A Dog Walks into a Bar
When I moved to Barcelona just over four years ago I didn’t speak a word of Catalan. My friend Danielle tried to help me out by giving me a list of handy expressions but Catalan is not like Castellano (Spanish as most people know it) – in that you can’t just look at a word and know how it’s pronounced. And so I left the U.S. without even being able to figure out how to pronounce “adieu” (goodbye – pronounced “ah-DAY-ooh”).
Four years later I am taking Catalan class two mornings a week and gave a short presentation the other day. The presentation was just telling a short story to my class of 17 students. And so I shared the story of my first or second summer at camp and how while it’s outside of Catalunya there is a Catalan employee who is always happy to help me practice speaking Catalan.
And so during a break one day, I went to the bar to order an orange juice. I didn’t have time to wait for the fresh squeezed kind so I wanted to order a bottle of orange juice, and since I wanted to take it to go, I would add that I didn’t need a glass. And so, I drew in my breath and expelled my much rehearsed question:
Vull una ampolla de suc de taronja i no necessito un gos.
Well, my Catalan friend Luis, the bartender at the time, gave me a half smile, chuckled for a second and corrected me “un goT”?
Right, GOS vs GOT – I had inadvertently let Luis know that I wouldn’t be needing a DOG with my bottle of oj. Normal.
And that is my best advice for language learners looking to memorize vocabulary – not that I go out of my way to do so, but an embarrassing experience is one way to ensure you’ll never forget how to say something.