks happy to see me. Still, I liked the buses, taxis, metro and old-fashioned walking in Colombia far better. 

I’ve never called anything my boyfriend except, well, boyfriends, but if I absolutely had to think of a runner-up who vies for my affection, the choice would be as plain as the nose on my face: that’s right, Spanish. Don’t tell me you can’t see that I’m head over heels in love with him. If this blog isn’t an ongoing love letter to the Spanish language, what is? Anyone who knows me would tell you that I’m inordinately, passionately, obsessively enamored of Spanish. And I have been for almost two decades now. My true love–surprise, surprise–is Colombian Spanish. Yeah yeah, so I once wrote a post about breaking up with Colombian Spanish (it’s called metonymy, folks), but I didn’t mean it for a second–Colombian Spanish and I are still thick as thieves. So, yes, until I find another half orange (a media naranja), it’s Spanish that’s the one and only apple of my eye. If you’re smitten with Spanish like I am, surely you joined me and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world today in celebrating el Día del Idioma— Language Day. ¡Un brindis por el castellano!

I love Spanish

How do I love thee, Spanish? Well, I’ve been blogging the ways for over a year and a half now, 120 posts and counting. You all know that I’m anti-cursi, so don’t expect any blubbering professions of adoration or a bathtub filled with rose petals from me. I’ll just say this: With every fiber in me, I truly love, love, love speaking, listening to, reading and writing in Spanish.  In Spanish, I see everything color de rosa, and that’s just the way I like it. Spoken like a true tortolito, of course. I don’t even care how ridiculous I probably sound right now. I become a blabbering, yammering fool with a huge gleam in my eye when I talk about Spanish, and I’ll blabber and yammer to my heart’s content.

Día del idioma

Back to el Día del Idioma–The Día del Idioma is generally celebrated April 23 because on this day Cervantes–the famed author of Don Quijote–died. The comic above imagines that if he were still around to see how Spanish has been “perverted” through chat services like MSN Messenger, he’d have some harsh words. I guess nobody ever told him not to shoot the messenger–like it’s his fault people type on there as if they’d declared an all-out war on proper spelling and grammar. If only he could chill out and realize that Spanish is still as groovy as ever. If Cervantes met someone like me, he’d probably be moved to tears by my passion for his language. I’d have to do my best to keep the fact that I still haven’t read Don Quijote under wraps, though. Whoops. It’s at the top of my to-read list, I swear.

Anyone else out there who will confess to loving Spanish beyond all reasonable limits? What are people like us to do? Well, a very happy Language Day to everyone! Happy Spanishing.

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20 responses to “Ode to my Spanish boyfriend

  1. Love this post! I also like Spanish, though I don’t know if I could use the word love. I do think that Spanish captures precise emotions and feelings that English can’t. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but when I hear a world like alegre or chiflado, I know exactly, exactly what it’s talking about. I always feel like you can explain a situation beautifully and precisely in English, but you can capture a mood perfectly in Spanish.

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    • Thanks, Jisel. I struggle to explain why I like Spanish so much, so I usually don’t even try. I recognize that much of it is purely irrational and subjective. And since when does love need to justify itself? :)

      I like your explanations, though. I don’t know that Spanish can do anything that English can’t (though I do think the opposite is true, which perhaps exposes some of my biases), but I can only relate to it as an outsider and non-native speaker, which I assume imbues it with beauty I might otherwise take for granted. Your case is distinct in that you grew up speaking it. Did you learn one language first? Do you consider yourself a native speaker of Spanish as well? How did your relationship to Spanish change, if at all, once you lived in Latin America? I’d love to read a blog post on your thoughts!

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  2. “Anyone else out there who will confess to loving Spanish beyond all reasonable limits? ”

    I’m assuming that’s a rhetorical question right? LOL.

    I too confess to having a never-ending love affair with Spanish.

