Friday, May 06, 2011

Oh The Mistakes We Make In Language Class!

In order to get hired into the Foreign Service, one has to prove that every ounce of their being embodies the 12 (for Specialists) or 13 (for Generalists) Dimensions. The 12/13 Dimensions are things like Oral and Written Communication, Cultural Adaptability, Working With Others, Resourcefulness, Composure, Judgment etc... Things that we all have to greater or lesser degrees. Specialists - for some reason, thanks be to God - don't have to prove their Quantitative Analysis skills, hence the difference in the 12 vs. 13 Dimensions. But anyway, the point of this preamble is that there are a few personality dimensions that the State Department has chosen NOT to require, and for this I am enternally grateful. Because if Maturity, Ability Not To Laugh Out Loud In Class and Ability To Ignore a Corny or Dirty Joke were among the final three dimensions, well, I'd still be in Snohomish right now.

Given the fact that I am no longer 13, and never was a juvenile male, there really is no reason that I should find the stupidest things absolutely flippin' hysterical. As of this week, there are only four of us in my Spanish class now and I'm the only female. My teacher sits with his back to the window, and I sit opposite him, facing out over a nice courtyard from the third floor. Do you think I could resist pointing out that there was a huge bumble bee behind him today? Is it my fault that he ducked and squirmed before I could remember the word for "outside"? (Answer: No, it's not and no,it was  nowhere near his ear, but he didn't know that 'cause I was laughing too hard to say "afuera.")

And how about the whole "quizas" thing? Yeah, that was pretty hysterical to me, too. (Just say it a few times and you'll see why Beavis - me - thought it was so funny when I asked my teacher how to say "maybe.")

Further, did you know that "lawyer" in Spanish is "abogado"? I have got to find away to remember that is NOT what I should order on a sandwich or smashed-up and seasoned with chips.

Finally, last night, during a Spanish-practice get-together, I listened to an entire story about a woman who had been posted in India who was commenting on how incredibly spicy the food in her region was, and how due to the fact that she was so "embarazada" - it was worse for her. It wasn't until later that I realized she wasn't telling us how she was "embarrassed" due to the after-effects of the hot food on her constitution, but rather that she was PREGNANT at the time!

Oh geez. So, the bottom line is that it's a darn good thing I wasn't hired for my maturity level, because each day in language training is an opportunity to make a fool of myself, and be the first one to laugh along the way!

Meanwhile, tonight most of our FSS 119th Orientation Class got together at our Oakwood complex for a send-off to those of us who are leaving soon: My OMS buddies will be first, followed by our friends in the white coats, the medical staff. We had pizza, snacks, and some really delish chocolate-covered strawberries. (Yes, I'll admit it, I ate five. Or six.) But more than that, we had a great time just hanging out and knowing that we now have 68 new friends (plus spouses!). Friends of all ages; friends from all corners of the country and the world; 68+ friends whom I never would have known otherwise. People far smarter than I; people who speak far more languages and some who speak fewer; people with far more children and far more dogs; and most importantly: people who can laugh just like I do at the most stupid joke. It's great to be among friends like that, so I'm glad the State Department had the good sense not to weed those of out with a silly little criteria like Maturity.

Until next time, I'm sure I'll be making stupid Spanish mistakes and laughing along with my new FS friends.

Hasta la vista amigos!


  1. I, too, have made the "embarazada" mistake while living in Honduras. Only...I had wanted to say embarrassed and yep--instead said I was pregnant. The other good one was yelling across an outdoor restaurant for the waiter and instead calling him a shrimp: cameron instead of camarero. Fun stuff :)