Now Use It in a Sentence

The new year, of course, is a time for resolutions, proposals, reflection, and big shiny ambitions. However, I’ve never been one to declare things like “This year, I’m going to go skydiving and become a chess grandmaster!” I’m busy enough following through on my long-term goals.

Among those goals, as I’ve written in previous posts, is regaining my knowledge of Spanish. To that end, I’ve been studying online as much as I can. But as appreciative as I am toward the people who offer free lessons on the net, they are seriously freaking me out.

This is because I keep running into practice sentences such as “Todos tocaron la piel de zorro para que les diera buena suerte.” As we all know, this translates to “Everyone felt the fox skin so it would give them good luck.” Or I might spend several frustrating minutes trying to decipher “El traficante de armas no había leído mis libros,” only to discover that it’s the very common phrase “The arms trafficker had not read my books.”

Perhaps it’s because there are only so many innocuous, straightforward sentences that can be created. But I find it hard to believe that some of these examples will ever be uttered in the real world. While we’re at it, I’m mystified over the instructors’ fascination with the word “zanahoria” (carrot), which shows up regularly and is apparently the only food eaten in Latin America.

More disturbing, of course, is when I have to wonder if the instructors’ deep secrets are coming though in their examples. What else can one make of the practice sentence “Maté a mi amigo y tengo mucha vergüenza” (“I killed my friend and I’m so ashamed”)? Or how about “Llegaron a México los cuerpos de estudiantes muertos en Ecuador” (“The bodies of the students killed in Ecuador arrived in Mexico”). I mean, what the hell is going on at translation websites?

In any case, I will keep at it and try my best not to wonder what kind of person cranks our foreign-language examples filled with death, murder, and carrots. At the very least, I’ll be amused by phrases such as “Te perseguimos fuera de la sala de baile” (“We chased you outside the dance hall”). In fact, when it comes to that sentence, I really want to know how the story ends.


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January 2010
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