Tuesday, January 11, 2011

day eleven - wherein I find a logical contradiction that refutes all of Spanish

Claudia was sort of laughing at me earlier. LAUGHING. “You can’t just translate the Tao Te Ching on day 10. You don’t even know how to ask where the bathroom is yet. Or ‘where are the forks and knives?’ “

So she make a good point. But MY POINT is that whatever words and concepts I get attracted to, those are the words I should learn, and the rest will flow in. At least I think. Since I’ve never learned a language before (5 years of French, thank you, and I guess 2 or 3 years of hard core Hebrew, but nothing stuck) I don’t really have any expertise.

So we went to lunch and she got some of the basics in. What was interesting to me is that they were all logical truisms. It seems you can learn an entire language just by finding all the concepts that you either are, or are not.

“Por ejemplo” – “for example” (“very important phrase,” said Claudia, as I’m sure she plans to show me many examples of the correct way to do things)

Everything is either “ariba de o abajo de” - above or below. As in “la plato esta abajo de la mesa” – the plate is below the table. Or “la plato esta ariba de la mesa”

Another one. We’re all either “adentro o afuera” – inside or outside

I like also, “mas o menos” –

As is “bueno?” “mas o menos”. – “more or less”

Another good “or” statement. You can point to “esto o aquello” – “this or that”.

OR “aqui o alli” – here or there.

I’m getting down all the ORs. If someone asks me where I am I can be vague, even coy. “aqui o alli”. I’m not even coy in English but now I can be coy in Spanish.

Are you in the club or out of the club? “adentro y afuera” . I havent’ decided yet. Can I be both?

Are you hot or cold on this decision?

“hace frio Y calor” . I’m hot AND cold.

I’m a Spanish coy machine.

I was getting bored with the basics so I got one good phrase which made no sense to me:

“Solo se que no se nada”. Apparently it means “we only know that we know nothing”

“But isn’t it a double negative?” I said. “nada” is nothing. So shouldn’t “no se nada” mean we know something?


“Solo se que no se nada!”

And that’s the way its going to be.


  1. That's the joy of Spanish. If you are going to say something in Spanish, it's all negative. If it's positive, all positive. It's not arithmetic, like English.

    Your blog is really funny too. I'm going to subscribe. :)

  2. Nice one James, and how did you know I plan on using "por ejemplo" a lot? por ejemplo, I really liked that you wrote all the terms or truisms as you call them down... this is really good practice.

    Now, a donde esta el plato?


  3. 8 Sugerencias:

    El Avion
    El asiento
    El pasaporte
    La Visa
    El Aeropuerto

    verbo: dormir

    Yo duermo
    Tu duermes
    El duerme
    Ella duerme
    Nosotros dormimos
    Ellos duermen

  4. Ok maybe they were not 8... we Spanish women change our minds sometimes

  5. Quick double negative joke:

    A language teacher tells her class that in some languages (like English) a double negative makes a positive; while in other languages (like Spanish) a double negative is still a negative; but that in no language does a double positive make a negative.

    To which one kid in the back row retorted "yeah right" :)

    - Todd V.

  6. Hola James. Voy a escribir a tu blog. Espero que tu tiene buena suerte en tu viaje a hablar espanol

  7. But has Claudia taught you the "SOCKS" joke yet?

    That will spur you to new heights of linguistic ecstasy.

    Meanwhile, it seems you're the Schroedinger's Cat of linguistic existentialism. Not bad.

    Wait! not bad can be your first Spanish pun!

    No es tamal. . . este . . No esta mal.

    [wv: licadeti yes! Exactly like that.]

  8. A gentleman from South America is visiting the U.S. He goes into Sears to do some shopping, where a very nice young lady asks if she can help him find something (no, that’s not the funny part).

    Knowing little English, he points down toward his shoes and says, “Necesito calcetines.”

    The clerk helpfully shows him some nice slacks.

    “No!” Pointing downward again,he says, “Necesito calcetines. Cal-ce-ti-nes,” in that universally irritating way that people have when they think you are deaf or stupid when you don’t understand what they’re saying.

    The clerk lights up. “I know now!” and she takes him to the shoe department. “Here you go!”

    “No, no, señorita. ¡Quiero calcetines!” And with that he bends over and pull up on his trousers at the knees.

    Now our undaunted clerk is finally clued in and happily takes him to a table full of socks.

    “¡Eso, sí que es!” exclaims the gentleman.

    Exasperated, the clerk replies, “Well if you can spell it, why can’t you just say it?”

  9. What happened to James' learning?

  10. There are a few errors here.

    It's "el plato" (masculine article)
    "arriba" (two r's)
    "hace calor/frio" = It's hot/cold.
    To say "I'm hot/cold" = Tengo calor/frio.

    I hope this helps.

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  13. So good! For spanish people th english uses change all the meaning too like in your sentence. Because we are getting use to explain something with double negative. That´s strange but it´s another way, antoher method and it´s corious.

    learn spanish in Madrid

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