My Spanish teacher told me I had one of the worst Spanish accents she’d ever heard. She said this to me in front of the whole class after I had answered a question. Strangely enough, my eagerness to speak in a foreign language just hasn’t quite been the same ever since.
Part of the problem is I can’t roll my tongue. This is a pretty quintessential part of the language. Arriba, rápido and burro are all useless.
When people discover my affliction, they always think they will be the one to finally fix me. Somehow they have the cure to my ailment. They make me say a certain word or noise over and over.Â But no one can fix me. I am beyond help. I will never be able to roll my r’s, and I’ve come to terms with the it.
For the most part.
Sometimes when people roll the ‘r’ in my name, I’m overcome with jealousy. My own name is a curse to remind me of my inadequacy.
Another part of my incompetence is due to my irreconcilable whiteness. Any word that requires even a little bit of pizzazz dies in my mouth.
So in Barcelona, I fit right in.
One of the great things about the world is most of it can speak at least a little English. This is a selfish, Anglo-Saxon thing for me to love, but it makes my life exceptionally easier.
But of course in Barcelona, I encountered a number of people who didn’t speak much English. Actually they didn’t even speak Spanish.
Barcelona’s regional language is Catalan. Barcelona resides in a territory in Spain called Catalonia. A large group from this region wants Catalonia to become a separate country from Spain. This nationalism permeates the city- flags and signs hang everywhere, people call for independence on street corners, chants shake the stadium at football games. People are very passionate about this, and it’s contagious. You can’t help but feel a little passionate yourself. It’s frightening and exciting how infectious it is.
But the language, Catalan, is very similar to Spanish, so sometimes I was forced to try and communicate with my appalling accent. I’m not sure if some of the smiles I received were just friendly or were covering up their deep amusement.
On a scale of Charlie Brown to Beyoncé in how confident I feel about my accent now, I am definitely still a Charlie Brown.