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  3. Yes!! I love Spanish beyond all reasonable limits. It started in high school when I started Spanish and came home and tried to teach my mom to conjugate verbs in Spanish because I thought it was so fantastic. (she wanted none of it) It continued when I was a Spanish major in college and spent my junior year in Madrid. Me fascina como hablan los madrilenos. And now it continues with my Colombian boyfriend and all my trips to Colombia. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than our annual pilgrimage to Colombia to spent a couple weeks with the fam. Two weeks of Spanish immersion where I am thrilled with exploring every little detail, why does your dad speak tu to your sisters and usted to you? Why don’t your brothers and friends ever say “quibo” to me but they always say it to you? How can people start a conversation with “que mas” when nothing has been said beforehand? And the dichos. I can’t get enough of the dichos. So, yes, vocabat, I am definitely on your team. Love your blog!

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    • Very cool. Love the enthusiasm. Do you use Spanish in your job now? What part of Colombia is your bf from? I have all those same questions!

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      • My bf is from Bogota, a city of excellently spoken Spanish in my view. We speak Spanish at least 50% of the time. In my job I use my Spanish but not in a direct way. I work in the legal field with a lot of people from Spain and some from other Spanish-speaking countries. All speak English. Most communications are via email. I mostly use English because it is easier and faster and also I think it helps me to control the relationship better. I don’t have a command of business communication in Spanish or legal terms for that matter and using English helps me to keep the upper hand, so to speak. Not sure if that makes sense. If I do speak to the person on the phone or in person, however, I speak in Spanish and this usually makes the person very happy. I also speak it at networking events and the like. The best thing is when I speak to a Colombian because at some point I will utter a few colombianismos and then it usually gets interesting. Or I hit them with a well-placed, “claaaro.” I don’t know if this is a colombianismo per se but when I hear it pronounced a certain way it says Colombia! to my ears.

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        • Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Hmm, I don’t know if there’s a certain way that Colombians use/pronounce claro, but whatever it is, I do it, too!

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  4. Great post! I think we’re in love with the same “man” – I met him in Spain though :)

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  5. Katie, I learned Spanish before I learned English, so I always saw English through a Spanish lens, if that makes sense. But it was more than words to me. As you well know, Colombians have a distinctive, very melodic, sing-songy way of speaking with lots of dips and peaks in tone, so I remember being in preschool and thinking how regular and constant English sounded. I remember thinking that it was hard to tell when the teacher was sad or happy or excited or angry, because it sounded the same to me at that age! And no -itos or –icos or otas! I liked the way adults in Spanish would say things like “Jiselita, estas grandota!” English may have hundreds of thousands more words than Spanish, but I think it’s those little things that make Spanish special.

    Now that I’m an adult, I’m more comfortable with English. I think I actually fell somewhat out of love with Spanish when I was living in Colombia, because Colombian Spanish is so beautiful and sweet and endearing and I had a hard time reconciling it with a lot of things I saw, but I guess that’s another story. Now that I’m back in the U.S and part of the Latino community here, Spanish and I have gotten a little closer again.

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    • Very interesting, Jisel! Thanks for sharing. I like your insight into the rhythms and intonation of Spanish. Spanish speakers often tell me that my Spanish is very cantado, and the men at least seem to like it a lot. To be honest, I can’t really hear that sing-songy aspect of Colombian Spanish– it just seems normal to me. English is very flat by comparison. A couple of times I’ve spoken in English with a strong Paisa accent just to give some of my friends an idea of how up-and-down its intonations are. I love it. Your other insight about reconciling the prettiness of Spanish with what you saw is also interesting. Which came first, the cutesy language or the situation/apathy/indifference? You can easily imagine how either one could have caused/necessitated the other.

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  6. Spanish is fun and been trying to learn the language..I feel it’s very romantic. hope to learn some Spanish from u:)
    Cheerz
    Vishal

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  7. Ohhhh wow, I totally get you. My intended “maybe six months” turned into almost four years in Spain, all because of a love affair with the language. I’ve since chased it through South America and am currently in Chile. The odd mix I’ve ended up with as I pick and use my favourite bits of slang is a bit crazy though, I reckon. And yes, Colombian Spanish is truly ear-strokingly beautiful…ahhhh.

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  8. “Tortolito” !!!Muy gracioso encontrar una palabra como esa acá jajajaaa!!!

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