The fall of 1973 was my first year in high school where I went to a 3 year high school. The three preceding years were spent in junior high where I learned three of life's more important lessons; never mouth off to someone in the 8th or 9th grade, how to remove yourself from a institutional size garbage can if you do mouth off to a 8th or 9th grader, and, how to get from a classroom on the west side of the school, to your locker, to a classroom on the east side of the school, in under 5 minutes.
High school presented bigger challenges; 13 acres, longer distances to cover to change classes and to make it all fun we still had the same 5 minutes to do it in. It was easy to be in shape and skinny in high school. The registrations office seemed to find great humor in taking my 7 classes and scheduling them as if I was a ping pong ball. West, then east, west again, east again, west, well, you get the point. This alone motivated me to skip school a few times.
I took a language class, Beginning German, in my sophomore year at Thomas Jefferson High School. It seemed like the thing to do and the teacher was a favorite of mine, Mr. Mesler.
My problem was I didn't learn anything in Beginning German and my class grade didn't really represent the effort that I put out. I really deserved an "F" instead of the "D" that I got. And it's not that I didn't want to learn a language, I did. But I was pretty attached to English not so much as a first language but as an only language. I think I knew early in life that there was a way around having to speak a second language and that way was to not travel to a place where they didn't speak English. And it worked for a number of years. I have never traveled to a state or country that doesn't speak English and I have been out of the country. Now, Wales, a lovely little country on the West side of Great Britain, does have a second language, Welsh, but they also know English so I was covered.
This brings us to Spanish. It seems that I should have taken Spanish in high school instead of German. Why? Because German deli's are not as plentiful as Mexican restaurants where I live! And German deli owners, and this is just a guess, are real sensitive about losing two big wars in the last 100 years to us, and, less they be thought of as anything but patriotic, always have their menu's in English. Mexican food is just more popular. When was the last time someone said, "let's go to German?"
Mexican restaurants don't have the issue of their country losing two major wars to the Allies which appears to be the motivation behind having their menu's printed in Spanish. And that is my problem, at least one of them. I read the menu, read the description, and then order. And for the most part it all comes to the table looking like everything else I or anyone else in our party orders. Burro De Casa looks like Fajita's, which look like Enchiladas, which look like Burritos. It's all about the color of the sauce that it comes with.
Now, I used to think that Cinco de Mayo meant "The one day we party and not take a siesta." I remember sitting at the dinner table ten years ago on Cinco de Mayo and telling my children that it was easy to remember when Cinco de Mayo was because it was always on the 5th of May. My 11 year looked at me and said, "Dad, that's what Cinco de Mayo means." I thought back to 3rd grade Spanish on Public Television and realized that school was doing that boy good! On the other hand it took me 33 years to figure that one out!
Los Margaritas , the name of our favorite hangout, is really just English for "How much free chips and salsa can you eat before you gorge yourself on our regular menu!"
My alternate take on the Mexican menu is that printing the menu in Spanish is just a polite way of telling you how your digestive system is going to act once you leave the restaurant. I mean Taco Soup is just Taco Soup. But Chile Relleno translates to "bad gas is in your future". Mucho Flaco Burrito means "Gather the Blue Flame Club, we're having an Olympics." Fajita's that sizzle on your plate mean "SBD, silent but deadly, but only once your under the covers in bed and you're wanting to get frisky with the wife". Carne Asada is just another way of saying "we'll be driving home with the windows down kids!". I have a definition for "Pollo a la Parrilla" but this blog has some standards that even I don't like to test.
My last concern about Spanish as a Second Language is the hot plate. All Mexican food is served on a hot plate. It's a fact. And no matter how many times we are told by our server that the plate is hot, I mean for crying out loud people, he's wearing welding gloves to carry the plates, we never believe him. "HOT PLATE!", he/she announces as the food is delivered. And we still reach up and grab the plate and say, "Ouch, that is hot!". HOT PLATE in Spanish translates to "We just pulled this plate from a 2,400 degree kiln, you're going to get 3rd degree burns".
Spanish lessons, we could all use them.
Adiós! (Translated "Come back next week for the Nopalitos con Carne de Puerco")