Spanish fits me like a worn pair of jeans, whereas French makes me feel like I’m at a wedding in a freshly ironed dress, trying to stand up straight.
French feels confining. It’s about the aesthetically exquisite, the barely pronounced “s,” the impeccably executed “r.” Done well, the latter is a subtle feline purr. Done American-style, it’s a loogie struggling to come up. There’s just no room for error.
Ah, but Spanish encourages flexibility, improvisation. It’s all curves and individual style. It’s those jeans that love your hips and your ass, it’s a series of dance moves which can make even the most flat-accented gringo seem precious and endearing. It lets you take it for a ride, chilled out, adaptable, whereas French says – you will take me here, now, when I want, how I want. You fit me.
Spanish simply dovetails with my personality. For me, a cool, blue Latin American morning is synonymous with travel, and Spanish is synonymous with the joy of speaking another language. I love running in Mexico and seeing a beat-up pickup truck full of Santa Claus piñatas, and I love the way people at parades stop and offer me a swig from a bottle of mezcal. I love the way you can slide words around in Spanish, drop the pronouns, add -itos and -isisimos to exaggerate and emphasize.
In Spanish it feels like I can play, mixing my own language cocktails, and this is more than OK – it’s desirable. And from the very beginning, people are indulgent with these creations. You can make the world’s most undrinkable mix of triple sec and vodka and Kahlua and people will toast you for the effort.
“Hablas español!” the Ecuadorians said admiringly when I was still bumbling my way through the basics of “cómo estás” and sticking pronouns in all sorts of awkward places.
But also, I just like the sound of Spanish. The big potbellied “o” of gordo. The little scurrying feet of ahorita. The up-down lilt of ideal like the crest and fall of a wave. The mantra-esque sounds of mañana and lo que sea. The drawn out, three-step, melancholy fall of tristeza. The a’s and o’s that float at the end of words. And of course, the unbeatable r’s.
And you? What’s your language personality? What language fits you?