¡Eh,… Macarena! Aaay!

And then we would lean down and tie our shoes.


In our fifth grade year of school, one of our rotation classes was Spanish. This was my formal introduction to the language. Had I met it before? Perhaps but probably not.

We were required to learn, sing and dance to the Macarena which was the least cool thing for 10 and 11 year old boys. We did not want to place our hands on our hips before making the turn. Instead the shoe tying.

My next run in with Spanish was sometime in middle school. I was more aware of the world by then. I got teased about wearing “tighty-whities” once and immediately discovered boxers. I found out about why you would ever want to talk to a girl. And one day at lunch I sat down at my usual spot, but my friends had just left me.

It took me about 3 days before I found out they had moved tables without informing me. I guess we weren’t that good of friends.

The school offered a chance to take Spanish in middle school and if you elected to do it for your 7th and 8th grade year then you would be awarded a high school credit.

I didn’t do this.

I did take Spanish in high school. Only after flunking out of French. I was in French class for less than three weeks and had a solid grade of about 36. It was for the best given that French is as useful in Texas as an umbrella in a hurricane. Not wanting to fail and not understanding “je vous en prie” and whatever else was said, I did what I should have done from the start.

I dropped the class and took Spanish.

I was in the class for only about a week before I was making an “A”.

I took three years of Spanish and then quit. I wanted to take Spanish 3 a second time to keep up with the language but they wouldn’t let me. Something about rules and needing to move on. They could never think outside the box.

They wouldn’t let me take a Reading class because they said it was a remedial course. I wanted to take it because I wanted a period a day to enjoy reading. It didn’t matter that I already had all my coursework necessary to graduate and that it would be an unnecessary credit. There were rules against such “nonsense”.

Without a second year in Spanish 3 my Spanish quickly nosedived. I took a placement test in college to see if I could skip any of the beginner courses.

Nope. I knew enough to enroll in Spanish 1 again.

But this time it was at the college level. So that is improvement right?

Then I took four semesters worth and did fairly well. My most favorite course was when I had a Peruvian teacher. Peruvian food is great BTW! Besides Spanish I learned that you should bring a bribe to airport security so they’ll not harass you. A pack of cigarettes or some perfume would do. My fatal flaw in my plan was when I tried to sign up for two different levels of Spanish simultaneously. I had intended to enroll in the accelerated program.

But I did it wrong.

Nobody in college ever tells you that you are doing it wrong until after the fact. Then they be like, “uh yeah you can’t do that.” And they never tell you what you can or should have done unless you ask specific point blank questions. And even then they are likely to be some college student working to pay off their degree and just say whatever it takes to get you to go away.

Enter Duolingo.


This is a great FREE way to learn or brush up on a language. I had fun with it for awhile. Until I was just doing the bare minimum to check in and get the tokens. I would repeat the same first exercises every day to keep my streak alive.

It became a chore.

Mostly because I wasn’t trying.

Luis von Ahn explains why you should use Duolingo in his TED Talk.

Just don’t do it like I did.

So I say all that to say this. I have learned and relearned Spanish but always digress because I don’t maintain it. Unless I have a few drinks. Ask my wife. The impetus of this tale is that today is Day 56 of Claudia’s book Become An Idea Machine. My Spanish is once again rusty so even though I am familiar with the language I will still attempt to create 10 new words in Spanish and explain what I mean for them to mean.

1 distracticar – to distract
2 estrechar – to stretch
3 pondir – to ponder
4 frusturar – to frustrate
5 snackar – to snack
6 checkar – to check (like check your phone)
7 choker – choke (as in to choke on food)
8 pretendar – to pretend (as in pretend I know Spanish)
9 dozar – to doze off
10 messar – to make a mess

I like to do things. I guess that is why so many verbs.

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