I have no idea why, but one day in late 2019 I felt the burning desire to learn Spanish. Do you plan to travel in Latino countries?, you might ask. No. I travel a lot but always through books. So do you plan to read Spanish novels? No. A good translation has always sufficed. Might you be planning to make friends with a Spanish-speaker who wants to improve her English? No. I freeze like a bunny in the middle of a large mowed field when called upon to converse in any other language than this one. What remains of my brain is a blank canvas. All I can register is my pulse pounding in my ear.
So why? I already told you: NOT THE FAINTEST!. Yet inexplicably I have faithfully logged into Duolingo ever since. By now I must have gained legendary status because I doubt that anyone else is as inept. They probably refer to me as The Pathetic Plugger but only in private as I am most likely their only paying customer; they feel about me the way universities feel about international students: cash cows. It was frankly easier than having to do little else but watch the website’s preferred form of mental torture: endless repetitive ads triggered by too many mistakes.
On the plus side, language has always interested me. Recognizing The Lord’s Prayer in Old English was thrilling, as was sort of understanding the already-familiar Canterbury Tales read aloud in its original Middle English. Poldark, in addition to the pleasure of watching Aidan, was a joy-ride through eighteenth century English, where common English was far more antiquated and inventive than upper class speech. Add to that Latin (which I detested because of a vicious teacher) and university French, and I’m starting to develop the beginning of a mental map of sound laws and the directions that words can slide around our mouths over time and isolation. Culture sticks its nose in too. In Spanish, you don’t say “The flowers are dead” in a definitive verb (“son”); instead, possibly because Spain was Catholic and believed in an afterlife, you would say “The flowers estan muertos.” Those flowers are only temporarily dead. As the pet store owner described the dead parrot to John Cleese, they are resting.
Minutiae like that cluttering up my brain, I think my storage might be full because I have a worrisome thought that I’m losing two English nouns for each Spanish one.