Sunday, December 18, 2011

"I don't even speak Spanish!"

Today I had a first that was somewhat difficult for me. My ward is the designated Spanish-speaking ward for my stake, so anyone in the stake boundaries with Spanish as their first language usually comes to our ward. We offer different services in Spanish, including having a Spanish Relief Society lesson once a month. That, of course, leaves three other Relief Society lessons in English for the Spanish-speaking sisters to sit through, sisters who often are not fluent in English.

We used to have Spanish-speaking sister missionaries who would translate those lessons, but we haven't had those for about a year. One solution we came up with was to have our elders translate, but there is something weird about having elders in Relief Society.

So, I was asked if I would be willing to give translation a try.

People always ask me how I learned Spanish, and I always have a long response. I sort of learned it through Portuguese. When I was eight years old, my family moved to Brazil, where I learned Portuguese. We moved back when I was twelve. Then when I was fifteen, I began studying Spanish at school and studied it for the next three and a half years. When I was eighteen, I went to college and began studying Portuguese again. I graduated rather quickly, so I ended up one or two classes shy of completing the Portuguese minor.

In these Portuguese classes, I made some of my best friends from college. I took the accelerated course my first semester at BYU, and the course was designed for those who spoke Spanish (or another Romance language, but specifically Spanish) to learn Portuguese. My closest friends were from Mexico and Colombia. We saw each other every day in class, and almost every weekend we would go out dancing or to some sort of party/get together. They obviously often spoke Spanish to each other, and I sometimes felt lost and always responded in English or Portuguese, never in Spanish.

I remember numerous occasions in Portuguese class, speaking in Portuguese only to discover that I had thrown a Spanish word in. I would look at my friends and laughingly say, "but I don't even speak Spanish!" And I really didn't.

Then I married a man who was fluent in Spanish. Then we moved to Cincinnati where we lived in the Spanish designated ward boundaries. And then I made some very close friends who didn't speak any (or very little) English and no Portuguese. And so slowly, my Portuguese morphed into Spanish. My vocabulary is pretty okay, but my conjugation is horrible. I'm never in the correct tense or person, but they seem to understand what I'm trying to say.

Recently I have made a new friend who is Brazilian, and it was been so much fun to hear her speak in Portuguese. And it has been really sad to try to respond to her in Portuguese, because now it all comes out Spanish. If I want it to be Portuguese, I have to stop in between each word and think about it rather than just let it flow effortlessly. Sad.

But it was really fun translating today in Relief Society, even though I was somewhat stressed about it and nervous. I did not know all of the words, but I usually figured out a different way to describe what was being said.

Thinking about speaking Spanish though has made me really miss my first Spanish-speaking friends. It has made me remember all of the fun times we had in college and wonder what they are up to now. I wish I could have been able to speak to them in Spanish back then like I can now (messed up verbs and all). :)


  1. Way to go Meems! I'm sure they appreciate your efforts so much they don't even notice your mistakes (well, they do, but they don't mind) I say this from experience both as a translator, AND more pertinently as someone who has wanted a translator and not had one (I sat lost and confused through many Dutch church meetings, where the only words I understood were "Joseph Smith". ha ha!)

  2. Congratulations, Mimi. Your mastery of English makes me believe that you are understandable in Spanish. Real linguists seem to be proficient in whatever language they tackle. I heard that Southern girls get kissed more than Northern girls because it takes them so long to say "NOooo." Love, Grandpa H.

  3. You are trilingual. Those who speak English, Spanish and Portuguese can all understand what you say and you do understand them.

    The future will continue to allow you to share with others in so many languages, so keep practicing :)


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