Tag Archives: spanish

The In-Between

fullsizeoutput_6760

Thank you, Andrea!

We humans consistently underestimate how much we’ll change in the next 10 years, according to a 2013 study. If we envision the world around us a decade from now, I think we’re likely to underestimate the changes there, too – with respect not only to technology, but also to the people around us.

As a foreigner living abroad, I sometimes feel like I’m a slow-moving planet orbiting a stationary sun while other planets whizz by. Medellín is popular with digital nomads, people attending Spanish immersion courses, adults on sabbatical, etc., which means many foreigners are here for a few months and then gone. Meanwhile, the city in general is known for families and social circles dating back decades, cemented by the mountains’ isolating geography and the city’s enduring appeal. With 5.5 years in my pocket, I find myself in the in-between. It’s not a bad feeling, just somehow different.

The feeling has been more intense lately because a round of foreigner-friends all left in succession. These friends were made over brief periods of time, but nonetheless had significant impacts. Upon leaving, some of them generously gave me miscellaneous items – from clothes to plants to makeup remover – that they did not want or weren’t able to take back. So now, I write with Andrew’s pens (a serious upgrade from mine!), wash my hair with Megan’s shampoo, cook with Shruti’s spices, and water Andrea’s weird but beautiful little fruit tree. This jetsam is a daily reminder of how each person enriched my life. The growing web of contacts I have all over the world is my consolation for the immediate vacancies.

If I don’t underestimate my own rate of change, I’ll probably decorate next Christmas with garland left to me by a friend. For now, I accept my place in the middle – still a newcomer to my local friends (who never quite trust that I won’t jump ship), a long-term expat to my foreigner ones, and a sometime-connector between the two. It’s a weird place to be, but it’s home.

Advertisements

10 Tips for Talking with Someone Who’s Learning a New Language

An example of a potentially challenging environment for a non-native speaker.

An example of a potentially challenging environment for a non-native speaker.

The first call was an honest mistake – I told the girl who asked for Laura that she had the wrong number. The second call was a little more suspect. As the request was repeated, the voices of other girls – they sounded like tweens – twittered in the background. By the third call, I knew this had turned into a prank. My reiteration that they had the wrong number was followed in Spanish by, “You talk really funny,” “Where are you from?” and “We’ve never heard anyone that talks weird like you.” Much laughing ensued. I hung up and asked my husband to answer if the phone rang again.

Fortunately, when it comes to being made fun of for an accent, I’m a seasoned old-timer. I grew up in the Deep South, in a north Georgia town where monosyllabic words became two or even three syllables (I stretched my high school boyfriend’s name, Jeff, to Juh-ay-efff), certain letters were eaten or substituted (“At ‘er tree is gonna fawl,” “This war seems to be about ‘awl’,” and “Are you ‘fur’ it or ‘agin’ it?”), and colorful phrases were the norm (“My dog ain’t in that fight!”). While I could do a mean impersonation of an aristocratic low country accent, my accent was more Appalachian hillbilly. I was hounded mercilessly when I went to Connecticut for college and had to battle the age-old assumption that people with an accent are somehow dumber than those without.

Fast forward to Colombia, where I speak solid Spanish but, alas, with an accent. Continue reading