Wow Internet, you've really outdone yourself this time. First Google Image Search result for "spanish," ladies and gentlemen.
Every morning so far this term, I wake up and swear profusely, because my alarm goes off at 7:05 AM, and when you’re waking up at what for a college student may as well be the very butt-crack of dawn, there isn’t much else you can do but swear. Sometimes, I attempt to roll out of bed the wrong way and wind up crashing into the wall, like I did this morning, and sometimes I get all the way down the hall to the shower wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts when I realize that I locked my keys in my room, like I did this morning, and some mornings I shower for too long and wind up having to beat cheeks across campus so as not to be late, like I did this morning, and some mornings I come to the uncomfortable revelation that I’ve woken up as Ben Stiller in his typical role of the nice guy who gets all the world’s crap dumped on him, like I did this morning. My wang has yet to get caught in my fly, which I count as a plus, but I also don’t see myself hooking up with Cameron Diaz in the near future.
And why do I get up at 7:05 every morning? Unlike some people, who get up early and do strange activities involving physical exertion to improve their physique, I get up early because I have to go to the building on campus furthest from my dorm so I can take part in my 8:00 AM accelerated Spanish class. Now, when you hear ‘accelerated’, don’t get the idea that I’m some sort of linguistic genius who can whip out a brilliant blog entry in either English or Spanish, because that’s not the case. The way you should think of my accelerated Spanish class is the same way that you should think of your grandma accelerating her 1961 Ford Falcon: moving a little faster than the sidewalk (AKA Spanish 101), but not by much.
I qualified for accelerated Spanish (Spanish 111) by taking a placement test which told me that my two years of excruciatingly boring high school Spanish were not enough to clear the language requirements at the University, but they did qualify me to take a slightly higher level Spanish class. The problem was that by the time I was allowed to register for classes, the following happened:
Truman: “Hi there! I’d like to register for Spanish 111!”
University of Oregon: “Um, yeah... That’s not going to happen. All three Spanish 111 classes are full.”
Truman: “So even though Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the country, you’re not willing to hire enough professors so that the students who’re paying literally hundreds of dollars to come here can learn it?”
University of Oregon: “That would really cut into our ‘Locker Room Juice Bar’ fund.”
Truman: “That hardly seems fair.”
University of Oregon: “You’re right, you know that? You’re right. Just wait here. We’re going to take all of your money, date your ex-girlfriend without asking if it’s cool with you, and then poop in your bed. Go Ducks!”
Fortunately, over Christmas break a few people dropped out of the 8:00 AM Monday-Friday Spanish 111 class, and I was able to beg the professor to let me in. It was a matter of necessity, of course – the 10:00 and 1:00 classes were fuller than a remarkably full bucket of water, and as Spanish 111 was part of a two term sequence, I had to get into it this term or I’d have to postpone my Spanish studies by a year. Even so, it hurt to wheedle a professor into letting me hang out with him and 25 of his student buddies every morning, because I value my sleep. For me, asking to get up at 7:00 every morning for ten weeks is like asking to go to El Paso every morning for ten weeks. If you’re in high school, I bet you’re laughing at me for not liking to get up at 7:00 every morning, because of course you get up at 2:30 AM every day so you can go to jazz band and then your AP Craft Jewelry study session. If you are laughing, feel free to come down here and discuss it with me – just make sure you’ve got a hall pass and a note from your mother so you can leave school. Good day to you, sir!
I feel sorry for my professor, because he’s really enthusiastic and good at his job, and he’s teaching to a class of 26 people who would set fire to Dave Matthews with an armload of iPhones and puppies if it meant they could go back to sleep. Spanish has always been an awkward class for me because it’s par for the course that you’re going to have to partner off with a complete stranger and converse in Spanish. Listen: Out of the 26 people in this class, easily 19 are girls. Since everyone sits in a different spot every day, each boy will inevitably be partnered with a girl the majority of the time. Now, if you know me at all, you’re no doubt aware that I can hardly say more than three sentences to a girl without violently jamming my foot into my (or, in some extremely awkward cases, her) mouth – and this is in English, a language that my high school gave me an award for being so good at! So how can I be expected to learn anything when I’m forced to talk to a girl I’ve never met before, in a language where I have a vocabulary of maybe four words tops, when my face still hurts from rolling into the wall by my bed not more than an hour ago?
Furthermore, the conversation topics we’re given aren’t necessarily the sorts of things I’d want to talk to a complete stranger about, regardless of gender or language. A prompt like Habla de su familia (Talk of/from/about your family) is a little forward for a couple of complete strangers who are still half asleep, don’t you think? How about some small talk, like Vas Los Sopranos anoche? (You see The Sopranos last night?) or Yo quiero Dennis Kucinich (I love Dennis Kucinich).* Whenever I do hablo mi familia, the astounding whiteness of our names throws off the casual Spanish speaking accent I’m trying to cultivate. Names like Eugene, Kelsey, Nancy, Eddie, and Judy stick out in the Spanish language like the callous and one dimensional characters from my science fiction novel would stick out in The Great Gatsby. They’re like linguistic speed bumps: You’re trucking along, saying everything correctly, when suddenly you have to forget all that you know about what consonants have different sounds lest you humiliate yourself by pronouncing “Judy” as “Yoodie”.
*I know that this sounds a lot like the Taco Bell ad, but “I love” translates practically the same way as “I want” (and honestly, I think a Chihuahua saying “Yo quiero Dennis Kucinich” would have done his campaign wonders). Also, the word for marriage, “casado”, is only a letter away from “cansado”, which means “tired.” For a romance language, Spanish seems to have some pretty fatalistic notions about affection.
But I keep getting up every morning and going to Spanish, because it’s very important to me that I learn a second language. You see, if I didn’t take a second language, I’d have to take a math class, and at that point I'd be better off moving to El Paso, getting elected mayor, and spending every day for the rest of my life rolling around on the blistering hot, dusty, loogie ridden streets of the city while being curbstomped by Hannah Montana.
Truman Capps wants to dissuade you from telling him how funny it is that he, who the University considers Mexican, is bad at Spanish. If I come up with new content twice a week, the least you can do is try to be original once and a while. Honestly.