Last Thursday, I started working with an ESL program (English as a Second Language), and I had the opportunity to teach some very patient Hispanic men. I spent most of the evening learning everything I forgot from high school and teaching the guys important English words. I taught Faustino how to pronounce “brush your teeth”, Tino learned how to respond to “Are you married?” and Marcos finally understood that his gold chain is “bling bling.”
However, prior to breaking the ice and social barriers I was a bit intimidated. It’s nerve-wracking when you sit down at a table and say, “What up homies, are you ready to roll up in this hizouse? Dog, you keepin’ it real! Fa shizzle!” and you get nothing but blank stares. I was overwhelmed that I couldn’t communicate, so I was ready to do anything. Even if it meant blowing off the dust on that old Espanol 1&2 knowledge from my freshman year in 1996. In the beginning, they asked me if I knew Spanish, and while I did take two years of it, I couldn’t figure out how to say, “I suck at the only language you know.” So I mustered a few Spanish words together and in an attempt to say, “I know very little”, I managed to say, “Yo soy muy peque Roughly translated, “I am very small.” This is a very difficult thing to correct. In retrospect, “No es pequeno en el pantalones, mis homies” would have been a perfect solution.