I arrived in Mexico City on a flight from Houston on November 2, 2010 and tentatively approached the Immigration area in the airport. My knowledge of “hola, adios and cerveza fria por favor” would not be of any great help here. I foolishly assumed that there would be someone here who spoke English. Consequently, I left the area without the highly coveted copy of my tourist visa. But that’s a whole other story for a different blog post.
Living in Culiacan that year was quite the experience. This is a city where hardly anyone speaks English. The principal at the school where I taught did not even speak English. Nor did the lady whose home I shared. Nor did the staff at the grocery stores or pharmacies or bakeries or convenience stores that I frequented. But it often made for some interesting purchases.
My next job found me in Irapuato, a city considerably smaller than Culiacan. Other than the other English teachers at the school, only a handful of people who spoke English. However I was unprepared for the animosity displayed by the locals because I was a gringa, especially that of the Mexican teachers at the school. They refused to make any attempt to understand English, and instead expected the English teachers to overnight become fluent in Spanish. The hilarious part was that the school provided us with Spanish classes, but they were taught by a gringa and not a native speaker. A total waste of time as she taught only vocabulary as she herself did not know the grammar.
My next home was, and still is, Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. For the most part, that first year I spent my time with other English teachers who were native speakers. And we usually made ourselves understood when traveling or shopping although our knowledge of Spanish was limited.
Flash ahead and I am now in my fifth year in Mexico. I am nowhere near fluent, but I am also well beyond survival. Duolingo has become one of my best friends and we spend hours together regularly. I can definitely empathize with the difficulties my students have in learning English. Learning a new language is not easy.
Spanish is a beautiful language. It has a unique melody of its own. Now, if it weren’t for all the irregular verbs and the strange rules regarding pronouns and………. Yikes! I’m starting to sound like my students!